Prince William County is the third most populous county in Virginia (after Fairfax and Virginia Beach) and is within an hour drive of Washington, DC.—where many residents travel to work each weekday. Two of the bloodiest American Civil War battles occurred in Prince William County, which was first settled in 1653. Along with history, things to do in Prince William County include the abundant nature, marvelous food and drink, and many fun activities.
I was among a group of travel writers hosted by the Visit Prince William Virginia—but this list of 8 great things to do in Prince William County Virginia is my curated view based on multiple visits.
8 Great Things to Do in Prince William County Virginia
1. Manassas Battlefield
Perhaps the most famous attraction and most popular thing to do in Prince William County is Manassas National Battlefield Park. Located within a mile of I-66, the park is an undeveloped oasis and called a 5,000 acre classroom, where students, historians, and visitors can learn about the two battles. Did you know that the Confederate army (South) won both battles? Well, I better not spoil any other surprises. The visitor center has informative displays and exhibits and an excellent 45 minute film. Allow time to drive, bike, horse ride, or hike the many historic trails. I particularly like visiting the Stone Bridge and boardwalk.
2. Marine Corps Museum
Officially called The National Museum of the Marine Corps and Heritage Center, this facility is magnificent. Lifelike exhibits, displays, movies, and more cover the history of the US Marines from 1775 through the Vietnam War.
Do not miss the amazing Iwo Jima video.
Upcoming features include an IMAX theater (2017), historical theater (2018), sports gallery and hall of fame (2019), and changing exhibits (2020). Much of the remodeling will cover the period from the Vietnam War to the present, so it will resonate more personally with younger visitors. Admission is free. There are two onsite dining options: Devil Dog Diner (cafeteria) and Tun Tavern (re-creation of the birthplace of USMC).
3. Marine Cemetery
About 2 miles from the Marine Corps Museum is Quantico National Cemetery. The 725 acres for the cemetery was donated by the US Marines Corp in 1977 and the cemetery was dedicated in 1983. This cemetery is easier to access and navigate than Arlington National Cemetery.
4. Prince William Forest Park
Prince William Forest Park is the largest greenspace (over 15,000 acres) in the metro Washington, DC area and well worth a visit. The park entrance is across the street from the Quantico Cemetery.
For a quick visit, stop in the visitor center and drive the 12 mile scenic drive. If you have more time, hiking trails range from 1/2 mile to 18 miles. That scenic drive is very popular for bicyclists, as are many unpaved trails. The park also is popular for camping and group events; the ranger told us that live action role play events are very popular. During World War 2, the park was a military training site (including intelligence and spy work).
5. More Outdoor fun
Amazing hiking trails are also found at Bull Run Mountains. Our guide from the Bull Run Mountains Conservancy showed us the historic Chapman Mill and the eastern edge of the Appalachian Mountain range.
Brentsville was the first planned community in Prince William County and its historic center has been restored to the original look in the 1820s.
I learned that courthouses during the 1820s hosted marathon trial sessions, since they only met for 1 or 2 days every month. The interior shows where a Sheriff sat (the box) and the presiding judge sat (center table). Other restored buildings include a classroom, church, and jail.
The historic town of Occoquan retains a ton of charm from yesteryear. It is well worth a stop in Occoquan to visit some quaint shops, look at period architecture, dine along the Occoquan River, or learn history at the Mill House Museum.
Rumor has it that the town is haunted by several ghosts including a Confederate solider at the Rockledge mansion.
McCool Travel tip: Mom’s Apple Pie is a personal favorite stop. In addition to incredible pies, they have a market with farm fresh foods and extensive wines.
8. Potomac Mills
With over 1.5 million square feet, Potomac Mills is the largest outlet mall in Virginia and perhaps the state’s most visited attraction. It is conveniently located within a mile of I-95 and is frequented by visitors from up and down the USA’s East coast. With over 225 stores, Potomac Mills can be your one stop to get all your holiday shopping done.
Where to Stay in Prince William County
A convenient hotel near Quantico is Fairfield Inn & Suites Quantico Stafford. Recommended hotels near Manassas Battlefield include La Quinta Inn & Suites Manassas and Courtyard by Marriott Manassas Battlefield.
For eating, drinking, and other things to do in Prince William County, please check out FuninFairfaxVA’s Prince William article.
Have you visited Prince William County in Virginia?