For the past several years we have been going to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia the first weekend in December to enjoy their Grand Illumination. That weekend kicks off the Christmas Season for the Colonial Capitol, which means all the historic buildings wear their finest decor and on that Sunday night the sky is lit with a festive pyrotechnic display to celebrate the holiday.
Let me warn you now, this post is HEAVY on pictures and they all feature fireworks. You have been notified… =)
Growing up in Virginia, I fell in love with Williamsburg during an elementary school field trip. And a couple of family trips kept the passion going.
Keith was not ever really interested in visiting until his brother Mike and his wife Vicki came to visit from Washington State. We spent an entire week exploring Yorktown, Jamestown and Williamsburg, aka the Historic Triangle. I still haven’t posted much about it. I really need more time in the day for all the things I want to post.
We had such a good time and Keith fell in love with it just like I had many, many years before.
And when we found out about how they go all out for Christmas, we decided to go back and visit with our friends in 2013. We had a lot of fun viewing all the decorations and participating in many of the fun activities, like the hog to ham event at the Governor’s Palace.
And that is when we first heard about the Grand Illumination!
Every first Sunday in December the Revolutionary City has a fireworks event to kick off the Christmas Season. The fireworks are not on as grand a scale as their Fourth of July event, as they are shot lower into the sky and it has a much more intimate feeling.
So we made plans to attend the following year in 2014. That was our first Grand Illumination and we have been hooked ever since.
Each year there are three areas where fireworks are shot off: the Governor’s Palace, the Capitol Building and the Magazine. The exact same show is on display at each location and they are timed to go off simultaneously so no matter where you choose to view the fireworks you will see the same show.
That first year we decided to view from the Palace Green outside the Governor’s Palace. It is the most popular spot during the December Grand Illumination.
People start setting out their chairs and blankets early in the morning and many groups picnic on the green throughout the day.
It was very spectacular viewed at the Palace. But, it was very crowded and we really did not like how we had to leave in the pitch black dark after the event was over. We were extremely crowded, it was dark and I got a little panicked in the crowd.
So in 2015 we decided to view the display from the Courthouse Green by the Magazine.
There were a lot of people here also, but it was not nearly as crowded and we had plenty of room to spread out.
We were at the back of the green in front of the Peyton Randolph House and really had a great view.
I did not have my tripod with me, but as you can see, I did manage to get quite a few shots that turned out. I had no choice but to use the Sports mode and try and hold my camera as steadily as I could in the cold.
So I ended up with well over a couple hundred to go through when it was all said and done.
But I was tickled that any turned out at all.
That year the show was put on by Fireworks by Grucci. They were a different company than the year before and the show was different than what we saw in 2014.
But it was still the same as every other location in the Capitol City.
I really liked how the Magazine looked with the fireworks going off all around it.
And the Courthouse was often illuminated as well. And even the cressets showed up in my pictures.
There are no street lights in the historic district so those cressets are the only light at night when you walk down the streets.
And leaving the show from this location was much easier and not nearly as crowded.
You can see how low the fireworks are.
If you want to take pictures, you have to make sure there aren’t any trees or buildings in your way or your view will be obstructed.
In some of my previous shots you can see the silhouette of a couple. The fireworks are really shot low on the horizon compared to what you may normally be used to so even tall people can pop up unexpectedly in your photos.
Here you can see the couple again. But I love the fireworks behind the Magazine.
There were plenty of different types and colors.
All sizes, too.
I love the big ones. They remind me of Chrysanthemums.
You know, those big pom pom types?
I also like when the smoke is illuminated by the different colored pyrotechnics.
We were lucky the weather was clear and nice. It was just freezing cold, though.
We were told the fireworks would even be set off in rain. The only thing that would cause them to cancel would be really windy conditions.
We have been three years now and we have been lucky every year. It has been cold, but never windy. And last year they were calling for rain but it held off until after the show and after we had safely made it back to our car at the Visitor’s Center.
If you go, that really is one of the best places to park. It is free and when the regular lot fills up they have overflow parking at Great Hopes Plantation.
When you park you can take one of the free shuttle buses over to the historic district if you don’t feel like walking.
But during the show the buses shut down. And after the show, it is really a short walk back to the Visitor’s Center from here. Just remember it is dark though. Once you leave the historic district there is a walking path that is illuminated by big sets of construction lights. And there will be a mass crowd exiting so walking traffic is pretty much one way only back to where your car is parked.
And you can stay and visit the shops and restaurants too, if you like. Most are still open after the fireworks are finished.
But we are usually ready to head back to our condo. We are tired from a fun and long day spent enjoying the holiday festivities in Colonial Williamsburg. I hope you enjoyed the pictures and I hope you have the opportunity to go see them for yourself some day. It really is a fun thing to do and a great way to get into the Christmas Spirit.