Williamsburg is located in southeastern Kentucky near the Tennessee state border; between the Daniel Boone National Forest and the Cumberland River.
It is known as the Gateway to the Cumberlands, for its proximity to the Cumberland Mountains, Cumberland Falls, and the Cumberland Falls State Resort Park.
Other famous attractions in Williamsburg include the Kentucky Splash Water Park, Cumberland Falls Farm, and the newly opened Mint Gaming Hall.
Williamsburg’s proximity to the Daniel Boone National Forest makes it convenient to spend a day or a weekend at the Laurel River Lake. Williamsburg is also a short drive from both London and Corbin, an hour and a half from Lexington, and an hour from Knoxville, TN.
Indian Mountain State Park is just 20 minutes away in Jellico, TN and the Dr. Thomas Walker State Historic Site is about half an hour east toward Barbourville. Walker was the first known white man to explore Whitley County around 1750, and you can tour his homestead.
The Big South Fork Scenic Railway is about 25 minutes west in Stearns, KY. From Williamsburg, follow Hwy 92 westward into Pine Knot and north to Stearns.
You can learn about the history of Williamsburg and the surrounding region by visiting the Whitley County Historical & Genealogical Society/Museum of Whitley County. It was founded in 1996 and is located in the old L & N Depot building at the intersection of Main Street and Depot Street.
The University of the Cumberlands is a Christian college in Williamsburg, which essentially makes it a tiny college town. UC is one of the largest private colleges in Kentucky with more than 1,800 students from the USA and 18 foreign countries.
University of Cumberlands owns and operates the Cumberland Museum, showcasing a multitude of science collections focused on animals and natural habitats, and holding the Henkelmann Life Science Collection of African and Arctic expeditions.
Williamsburg has two dozen religious institutions in little more than 4.5 square miles. In fact, residents proudly claim to be the one of the most “church-dense” towns in the whole Bible Belt.
Williamsburg is the seat of Whitley County, which was once under the parent county, Knox County. This thrilled me to learn because Knox County, Kentucky is the fictitious setting for one of my favourite Little Bubby Child comic videos that you can watch here.
For anyone who has not yet discovered Little Bubby Child and appreciates a healthy dose of Southern Appalachian humour, do yourself a favour and follow his Facebook page.
In the summer, Williamsburg residents gather for Friday night block parties and live entertainment at the Bill Woods Park, the Whitley County Fair each July, and the Old Fashioned Trading Days Festival in September.
Main Street is sparsely populated, but the Williamsburg Main Street Program is working to build up the downtown area. There were dozens of cars parked along the street, but I only saw four people over the course of about an hour.
Still, it took nearly twenty minutes to get a cup of coffee in Cumberland River Coffee. The only other customer there would not stop talking about embarassingly personal details to the barista. In turn, the barista was talking about how she was finally leaving this place to go work at the Walmart. I do not hold this against the coffee shop itself at all, it just added to the general lameness of the “Downtown Williamsburg” experience.
The coffee shop and the Butcher’s Pub were the only two “fun” places in town that were open on a Saturday afternoon, and Butcher’s Pub was empty. I exclude fast food places and the funeral home from the “fun” category, but if that interests you, you will likely have a better time here.
The Lane Theater looked cute, but it was also closed on a Saturday afternoon.
One thing I did enjoy about downtown Williamsburg is the Public Library art installations of cute old couples and little kids reading. There were several of them, but rain kept me from tracking them all down for photos.
I attempted to visit the Williamsburg Tourism Center, but it was also closed. Nevertheless, I found a cool mural of the town.
My visit to Williamsburg itself was rather drab, but combined with all the sights in London and Corbin, and the beautiful natural attractions the three cities share, this sleepy place balanced it out.
I have a great appreciation for small towns and I look forward to passing through Williamsburg again one day when downtown is bustling with local businesses and events.
In the area for a while? Follow me to London and Corbin.
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