31 May DC Day Trip to Manassas, Virginia
Trip Overview: If you’re looking for a quick jaunt out of the city, historic downtown Manassas in Prince William County is calling your name! From the boutiques, to the breweries, to the nearby battlefield, visitors can expect to find an easily walkable small town with some seriously big time charm.
Time needed: 6 hours
Distance from DC: Around 60 miles, roundtrip
Best time to visit: Late Spring through Fall
Best suited for: Friends, Families, Couples… this trip is for everyone.
DC DAY TRIP TO MANASSAS, VIRGINIA
1.) Historic Manassas Farmers Market
This bi-weekly market has 50 stalls that range from the expected farmers market staples to more unique vendors like Loopy Scoops popsicles & ice cream and Monument Coffee Roasters. Open 7:30 am to 1 pm on Saturdays and Thursdays from early April to Thanksgiving, it’s a great way to start your morning in Manassas. But, leave your pooch at home– dogs aren’t allowed inside the market due to state regulations.
2.) Manassas Train Depot
What made Manassas such an important part of the Civil War was its railroad junction, which served as a supply depot and center for military transportation. So, whoever held Manassas held a critical strategic advantage, which led to much of the nearby battle conflict. Today, Amtrak still stops here daily as part of a route that travel from New York to New Orleans. Be sure to pop into the train depot to see some historic artifacts and photos from over the years.
ALSO! Train lovers can’t miss next weekend’s Manassas Heritage Railway Festival. This year, the popular event is June 6th and features a train ride to Clifton, live music, model trains displays and more.
3.) Window Shopping in Historic Manassas
Historic downtown Manassas is about 4 square blocks, with Center Street the main thoroughfare. Spend some time walking throughout downtown, stopping in boutiques along the way. Some local favorites (and my favorites, too!) include Allyssa Bryn at the MarketPlace, Prospero’s Books, The Things I Love, Totally Vintage and Love, Charley.
As you explore downtown Manassas, you’ll likely notice that there are a ton of restaurants throughout the historic district. One local favorite is Katerina’s Greek Cuisine, an always bustling restaurant with authentic Mediterranean specialties. Other good bets include Zandra’s Taqueria, Okra’s Cajun/ Creole and The Bone BBQ.
5.) Brewery Hopping
With not one but TWO craft breweries located within spitting distance of each other, Manassas really makes it easy for local beer aficionados to brewery hop. First, head on over to BadWolf Brewing Company— a nano brewery that features a constantly rotating draft list sure to please even the most serious craft beer drinkers. (You’ll need your car at this point– the breweries are a quick 5 minute drive outside of the historic district.)
Across the street in a warehouse is the larger Heritage Brewing Company, a veteran owned and operated brewery featuring bigger batches and a little more selection.
With both places worth visiting, why pick just one?
6.) Manassas National Battlefield Park
You really can’t visit Manassas without stopping by the Manassas Battlefield. It is the site of the first major battlefield of the Civil War, and it’s definitely worth visiting (whether you’re a Civil War buff, or not.) The battlefield is incredibly scenic and the 1.1 mile Henry Hill Loop Trail provides a good overview of the battle with plaques and other points of interest along the way.
JenPosted at 14:52h, 01 June
You hit some great high points, but I beg to differ with the contention that you need a car to get from historic downtown to the breweries. If you can walk the 1.1 mile trail on the battlefield, you can walk to BadWolf and Heritage from downtown – it’s not any further. My family lives near the breweries, and if the weather’s nice, we (which includes 2 young children) prefer to walk downtown instead of driving (although there’s always free parking on the weekend in the parking garage next to the depot).
Christina RicchiutiPosted at 16:06h, 01 June
Cool! I personally felt like it was a little long for most people to walk (plus it’s not the most scenic walk since it would be on a busy road) but noted: definitely walkable if you really want to.
JenPosted at 20:21h, 01 June
Also good to note – on Friday and Saturday evening, The Bone (which DOES have some delicious BBQ) has free delivery to both Heritage and BadWolf. 😉
AndrewPosted at 04:27h, 02 June
Why isn’t any of art galleries mentioned? They’re great artwork that’s available. Even the service of being pampered at local hair salon. The quaint coffee shop with great coffee and unique record and more store. Wow! A lot missed on the visit to DC trip to Manassas. I do hope this doesn’t get missed again.
