The historic village of Occoquan has irresistible small-town charm, with three blocks of independently owned shops and restaurants clustered along the Occoquan River. It’s usually easy to find a free parking spot in the historic district; from there, head to River Mill Park and walk south on Mill Street. Occoquan’s architecture dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries, when it was a tiny port with a flourishing gristmill. History lingers on every corner, and you don’t have to wait for Halloween to encounter visitors from Occoquan’s past. The town is a paranormal “cold spot,” where people come to connect with the spiritual world, and many shopkeepers specialize in gems and magic. Art is an essential part of the town’s DNA, and Occoquan’s galleries often feature DMV-based artists. Want to get out on the water? Local outfitters will help you make a splash.
1. River Mill Park is a gathering space for picnics, concerts, and live theater. The park has views of the headwaters of Occoquan River and is anchored by the Mill House Museum, a landmark from the town’s history as an industrial port. Pose at the LOVE sign, then cross the Occoquan footbridge to see a cascading waterfall and lovely views of the historic district. 458 Mill St., Occoquan, occoquanva.gov
2. Local Colour Gallery & Boutique sells gems and jewelry, offers art-making workshops, and is the meeting place for Occoquan Spirits tours. Led by experienced medium Rachael Bright, the Historic Ghost Tour is designed for families, while the Haunted Pub Crawl entertains adults with stops at local watering holes. 408 Mill St., Occoquan, occoquanspirits.com
3. Service and local ingredients are top priorities at The Spot on Mill Street. Order coffee, wine, dessert, lunch, or dinner (they have it all), then find yourself some nook or cranny of this bistro. Regulars rave about the charcuterie plates and gelato shakes. 406 Mill St., Occoquan, thespotonmillstreet.com
4. In Occoquan’s bustling historic district, seek refuge in The Secret Garden Café. Sit back and relax while enjoying scratch-made fare on the secluded terrace or in the cozy dining room. While there’s often a line for weekend brunch, it’s worth waiting for the housemade French toast. 404 Mill St., Occoquan, thesgcafe.com
5. Artists’ Undertaking Gallery is a co-op in a former undertaker’s building. After scouting handcrafted jewelry, paintings, stoneware, photography, and metalworks, all created by DMV artists, taste bonbons from Nazbro Chocolates, which shares the building. 309 Mill St., Occoquan, artistsundertakinggallery.com
6. Gift & Gather has DMV-themed merchandise from mid-Atlantic-based designers. Find the right gift for every occasion, like tea towels adorned with presidential pups or a wooden flask emblazoned with a Virginia map. 307 Mill St., Occoquan, giftandgather.com
7. Urban Posh Boutique claims a growing cadre of followers on its Facebook Live sales page—and for good reason. The store sells clothing for all sizes, tastes, and ages, and the chic dressing room makes you feel like a model on Project Runway. 302 Mill St., Occoquan, urbanposhboutique.com
8. Hitchcock Paper Co. is the place to find just the right gift for the wordsmith in your life. The store stocks artsy cards, special wrapping paper, and journals to hold your passwords or mementos. Staff members can even create personalized stationery. 125 Mill St., Occoquan, hitchcockpaper.com
9. Grind N Crepe serves fruit-filled and savory crepes beside barista-made beverages. Collect your heaping Swedish-style pancake and a coffee or a matcha, then relax at one of the colorful tables on the patio. 301 Commerce St., Occoquan, facebook.com/grindncrepe
10. Along with acclaimed pastry, cookies, and handmade ice cream, Mom’s Apple Pie Co. sells local craft beer and wine. Mom’s bakers source their fruit from Virginia farms, and the pies are so good, they’re special-ordered by the White House. 126 Commerce St., Occoquan, momsapplepieco.com
11. Penguin Paddling offers guided kayak tours and rentals that launch from the waterfront side of Madigan’s restaurant. The dock and boardwalk are located behind Mamie Davis Park. 201 Mill St., Occoquan, penguinpaddling.com
September 3, 4, & 5: Castaways Repertory Theatre presents a 1960s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the park over Labor Day weekend. Bring you camp chairs or a blanket to enjoy the show. occoquanva.gov
September 25 & 26: Occoquan’s famous Annual Fall Arts & Crafts Show returns. No public parking is allowed downtown, but shuttles will run nearby. facebook.com/occoquancraftshow
This story originally ran in our September issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.