Champagne, Back Steps: Eating Classy For Cheap in Colonial Williamsburg

This actually has nothing to do with champagne, which I don't drink. But writing "champagne" and saying it is so rewarding, like saying "Dior" or "Louboutin," or "Versace." Now I've got a silly grin on my face. I'm getting ready to tell you something big. Something really big. I don't have many secrets but those I have don't usually get out, which is pretty much the purpose of secrets, come to think of it. Here's what I'm going to tell you: an insider's tip on how to have a classy picnic for under $2 a person in Colonial Williamsburg. I'm going to give the example of a party of five, okay? So get yourself and four friends and head to Williamsburg and the tour can begin.

First Step: head to Merchant's Square. This is the square of shops at the head of Duke of Gloucester St. (D.O.G Street to those who know it well). There is a delicious men's haberdashery store, and a jeweler with windows you can absolutely drool over, a Williams-Sonoma (my favorite), and a Scottish store which sells a men's cologne, "Royalle Rugby" which every woman should take a whiff of.

Second Step: Find The Fat Canary. Skim its outdoor eating arrangements and you will find The Cheese Shop. Yes, The Cheese Shop. To the right of The Cheese Shop will be the Wythe Candy Shop and you ought to go inside because A) it smells wonderful and B) there are free samples. For your information.

Third Step: Gather samples, reassemble in front of The Cheese Shop. Go into The Cheese Shop. Enter and admire the way the sunlight gleams through bottles of every kind of honey imaginable. Check out the drinking balsamic vinegar. At this point I always start humming a country song, mentally: "Kisses sweeter than Tupelo honey..."

Fourth Step: Find the sandwich counter which, having entered the doors, ought to be directly in front of you at the back of the store. But don't order a sandwich. What you'll want to do now is go to this funky looking hammock thing hung from the ceiling to the right of the counter, near the drinks cooler:

See that? Bread Ends: $1. Each bag contains five hunks of various types of bread, sawed off the ends of the sandwiches. Each chunk of bread is enough to feed one person without stuffing them or having leftovers. Snatch a bag up: you've just done bread-for-five at twenty cents per head. Highest of fives.

Step Five: Find your perfect cheese. Inside, it will soon become obvious to you where the cheese is kept: in a beautiful, beautiful cooler with a beaming man or woman standing behind, wire-bundle at the ready to slice off a gleamy, creamy piece of whatever you fancy.

But first, make sure you check the "discount cheese" bins which are usually on a rack someplace in the center of the store because there could be a weight-limit on how small a piece of cheese you can buy, whereas the "discount" bin usually contains smaller pieces and/or the ends of bigger blocks.
As for types, might I recommend the Wisconsin, the 2-year Aged Red Leaf cheddar, apple-wood smoked cheddar, Cotswold Double Gloucester, Havarti, or a young Holland Gouda? But I've never bought a cheese I disliked. Also, if you liked smoked sausages, getting a landjaeger is a good choice. This will hike up your price-per-head about .50 but it's worth it.

 The cheese shops sell drinks that run about $2 per bottle/can. I love the lemon, blood orange, or grapefruit San Pellegrino but the birch-beer is also yummy. Typically, though, I try to bring my own water-bottle. Choose your cheese: purchasing a couple good, low-price cheeses from The Cheese Shop (enough for five people) will cost five or six dollars. Remember to ask the cheese-man for a plate and knife! To the cheese, we added dried cherries which cost $4.

Step Six: Exit and find a spot for your picnic. I have three spots which I favor. One is top secret, but I will share the other two. The first can be found by walking the opposite way down Duke of Gloucester Street (away from the college, toward the historic section) until you reach the Palace Green. Instead of picnicking on the Green, however, which can be crowded, so turn to the right and head into the empty field/segue lined with trees which gently slopes down to a quiet road. This is prime picnic territory. The other spot can be found in the yard of two buildings near the parking lots on the corners of Francis and Henry streets. No one has told us not to sit there...but I'm not really sure they're officially Colonial Williamsburg property at all. However, it's a very pretty, secluded spot while being smack-dab next to your car. See? You can see Merchant's Square perfectly.

Step Seven: Spread out and enjoy yourself! Use the paper bags bought with your foodstuffs as plates. They ought to supply you with napkins as well. This is where your instinct as to How To Have A Good Picnic gets to have its say. From here on out, you're on your own and I trust you'll have a pleasant time! Williamsburg picnics are my favorite and my specialty. I hope the weather is just lovely for you...maybe you'll even hit Golden Hour.

So to recap, here are the costs of having a spontaneous, prep-free picnic (drinks aside):

Picnic For Five:

- Bread: $1
- Cheese: $6
- Sausage: $2
- Dried Fruit: $4

Total: $13
Total Per Guest: $2.60

Two dollars and sixty cents. And that's if you went for the landjaeger, which some of you will want to skip. For atmosphere, faux Parisian-vibes, ease, and Pinterest-level, it can't be beaten! And if you want to take some of that money you saved and splurge on a coffee later? Go to Aroma's (from The Cheese Shop, one block to the right, one block up) and get a chai latte. You'll thank me later.
I hope this post will be helpful to those of you who end up in's a tried and true method I'm very fond of. Bon chance! 


  1. Well, apparently it failed to use the CORRECT video clip and I am nowhere near my laptop to be able to fix it, so please disregard. ;)

  2. ... if only flight across an ocean was free! Mmmmm.

  3. I need to come to Williamsburg so we can go picnicking together. This looks amazing.

  4. I love Williamsburg! Now I really want to picnic there. :)

  5. This is so cool, and the food looks delicious.