A historic Manassas day trip or overnight delivers small town charm sprinkled with interesting history, delicious dining, local drink, and quirky shopping. It's a perfect mix for a relaxing staycation about an hour from Washington DC.
You can cover the Manassas highlights in a day but stay overnight if you're able and allow time for more meals, hikes, and kicking back.
Explore more: 15 Fun Northern Virginia Small Towns to Visit Now.
Things to Do in Historic Old Town Manassas
Take a Walking Tour of Old Town
Stop at the Visitor Center in the Historic Manassas Train Depot to get oriented and pick up maps for an Old Town walking tour. The LOVE sign next to the historic depot is a perfect picture spot.
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In 1862, the Confederates burned the town, and extensive supplies accumulated along the railroad line so that it would not fall into Union hands. Many of the historic buildings in Old Town date to the early 1900s, including the Candy Factory, now a Center for the Arts, and the Old Town Hall, built in 1914.
Shop at the Manassas Farmers Market
A year-round Saturday Farmer's Market is held in the parking lot next to the Train Depot. In summer, a second Thursday market takes over the Harris Pavilion.
You'll find a nice mix of vendors at both markets that include, but go beyond, traditional market produce. Local honey, flavored oils, candles and soaps, knit goods, wooden signs, and more are all available. Both of the Manassas Farmer's Markets support the SNAP program and even match $10 of spending, dollar for dollar.
Visit the Manassas Museum
At the museum, permanent and temporary historical exhibits interpret Northern Virginia Piedmont history through artifacts, documents, and images. Two exhibit videos describe the settlement of the region and the impact of the Civil War on the community.
Catch a Show at Harris Pavillion
In the summer, you may catch a show or special event at the Harris Pavilion, a covered pavilion near the train depot. Check the calendar for weekly dances, concerts, ice cream socials, and more. If you visit in winter, you can ice skate at the Pavilion. During the holiday season, Old Town becomes a sparkling Christmas town with festive events and decorations.
Delicious Dining and Drink in Historic Manassas
There are a surprising number of excellent dining options in the center of Old Town Manassas, and two local breweries and a distillery nearby. Here is a sampling of the delicious food and drink available; several more restaurants are on our list to visit.
Opened in 2016, Jarani's large, comfortable space and tasty coffees and treats is a nice stop during your Old Town explorations. They also host live music and community events.
In an unassuming brick building on Center Street, Katerina's offers an extensive menu and some truly delicious Greek specialties. We loved the Saganaki—kaseri cheese flambeed at the table. The Taste of Greece, with a combination of mousaka, pastitsio & spanakopita, is a great choice when you can't decide, and the busy tables attest to the fact that the menu will not steer you wrong.
Carmello's has been serving contemporary American cuisine with Portuguese and Mediterranean influences in it's Old Town location since 1987. The family-owned restaurant offers beautiful meals and an elegant, white linen experience. Their sister restaurant, Monza, offers bistro fare and local brews in a more casual setting.
The Bone BBQ now has two locations, but the original is on Battle Street in Old Town. Load up on the tasty ribs, brisket, and pulled pork or chicken; or lighten things up with the excellent smokin' salad, topped with some of that tasty bbq. You'll also find a nice selection of craft beers.
The Virginia Craft Beer movement has strong support in downtown Manassas, where two breweries offer creative, locally-sourced brews and fun. BadWolf Brewing offers a constant rotation of beers with a wide range of styles and flavors. Try one of the generous flights to maximize your tasting options from the flagship, seasonal, and experimental beers on tap.
We really enjoyed the beers and the friendly vibe at BadWolf. We especially liked the “You Will Not Like This IPA” and the Jalapeno IPA, but it's best to taste the Jalapeno last as the subtle heat dominates the palate. BadWolf also operates a smaller tasting room, Little BadWolf, where they experiment with new small-batch flavors.
Nearby Heritage Brewing Company is a veteran-owned and operated microbrewery that opened in 2013. The brewers emphasize locally-sourced, American ingredients and sustainable practices in their brews. Popular flagship beers include the “Freedom Isn't Free” IPA and the “Kings Mountain” Scotch Ale.
