By Natalie Lescroart
Steeped in rich history and culture, Loudoun is one of the fastest-growing counties in the United States today. Leesburg was recently voted fourth best place to live in the U.S. by CNN Money Magazine. While the county website will boast of Loudoun’s remarkably high quality of life and its esteemed reputation as an international center for technology, communications and transportation; the area also offers hidden (and not so hidden) hot spots for shopping, dining, arts and entertainment.
Discover and purchase authentic treasures throughout the Old Town Boutique District. Shops located here foster a sense of retail community, rather than fight for business.
Walking the streets of the historic downtown district, it quickly becomes apparent that Leesburg is a veritable mecca for home furnishing stores. Homeowners can find completely unique furniture pieces at The Old Lucketts Store or Four Shabby Chicks. Savannah’s of Leesburg, while technically a gift and home accessory shop, offers full interior design services to the community. Savannah’s sister store, decorated by the designers at Savannah’s, is Downs & Company, which specializes in garden trinkets and gourmet chocolates. Crème de la Crème, of course, is the best of the best for home decorations and is especially renowned for its intricate tablecloths. Unique and lightly used home accessories found at The Cottage can also make for great gifts.
For newcomers to the area and housewarming parties, shopping at Very Virginia is a fun idea. The small shop sells a large selection of local and locally inspired goods and products, while its adjacent sister store, The Pink Store!, offers a funky collection of gag gifts. The Reign of Cats & Dogs is a paradise for pet lovers, offering the latest trends in pet fashion and treats. Phoenix Comics and Toys should serve the comic book needs of collectors young and old.
Madisonbelle tempts Leesburg’s fashion-forward population with racks full of urban chic and trendy clothing. Similarly, Lou Lou–now with numerous locations–features the hippest clothes and accessories. Shoppers can feel good about spending at The Resourceful Woman Thrift Shop, where the profits on sales of donated clothing go toward raising money for clients at the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter. Finally, for a one-stop shop spot, hit the Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets on Fort Evans Road. Featuring more than 110 outlet stores–including BCBG Max Azria, Brooks Brothers, Burberry, Joe’s Jeans, Theory, the Washington Redskins Official Store Outlet, OshKosh B’gosh, Kate Spade, Williams-Sonoma and more–the Leesburg Outlets have something for everyone.
From its quaint accommodations on the corner of South King and Loudoun Streets, the Leesburg Vintner has provided locals and tourists alike with a delectable array of wines and gourmet cheeses since 1988. Not only does the shop have a great selection of diverse wines from around the world, it also offers one of the best collections of Virginia wine in the state. Leesburg Vintner has been named the Virginia Wine Retailer of the Year and was awarded distinction as the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Retailer of the Year twice. The owner, Mike Carroll, is always happy to place special orders for his customers, and he is proud to host weekly tastings at the store. 29 S. King St., Leesburg; 703-777-3322; www.leesburgvitner.com
Although Linda Morrison only moved her store to its current location about a year ago, she wasted no time in filling Persnickety Palm with an entirely new inventory of clothing and goodies.
Loudoun County’s only destination for Lilly Pulitzer is bursting with color. Morrison has even brought in vintage Lilly pieces from the ‘60s and ‘70s to fill the racks and shelves of the store. Additionally, Persnickety Palm has lately picked up new lines of jewelry from Meg Carter and Kenneth Jay Lane. 27 South King St., Leesburg; 703-443-0948; pintrest.com/spottedpalm
In the heart of Old Town Ashburn, Frilly Frocks and Polliwogs offers a unique alternative to other, pricier fashion stores.The brick-and-mortar location of the boutique and consignment shop offers designer clothing and accessories at unbeatably low prices, and all of their merchandise–and selected items from eBay–are also available for purchase 24 hours a day on the store’s website. Then find the perfect pair of flats or pumps to top off your new stunner of an outfit at Off Broadway Shoes. When it comes to gift giving, Ashburn Wine Shop offers original gifts for those hard to buy for adults. The diverse collection of wines and beers can be overwhelming, so the friendly and knowledgeable staff will walk you through finding the perfect choice. There are regular tastings and events as well to enhance your shopping experience. Go Bananas in Brambleton Town Center is an award-wining specialty toy store and the jackpot when it comes to shopping for kids. Shopping for your man, however, can take a bit more finesse. Whether it’s to celebrate a new baby, a wedding or even just a Sunday, most men can find reasons to share a nice cigar. Show him that you care by heading to Cigar Connection to purchase his perfect pick-me-up.
