Prince William County, VA: DC’s Countryside Full of History, Great Food…and Goats
Apr 30, 2019 11:42AM
By Vanessa Orr
Alpacas and goats abound at the Little Goat Farm on the Lake
Located only 30 miles out of Washington, DC, you wouldn’t imagine that Prince William County, VA would be so rural; yet this laid-back area—home to locally sourced restaurants, amazing wines, craft cocktails and beers, and moving Civil War historical sites—rests just outside the nation’s capital.
A welcome break from the hustle and bustle of the big city, DC’s countryside welcomes those who prefer a little calmer, less crowded experience. But that doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot to do; my three days in town were filled with wonderful outdoor excursions—as well as every kind of food and drink imaginable.
For those intrigued by our nation’s history, a stop at Manassas National Battlefield Park is a must. The hauntingly beautiful site, dotted by Civil War cannons, marks the spot where more than 600,000 Union and Confederate soldiers perished during the war’s first two battles at the base of the Bull Run Mountains. An on-site museum offers an in-depth look at the events of those tragic days, and includes a diorama that lights up so that visitors can follow the troops’ movements step by step. The museum also sheds light on what was truly a different time; when the first battles took place at the site, crowds actually gathered to watch with wine and picnic baskets, thinking it a form of entertainment.
Visitors can get a close-up view of the Colonial period at the Weems-Botts Museum, which is located in a historic home that once served as a vestry by the colonial church, and as a book depot by Parson Weems, George Washington’s first biographer and author of the cherry tree story. The home was also the law office of Benjamin Botts—one of Aaron Burr’s attorneys during his treason trial. Built in 1747, the home is preserved just as it would have been when the Merchant family lived there for almost a century.
If you like to bike or hike, Prince William County has a lot to offer, especially with the addition of its new Neabsco Creek Boardwalk, which opens June 1. The three-quarter mile wooden walkway, which connects Rippon Landing Park and the Julie Metz Wetland Preserve in Woodbridge, VA, is part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail which connects sites throughout Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC. Perfect for walking or cycling, the boardwalk allows visitors to enjoy the wetlands without damaging the sensitive environment.
If you’d prefer a more hands-on animal encounter, a visit to Little Goat Farm on the Lake is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon. During the spring, summer and fall, you can experience live music and cheese and soap-making workshops, but the real draw here is the super-friendly goats and alpacas that can’t wait to greet you. While I had a wonderful time just hanging out with the herd, you can also sign up for goat yoga classes, so you can exercise while enjoying their over-the-top exuberance.
You can easily eat and drink your way through DC’s countryside, and there’s even a guide to help you do it. The Steins, Vines & Moonshine Trail highlights the area’s 10 breweries, four wineries and two distilleries. Each location has its own charm, from the laid-back vibe of Brew Republic Bierworks where head brewer Jeff Hyatt puts his own spin on classic styles, to Water’s End Brewery, where visitors can enjoy any of the 10 beers on tap at a time, including local favorite Damn Beer, which the owners call their “gateway beer” to other brews.
If you’re looking for an entertainment experience as well as craft beer and food, Farm Brew Live/2 Silos Brewing, Virginia’s first destination brewery campus, offers eight acres of fun, including the chance (in colder months) to hang out in huge outdoor igloos while listening to live local music in The Yard.
Speaking of live music, MurLarkey Distilled Spirits, which is located right down the street from the Jiffy Lube Live amphitheater, is a must-stop even if you’re not going to a show. An American Distilling Institute-certified craft distilled spirit producer, the cozy tasting room, which offers a view into the distilling area, not only showcases smooth spirits but the expertise of Papi (George Zwetkow), mixologist extraordinaire. A tasting is part spirits lesson and part magic show—I was astonished by the stunning array of beautiful and delicious drinks that he concocted from behind the bar.
Prince William County also offers a wide array of farm-to-table offerings made from fresh, local sources. My recommendations would include Hidden Julles Café for breakfast or lunch, where the bread is baked daily on site and the ingredients are natural and organic. The recently opened Rockwood Sports Bar is a great place to hang with locals while dining on Chef Mike Cordero’s Cuban sandwiches and Southern fried chicken, and you’ve got to stop into Dixie Bones BBQ—named one of the best barbecue restaurants in the DC area by the Washington Post—for its southern style specialties. Top off your adventure with a visit to independently owned Grafton Street for authentic Irish specials and your choice of 110 whiskeys.
To learn more about Prince William County, visit www.VisitPWC.com.