Leave the classroom behind and experience America’s history firsthand with a trip to Prince William & Manassas, Virginia. Located just 30 miles south of Washington D.C., Prince William and Manassas are home to two major Civil War battles, countless historic sites and hands-on museums that help bring the pages of student history books to life. Besides having a rich history, the community offers numerous opportunities for performance groups looking to shine.
Make America’s story yours
Start your journey through America’s past with a stop at Manassas National Battlefield Park. Touch the cannons that once erupted during battle and stand in the footsteps of “Stonewall” Jackson. Now hallowed ground, this park is where the Battles of First and Second Manassas unfolded more than 150 years ago. The battlefield is just one of more than 25 historic sites in Prince William and Manassas. Other notable places to visit include Ben Lomond Historic Site, Liberia Plantation and Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre.
At Ben Lomond, explore one of the only public slave quarters left in Northern Virginia and the plantation home, which served as a hospital during the Civil War. Handle the tools doctors used to treat wounded, try on period clothing and read the graffiti wounded soldiers left behind.
Get a rare glimpse into Liberia, another plantation home that served as the headquarters for both Union and Confederate troops and was also visited by President Abraham Lincoln. Discover the life of a Confederate spy who gleaned information about Union Troops and passed it along to a general stationed at Liberia.
Experience more than just Civil War history with a visit to Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre. Participate in a mock trial and learn about 19th century government in an 1882 courthouse then visit the neighboring haunted jail. The 28-acre site also includes a one-room school where students can compare the early 20th-century school experience with that of today’s and a circa 1850s farm house. Churn butter, grind corn, cook over the hot coals and participate in other chores children had to do in the 19th century.
Once students are done with their chores, send them to boot camp at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. This free museum chronicles the history of the Marines through interactive displays, artifacts and personal accounts. While there, board a helicopter headed to Vietnam, stand before a drill sergeant for your first day of training and enjoy a meal in the museum’s Devil Dog Diner. After, pay tribute to fallen heroes at Quantico National Cemetery. Through the Missing In America Project, student groups can place flags on the graves of forgotten veterans buried at Quantico. A national program, the MIA Project locates, identifies and inters the unclaimed cremated remains of American veterans.
Continue the journey through America’s military history with a trip to Prince William Forest Park. This national park not only features 40 miles of hiking and biking trails but boasts more than 8,000 years of history. Explore the 1930s-era cabins the Office of Strategic Services used to train spies during WWII or spend the night in them after reminiscing about your daytime adventures around the campfire.
After the park, explore the Weems-Botts Museum in Dumfries, which was once home to Parson Weems-the biographer for George Washington and man responsible for the infamous story about Washington and the cherry tree. The museum is also considered one of the most haunted homes in Virginia and was recently visited by paranormal investigators from the show “My Ghost Story.”
Performance opportunities aplenty
Prince William and Manassas provide numerous options for student choirs, bands and dance groups looking for free, performance opportunities.
Sing in the shadows of an authentic Marine aircraft and amidst some of the nation’s most treasured artifacts at the National Museum of the Marine Corps or capture the attention of shoppers at Potomac Mills-Virginia’s largest outlet mall. Featuring more than 200 shops and eateries, every student is bound to find a store they want to explore. Mall staff can also arrange scavenger hunts and $5 meal deals for groups looking to eat after their show.
Another place where performance groups can entertain shoppers is Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center, one of the newest developments in Prince William. Get visitors to start tapping their toes to your band’s music as you play in the center’s outdoor plaza, surrounded by dozens of shops and restaurants. The show will also be broadcast on the center’s jumbotron.
For groups that enjoy performing in the great outdoors, another option is to sing the National Anthem or do a show during the 7th inning stretch at a Potomac Nationals Game. The team, which plays at Pfitzner Stadium, is a Minor League affiliate of the Washington Nationals. Stadium staff can secure a section of seats for your group and host a BBQ.
Instead of performing at a specific venue, march down the streets of Old Town Manassas and entertain the crowds that pack this historic, former railroad junction for numerous parades throughout the year. Support America’s troops by participating in the annual Veterans Day parade, grab a Santa hat for the Greater Manassas Christmas Parade or don some green for next year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
While in town, performance groups can also participate in master clinics in conjunction with George Mason University, exchange concerts with the Prince William school system or book tickets to see a show at the stunning Hyton Performing Arts Center. Located on the campus of George Mason University, this new venue features local, national and international dance, theater and music productions. Hylton staff can arrange discounted tickets, a pre-performance discussion and a free ticket for the group’s driver.
While in town, discover the numerous other activities, outdoor adventures and unique experiences that Prince William and Manassas have to offer.
Cruise down the Occoquan River aboard a Miss Rivershore boat. Enjoy a lively history lesson from the captain and local wildlife as the boat makes its way to Leesylvania State Park. There, picnic at the site of a Civil War gun battery and hike some of the park’s wandering trails.
Another way to enjoy the great outdoors is with a trip to SplashDown– Northern Virginia’s largest waterpark. Groups can rent a pavilion at the park and secure discounted rates on weekdays. While there, shoot down four-story slides, relax on the lazy river and build a sandcastle at the beach.
After, head to Old Town Manassas to dine at one of the locally owned restaurants or work with local tourism staff to climb aboard and eat a meal on an old train caboose. A railroad town, Manassas played a key role in the Civil War and was the site of Jackson’s Raid on Union supplies at the Manassas railroad junction in 1862.
Experience one of the area’s other historic districts, Occoquan, by taking a guided ghost tour through this former mill town along the water. Look for the Indian who allegedly appears in the mirror at Occoquan Inn or the boy who haunts a busy street corner.
Groups interested in agritourism can explore one of the dozens of working farms that remain in Prince William and Manassas. Pick fresh produce at Yankey farm, watch the alpacas at Double “O” Good Alpacas or interact with farmers at Burnside Farms. Experience a farm to table meal where students pick their fruits and vegetables then partner with a local chef who will turn their freshly picked food into a feast.
Prince William and Manassas offer numerous other activities that are great to entertain students while in town. Groups can ice skate at Prince William Ice Center’s Olympic-sized rink, play a round of miniature golf at one of two courses, challenge friends to a game of laser tag at Laser Quest or participate in a program at the EDGE-a hands-on, teambuilding course. EDGE staff members offer a variety of student programs that emphasize collaboration, communication and relationship building through experimental activities and a ropes course.
Planning your trip
Not only are Prince William and Manassas filled with educational opportunities, performance options and other adventures that will engage students, but they are also affordable destinations conveniently located near Dulles International Airport, Interstates 95 and 66 and just 30 miles from the nation’s capital.
Discover Prince William & Manassas, the area’s destination marketing organization, can help ensure your trip is unique and engaging by preparing sample itineraries, step-on guides and unique experiences that are only available to groups. The staff can help arrange everything from costumed interpreters and musket firing demonstrations to hands-on programs where students can dress in Civil War garb and taste Hardtack- a staple food during the 1860s.
The area includes a variety of hotels that can match any price point, accommodate large groups and provide evening activities including movies and games. The staff at the Manassas Museum and Historic Preservation in Prince William can also provide history lessons, period attire and interactive programs right at the hotel.
Anyone planning a student group tour should contact Discover Prince William & Manassas and take advantage of the experienced tourism professionals that will ensure every group has a memorable, one-of-a-kind experience.
Contact Prince William