Potomac News Online | Recreation: Tourists come for history, shopping, fun
Back to Discover Prince William
One of the many features that make Prince William County so special is its variety of top-notch attractions offered to tourists and residents.
Discover the historic serenity of hallowed fields where soldiers fought the first major battle of America’s Civil War, the distinction and warmth of shops and boutiques in quaint small towns, the exhilaration of playing nationally renowned championship golf courses and the simple victory of saving money and time at one of America’s largest outlet centers.
Visitors to the county and Manassas can discover the timeless stories of courage, loss and determination of the Civil War at the Manassas National Battlefield Park. Preserved to retain its pristine wartime character, the stunning, rolling hills and verdant vistas at the battlefield almost seem to belie the ground’s consecrated nature.
Visitors can hike on paths forged by soldiers in the two battles of Manassas and retrace the path of Gen. Thomas Jackson who earned his nickname “Stonewall” by courageously standing his ground there. At the visitors center, tourists can view the dramatic Hollywood film “Manassas: End of Innocence,” which details the two battles through the eyes of soldiers and nearby residents.
Civil War buffs will also want to visit the Manassas area’s two earthen forts, Cannon Branch and Signal Hill, as well as the Ben Lomond Manor House, a Civil War-era hospital where soldiers scrawled their names and messages on the home’s walls.
The Confederate Cemetery in Manassas stands as testament to the many Southern soldiers who died in the two battles of Manassas.
At the Manassas Museum, the history of the region is traced from the region’s railway roots, through the Civil War, Reconstruction and beyond. At the Southern Railway Depot in Manassas and the Manassas Tourist Information Center visitors can explore railway exhibits and receive travel advice and assistance from the travel counselors on location.
At Leesylvania State Park, visitors can hike to the hilltop homesite of Revolutionary War hero Gen. Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee. All that remains of the home is a large brick chimney, but visitors can imagine the Lee plantation there with its spectacular view of the glistening Potomac River below.
For Colonial and Revolutionary War attractions, visitors can explore the region’s prominence at the Weems-Botts Museum in historic Dumfries. At this museum they can learn about the house’s past inhabitants, including Parson Mason Weems (George Washington’s biographer) and Benjamin B. Botts (Aaron Burr’s defense attorney).
In historic Occoquan, the history of the former mill town can be discovered at the Mill House Museum.
Brentsville Historic Center offers a unique peek at post-Revolutionary life. A courthouse, jail and schoolhouse stand in proximity, and visitors can stroll the grounds of Brentsville where soldiers gathered to sign up for service in the Civil War.
The Jennie Dean Industrial School was ravaged by fire, but an outline of the building and a model of the campus, as well as historical markers and interpretation, stand at the site.
Visitors can also view the site of the Manassas National Jubilee of Peace, where in 1911 veterans of the Civil War gathered at the Manassas Courthouse to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas and pledged to foster a national spirit of peace and reconciliation.
At Quantico National Cemetery in Triangle visitors can walk past rows of tombstones, the final resting places for many of America’s war veterans. A flag-lined pathway provides opportunities for reflection and remembrance.
The Freedom Museum in Manassas honors America’s service in foreign conflicts during the 20th century. Large exhibits of vintage ephemerae and artifacts, including exclusive Vietnam War photographs and an outdoor military vehicle collection, provide a unique and memorable display of America’s military.
Liberia House, a prominent residence and general’s headquarters during the Civil War, and Rippon Lodge, the plantation home of Col. Richard Blackburn, are open for special events. Civil War trail markers are on display throughout the county, including two recently placed in Haymarket.
For more information on the history of the area and the sites, call the Prince William County/Manassas Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 432-1792.
From finding the perfect holiday gift for a loved one, to the annual back-to-school event, to discovering a hard-to-find antique for the living room mantle, this area has a solution to every shopping challenge.
Visitors come by the bus loads to discover shopping at Potomac Mills mall, one of the East Coast’s largest shopping malls. Housed in the mall is a 15-screen movie theater and more than 25 eateries.
Visitors can stroll the charming streets of Old Town Manassas and enjoy distinctive Victorian-era architecture. Old Town offers more than 25 merchants selling unique gift items, original art, furnishings, antiques, gourmet foods and wine. A dozen eateries offer a multitude of delectable dining options.