Brambleton is bursting with unique shopping choices like Misguided Angels Boutique and Next Step Comfort Shoes. Adorning the shelves and racks of Misguided Angels is a hip collection of special occasion couture and stylish every day fashions from designers like Miss Me Jeans, Big Buddha and Hale Bob.
Next Step Comfort is the answer to blending beauty with comfort in footwear. Hard-to-find fashionable shoes and sandals from Naot, Dansko, Keens and more are status quo here.
When her Leesburg store location flooded, Caroline Haddad moved Zazu to Ashburn in May of 2005. Carrying fashion accessories, home decor, gifts and baby supplies, the family-owned shop now fills what once was a noted shopping void in the area. Located next to Harris Teeter, shoppers can enjoy poking around themselves to find the perfect card, keychain or keepsake. As the merchandise changes seasonally, there will always be a new treasure to find. 20070 Ashbrook Commons Plaza, Ashburn; 703-858-9298; www.shopzazu.com
Olde Mill Furniture
For more than 23 years, Olde Mill Furniture has been lauded as the place to go for those seeking quality home furnishing. But returning shoppers won’t always find the selection quite the same as they remember. As owner Julie Davis’ tastes and style evolve, so does the furniture in her shop. These days, step inside the historic “Green Barn” to witness the beautiful synergy formed between “old-world craftsmanship” and “modern practicality.” Wide-planked flooring and exposed beams make the store a vision in itself. All of the furniture in the store is made in America and handcrafted of solid wood. Spruce up your bedroom, office, dining or living room with new first-class furnishings. 20704 Ashburn Road, Ashburn; 703-729-2625; www.oldemillfurniture.com
Culture & Education
Surrounded by so much growth and change, it’s often easy to lose sight of Leesburg’s rich cultural heritage. So, every day, the Loudoun Museum works to bring history back to life. Located in two 19th-century buildings in historic downtown, the Loudoun Museum offers diverse exhibits and programs for history buffs of all ages. Through hands-on exploration and lively demonstrations, see how Leesburg has changed–and how it has remained the same–since the Civil War and the American Revolution. Must-see sites include the Stephen Donaldson Log Cabin and the children’s Colonial Garden. 16 Loudoun St. S.W., Leesburg; 703-777-7427
Tally Ho Theater
Located in the heart of downtown Leesburg, Tally Ho is an historic twin theater with a lot of local flavor. The venue showcases first-run feature films; but it’s the movie theme nights, live comedy shows and musical acts that make Tally Ho the downtown favorite. And you can’t beat $3 Thursdays: all seats, all showings, for just $3. 19 W. Market St., Leesburg; 703-777-1168; tallyholeesburg.com
Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve
Established in 1999, the Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve protects many different types of habitats. In addition to ponds and meadows, the 695 acre preserve boasts hardwood forests and vast wetlands. Bring a camera to enjoy a leisurely walk along the Goose Creek River. And keep your eyes peeled for one of the preserve’s many animal residents; including beavers, black bears, foxes and deer. 21085 The Woods, Leesburg; 703-779-9712; www.bansheereeks.org
Dodona Manor and the George C. Marshall International Center
General George Catlett Marshall (of the Nobel-winning Marshall Plan) resided with his wife Katherine in Dodona Manor from 1941 until his death in 1959. Today, with present-day furnishing reflecting the tastes of the mid-20th century, the historic home is open for public tours on the weekends. More than 1,000 of Marshall’s permanent belongings have been donated to Dodona Manor and arranged for museum display. Saved from demolition by local citizens, the property is now protected as a National Historic Landmark and serves as a monument for Marshall’s lasting legacy in Leesburg. 217 Edwards Ferry Road, Leesburg; 703-777-1880; www.georgecmarshall.org
Oatlands Historic House and Gardens
Since its early 19th-century establishment, Oatlands has maintained its stately beauty. Rolling farmland and exquisite gardens lend themselves to the air of old elegance that permeates the plantation, which once served as the country estate of Mr. And Mrs. William Corcoran Eustis. Today, Oatlands is a National Trust Historic Site and a National Historic Landmark–open all year for casual picnics and extravagant affairs. 20850 Oatlands Plantation Lane, Leesburg; 703-777-3174; www.oatlands.org
Margaret Mercer, the distinguished daughter of a former Maryland governor, purchased Ashburn’s regal Belmont Plantation in 1836. Shortly thereafter, Mercer had the first Belmont Chapel built. The parish chapel quickly became a center for community worship and other social activity. As poor fortune hit Ashburn in the mid-20th century, however, the Chapel fell into disrepair. Today, the chapel’s ruins are still visible on the grounds of St. David’s Episcopal Church, and there are plans to rebuild the structure. St. David’s Episcopal Church, 19917 Ashburn Road, Ashburn
