Celebrate July Fourth in Williamsburg

Join in the star-spangled fun in the cradle of democracy.

Fireworks at Busch Gardens
Fireworks at Busch Gardens

You're certain to get red, white, and blue goosebumps celebrating Independence Day in Greater Williamsburg. Sure, the fireworks are stunning, but in the cradle of democracy the thrills run much deeper to the very roots of our country.

Dining and Picnicking

First, plan your meals. The revolution won’t happen on an empty stomach.

Fuel up with a big breakfast at Shorty's Diner, where the prices are more than reasonable and the portions are sure to last through the bombs bursting in air. Check out the classic cruisers car show in the parking lot held there each July 4. 

Planning to picnic on the grounds at Colonial Williamsburg? Great idea. Order ahead from The Cheese Shop on Duke of Gloucester Street and avoid the long lines. Or slip down to Pierce's Pitt Bar-B-Que for some pulled pork sandwiches or the picnic special. What could be more American than barbeque?

Patriotic dinner options abound. Go upscale with the buffet dinner at The Williamsburg Lodge. A ticket not only gets you a traditional dinner beginning at 5 p.m., but also activities on The Virginia Lawn for kids starting at 4 p.m. and prime seating for the fireworks display on the Palace Green.

In the Historic Area, several of the period taverns will be offering special meals.

If your evening takes you to Yorktown for the music and the fireworks, enjoy a pint and pub fare at the Yorktown Pub in the heart of town or enjoy the views, drinks, and fish at the Water Street Grille.

Patriotic Fun

With your meals planned, it’s time to take in the July Fourth events that make celebrating it here so special.

In Colonial Williamsburg, the activities stretch from morning to after-sundown fireworks. A special militia will muster, the fifes and drums will play, and muskets and cannons will celebrate the day in the Historic Area. There will be three locations in and around Palace Green and Market Square for 18th-century-inspired games including tomahawk throwing, dancing, quoits, tug of war, and three-legged races. 

Be sure to attend the reading of the Declaration of Independence on the courthouse steps in the center of Duke of Gloucester Street. 

After dinner, look for a good spot to view the fireworks. Bring a blanket or a chair. Spots near The Palace Green or the large open area near the Magazine and Market Square are prime bombs-bursting real estate.

There is free parking at the Colonial Williamsburg Regional Visitor Center, where you can purchase admission tickets and use the shuttle bus.

Over in Yorktown, there is also a full slate of events for the Declaration's 240th anniversary. The Liberty Celebration begins at 9 a.m. at the Yorktown Victory Center, a museum of the American Revolution. From then until 6 p.m. on July 3 and 4, visitors will be able to view tactical military drills, take part in military exercises, and learn about the founders, including those who signed the Declaration. The Fife and Drum Corps will perform at 11 a.m. on July 4. 

Downtown in Yorktown, the U.S. Coast Guard Band will be a feature of the parade on Water and Main streets beginning at 9 a.m. 

The sounds of freedom ring at 7 p.m. with a bell-ringing ceremony on the Riverwalk Landing Stage. The United States Army Training and Doctrine Command Brass Band takes the stage at 8 p.m., a prelude, of course, to fireworks over the York River at 9:15 p.m. For a unique view of the fireworks, reserve a spot on the Alliance, a tall ship cruising the river. 

Looking for an indoor event? Visit the Virginia Living Museum for the Spirit of America Laser Show in the Abbitt Planetarium on July 4. The show, which runs hourly from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., mixes patriotic music with rock ‘n roll. Enjoy such greats as John Fogerty, Garth Brooks, Lee Greenwood and more.

Epic Shopping

If shopping is more your thing, head to Williamsburg Premium Outlets for its annual Fourth of July Weekend Sidewalk Sale. You can stock up on summer favorites as many retailers, including Adidas, Eddie Bauer, and Gap Factory, offer additional discounts and promotions on top of regular savings of 25 percent to 65 percent. 

Theme Park Thrills

At Busch Gardens, the thrills are in the sky and on the stage as well as on the rides. Fireworks light up the night and country star Lee Greenwood performs his patriotic show on July 4 at the Royal Palace Theater.

Outdoor Exploring

Spend a relaxing day on the water before declaring your independence. Consider the Eco Paddle organized by the Chesapeake Experience near Jamestown. It begins in Powhatan Creek, a tributary of the James River, and meanders through the creek for three hours. Expect to see bald eagles, ospreys, great blue herons, and a variety of wetlands plants in bloom.

At York River State Park on July 3, choose from family-friendly options including river seining (fishing with a seine net), a sunset paddle, and a Dabble in Discovery natural history program with the park’s naturalist guaranteed to pique your little one’s curiosity. From July 4 to 7, there’s a Junior Ranger Kid’s Kamp for ages 9-11.