Polo in the Park - A Summer Tour of DC's Countryside
Prince William, Loudoun
Day 1 - Thursday
Begin your summer retreat with a refreshing lunch at one of the many restaurants within a mile of the battlefield. Choose from the numerous nationally recognized restaurants, as well as local options, so you’re close to the action for your next stop on the tour. Did you know the residents of Washington D.C., in July 1861, loaded their horses and carriages full of supplies for the 25-mile jaunt to what is now Manassas National Battlefield for a picnic? These naive citizens watched one of the most seminal moments in American history from a hill not too far from where the battle began.
Mount your trusty horse (or other mode of modern transportation!) before embarking on a guided tour of the Battle of First Manassas/Bull Run at Manassas National Battlefield. A guide in Civil War attire will regale you with stories of how this battle set the tone for the next four years. Take a picture with General Stonewall Jackson atop his beloved Little Sorrel, one of the most recognizable military horses in American history. Interestingly, one of the better-known cavalry attacks by Confederate forces during the Civil War was led by General J.E.B. Stuart here during this fateful battle in July 1861.
Continue the Civil War story at Ben Lomond Historic Site, a field hospital used during both major battles at Manassas National Battlefield. From the smell that may have lingered in the home to the sounds of soldiers crying out for help, this immersive museum can practically put you in the shoes of an injured soldier or the family who lives there throughout the ordeal. Be sure to include a musket firing demonstration for good measure and your visit is complete.
How did most soldiers get through these harrowing times? By drinking whiskey! Your next stop is at MurLarkey Distilled Spirits, a craft spirits company founded by second generation Irish American cousins. Your experience will not be simply tasting their spirits but will also be a bartending lesson as their team creates miniature craft cocktails so you can get a real-world sense of how to serve their spirits at home.
After a day of history and liquid encouragement, settle down for a home-cooked meal at City Grille, a neighborhood favorite for locals in Manassas. Their generous portions and casual atmosphere make for a perfect way to end your first day in Virginia. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, head over to Red Embers Bar and Grill inside Uptown Alley. Red Embers is a from-scratch, open-concept kitchen with a chef-inspired menu of classics mixed with a modern flair. While inside Uptown Alley, you can enjoy a game of bowling, play a game of billiards, or become a kid again in the arcade. This entertainment complex is apart of Manassas Mall so shoppers can get some extra time in without having to go outside!
Day 2 - Friday
Start your day by paying your respects at Quantico National Cemetery with a private flag placing experience at the graves of veterans whose remains were previously forgotten. Hosted by the Missing in America Project, their mission is to find, identify and provide full military burial for these now remembered heroes.
Your next stop is an experience at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Uncover the history of the Corps, test your skills as a Marine, and get insight into the lives of those who fight for our freedom. During your visit, see the incredible Gene Hackman-narrated film “We, The Marines” to get an unparalleled view into the experiences of Marines from boot camp through modern warfare training. Enjoy a quick lunch in the Devil Dog Diner, their cafeteria style eatery, or Tun Tavern, a recreation of the famous tavern in which the Marines were founded in Philadelphia over 240 years ago.
After lunch, travel north to visit the oldest known home in Prince William County, Rippon Lodge. Here, you will learn about the former home of Admiral Richard Blackburn Black and his family’s history. Built in 1747, the home and Blackburn’s have a unique story to tell as it relates to our nation’s independence, which you will learn about during your visit. Included in your visit is your choice of a historical tea or musket-firing demonstration.
Receive a warm welcome to Occoquan by the mayor, Earnie Porta. Enjoy a guided tour of the quaint riverside town as he highlights the history and unique details of Occoquan. Discover stories of the historic buildings and how the town got its name. You must ask him about the story of the floating caskets floating through town!
After your tour, you will want to spend some time perusing and shopping in Occoquan. All the stores are independently owned and you’ll never know what you’ll find. From the local fudge shop next to the antique store to the art gallery across from the boutique clothing store, the gems in Occoquan are yours to find!
Dinner tonight is on the water at The Harbour Grille or Madigan’s Waterfront. Both restaurants are located on the Occoquan River and feature a wonderful array of freshly prepared seafood and steaks, as well as other comfort food favorites. You’ll be able to see the boats float by, a fitting end to a day full of fun!
Day 3 - Saturday
Start your morning at the National Sporting Library and Museum. Horsemanship, steeplechasing, foxhunting, polo, coaching, and more comes to life with a docent led tour through this unique museum. A visit to the rare-book room will showcase some of the items that make this museum such a hidden gem in Loudoun County.
Enjoy free time for lunch on your own in historic Middleburg. The Horse and Hunt capitol of the country (think fox hunting), was name for being the half-way point between Alexandria and Winchester along this heavily used trading route. Boasting boutique shops and restaurants from fine dining to casual, Middleburg is the perfect spot to explore!
Hop aboard your coach for a driving Tour with local Loudoun County historian Rich Gillespie. Travelling along historic Route 50, learn about “Where Wine and War Intersect.” From the Civil War to DC’s Wine Country, Rich will take you to sites and tell stories that helped mold Loudoun County into what it has become today. Stop at Aldie Mill, a 213-year-old mill, where you will meet a local Miller who will demonstrate how one of these mills works.
You are in for a tasty treat at The Conche, Loudoun County’s boutique chocolate restaurant. Get hands-on and make your own chocolate BonBons, learn about chocolate and wine pairing, create a signature cocktail or enjoy just dessert. With sweet infusions in even the savory, The Conche is sure to please the palate.
Get dressed to the nines or wear a comfy pair of jeans for Polo in the Park. Bring a chair or a picnic blanket and enjoy a night of Polo. Dinner tonight is from South Street Under, a local sandwich shop, known locally for its fresh baked ciabatta bread. Sip wine along with your meal and enjoy the fast-paced matches on a nice summer evening.
Day 4 - Sunday
Begin the day with a tour at George C. Marshall’s Dodona Manor, former home to statesman, diplomat, and Nobel Peace Prize Winner. Though Marshall is most well-known for the economic recovery plan following WWII, this historic home showcases 90% original pieces offering a glimpse into this great man’s life.
Head west to visit Bluemont Vineyards, sitting atop the first ridge of the Blue Ridge. This local favorite offers impressive views from every angle. A new play on Farm-To-Table, you will learn how to make Sangria and get the chance to make your own. Split the group up into team and see who can make the tastiest concoction with their Sangria-Making experience. While atop the hill, enjoy lunch before heading home with a few bottles of wine!
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