Morven Park Mansion and Grounds
A thousand acres of perfect beauty make for the perfect daytrip destination or family adventure. Indeed, more than 100,000 visitors come to Leesburg’s Morven Park every year to attend equestrian events, guided tours and educational programs. The estate, which was once owned by Gov. Westmoreland and Marguerite Davis, opened to the public in 1967 and features impressive boxwood gardens and a stately white mansion. The Winmill Carriage Collection and the Museum of Hounds and Hunting are also open on the same grounds. 17263 Southern Planter Lane, Leesburg; 703-777-2414; www.morvenpark.org
On any given day, more than 1,000 people will walk in and out of the Ashburn Library doors. And each month, over 100,000 books are checked out by patrons. The entire community is bound by books, it seems. Open every day, the library is a local hub for both work and socialization. Offering music-infused story time for toddlers as well as English conversation groups for those who are new to the country, the library is always expanding its breadth of programs and offerings to best suit the public’s needs. 43316 Hay Road, Ashburn; 703-737-8100; library.loudoun.gov
Dining & Nightlife
Strolling the streets of downtown Leesburg will surely work up an appetite. With local eateries sprinkled throughout the boutiques there is something to satisfy any craving— Fireworks Pizza to grab a slice, Eiffel Tower for some French cuisine, Palio or Bella Luna Ristorante for Italian dishes, or Edible Incredibles, Lola Cookie and Treats, or Mom’s Apple Pie Company to satisfy your sweet tooth. But if it is a sit-down meal you are looking for, the options are there for the choosing. These Leesburg and Ashburn eateries are a few of the tastiest ways to enjoy Loudoun.
Vintage 50 arrived in Leesburg almost four years ago and has been building a loyal fan base ever since. The Y-shaped establishment features a main lounge to the left with a semi-private dining room to the right. A raised seating area to the rear of the main dining area is perfect for quiet dinners, while an outdoor patio covered with comfy sofas draws crowds on sunny afternoons.
The restaurant offers up to 10 beers on tap, including their core beers—Catoctin Kolsch, Point of Rocks Pale Ale, their Extra Special Bitter, Red Ale and a porter, dry stout or Schwarz bier–various seasonal offerings and at least one cask-conditioned selection that rotates regularly.
For food, paninis always hit the spot, including a bold N.Y.-style turkey-bacon-Swiss creation and a sun-dried tomato- Portobello mushroom pairing. 50 Catoctin Circle N.E. #100, Leesburg; 703-777-2169; www.vintage50.com
No need to slip the host a sawbuck or practice your name-dropping skills to secure a table at Leesburg’s much-beloved Lightfoot. Chances are you’ll leave this former bank feeling like a million bucks, anyway. The sprawling, two-story restaurant integrates recycled vault accessories and vintage memorabilia to establish a quiet cool, then drops the lights real low to keep things nice and mellow. Clientele ranges from martini-toting girlfriends who seem quite content to gossip at the bar all night to mixed groups just as happy to pass plates back and forth so everyone can sample chef Ingrid Gustavson’s modern cuisine.
The menu tilts towards the sea (seasonal crab, halibut and salmon specials take center stage), but land-lovers have nothing to fear. Choosing wisely requires minimal effort. 11 North King St., Leesburg; 703-771-2233; lightfootrestaurant.com
Locals refer to it as “Tuskies.” Plenty of regulars appear to call it home.
Most nights, Tuskie’s plays home to local retirees and distinguished professionals looking to mix business with pleasure. But thanks to executive chef Patrick Dinh, the menu remains more daring than mere status quo cooking–he refuses to stick to the beaten culinary path even if that means stumbling from time to time.
Guests can count on encountering at least a half-dozen daily specials (garden fresh spinach-artichoke soup, rockfish topped with crab fondue, caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes) and lots of locally sourced ingredients.
Extended families and casual diners usually lay claim to the mill’s maze of dining rooms. While budding beer connoisseurs seem most content in the laid-back lounge (nearly two dozen handcrafted brews on tap). 203 Harrison St. S.E., Leesburg; 703-771-9300; www.tuskies.com
Tracking down the ladies in Leesburg is quite simple.
Just stick your head into the kitchen—The Wine Kitchen, that is.The wildly successful wine bar is routinely packed with groups of bottle-draining women (colorful flights, fizzy flutes and tinkling glasses are their weapons of choice), along with multigenerational couples (well-to-do youths treating the ‘rents to show how grown up they are) and grape-savvy sippers galore.
