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Manassas, Virginia Family Vacation Ideas – Living History, Summer Concerts, and Nathan’s Ice Cream. Manassas is a classic American experience, offering connections with history, natural beauty and many ways to share affordable, good old fashion fun with kids.Manassas Virginia Visitors Center
 
Here’s the scoop. During my brief stay in Manassas I found it to be easy-paced with a welcoming atmosphere. Clever shops, cozy cafes and comfortable green spaces offer families a comfortable atmosphere without the stress of long lines or freeway noise. The city makes affordable family vacation base with easy access to Washington DC. While the big city may hold allure, Manassas itself offers several great family vacation experiences including coconut flavored bubble tea, mini golf, ice cream at Nathan’s Dairy Bar, and free music and movies during the summer months. While the area offers plenty of options for fun, I am including five suggestions worth considering.
    
Stories to hear and music to enjoy. Manassas Museum offers families several ways to absorb the history of the area. From pre-K Tuesday storytelling and craft sessions to unique monthly bicycle tours in the area and exceptional living history weekends offering military and medical demonstrations, African-American interpretation, period baseball games, music, food,  bourbon tasting, and re-enactments of pivotal events. Bonus points: All summer concert events are free and open to the public. So, families are encouraged invited to bring chairs or blankets and enjoy the summer. (Manassas Museum 9101 prince William Street Manassas VA. (703) 257-8265 or www.manassasmuseum.org).Manassas National Battlefield Living History for Kids

Get the story behind the battle. In the summer of 1861 Manassas was the location of the first battle of the American Civil War. Today the story unfolds for visitors using state-of-the-art audio visuals and engaging living history programs. The visitor center has a six-minute fiber-optic battle map, and a 45-minute orientation film Manassas: End of Innocence.  Ranger led programs offer insider details on both the battle and the effects on Manassas itself. Bonus Points: Manassas Battlefield National Park has a junior park ranger program (children ages five to 10) with an engaging array of interactive activities to with in the park and additional activities to do from home.  Wait for it! The park now has two apps to supplement any visit. The first - Stone Bridge Cell Phone Tour contains a special version that is just for kids and is loaded with information about the plants and animals of the battlefield. The second - Manassas National Battlefield TRACK features a cellphone guided adventure ideal for families. Here’s the deal! After hiking the TRACK Trail, register your adventure at www.kidsinparks.com to earn free prizes. (Manassas Battlefield National Park12521 Lee Hwy, Manassas VA 20109, (703) 754-1861 or www.nps.gov/mana/).

Semper fi. The National Museum of the Marine Corps is located not far from the Marine Corps Base Quantico not far from Manassas. The museum houses world-class interactive exhibits using the most innovative technology to engage visitors in the stories of the Corps by creative immersion using sights and sounds of Marines in action. The stories begin with first recruiting efforts in 1775 and continue through World War I. Visitors of all ages can see, hear, feel, and smell the battle. To enhance the museum experience for families the museum has unique interactive gallery hunts created for children ages five to 10. Bonus Points: Each summer the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation has a Summer Concert Series on site.  Perhaps the most famous is the famed Silent Drill Platoon - a 24-person rifle platoon that executes a drill exhibition without a word. Manassas Virginia Green DiscoveriesHere’s the deal! The second Saturday of every month is “Family Day” and a time for children of all ages to participate in hands-on activities created to make learning about Marine Corps history fun. (National Museum of the Marine Corps 18900 Jefferson Davis Highway Triangle, VA 22172. Toll-free 1-877-635-1775 or www.usmcmuseum.org).

Market to market. Harris Pavilion at the heart of the city hosts summer concerts, Friday night family movies and during the summer Sunday ice cream socials. It is also home to the topnotch Farmer’s Market, each Thursday and Saturday featuring artisan breads, tangy BBQ, zucchini bake, fresh squeezed lemonade from Balsamo’s Family Kitchen, and scrumptious cinnamon buns from Becky’s Pastries. Bonus Points: During the summer months there is also a Tuesday evening market and in the winter there’s ice skating. (Harris Pavilion 9201 Center St, Manassas, VA 20110. (703) 361-9800 or www.harrispavillion.com).Nathan's dairy bar Best Soft Serve Ice Cream in the City

Enjoy the taste of summer. From March to November Nathan’s Dairy Bar serves scrumptious, oh so creamy, soft serve ice cream in a variety of tempting choices including luscious lime with vanilla ice, really creamy banana, peanut butter sundaes, and cake batter milkshakes. Bonus Points: There’s a mini golf course just steps from Nathan’s. (Nathan’s 8948 Mathis Ave. Manassas VA. 20110. (703) 335-9051 or www.NathansDairyBar.com).

Location on the planet: With Manassas as a vacation base it is easily possible to enjoy activities with your kids in Washington DC.  It is about 45 minutes southwest of Washington DC and easily accessible via Amtrak or Virginia Railway Express commuter trains. 

Make it happen: Prince William County & Manassas Convention and Visitors Bureau, 10611 Balls Ford Road, Suite 110 Manassas, VA 20109. (703) 396-7130, toll-Free 1-800-432-1792 or http://discoverpwm.com 

Content and images by Amanda Nelson-Duac, additional images courtesy National Park Service, and Nathan’s Dairy Bar. Copyright 2016. 

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