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5 Fun Parks Around DC for History Buffs

Step back in time.

Manassas National Battlefield Park.
Our Favorite Parks

About Our Favorite Parks

This article is a part of Washingtonian’s feature: Our Favorite Parks. Our editors and staff pulled together the best regional parks where you can take a walk, have a picnic, play with the kids, and enjoy the great outdoors.

Colvin Run Mill Park

10017 Colvin Run Rd., Great Falls; 703-759-2771

At this park’s restored 19th-century gristmill, you can watch a demo of grain-grinding (the first and third Sundays of the month through October; $5 to $7), tour the restored barn and blacksmith shop, and buy penny candy at a general store. A scenic 1½-mile walking trail surrounds the historic site.

Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site

4301 W. Braddock Rd., Alexandria; 703-746-4848

The 45-acre park west of Old Town was the site of a Union fort during the Civil War. Today you can see what remains—cannons, underground shelters that accommodated 500 men, and reconstructed officers’ quarters and barracks. Peek into the museum to see uniforms, weapons, musical instruments, and photographs, or visit during a reenactment.

Manassas National Battlefield Park

6511 Sudley Rd., Manassas; 703-361-1339

This national park pays tribute to two Civil War clashes—the First Battle of Bull Run (July 1861) and the Second Battle of Bull Run (August 1862). Start at the visitor center to watch a 45-minute orientation film and see a fiber-optic battle map. Join a ranger for a free walking tour, take a 20-mile self-guided driving tour, or simply explore 40 miles of trails.

National Colonial Farm

3400 Bryan Point Rd., Accokeek; 301-283-2113

Once home to the Piscataway tribe, the land across the Potomac from George Washington’s Mount Vernon was designated a park in the 1950s to preserve the view and serve as an 18th-century living-history museum. Visitors can explore the reconstructed Colonial-era farm with its rare crops and livestock, a native-tree arboretum, and trails that wind through wetlands and forest.

Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park

16501 Norwood Rd., Sandy Spring; 301-929-5989

The park commemorates both the role of Montgomery County residents in the Underground Railroad and the heritage of Sandy Spring’s Quaker community. Follow interpretive signs or join a guided three-mile walk (Saturdays, April through early November) to learn how escaping slaves survived. Don’t miss the multimedia exhibits in the stone barn ($5 admission, $8 with guided walk).

This article appears in the May 2019 issue of Washingtonian.

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