We chose to stay at the Govenor's Inn which is within walking distance of the historic area. I would recommend it. It is not fancy, but was VERY reasonably priced compared to the other hotels that were within walking distance. It was motel-style (exterior entrances) which I actually prefer when we are traveling with Leni. It makes things much easier when we can just open the door to take her out right before bed or right after waking up instead of having to walk through an entire hotel. Although, we did have a minor access issue with Leni at check-in.
The Govenor's Inn is pet friendly, and they have specific pet policies in place like any business that allows pets. So when we walked into the lobby, the front desk receptionist told us that we could not bring Leni into the lobby. I explained that she is not a pet but my service dog (and she was wearing her vest). She said that it was their policy that no dogs were allowed in the lobby to be compliant with their health code and in the case that any other guests were allergic to dogs. I offered to show her the ADA (American's with Disabilities Act) on my phone where it specifically states service dogs are exempt from health code requirements and cannot be denied access due to just the possibility of an allergy and that if there is someone who is truly allergic, both parties must be accommodated. She still didn't seem convinced, but didn't say anything else and let me stay with Leni.
For what it's worth, I had not planned on being in the lobby much anyway because I wasn't eating breakfast so I didn't have any need to be there. The only reason I said anything is because if I simply agreed to take Leni out of the lobby (even though it didn't matter to me), someone else with a service dog could face the same access issue I did only now the hotel could use my willingness to comply with keeping Leni out of the lobby as an example of other service dogs who were not allowed in the lobby as proof they were in the right. So I spoke up respectfully and showed what the ADA actually says, and hopefully other handlers will be able to be in their lobby with their service dogs without any issues. Even with this minor issue, though, the staff were wonderful, very friendly, and loved meeting Leni when we were out walking her. The receptionist working when we checked out did not say anything about Leni being in the lobby.
The rooms were adequate and what you would expect from a basic, motel-style hotel. Each room had a mini-fridge which we always look for because it means I can pack things that need to stay cold, we can stop by a grocery store to get safe food and drinks for me and extra snacks for Nick, and I can keep my IV fluids cold way easier than having to use a cooler and ice. There was a continental breakfast included which Nick gave about 3/5. Being so close to the historic area was great, and I did not react to anything in the room which is always a plus! (I did call ahead to request chemical free cleaning like I usually do.)
We actually ended up driving both days even though the hotel was within walking distance. We really didn't know what my energy levels would be like, so we wanted to conserve my energy as much as we could. All parking for the historic area is at the visitor center and you can either walk from there to the historic area or take the free shuttle. Plus, the first day we had to go purchase tickets at the visitor center anyway. Colonial Williamsburg actually has an incredible disability discount! When we went to buy our tickets, the lady helping us asked if Leni was a service dog and what tasks she does (both questions are not only legal but encouraged by the ADA). After I answered, she said that they give a 50% discount for guests with disabilities! She ended up giving us 50% off both tickets, not just mine. I'm not sure what the actual policy is, but it might be worth asking. I didn't know this existed, and we already had a discount from staying at a preferred hotel, but she gave us this discount because it was better. They were wonderfully educated on all sorts of disability access and very accommodating.
Governor's Palace from Duke of Gloucester Street. An example
of the walking to get to some of the buildings.
ast cell issues since vibrations can give me hives and start a reaction.
|More walking...the building all the way at the end is the Capitol.|
BUT, the streets have lots of benches and are shaded.
|Oxen pulling a cart. Leni wasn't sure what to make of them.|
One challenge we had is that Leni is not used to being in work mode when we're outside. Typically when she is working we are inside. When we are just going for a walk around the neighborhood or going to the creek or in the yard, she's usually off duty. So she was a bit confused on how she was supposed to behave when we were outside most of the time, but she was still supposed to be in work mode. Her behavior was not wild or inappropriate for a service dog, but it was enough that I could tell she was a bit off because I know her so well. She was more easily distracted when we were outside, and her heel was a bit more relaxed than I like it to be when she is working. We worked through it, and she still gave me multiple alerts during our time there, so I'm not upset with how she behaved. It just gives us things to work on for next time and future outdoor excursions. I hope this can be good info for other handlers to be aware of if you are traveling to Williamsburg with a service dog.
|Tired Leni Bean!|
And now back to Colonial Williamsburg...Overall, the biggest challenge for us in Williamsburg was probably avoiding smoke. We spent a lot of time outside either walking between buildings or on tours or watching demonstrations. We encountered more than a few smokers in the historic area. I ended up keeping my mask out of my backpack and readily available at the first sign of a smoker. Sometimes it would just be in passing, but other times we did have to leave demos or tours because of smoking nearby or a smoker also watching or on the same tour. Even though my mask helps, the purpose is to give me time to get away from the trigger. It is not a perfect seal, so it doesn't mean I can all of a sudden stand next to a smoker as long as I am wearing it. We have just accepted that as part of my mast cell disease (and are so thankful that a whiff of smoke doesn't mean instant anaphylaxis anymore!), but it can be frustrating sometimes.
The other place we had an issue with smoke was at the shuttle stop. There is no designated smoking area, so we encountered people smoking right at the curb multiple times, at the visitor center stop especially. That was not cool. It meant we had to wait far enough away downwind that it wasn't an issue, but it also meant that riding the shuttle was potentially an issue. Thankfully we were there at the beginning of September which is considered "off season" for Williamsburg. Kids were just back to school, so summer vacations were over, and it was too early in the year for field trips. That meant the shuttles were mostly empty and we could sit as far away from the smoker as possible, but at busier times, this could have been more of an issue.
The other issue with specific scent triggers in Williamsburg was in almost every single shop. Soap, candles, ink, dye, etc. Every single shop (except the candy store) was selling some sort of scented product and often multiple different products all with their own smell. We realized this pretty early on our first day there. We weren't planning on buying anything anyway, so it wasn't a big deal for us. Nick did go in a couple of the shops that looked interesting, and I just stayed outside. There was a big outdoor market that had a few scented products I think, but since it was outside I could wander around it while wearing my mask without any issues.
|View from just outside the patio at Chowning's Tavern|
A restaurant outside the historic area but still in Williamsburg that gets incredible reviews for being super allergy friendly is Food for Thought. We were hoping to try it one day, but sadly the nasty masties decided to veto that plan...so sadly I don't have any personal experience to share, but it has gotten multiple fantastic reviews from the food allergy community for how they handle allergies (separate kitchen, well trained staff, very willing to customize dishes, etc). There is also a Food Lion very close to the historic area and the Govenor's Inn that was great for us to pick up safe food for me and extra snacks for Nick. I was pleasantly surprised to see the variety of allergy friendly products and brands they had, so that could be an option as well, especially if you have a refrigerator in your room.
And that was how we handled Williamsburg with the nasty masties and da poodle! We had a great time, and I hope that our experience can maybe be helpful for anyone else heading down that way.