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There is still more than one occasion of snow in the extended weather forecast for the Quantico area, as one of the coldest winters in memory refuses to retreat. Here, building manager Kenney Wright shovels sidewalks in front of Lejeune Hall after a snowfall on Jan. 29, 2014. Fortunately, the surrounding communities have many indoor options for recreation.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron Storm

Escape a stubborn winter at local indoor attractions

21 Feb 2014 | Mike DiCicco Marine Corps Base Quantico

Punxsutawney Phil, the nation’s foremost rodent weather prognosticator, has historically predicted the early onset of spring, or lack thereof, with an accuracy rate of just 39 percent, according to the Stormfax Weather Almanac — dismally low, considering that unaided, dumb luck should put him around 50 percent. However, the hapless woodland oracle appears to have been uncharacteristically correct in his prediction for a stubborn winter this year, as unusually cold temperatures threaten to return next week and mountains of plowed snow promise to linger well into March.

In the meantime, though, the area around Marine Corps Base Quantico continues to offer a variety of low-cost recreation options that can be enjoyed in the absence of pleasant weather.

An abundance of these are historic in nature, as the region was home to several founding fathers and saw much of the action of the Civil War. Some of the oldest are to be found in Fredericksburg, where a trolley tours the historic attractions daily.

“It is heated and a great option in 95 percent of weather conditions,” said Julie Perry, manager of the Fredericksburg Visitor Center.

Among the sites the trolley passes is Rising Sun Tavern, once the home of President George Washington’s brother Charles and now a preserved example of a colonial-era tavern. Drinks, however, are no longer served. Not far off is the preserved home of Washington’s mother, the Mary Washington House. The Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop, named for a Revolutionary War hero and one of Washington’s friends, shows the medicines and herbs that doctors of the era put their faith in, as well as their surgical tools and procedures.

“The pièce de résistance is, they have live leeches there,” Perry said. “The kids love it.”

One other founding father is represented, with the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library where the eponymous president once practiced law.

At least two of Prince William County’s historic museums are reputed to be haunted. The Ben Lomond Historic Site, a plantation that offers daily house tours as well as other events and demonstrations, occasionally hosts a “Ghost Hunting 101” class. The Weems-Botts Museum, which will reopen March 1, was featured on an episode of the Bio Channel’s “My Ghost Story.”

The Lucasville School in Manassas is a reconstruction of a one-room, post-Civil War school for black students, and other indoor historic properties in Prince William County include the Bennett School in Manassas, which opened in 1908; the Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre in Bristow, which consists of five historic buildings; the Old Manassas Courthouse; and Rippon Lodge in Woodbridge, one of the oldest homes in the county. The Mill House Museum in Occoquan displays the collection of the Occoquan Historical Society, and the Manassas Museum and the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center exhibit the histories of their respective areas.

The town of Buckland, located at the intersection of routes 29 and 15, was chartered in 1798 and is one of the best-preserved towns from its era in Virginia.

In Stafford County, the White Oak Civil War Museum in Falmouth boasts an extensive collection, including replicas of soldier huts. Five of the 10 rooms of Chatham Manor at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park contain exhibits. Aquia Church, located near Aquia Towne Center, was built in the 1750s and is one of the oldest active churches in the country.

In a departure from the colonial and Civil War themes, the Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont in Stafford preserves the estate of one of the most successful painters of his time, as the home and grounds appeared in the 1920s. Its museum shop doubles as the Stafford County Visitor Center, and occasional events are held in the home. The Freedom Museum, currently located in the unused air terminal building at the Manassas Regional Airport, displays artifacts, source documents and art from the U.S.’s military involvements of the 20th century.

For the grown-ups, the A. Smith Bowman Distillery on the outskirts of Fredericksburg offers free tours and tastings Monday through Saturday.

A partnership between Prince William County, the City of Manassas, George Mason University and the Commonwealth of Virginia keeps prices low for shows at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas. This weekend’s shows include a performance by the Manassas Symphony Orchestra, a Scotoma Productions presentation of the “How Did We Get Here Comedy Specia”l and a production of “Hamlet” by The Acting Company. An exhibit of the best art to come from Prince William County schools runs through March 1 at the center.

For art buffs, all of Fredericksburg’s more than 30 galleries stay open late on the first Friday of each month.

The local libraries also offer a wide array of events, clubs and classes for all ages, free of charge.

A highlight of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library system, which serves Stafford and Fredericksburg, is the 3-D printer demonstration that makes regular rounds of all the branches and also appears during The Cage, a teen night on the first Monday of every month at Porter Branch Library in Stafford.

A variety of children’s reading programs are offered at all the local libraries, including a regular Paws for Reading event at most branches of both library systems, during which elementary school children read to dogs that have been trained in listening.

“We’re very fortunate to have this relationship with the Blue Gray Therapy Dogs association,” said Porter Library Branch manager Rhonda Belyea.

She noted that all readers who work with children in the library systems are trained in the Public Library Association’s Every Child Ready to Read program. “We’re there to work with the parents,” she said. “We’re a team.”

Some children’s events, such as the monthly Fabulous Friday at Porter Branch, are staffed in part by teens, she said. “We have some very engaging and active teen volunteers.”

For adults, the Monday night Hook Up with a Book sessions at the England Run Branch Library in Fredericksburg provide a “book compatibility questionnaire” to help readers find books to suit their tastes.

A library card is not necessary to attend library events in the Rappahannock or Prince William libraries.

“For activities, we’re happy to see anyone who wants to come,” Belyea said.

“We have very active winter and summer reading programs,” said Mary Tompkins, marketing and development officer for Prince William County Library, noting that the Prince William Reads program currently has almost 2,000 adult participants. She said genealogy classes and writers’ groups are also among the most popular programs.

Other free recreational activities to be found in the local libraries include film clubs, craft classes, knitting and quilting groups, mah jongg sessions, meet-the-author events, chess sessions, plant and gardening clinics, feng shui classes, bridge groups, book clubs, countless special events and more.

For those hearty souls who want to take advantage of the long, cold winter, rather than escape it, the Harris Pavilion Ice Rink in Old Town Manassas will stay open Wednesday to Sunday, through March 2.

For addresses and operating hours of area attractions, and for event schedules, visit, and For calendars of local library events and classes, visit and

— Writer:

Marine Corps Base Quantico