Cool History
Overview

Experience the Past in Northern Virginia

Home to important Civil War sites, and national museums, Northern Virginia is a playground for amateur and professional historians to learn, experience and share the past.

Northern Virginia’s history is particularly steeped in the Civil War. As Virginia saw more major Civil War battles than any other state, a lasting legacy is available for history enthusiasts to uncover and keep alive today.

In addition to Civil War history, museums preserve local, regional and national history in Northern Virginia, such as the Fairfax Museum and Washington, D.C.’s dozens of major institutions from the National Museum of Africa American History and Culture to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Spanning 500 acres, George Washington’s Mount Vernon offers tours and experiences related to the nation’s first president and the preservation of the estate.

Honor and Learn the Past

Arlington is the proud home of important national sites honoring the service members. Based on the iconic second flag-raising image from Iwo Jima during World War II, the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial is located on the Arlington Ridge along the axis of the National Mall. Steps away, Arlington National Cemetery is a national shrine to those who have honorably served the U.S. during war.

For Civil War sites, head to the Civil War Interpretive Center at Historic Blenheim, Captain John Quincy Marr Monument and more. Manassas National Battlefield Park, the site of two major Civil War battles with guided tours, offers wildlife-watching, Junior Ranger activities and more.

In Fauquier County, The Cold War Museum has more than $3 million worth of artifacts and the largest collection of civil defense items in the U.S.

Pay Respect, Reenact and Learn

Northern Virginia hosts events related to the Civil War throughout the year. From reenactments to lecture series, living history events to ceremonies, Civil War buffs can experience history and meet fellow enthusiasts. Reenactments have included the Battle of Vienna while Fort Ward recognizes Armed Forces Day with soldier-led guided tours and a performance of Civil War brass band music.

Follow the Path to History

Tour historic Civil War era buildings such as the Freeman Store and Museum, a former stable and hospital, and Pohick Church, a church dating back to 1724. Afterward, explore the writing on the walls that helped soldiers tell their stories during the Civil War with the Northern Virginia Graffiti Trail.

Learn about Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, by visiting Manassas Battlefield, Ox Hill Battlefield Park and Saint Mary’s Church where Barton tended to injured soldiers as well as the Fairfax Station Railroad Museum’s Traveling Clara Barton Program.