Imagine for a moment ideal cities in which you would like to live - cities that provide the perfect convergence of quick access to Washington and a small-town ambience. Imagine that both the old and new play integral parts in defining these utopias, with a wonderful selection of new homes from which to choose while still allowing you to live near historically and culturally rich town centers.
With the proliferation of leading builders offering new homes in Virginia's Interstate 66 corridor, two historic cities, Manassas and Warrenton, have attracted many new home-buyers - buyers who have found their ideal cities.
Manassas, an independent municipality within the boundaries of Prince William County, is a prime example of a city with historical and cultural value. Though maintaining a small-town perspective, Manassas is only five miles south of I-66 and 30 miles southwest of Washington.
The Old Town portion of the city - designated by the City of Manassas in 1979 and placed on the state and national Registers of Historic Places in 1988 - is a participant in the Virginia Main Street Program and is experiencing a rebirth.
"We have been very successful working on the revitalization of downtown. We have done so much, including extensive facade work, it looks better than ever," said Tricia Davis, executive director of Historic Manassas Inc.
Several new businesses have opened downtown in the past few months. The recent renovation of the old Opera House building has made way for some of these new business ventures, including the soon-to-open Opera House Gourmet. The establishment will offer gourmet food, wines and wine classes. The Opera House is also home to the Creative Brush Studio, which displays the artworks of Linda Parker and Mary Reilly.
In addition to gourmet eateries and art studios, there is a wonderfully diverse sprinkling of shopping choices throughout downtown, such as antiques outlets and specialty stores. Dining options range from pub-style sandwiches to northern Italian, Oriental and Mexican cuisine.
Perhaps one of the most popular activities and focal points of both Manassas and Prince William County is the opportunity for historical enrichment. Thousands of visitors come to the Manassas Museum each year. Its two video programs, "A Place of Passages" and the award-winning "A Community at War," describe the settlement of the area and the legacy of the Civil War.
The museum also provides architectural and walking/driving tour brochures. Tours of the Manassas National Battlefield Park enrich visits to such important sites as Henry Hill, where the first major battle of the Civil War peaked on July 21, 1861.
Prince William County also is proud to offer a series of concerts by its own orchestra. In its upcoming 24th season, the Prince William Symphony Orchestra will present concerts in Manassas and Woodbridge. Under the leadership of a new music director, Carl Long, the orchestra will perform such classics as Mozart's Symphony No. …