Williamsburg is an independent city in the U.S. state of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 14,068. In 2014, the population was estimated to be 14,691.

Located on the Virginia Peninsula, Williamsburg is in the northern part of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. It is bordered by James City County and York County.

Williamsburg was founded in 1632 as Middle Plantation, a fortified settlement on high ground between the James and York rivers. The city served as the capital of the Colony of Virginia from 1699 to 1780 and was the center of political events in Virginia leading to the American Revolution. The College of William & Mary, established in 1693, is the second-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and the only one of the nine colonial colleges located in the South; its alumni include three U.S. presidents as well as many other important figures in the nation’s early history.

The city’s tourism-based economy is driven by Colonial Williamsburg, the restored Historic Area of the city. Along with nearby Jamestown and Yorktown, Williamsburg forms part of the Historic Triangle, which attracts more than four million tourists each year. Modern Williamsburg is also a college town, inhabited in large part by William & Mary students and staff.

Geography & Climate

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.1 square miles (23.6 km2), of which 8.9 square miles (23.1 km2) is land and 0.2 square miles (0.5 km2) (1.8%) is water.

Williamsburg is spread upon a ridge on the Virginia Peninsula between the James and York Rivers. Queen’s Creek and College Creek partly encircle the city. James City County is located to the west and south of Williamsburg, while York County is to the north and east. As with all cities in Virginia, Williamsburg is legally independent of both counties.

The city is located on the I-64 corridor, 45 miles (72 km) southeast of Richmond and approximately 37 miles (60 km) northwest of Norfolk. It is in the northwest corner of Hampton Roads, which is the 37th largest metropolitan area in the United States with a total population of 1,576,370. Within Hampton Roads, the city of Norfolk is recognized as the central business district, while the Virginia Beach seaside resort district and Williamsburg are primarily centers of tourism.

Williamsburg is located in the humid subtropical climate zone, with cool to mild winters, and hot, humid summers. Due to the inland location, winters are slightly cooler and spring days slightly warmer than in Norfolk, though lows average 3.2 °F (1.8 °C) cooler here due to the substantial urban build-up to the southeast. Snowfall averages 5.1 inches (13 cm) per season, and the summer months tend to be slightly wetter. With a period of record dating only back to 1951, extreme temperatures range from −7 °F (−22 °C) on January 21, 1985 to 104 °F (40 °C) on August 22, 1983 and June 26, 1952.

Culture

As with most of Virginia (the Northern Virginia/Washington D.C. metro area being the notable exception), Williamsburg is most often associated with the larger American South. People who have grown up in the Hampton Roads area have a unique Tidewater accent which sounds different from a stereotypical Southern accent. Vowels have a longer pronunciation than in a regular southern accent. For example, “house” is pronounced “hoose” in the Tidewater accent. However, due to the strong military presence in the Tidewater Area, the Tidewater accent has been slowly dying out for years.

Williamsburg is perhaps best known for its tourist and historical points of interest, the centerpiece of which is Colonial Williamsburg, which is essentially a living history museum, depicting the lifestyles and culture of the 18th century colonial period in American history. Major points of interest in this historic district include the Virginia’s first capitol building, the Governor’s Palace, Bruton Parish Church (the oldest continually operating church in the United States), the Peyton Randolph House (home of Peyton Randolph, the first President of Continental Congress and rumored to be haunted) and The College of William & Mary.

Other highlights in the city include The Williamsburg Winery (Virginia’s largest winery), the Williamsburg Botanical Garden, the National Center for State Courts and the Virginia Musical Museum. Also located in Williamsburg are two major theme parks, Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA, as well as Go-Karts Plus action park and 2 miniature golf courses. The 200-acre (0.81 km2) Williamsburg Pottery Factory shopping complex visited by 3 million people annually is located at nearby Lightfoot, Virginia. “Artistic” and ornamental items are sold at the Market Square shops adjacent to the colonial area, and at many stores on Richmond Road. Presidents Park was an educational attraction that displayed outdoor statue heads of all 43 presidents, each one accompanied by a descriptive biographical plaque.However, in the 2010, Presidents Park closed due to financial issues.