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Grand Illumination

December 8, 2019

We invite guests to join us as we illuminate the night sky above our beautiful colonial capital. 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. Begin the special day by checking out the unique decorations throughout the Historic Area. Then, enjoy musical performances on multiple stages throughout our streets and fireworks displays from the Capitol, the Magazine, and the Palace.



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. The official start of Grand Illumination holiday programs throughout the Historic Area is at 4 p.m.

Where can I get a warm drink/snack?

There will be two primary Historic Area locations on Duke of Gloucester Street to purchase food and beverages. There will be a food tent next to the Lumber House Ticket Office across from Palace Green that will be serving hot food including burgers and hot dogs as well as bottled water and soda, American Heritage hot chocolate and seasonal alcoholic beverages including mulled wine, hot buttered rum and egg nog. There will also be food and drinks available for purchase on the lawn next to Chowning’s Tavern. Both locations will also have seating areas for guests.

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 Botetourt
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 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. Ticketed Premium Seating on the Palace Green is being offered in advance. Market Square is centrally located, and you will be able to see the fireworks going off in all directions. Please note that the steps of the Colonial Courthouse will not be available for public viewing of the fireworks.

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 staged entertainment and the fireworks.

Please note that the west lawn between The Magazine and the Weaver Shop form Francis St to Duke of Gloucester St will be closed at 4 p.m. Guests will not be permitted in this area.

Please be advised that Grand Illumination fireworks do not go up as high in the air as our Independence Day fireworks, so tall trees and buildings may block your view.

What if there’s inclement weather?

In the case of inclement weather, this event may be cancelled. Text HOLIDAY to 226787 to receive weather-related updates about Grand Illumination. Weather updates will also be communicated on our WEATHER UPDATES PAGE.

Is there special seating for seniors?

No, there is not special seating for seniors. However, lawn and folding chairs are welcome.

Please note that the following items are not permitted on Colonial Williamsburg Property:

  • Weapons
  • Beach umbrellas
  • Tents
  • Drones

Will the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes & Drums perform?

Yes. There will be several opportunities to hear Fifes & Drums throughout the Historic Area, beginning at 4:00 p.m. on Market Square. Our Fife & Drum Corps will play a special concert near Capitol Circle beginning at 4:30 p.m. They will also provide pomp & pageantry at the Illumination of the Raleigh Tavern at 5:00p.m. and the Illumination of the George Wythe House at 5:30 p.m. These ceremonies will celebrate the origins of Grand Illumination as each building is lit window by window, candle by candle. Leading up to the grand fireworks display, the Fifes & Drums’ Junior and Senior Corps will also be performing on Palace Green and at the Market Square stage behind the Colonial Courthouse at 6:40 p.m., with concerts of colonial favorites as everyone gets ready for the spectacular pyrotechnic finale. In addition, the Fifes & Drums of The Middlesex County Volunteers will present special concerts of Christmas music on the Market Square stage at 4:15p.m. and at Capitol Circle at 6:40p.m. The fireworks will be followed by a procession of Fifes & Drums on the Duke of Gloucester Street beginning at the Colonial Courthouse as Grand Illumination 2019 comes to a close.


Special Events

Special Dining Options

Take a Carriage Ride


Romantic Wythe Carriage

Romantic Wythe Carriage

See Our City, Differently.  A romantic ride for two through the Historic Area by horse drawn carriage. Surround yourself with the sights and sounds of our unique city, far removed from the bustle of modern-day streets.


Plan Your Visit


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