Williamsburg was already the capital of Virginia when American freedom and independence was just a dream. The earliest inhabitants of Virginia shaped the culture of the nation through their art and through the items they used in their everyday lives.
Many of the items early Williamsburg residents created and used remained in the area over the decades. Today, many of these historical artifacts can now be found in several museums throughout Williamsburg.
Visiting the museums of Williamsburg can transport you back to the dawn of America.
Best Museums to Visit in Williamsburg, VA
Colonial Williamsburg allows you and members of your family to become citizens of the Revolutionary City. As the world’s largest living history museum, Colonial Williamsburg features two world-class museums, four historic taverns and more than forty sites and trades.
At Colonial Williamsburg, you will engage with the local community, as it was when America was still a colony. Watch tradesmen using 18th century tools and techniques, meet nation-builders who made significant contributions to the American story and explore historic buildings to gain a new perspective on our country.
While Colonial Williamsburg is a living museum, it also contains two art museums on its grounds. During your visit to Colonial Williamsburg, take a moment to visit Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum displays 19th century folk art objects, such as toys, kitchenware, furniture, paintings and more. Featured exhibits showcase a wide variety of mediums, including paintings and portraits, African-American quilts and folk art.
Ongoing displays include folk musical instruments, German toys in America, an exhibition on decorative but useful forged iron objects and outdoor folk art, such as storefront figures and carousal animals.
DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum
You will enter DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum through the Public Hospital of 1773, which features a three-part exhibit on mental illness and the treatment methods used at that time. Once inside, you can see some of the fineries enjoyed by people of wealth and influence in the earliest days of America. The museum holds one of the largest collections of British ceramic pottery to exist outside of England. The decorative arts museum also contains the world’s largest group of furniture from this part of the world.
DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum offers a wide variety of the furniture, paintings, prints, ceramics, metals, glass, firearms and textiles used in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The galleries also provide a glimpse of the breathtaking English silver tea sets and other amenities enjoyed by those with wealth and influence.
Situated on the original site of the first permanent English settlement in America, Historic Jamestown provides an unparalleled look into the challenges and triumphs of Virginia life in the early 1600s. Early preservationists set aside 22.5 acres on Jamestown Island in 1893 in an effort to protect the memory of America’s birthplace. In 1994, archeologists began Jamestown Rediscovery, a project to find the remains of the original James Fort. Two decades of digging has established the location of the fort and several key buildings, and has recovered 1.5 million artifacts.
In addition to displaying many of these artifacts, Historic Jamestown offers living history programs and an archeology museum that details the dramatic rediscovery of the buildings and artifacts.
Virginia Musical Museum
Virginia Musical Museum showcases many of Virginia’s most famous musicians and interesting musical instruments from around the world. Some world-renowned Virginia musicians include Wayne Newton, Patsy Cline, The Statler Brothers, Pearl Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald, Roy Clark, June Carter, Kate Smith and Keely Smith.
The museum recognizes the important roles Virginians played in American music. Virginian Polk Miller recorded some of Edison’s earliest records, for example, while Virginian Henry Whitter wrote the first record to sell over a million copies.
Muscarelle Museum of Art
Muscarelle Museum of Art boasts a collection of more than 5,000 works of art from many cultures and historical eras. Some of the most important pieces include 17th and 18th century English and American portraits.
Muscarelle Museum of Art also displays European and American prints and drawings from the 16th through the 20th centuries, Asian ceramics and Japanese prints, African art and an impressive collection of German Expressionist works on paper.
This museum also offers special exhibitions of public and private collections from around the world. Muscarelle Museum of Art provides a unique opportunity to view and study works not normally on display in the Williamsburg area.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! provides all the shrunken heads, 12-foot robot sculptures made from scrapped automobile parts and authentic vampire killing kits a family could ever want to see!
With more than 350 exhibits packed into a 9,000 square foot space, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! has something for everyone – including 4D movies, mini golf and a candy shop with 150 different flavors.
Williamsburg Art Gallery
Known for its quality exhibits, Williamsburg Art Gallery features the work of some of the finest artists from Williamsburg, Virginia, the United States and the world. In fact, American Art Awards included Williamsburg Art Gallery in its list of the 25 Best Art Galleries and Museums in America and Best of Virginia in 2017.
Bassett Hall was once home to John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. This historic farmhouse is nestled on 585 acres of beautiful gardens, lawn and woodlands. Built between 1753 and 1766, other notable guests to the property include George Armstrong Custer and Martha Washington’s nephew.
Verena at the Reserve
Williamsburg is one of the most historic cities in the nation. Make American history come alive by visiting one of the many museums in Williamsburg, VA.
After exploring historic Williamsburg, what would be better than coming home to the beautiful Verena at the Reserve? An active-lifestyle community located near museums, dining and shopping, Verena at the Reserve is the perfect place to enjoy your retirement years alongside friends. Contact us today to learn more or schedule a tour.