Cleverly disguised as a bedroom community (or as the highway sign says, “A Certified Business Location”), Stafford County is the southernmost county in Northern Virginia, with supposedly all of the affluence of the region but none of the luxuries one would expect from the region. Straight off of I-95, a simple traveler may be confused by the seemingly redundant Applebee’s and Chili’s next to each other, or the 2 Pancho Villas and Game Stops within a mile of one another on Route 610, but the quaint county has many hidden jewels. Despite being 72% White, one can find some decent ethnic food just off of North Stafford’s main road, Garrisonville Road, such as the Afghani establishment Kabob Corner (suspiciously located next to an Army recruiting center) or the Japanese establishment I Love Teriyaki. This unfortunately leads to a false sense of diversity amongst Stafford residents, especially among high schoolers. Stafford County families can be divided into three categories – Marines based at the adjacent Quantico Marine Corps Base, government workers or contractors who commute to the DC area, and native Staffordians, residents who are of a more Southern persuasion and complain about the commercialization of the county as the population grows.
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Attractions are regrettably few, especially since the county’s main selling point of possessing George Washington’s boyhood home of Ferry Farm seems to be closer to the neighboring town of Fredericksburg than any part in Stafford, but entertaining gems can be found tucked away in the endless fields of homes. For some summer fun or people-watching, Woodlands Pool, located just off of Eustace Road in the Hampton Oaks neighborhood, is a common watering hole for native Staffordian families in Confederate flag bikinis or young teenagers on dates trying to impress each other with their pool bodies. For the more solemn, the former home of Borders in Stafford Marketplace is a place of reverence for many Stafford residents. Currently split into a sports store and a party store, many residents pass this site filled with remorse and fond memories of the only good hang-out spot in North Stafford. For sports fans, Smith Lake Park hosts many of the county’s recreational soccer, football, and baseball competitions. These budding athletes manage to have fun despite being threatened by a large dam on one side and I-95 on the other. As far as shopping is concerned, Stafford County is home to not one, but two Targets. Can’t find what you need at the Target on Route 610? The surprisingly well stocked and eerily empty of customers Target on Route 17 is bound to have just what you need and more.
If travelers stay long enough, they may catch the sound of Quantico’s frequent explosives testing, which residents have become so accustomed to that when an earthquake struck in 2011 many assumed it to be another bomb for the first few seconds. If you’re lucky enough to be looking to live here, Stafford County is honored to be home to fantastic public schools, most notably North Stafford High School. Don’t be fooled by the official rankings; Principal Tom Nichols has declared it to be the World’s Greatest. The elementary schools are extremely reliable, or at the very least, easy to find, since there are 17 of them in the county.
So stop by Stafford County for a bite to eat and a full tank of gas as you head on to a bigger city. Perhaps you’ll be as charmed by the county as the many travelers before you. But make sure to take Exit 143B: Exit 143A is the wrong side of the tracks.
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