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The Historic Taverns of Colonial Williamsburg

Open year-round, Colonial Williamsburg is an authentic 18th-century city and the world’s largest living history museum. With over forty historic sites and trades, two world-class art museums and special events scheduled year-round to honor the lives and stories of real people of the past, there is enough here to keep you busy for weeks. But you might not know about the historic taverns of Colonial Williamsburg—and since you’re visiting the past, you might as well dine in historic flare and get a taste for what life was really like in 18th-century America.

Here are three of the historic taverns of Colonial Williamsburg.

King’s Arms Tavern

Opened in 1772, King’s Arms is an authentic reproduction public house that serves up actual 18th-century recipes with 21st-century updates to suit modern palates. Servers wear clothing that is true to the colonial time period, and everything you see, including the pewter candlestick holders, is authentically colonial. Dig into a chophouse menu that features hearty, filling fare including prime rib, pork chops, barbecue and more. Enjoy lunch any day of the week—dinner is served Thursday through Monday.  

Fun fact: Jane Vobe, who opened the tavern in 1772, was among the better known tavern keepers in Williamsburg and worked at several establishments in her lifetime. Even George Washington was known to stop at Mrs. Vobe’s when he visited the city. Historic records cite her establishment as a gathering where artists displayed their work and a place where meetings were held.

Shields Tavern

Shields Tavern is only open for special and corporate events, but it’s a wonderful place to bond with your group and feel the energy of the great planners of the past. Shields Tavern offers charming southern staples and catering menus for your special occasion.

Fun fact: Taverns played important social and economic roles in everyday life in the 18th century. Below Gloucester Street, where some of these reconstructed taverns can be found, many archaeological clues have been uncovered to give us a better picture of life in the 18th century. In the 1980s, an archaeological excavation of Shields Tavern yielded valuable evidence of the daily lives of the tavern keepers, their families, and their clients, which was used in the reinterpretation and refurbishment of the building.

Christiana Campbell’s Tavern

Located on South Waller Street, Christiana Campbell’s Tavern is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. This dining experience is a true peek into the past, with a menu of meals that features local ingredients enjoyed by colonists, including shrimp, scallops, oysters, and fish, as well as world-renowned crab cakes and spoon bread.

Fun fact: Records show that George Washington frequently visited Mrs. Campbell’s tavern at her various locations through 1774. 

The historic taverns of Colonial Williamsburg are just as much a piece of living history as they are wonderful places to dine!

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