Old Town Manassas has been chugging along since the Manassas Gap Railroad first built a station here in the 1850s, and it remains a stopover on both Amtrak and the Virginia Railway Express lines. Big on charm, with a storied history, the town has dozens of independent shops and eateries that will keep you busy for hours.
Begin your visit at the Manassas Train Depot, which served as a strategic hub for transporting goods and people between Alexandria and the Shenandoah Valley. After the Civil War began in 1861, the Confederate and Union armies fought for domination over the railroad line, and two bloody clashes broke out at nearby Manassas National Battlefield. A massive fire destroyed most of downtown Manassas in 1905, and the city rebuilt with brick and stone. The Victorian-style homes and businesses have been repurposed into boutiques, restaurants, art galleries, coffeehouses, breweries, and museums.
A strong sense of community is evident, and every proprietor seems delighted to welcome visitors back. On First Fridays, Manassas allows people to carry adult beverages in the streets, turning a pocket of Northern Virginia into a miniature New Orleans. Laissez les bons temps rouler.
1. Manassas Visitor Center/Train Depot has free four-hour parking and helpful staff who can provide maps and dining advice. The red-brick station is a hub for Amtrak and the VRE (another option for getting there). Inside are photos of Manassas over the decades. 9431 West St., Manassas, visitmanassas.org
2. Cross the tracks to ARTfactory; this fall, its gallery is showcasing fabric art by local and international textile artists. 9419 Battle St., Manassas, virginiaartfactory.org
3. Jirani Coffeehouse is a hangout where locals come to work, listen to live music, and savor handcrafted beverages. Pop in for breakfast or a decadent dessert made by Sweet Pearlz Cheesecakes, which shares the space. 9425 West St., Manassas, jiranicoffeehouse.com
4. Harris Pavilion is a gathering space for Acoustic Tuesdays and ice skating in the winter. The Manassas Farmers Market is in full swing on Thursday mornings. Snap a selfie at the LOVE sign by a vintage caboose. 9201 Center St., Manassas, visitmanassas.org
5. Manassas Clay is a working studio for local potters where several exceptional ceramicists sell their wares. Choose from Avatar sculptures or glossy pumpkins, pendants with faces, and coral-shaped stoneware. 9122 Center St., Manassas, manassasclay.com
6. The new Freedom Museum tells the story of Northern Virginians who served in the military. Docents can explain artifacts—a wall of helmets, a World War II–era nurse’s uniform, President Roosevelt’s death announcement on a teletype machine—and plaques honoring Northern Virginians who died at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. 9219 Center St., Manassas, freedommuseum.org
7. Enjoy the Old Town Manassas street scene from the rooftop deck at Zandra’s Taqueria. The restaurant serves creative tacos, cocktails, and Mexican street food, like scrumptious elotes and crispy churros. 9114 Center St., Manassas, zandrastacos.com
8. Decor, apparel, and Virginia-made products abound at The Things I Love. At 1 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and certain weekends, high tea is served. 9084 Center St., Manassas, thethingsiloveoldtown.com
9. Eva’s Alley is a female-centric shop in a narrow storefront packed with clever items—safety-pin earrings, hand-painted gourds, and paper goods. 9101 Center St., Manassas, sherriesstuff.com
10. The wares at Shining Sol Candle Company produce a mythical burn. Made in Virginia, with wooden wicks and natural soy, they radiate and release distinctive aromas. Some, like Battlefield Meadows and Shenandoah, are inspired by the region. 9109 Center St., Manassas, shiningsol.com
11. A chef from Portland, Oregon, imported his considerable brewing skills to open Sinistral Brewing Co. by the railroad tracks. Challenge your friends to cornhole and enjoy live music most weekends. 9419 Main St., Manassas, sinistralbrewingcompany.com
12. Join the fiesta at Mariachis Tequileria & Restaurant, a family-owned Mexican restaurant known for 10 Mayan-style margaritas blended with fruit purées. The sopa de tortilla is a hearty meal in a bowl. 9428 Battle St., Manassas, mariachimanassas.com
Every month except January, local merchants stay open until 9 p.m. for Manassas First Fridays, with games and special sales.
October 2, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.: The 38th Annual Manassas Fall Jubilee has more than 100 crafters, plus community booths, live music, and kids’ activities.
October 30, 10 a.m. to noon: Families (and their dogs) should dress to scare at Haunted Happenings.