Travels

Magical Shops To Visit In Williamsburg

When you think of Williamsburg, you automatically think of fifes and drums, palace greens and gunpowder magazines.  (I rhythmed and I wasn’t even trying).  I don’t blame you, I adore this part of Williamsburg.

 

But there is another section of Williamsburg that a visitor should not overlook.  While not historical, it is a place of delights.  The Merchants Square is dedicated to shopping and eating – two of life’s most satisfying ventures.  “laughs”  So allow me to introduce you to my favorite little stores in Merchant’s Square.

 

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I’ve never been to Merchant’s Square at any time but Christmas.  During the Christmas season, this place is magical, like some imaginary destination, a Thomas Kincaid painting come to life.

 

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Beautiful decorations abound.  An ice skating rink is situated in the middle of the square, strung with Christmas lights and pipping joyous music to all around as people move across the ice . . . with varying levels of skill.

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Google Images

 

Live street performances of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol play on the avenues throughout the day – filling the niches of the square with the alternately chilling and heartwarming dialogue and speeches that we know, love and resonant deep within us.

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And, as you walk, watch and wonder – you may possibly run into a very bored and very talkative Santa Claus.

 

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As you can see – it’s a place you want to visit.  But while you visit, there are some shops you won’t want to miss.

So – Without Further Ado – The Eight Stores You Positively Must See In The Merchant’s Square

 

Mermaid Books

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I absolutely adore stores below street level – those dusty, grimy brick steps, those wobbly wrought-iron handrails.  The feeling of mystery as you disappear from sight from all other passersby – the feeling that you have, somehow, discovered something no one else has.

Welcome to a book grotto.  There’s Aladdin’s cave to the left, a deep narrow closet converted into a miniature bookstore.  Soft carpets on the ground, thick fabric hanging from the door frame, half obscuring it.  A regular jumble rests in this store, a cozy, chaotic mess—but oh, doesn’t that make the search more exciting?  It’s a regular treasure hunt, with a little danger thrown in; steep slippery steps and violent sneezing could incur.  A little annoying BUT – allow me to quote Cyrano de Bergerac:  “Ah – but WHAT a moment.”

 

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Google Images

Google Images

Operated by a pleasant gentleman and filled with a quiet atmosphere, this should be a definite stop for any old book lovers.

 

The Trellis Bar and Grill

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The Trellis is a little expensive, but well worth it in my opinion.  If you’re like us – a small party consisting of my mom, sisters and I – it’s manageable.  The service is excellent, the atmosphere very pleasant, lovely layout, and good food.  A classy but relaxed outing perfect for a girl date, although I’m sure the guys in your party would be satisfied with the fare.

We actually incorporated something from the Trellis in our own home.  Instead of big glass canisters or plastic jugs of water on the table (or getting up every five minutes to fill your glass at the tap) we now serve our water in beautiful glass bottles – chilled in the refrigerator.  This is so simple, but adds such a touch of beauty and care to a meal.  We were so impressed we brought the idea home with us.

 

The Blackbird Cafe

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Hidden in the cracks and crevices of Williamsburg, built deep in the winding streets and charming buildings is a bakery.  This bakery is difficult to find—you will need determination, good shoes and a stout heart because you could get a lot of bad directions and be wandering around forever in the dark trying to find it and get increasingly faint with hunger and frustrated with local people who don’t know where they’re own bakery is located.  “coughs”

HOWEVER – don’t quit –  you’re determination will pay off.  The very fact that it was so hard to find made this even more special.  The Arkenstone at the end of the quest my friend is, in reality, a piece of peanut butter pie.  A piece of ANYTHING.  Not convinced?  Allow me to show you BB’s wonders . . .

 

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Google Images

Google Images

Are you sufficently convinced you should visit the Blackbird Bakery?  Are you sure?  Need one more picture?

 

Okay, I’ll stop torturing you now.

 

And yes (as you can see) things are a wee bit pricey – but that’s just the way it is in places like this – higher prices.  Dig deep in those pockets and live a little!  Trust me, it’s worth it.

 

Nothing is so magical as sitting on a bench under a starry sky, the streetlights sending a warm sheen across the brick walkways and glinting off the Christmas decoration, the moon gloaming through the branches of a tree, the sounds of shoppers laughing, conversation and faint music drifting around you . . . as you gobble down a piece of irresistibly smooth peanut butter pie.  That is living, dear readers.

