Family Fun in Prince William & Manassas
“Are we there yet?” my seven-year-old daughter, Lindsay, asked from the back seat. Her older brother, nine-year-old Liam, taught her this line just as we left the house and she’d been perfecting it ever since. By this point, she was practically a pro.
“Actually, we are!” I exclaimed as my husband, James, maneuvered the car into a parking spot. “Everybody out—let’s get this vacation started!”
We each grabbed our bags and headed into the hotel to drop everything off.
“What should we do first?” I asked. I should have known better—our kids are always interested in different activities.
“Ooh, let’s go to the water park!” exclaimed Lindsay, just as Liam pulled out his copy of Your Travel Guide to Civil War America, a children’s travel book my brother gave him in preparation for our trip.
“There’s something for both of you on this trip,” James replied confidently, as he ushered us out to begin our adventure in Prince William & Manassas.
A historic house and hospital
Our first stop was Ben Lomond Historic Site. The highlight of the site is the Manor House, a Federal-style home that served as a Confederate hospital during and after the Civil War battle of First Manassas. Lindsay eyed the building doubtfully as Liam happily skipped up the walkway.
The home is set up to appear as it would have during its time as a Civil War hospital. Our tour guide gave special attention to the kids after Liam admitted to wanting to become a doctor when he grows up. She shared details regarding the medical procedures of the day, which fascinated both Liam and Lindsay.
“Look mom—there’s blood on the walls!’ Lindsay exclaimed with wide eyes.
“It’s not real blood, silly,” Liam explained. “It’s just made to look like that. Um, right, Dad?” he asked hopefully.
“Right,” answered our tour guide, having overheard Liam’s question. “But this is what a war hospital may have looked like at the time. Medicine was quite different in the 1860s.”
“I’m sure glad I didn’t live back then,” replied Liam.
The tour guide laughed. “Wait until you see what’s on the walls in the next room!” she joked. The kids looked petrified—until they discovered that it was graffiti, left there by Union soldiers who passed through the area later in the war. They stood there for minutes trying to decipher the scrawled signatures.
After leaving the Manor House, James chased the kids around the lawn for a bit, giving me time to enjoy the lush rose gardens. Informational plaques informed me that some of the rose bushes had been planted in the mid-1700s and I spent a few moments considering all the history these plants have survived.
“Now can we go to the water park? Please?” Lindsay gasped, running up to me as I contemplated the antique roses.
I picked her up and propped her on my shoulders. “We’ll see,” I said. “Let’s find dad and Liam and head back to the car.”
Making a splash
It was less than a five-minute drive to our next stop. Lindsay started bouncing up and down as soon as she caught sight of it; the brightly-colored twisty slides could be seen from quite a distance, and I could tell that even Liam’s interest was piqued by the sight of Splashdown Waterpark in the distance.
In no time they were changed into their suits and racing each other up the stairs to the highest slide. James stayed safely on the ground while I followed closely behind our kids, watching as they slid into the rushing water with delight. We all splashed down in the pool below, one right after another, laughing together.
We enjoyed a picnic dinner in the adjacent park before retiring to our room, where the kids fell soundly asleep.
“You did a great job planning everything today, James,” I said. “Liam and Lindsay are so different from each other. But you knocked it out of the park.”
“Thanks, dear. Now, let’s get some sleep, too. I have a feeling these two will be up bright and early tomorrow.”
Combining history and athletics
James was right; Liam and Lindsay were up with the sun. It was a beautiful spring morning, so we shared a quick breakfast at the 1950s-themed Jukebox Diner and then made our way to Leesylvania State Park.
Leesylvania State Park is situated along the Potomac River, with a sandy beach area as well as a playground. James was itching for a morning workout, so we headed down the Bushey Point Trail, which offered fitness stations spaced out along its length. James dutifully did counted sets of dips and lunges while Liam read the workout directions out loud and Lindsay jumped through tire runs and did flips on the parallel bars.
“What’s that?” Liam asked, pointing to a black shape in the distance. “It looks like a cannon!”
Lindsay took off running; a moment later she pronounced “Yep. It’s a cannon!” and then commenced climbing on it and walking down the barrel as though it were the plank of a pirate ship.
In fact, there were four such cannons, all set up facing the river as if to fend off an attack. Liam located another historical marker, and informed us that they were recreations of Civil War navy cannons, and that this particular part of the park was called Freestone Point, an area where Confederate troops blocked movement on the river during the war.
“I guess this is kind of fun.” admitted Lindsay. “I really like seeing historical stuff in person.”
Liam smiled, tapped her on the shoulder, yelled “you’re it!” and took off running. Lindsay followed swiftly behind as James and I linked hands and followed. He turned to me and said “When you said that I ‘hit it out of the park’ last night, it gave me an idea.”
“Yep. Come on. I’ll show you.”
Catching a ball game
A short time later, hot dogs and soft drinks in hand, we found our way to our seats at Pfitzner Stadium, ready to watch the Potomac Nationals, minor league affiliate to the Washington Nationals, play ball. The sun was shining and the “PNATS,” as they are affectionately called by locals, were ahead by two. As they scored another run, we all stood up to cheer together. I leaned over and whispered to James, “This trip is definitely a home run.”
Plan your family getaway in Prince William & Manassas today!