It’s hard to believe Christmas is less than two months away. Which means Grand Illumination is coming up soon on Sunday, December 2, 2018 from 4:00 pm – 7:30 pm .
Colonial Williamsburg’s Christmas season officially begins with Grand Illumination, a spectacular evening when candles twinkle in the windows of Historic Area homes and buildings, fatwood crackles in street-side cressets, and the heavens explode with fireworks. Thousands of guests turn out—families, friends, and strangers crowding the streets—to “oh” and “ah”.
In the 18th century, illuminations–the firing of guns and lighting of fireworks–celebrated major events such as the birthday of a reigning sovereign, military victories, or the arrival of a new colonial governor. Join Colonial Williamsburg for this special day by strolling the Historic Area and viewing all the unique decorations. Enjoy musical performances on multiple stages throughout the Historic Area and fireworks displays from the Capitol, the Magazine, and the Palace.
Grand Illumination FAQ
- What time do the fireworks start? What time should I arrive?
The fireworks begin at 7:00 p.m., but it’s best to arrive early. Explore activities you can enjoy before the
- Where is the best place to watch the fireworks?
There’s no right answer. Displays will fire simultaneously at the Governor’s Palace, the Magazine, and
the Capitol. The most popular spot is Palace Green with the beautiful backdrop of the Governor’s Palace.
Market Square is centrally located and you will be able to see the fireworks going off in all directions. The
North side of the Capitol is a lesser known and less-crowded spot where the hillside creates a small natural
amphitheater. On the South side of the Capitol there will be a handicap accessible area for viewing of
Note: the fireworks do not go up as high in the air as the Independence Day fireworks, so tall trees and buildings may block your view.
- Where should I park?
Parking will be at a premium downtown all day. We recommend parking at the Colonial Williamsburg
Regional Visitor Center and using the free shuttle to the Historic Area. Handicap parking will be available in the Tavern parking lot across from the Capitol on Francis Street. You will need to show your placard to gain entry.
- What time do the shuttles run?
Shuttle buses will run on a 30-minute schedule from 9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. with express service from the
Visitor Center to the Palace Stop from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Please note: there will be no shuttle service from 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. All bus service stops at 6:30 p.m. At 9:30
p.m., the shuttles will resume regular service to all stops until 10:00 p.m.
- Where is the closest restroom?
In addition to regular restrooms listed on the maps and in the Colonial Williamsburg Explorer app, there will
be portable units located at several locations throughout the Historic Area:
Palace Green area (3): Across from the St. George Tucker House behind Roscoe Cole Stable; in the orchard
next to the McKenzie Apothecary; and on Duke of Gloucester Street near Lumber House Ticket Office
Capitol Area\Goal area (4): Blair Street across from Capitol near Francis Street; behind the garage across the
street from Coke Garrett; Nicholson Street, near Booker Tenement; and the corner of Nicholson and
Market Square area (2): Corner of Queen & Nicholson Street; Queen Street, near Up and Down Cottage
Merchant Square area (1): On the south side of Duke of Gloucester Street near the Henry Street bus stop
- Where can I get a warm drink/snack?
Throughout the Historic Area, there will be refreshment stands offering warm (and cold) drinks and snacks.
There will be two food truck locations – on Nicholson Street near the Randolph House and on Blair Street
across from the Gunsmith Shop. AT this point I know Prost Food Truck will be there. Not sure of the others attending. The Mackenzie Apothecary, Dubois Grocer, Raleigh Tavern Bakery,
Chowning’s Tavern Garden will be open. Mr. Shield’s Garden will also be open beginning at 4:00 p.m.
- What else is happening on the day of Grand Illumination?
A variety of music will celebrate the Christmas season throughout the Historic Area, beginning at 4:00 p.m.
At the Restoration Stage on Palace Green, hear the big band sounds of Truetone Honeys & 504 Supreme,
celebrating the beginnings of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation through the music of the 1930s and ’40s. They will play Two sets: 4:00-5:00 and 5:30-6:30. This event is FREE and open to the public!
- Will the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes & Drums perform?
Yes. Our Fife & Drum Corps will play a special concert near Capitol Circle beginning at 4:30 p.m., and at a
special ceremony at the Raleigh Tavern at 5:00 p.m. This new ceremony will celebrate the origins of Grand
Illumination as the Raleigh Tavern is lit window by window, candle by candle.
The Fifes & Drums’ Junior and Senior Corps will also be performing on Palace Green, Market Square, and
on the north and south sides of the Capitol at 6:40 p.m., with concerts of colonial favorites as everyone gets
ready for the spectacular main event.
The fireworks will be followed by a procession of Fifes & Drums on Duke of Gloucester Street as Grand
Illumination comes to a close.
- Is there special seating for seniors?
No, there is not special seating for seniors. However, lawn and folding chairs are welcome.
Visit colonialwilliamsburg.com for complete programming details.