 

The Peanut Shop

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One of the things that fascinates me about places like Williamsburg is the specialty shops.  Imagine a store devoted to nothing but nuts.  Nuts, right?  (Sorry, couldn’t resist the lame joke).

But deliciously nuts.

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The Peanut Shop’s charming, cozy little interior is scattered with tins of free samples—I could literally eat my way from one end of the store to the other and I’ve tried—but I’ve kept it low key.  I think they would get suspicious if I got down on my knees, tilted my head back and had my twin shovel samples into my open mouth.

 

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Every kind of nut flavoring and coating you could possibly imagine is inside that store.  Personally, I cannot vouch for any of the spicy or hot nuts – just the chocolate covered nuts.  Chocolate covered peanuts, pecans, almonds, cashews and even chocolate covered raisins abound – with both milk and dark options.  My favorite was the dark chocolate covered cashews.

You’re probably thinking one chocolate covered nut is just like another, right?  Why not buy them at Walmart?   WRONG.  I have never in my life tasted chocolate covered nuts like this.  The cashews alone could have me rhapsodizing for five minutes about the mellow, soft, plump nuttiness, the smooth, decadent shell of chocolate.

 

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Great, now I’m drooling.

 

The Wythe Candy And Gourmet Store

 

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The store reminded me of a one of the little Victorian candy stores that might inhabit Samantha Parkington’s world.

This store is truly amazing – it felt like every candy ever made, treats from around the world, were tucked into every cranny – in the most beautiful packaging.

 

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Google Images

PLEASE DON’T GET ME STARTED ON THE TRUFFLES.  ‘salivates’

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The jelly bean dispensers were my especial favorite.  Mounted in see-through canisters on the walls, shoppers were provided with bags and allowed to crank, crank, crank as many jelly beans as they wanted into their bag and create their own mix.  No more getting more lemon instead of tutti frutti.  You want just tutti frutti?  You can get pounds of tutti frutti– you can drown in tutti frutti if you so desire.

Watching that stream of jelly beans tumble into a bag like scattered bits of rainbow is truly magical.  And ah – that plinking sound!  Like gold coins tumbling into a bag.

There’s nothing like standing on a street corner, waiting for a bus while munching on jelly bellies.  Especially sharing them around, watching your loved ones dive into the grab bag, watching as the hands I love best scoop up miniature pellets of happiness.  It’s the small things like that this will always stick with me.

 

College of William and Mary Book Store

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Not only is the College of Willias and Mary one of the least expensive ways to eat in Williamsburg (that I know of) it was my favorite place to eat.

Their coffee is superb and their chicken salad sandwiches?  “faints”  Oh my goodness, these were literally one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, seriously.  I don’t know how they made it but it was so delicious and “gasp” it was my first time that I can remember eating it.  Creamy sweet, filling, crunchy chicken salad piled in a flaky, plump croissant.  There are several options for lunch, but to be honest I can’t remember them, I didn’t try any of them after I fell in love with that chicken salad.  The cafe also carries all kinds of wonderful baked goods, drinks and snacks.

The interior is very similar to Barnes and Noble – and is actually a two-story establishment.  A quiet, bookish atmosphere, very open and light, with a kind of plaza overlooking the escalators allowing me to watch the people shopping and reading without being in the way of traffic.

And of course, when you’re done eating, LOOK AT THE BOOKS.  Very similar to what Barnes and Noble has to offer (books, magazines, clothing, music and more) I can guarantee you a pleasant hour and a lighter wallet in this store.

Scotland House

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This shop is a delight—full of the most exquisite craftsmanship.  One particular wall is a brilliant array of tartan scarfs, as soft as clouds, fine as butterfly wings, colorful as an artist’s palette.  Jaunty tams drive shoppers to distractions.  Fine wood carvings abound, along with hand-painted articles of every description.  The artisan’s work for sale here is truly mind boggling.

This is not a girls store, a guys store, or a kids store – this is a store for everyone.  There is literally something that anybody would like in the Scotland House.  If I could tell you to go one place in the Merchant’s Square to do Christmas shopping, it would be this store.

 

Warning: if you have Scottish ancestry you might find the old blood stirring inside you, hear the faint keening of bagpipes calling to you, or see a misty homeland somewhere in your minds-eye.

And you most definitely will leave the store wearing tartan.

 

 

And there you have it!  I hope you enjoyed this tour and recap of Magical Shops To Visit In Williamsburg.

I’m now excepting donations for my next trip to Williamsburg.  😉

 

 

What shop would you most like to visit?  Have you visited these shops before?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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