If you are in the DC area and are looking for something to do, why not head west for the day or evening to nearby Loudoun County. Depending on the time of day, in just a bit over an hour you can be driving on scenic country roads and visiting quaint small towns. You’ll find a mix of outdoor activities along with unique shopping and plenty of places for a picnic. Here are 5 ways you can enjoy this slice of countryside, including some of our favorite family activities.
1. Get Your Hands Dirty on a Farm. Visit one of the working farms in Loudoun County, where you can get up close with the animals, pick your own fruits and vegetables or just relax and enjoy being on the farm. One of my favorites is Great Country Farms, which is out Rt. 7 in Bluemont. Throughout the growing season, they offer opportunities to go out to the field and pick fruits and vegetables. When my kids were younger, our two favorite activities were digging for potatoes and picking strawberries. If you want to visit several farms at once, mark your calendar for the Spring and Fall Farm Tours. They are held twice a year on the third weekend in May and October. It’s a self-guided driving tour with lots of farms offering special activities.
2. Visit a Winery or Brewery. Pack a picnic, the kids and the dog and head to one of over 40 wineries or 14 breweries in the county. Virginia wines are growing in popularity, and the wineries are working hard to attract followers, offering amenities such as live music, lots of outside seating, and on-site food trucks. They are conveniently grouped in 6 clusters, so if you decide to visit more than one in a day you don’t have to go very far. Several weeks ago, we took the dog and a picnic, and visited the beautiful Stone Tower Winery just outside of Leesburg. With lots of open space for kids to run around and lovely views of the rolling hills, what's not to like. For beer lovers, there are over 7 Ale Trails, including the Farm Breweries Trail and the dog friendly Pints with Pups Trail. If you prefer to tour by bike, the Brews by Bike Trail, may be for you, with 7 stops along the way as you ride along the popular Washington and Old Dominion bike trail.
3. Take “Loudoun’s Civil War in a Day” Tour. Spend the day outside exploring historic Civil War sites, including a visit to one of the country’s smallest national cemeteries. Hike the easy one mile trail through Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park, then drive to Morven Park, where Confederate soldiers spent the winter back in the 1860’s. Visitloudoun.org has planned a full day itinerary, including suggestions on where to eat, so it couldn’t be any easier.
4. Spend the Day in Middleburg. If small boutiques and speciality stores are your thing, head out to Middleburg for the day. Stroll along the quaint main street, where you’ll find lots of unique shopping opportunities as you walk through the center of town. Stop in the Home Farm Store to browse through the selection of locally grown and organic food. During our recent visit to MIddleburg, we really enjoyed sampling all the infused olive oils and tasty balsamic vinegars at the Olio Tasting Room. After you finish shopping, it’s a short drive to the upscale Salamander Resort & Spa for the afternoon or overnight. The back patio is filled with comfy chairs and there is a huge fire pit on the big grass lawn. My husband and I recently took the “Funky Fusion” class in the Cooking Studio, where we got to do some hands on learning while sampling specialties prepared by our chef instructor. There is plenty for the kids to do as well, including on-site daily family crafts and scavenger hunts. The resort also offer a huge variety of outdoor activities like zip-lining, resort caching, and horseback riding.
5. Spend a Friday Night in Leesburg. Head to downtown Leesburg on the first Friday of any month, and you’ll find things to do all over town. This popular event features music, free food samples at various venues, and the chance to just relax and enjoy this homey, downtown area. Most of the galleries and shops stay open until 9 p.m. to give you a chance to visit some of the local favorites, like the Cooley Gallery (currently moving to a new location), Creme de la Creme and the landmark Tally Ho Theater. It’s a family friendly gem of a small town.
So next time you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of DC and Northern Virginia, head west!