In addition, KO Distilling produces local spirits, including two gins and a Virginia Moon White Whiskey, in a state-of-the-art distilling plant near Old Town.
Explore the Shops
The compact blocks of Old Town Manassas are home to a nice array of unique shops, most located on Center Street. We were intrigued by the scented candles offered by Calico Jacks at the Farmer's Market, and we were happy to explore the candles, soaps, and antiques at their new shop in town.
We also enjoy shopping at The Things I Love for unique home decor, gifts, and more.
There are also art galleries, clothing stores, a wine and cheese shop, and more in Old Town Manassas's walkable downtown.
Spend the Night
To get the full Old Town experience, we recommend an overnight stay at one of the two bed and breakfasts in town, giving you more time to relax, dine, drink, and explore.
Manassas Junction B&B.
Our host, the Manassas Junction B&B, sits on a lovely one-acre property at the eastern end of Center Street, about a half-mile stroll from the railroad depot. The large Victorian home offers two rooms decorated with four-poster beds and period antiques. We stayed in the bright and spacious Prescott Room, which had a very comfortable bed, a nice sitting area, and an en-suite bathroom.
In the morning, we were indulged with a multi-course breakfast featuring fresh fruit and organic yogurt, fantastic homemade scones, and an omelet filled with asparagus from the garden and accompanied by home fries and sausage. It was one of the best B&B breakfasts we've ever had. Over breakfast, we learned more about the area from our hosts, who are both very knowledgeable about local history and lesser-known sites to visit.
Visit Nearby Civil War History
Explore a Civil War Field Hospital at Ben Lomond Historic Site
Ben Lomond was a successful Virginia plantation, made prosperous by the enslaved workforce who farmed corn and wheat and cared for the nearly 500 Merino sheep that were part of the property. After the Battle of First Manassas, the house was converted to a Confederate field hospital to treat wounded and diseased soldiers encamped in the area.
In 1862, Federal forces occupied the area and ransacked the house, covering the plaster walls with graffiti from floor to ceiling. Visitors to Ben Lomond can learn about the enslaved people at one of Virginia’s only remaining slave quarters. You'll also get a close-up look at surgical tools and procedures used during the war and see some of the graffiti left behind during the Civil War. Be sure to visit the backyard rose garden if it is blooming.
House tours are $5 for adults with discounts for military, students, and children. Check the website for special tours and programs. Ben Lomond is a 10-minute drive from Old Town.
Manassas Battlefield preserves the site of two important Civil War battles, looking much as it did during the time of the conflict. First Manassas was the first major Civil War battle between two new armies. A year later, the armies clashed on this site again, and the Confederate victory at Second Manassas opened the way for the south’s first invasion of the north.
Activities at the park include visiting the excellent displays at the Visitor Center, learning about the Battle of First Manassas on Henry Hill, and exploring battle sites on the 20-mile self-guided driving tour.
Hike the 5-mile First Manassas loop trail or a similar 6-mile trail that follows sites of the Battle of Second Manassas. The Manassas Battlefield is a 15-minute drive from Old Town.
We wrapped up our two-day visit to Old Town with a stop at Manassas Battlefield, and a walk on the boardwalk near the Stone Bridge. It was time to work off some of that delicious food and drink we discovered in historic Manassas.
You'll find more things to do, dine and drink, hiking, and history in our write-up of Prince William County, Virginia. There are two nearby hiking destinations worth a visit:
- At Conway Robinson State Forest, hike through a mix of old growth and managed forestland. Informational signs add an interesting learning opportunity for kids.
- Scenic paved paths at Blooms Park, a former golf course in the nearby town of Manassas Park, navigate a hilly course past pretty views and woodlands.
Old Town Manassas makes a great home base, and an excellent starting point for exploring all that Prince William County has to offer.
We were hosted by Discover Prince William and Visit Manassas during our most recent trip. Check their websites for more destinations, events, and fun to help you plan your Historic Manassas day trip or overnight.