Co-owner Mike Mercer dispenses introductory swallows of wine and oenological insight to first-timers and old friends alike. Meanwhile, the kitchen theme permeates every fiber of the restaurant’s being (from the dish towels as napkins to the reclaimed milk bottles from whence filtered water is poured).
The menu is local and affordable. Eat and drink, simply. 7 S. King St., Leesburg; 703-777-9463; www.thewinekitchen.com
To hear general manager Nils Schnibbe tell it, Döner Bistro pretty much HAD to introduce their oversize rotisserie sandwiches to the Northern Virginia market. Schnibbe says their döner bread is custom made by an artisan baker in Baltimore and points out that schnitzel is served on a grilled bröthchen (traditional German hard roll). Meanwhile, the rotating meats—they feature roast chicken the first part of the week, then switch to beef on weekends—are handled in-house.
The traditional döner is loaded with moist, shaved beef, scads of crunchy carrots, onions and cabbage, streams of modified tzatziki—augmented by a shower of crushed red pepper flakes–and hearty grilled bread. Tempting extras include double meat and crumbled feta. 202-A Harrison St. S.E., Leesburg; 703-779-7880; www.doener-usa.com
You don’t have to agree on one style of Asian cuisine to dine out as a family at Café Opera- the diverse menu features signature dishes from a variety of countries. You can enjoy a hearty Japanese Udon Soup while your spouse digs in to succulent Sichuan Beef, and the kids delight in fragrant Pad Thai. This hidden gem in a small Broadlands strip mall is sure to please palates of all types. 42882 Truro Parish Drive, Unit 104, Ashburn; 703-858-1441; www.cafeopera.net
Blue Ridge Grill
After years of talk and planning, longtime friends and restaurateurs Michael Norton and John Carroccio finally teamed up in 2002 to make the perfect “upper-casual American grill.” And then, they did it again.
Almost seven years after the Blue Ridge Grill opened in Leesburg, a second and more modern location opened its doors in Brambleton. “You could just see the quality of the people and the growth in the area,” Norton says.
Serving up juicy steaks, savory seafood and creative salads, the Blue Ridge Grill has earned itself the Loudoun Times’ title of Best Casual Family Restaurant for six years running. Diners rave about the topnotch crab cakes, and the prime rib is breathtakingly tender. For dessert, treat yourself to a signature Catoctin Mountain Apple Walnut Cobbler, or go global with the Dulce de Leche Chocolate Cake. 955 Edward’s Ferry Road, Leesburg; 703-669-5505; Brambleton Town Center, 22865 Brambleton Plaza, Brambleton; 703-327-1047; www.brgrill.com
Looking to break out of the typical soup-stand mold, the sophisticated Pho Bistro restaurants aim to be the next step in the evolution of the Vietnamese beef noodle genre. The sleek establishments combine art deco designs with fast and friendly service, elevating the pho dining experience to almost elegant heights.
Many of the house soups remain under $8, and the menu has pictures of the different selections to help newcomers to the Vietnamese soup fold feel more at ease.
Warm your belly with a cauldron of the Pho Saigon, a sublime soup custom tailored with your favorite proteins, fresh limes, herbs and as much srichacha hot sauce as you can handle. Complete your beef-laden adventure with a Vietnamese stir-fry of marinated steak surrounded by jumbo peppers, onions and rice. Ashburn Restaurant Park, 44650 Waxpool Road #125, #118, Ashburn; -703-858-7788; www.phobistrova.com
Fords Fish Shack
Where can you find a New England lobster shanty in the suburbs of Northern Virginia? Look no further than Ford’s Fish Shack for a dining experience unlike any other in Loudoun. Angry Mussels piled high with a zesty sauce of tomatoes, garlic and onions, topped with chorizo and surrounded by toasty garlic bread. Can’t ignore the classic “lobstah” roll, a fresh crusty roll piled high with Maine Lobster.
Akira Sushi Bistro
Kyunz Lee tapped into the community’s cravings when he opened Akira Sushi Bistro in Ashbrook Commons Plaza. The local sushi haven ups the ante on strip-mall sushi by offering more than just the standard fare of California and tuna rolls. Indeed, Akira serves up a full spectrum of Japanese comfort food, including Udon noodle soup and pan-fried yakisoba. The service is excellent, the menu is creative, and all of the ingredients are fresh. Skeptics can ask a waiter for a fresh selection suggestion and prepare to be wowed. While the daily special rolls are always a hit, hometown favorites are the Redskin Roll and the Ashburn Roll, made with shrimp tempura and avocado. And best of all, no matter your meal, you won’t break the bank. 20035 Ashbrook Commons Plaza, Ashburn; 703-723-6799