Christina RicchiutiPosted at 08:06h, 02 June
Thanks for sharing!
AndrewPosted at 04:32h, 02 June
Also breakfast at City Square is the Best all around. So much missed. Why were they not mentioned?
Christina RicchiutiPosted at 08:07h, 02 June
Sounds great! I was only there a day– so much to do, so little time. Thanks so much for helping to share these tips for other readers!
MariePosted at 07:07h, 02 June
I can’t believe there wasn’t a mention of Manassas Clay a downtown staple for almost 20 years! People are free to tour a working pottery studio that offers classes to all skill and age levels, they also have a large gallery featuring 40 Local VA potters selling handmade work.
Christina RicchiutiPosted at 08:08h, 02 June
Sounds fantastic! Thank you for sharing this tip 🙂
RosannaPosted at 10:27h, 02 June
How about a nice “Thank You” to Chris rather than a complaints about what wasn’t covered – can’t imagine other travel bloggers wanting to cover the area, nor Chris wanting to return after the way you and Andrew reacted.
RosannaPosted at 10:26h, 02 June
Chris, thanks for doing a great job on your review of Manassas!! I didn’t realize the Farmer’s Market was open on Thursdays! That’s a great motivator to support local farmers and then visit the fun shops you mentioned. Thanks to the other readers for mentioning the coffee shop, etc, but you could have done it more nicely. Sheesh!
JanaPosted at 12:02h, 02 June
i highly recommend 2 other restaurants, Monza’s and Carmello’s. Both have awesome food and great atmosphere. And Monza’s has outdoor seating and live music.
Tamara BlosilPosted at 22:25h, 05 August
Great to see Manassas highlighted and its many focal points! Nicely done! I’ve lived in the area for nearly 20 years and have seen its growth and changes. If visitors from DC and the Alexandria/Crystal City areas want to meander East during the week, they can hop onto the VRE (Virginia Railway Express) from Union Station, L’Enfant, Crystal City or Alexandria and enjoy a beautiful round trip train ride via the Clifton countryside. Train tickets can be purchased at any station (just be sure to validate your ticket before getting on the train). Take the Manassas stop at the depot which drops you off in the middle of the town reflected in Christine’s photos above. Be sure to review the train schedule, midday runs are few but morning and afternoon/early eves are prominent.
A couple of other callouts:
The Manassas Museum (across from the parking garage via the open lawns) offers many cultural and historic venues.
Manassas hosts one of the best small town firework displays on the Fourth of July. It also has a Santa train (via the VRE) near Christmas.
Tea at ‘The Things that I Love’ (mentioned above) hosts a tea room. You can sign up for their email newsletter or via their Facebook page to find out times.
Only minutes from downtown by car is the Manassas Industrial School & Jennie Dean Memorial Historical site. It’s a gem for history buffs. “The school was founded largely through the efforts of former slave Jennie Dean who chartered the school on October 7, 1893. The school was designed as a private residential institution providing both academic and vocational training within a Christian setting.”
About a twenty-five to thirty-minute drive South East of old town Manassas is Historic Brentsville. “In 1820, the Town of Brentsville became the fourth county seat of Prince William County. The new town of Brentsville was centrally located in Prince William County, along the major east/west road, which led from the port of Dumfries to the Shenandoah Valley. Every type of county business occurred in this courthouse, civil and criminal cases alike, for the next 70 years. Finally, in 1893, the county seat moved to Manassas (mainly due to the railroad), which allowed Brentsville to retain much of its 19th-century character.” Brentsville has tours for its courthouse, jail, school, church, a farmhouse, walking trails with trail markers, and makes another overall beautiful day trip from D.C.
Christina Ricchiuti-DubinPosted at 16:48h, 11 August
Thanks so much for these tips, Tamara! Much appreciated!
ANN H CLAYPosted at 09:16h, 13 October
Yes, Manassas Clay is a must. Also Grounds Central Station for coffee, breakfast, snacks, lunch. Such a friendly atmosphere. https://www.groundscentralstation.com/
There are also concerts during mild weather at the pavillion, and they’re usually free. In the winter, it turns into an ice skating rink.