Special events held during the year include the Farmers Market (May-November), Manassas Fall Jubilee (October) and Merry Old Town Weekends (December). Old Town was named a Great American Main Street in 2003 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Historic Occoquan, the enchanting and welcoming former mill town set on the banks of the Occoquan River, offers nearly 100 antique stores, specialty shops and art galleries.
Visitors can stop at the Tourist Information Center or grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants. Special events include the renowned Fall (September) and Spring (June) Arts and Crafts Festivals which draw visitors from throughout the country.
Also, Va. 28 in Manassas and U.S. 1 in Eastern Prince William are lined with distinct, individually-owned and operated antique shops.
From museums to laser tag, skateboarding, ice skating and more, the area offers fun for the entire family. The population of the area is young, as over 30 percent is under 18 years old and as a result there are a lot of family oriented activities for residents and visitors alike.
With its 35 miles of hiking and driving trails, Prince William Forest Park offers the opportunity to go deep inside the verdant woods and discover the quiet serenity of the great outdoors. The Travel Trailer Village at the park offers RV-travelers hookups and amenities, including electricity and showers.
At Leesylvania State Park families will find some of the best bass fishing on the Potomac River, as well as a great sandy beach for sunning, sandcastle building or playing a game of volleyball. Families with boats can enjoy one of the river’s top boat launch facilities and marinas.
At more than 50 regional, local and community parks, visitors can enjoy an abundance of other activities from family entertainment at amphitheaters to canoeing, mini golf, tennis and more.
There are three waterparks for those on a summer vacation: SplashDown WaterPark, WaterWorks Waterpark and Signal Bay Waterpark. Ice skating is available year-round at SkateQuest in Dale City and in the winter at the Loy E. Harris Pavilion.
Sports both participatory and spectator are plentiful in the region. The Potomac Nationals offer games in the spring and summer. Old Dominion Speedway offers car racing each weekend during the summer.
The Freedom Aquatics and Fitness Center, Chinn Aquatics and Fitness Center and Dale City Recreation Center can help visitors stay involved in fitness programs while away from home.
Families often flock to the area for its many youth sporting events. As host to many regional soccer tournaments, swim meets, and the annual Fall Classic baseball tournament for America’s best high school baseball players, Prince William County and Manassas and their many superb fields and facilities make for a diverse and welcoming sporting destination for visitors of all ages. Manassas hosts two senior softball tournaments that draw teams from across the country.
For the golfer in the family, make sure to bring clubs. With nearly a dozen championship golf courses set in a variety of attractive locales, the region offers the best play in the national capital area.
Prince William and Manassas is the place to be for family gatherings. Outdoor options include everything from a themed pony ranch to sharing a friendly game of miniature golf.
Superstar entertainment and the soothing breezes of the great outdoors converge in the area creating the perfect recipe for a memorable, fun and refreshing vacation. As home to one of the national capital region’s largest outdoor entertainment amphitheaters and an open-air performance in Manassas, there is rarely a shortage of musical tunes floating in the warm spring and summer air.
When the sun goes down, the stars come out at Nissan Pavilion, which can comfortably seat 25,000 guests in reserved and lawn seating sections. Visitors can throw blankets on the lawn and enjoy musical legends such as Dave Matthews Band, Brooks and Dunn and Ozzy Osbourne.
The Loy E. Harris Pavilion in Manassas hosts everything from the rousing tunes of Army bands to engaging performances by local arts groups. Other amphitheaters are the Mary Louise Jackson Amphitheater in Manassas and Locust Shade Park in Triangle.
Old Mine Ranch in Dumfries with a Western motif offers petting animals, little tractors, a moon bounce and slides and sandboxes.
A new skate park has opened adjacent to Osbourn High School in Manassas.
Other entertainment centers include the Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre near Woodbridge, the Cramer Center in Manassas and the Hylton Memorial Chapel and Conference Center in Woodbridge. Other performance options include some 20 arts and performance groups that offer plays, musicals, symphony performances and more. Summer concerts are also given on the Manassas Museum lawn and in Haymarket as well as other communities.