What are the best places to stay in Northern Virginia?

It’s no secret that Northern Virginia is home many charming inns and hotels, but Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend three diverse properties as among the best places to stay.
 
 If you’re looking for a place to stay that’s out of the way, visit the historic village of Washington, where you’ll find The Inn at Little Washington, the top choice of our Forbes Travel Guide editors. The Inn isn’t your average quaint countryside getaway — the Five-Star hotel is composed of 18 elegantly appointed guest rooms and suites with an Old English and Victorian style, reminiscent of the historic town’s roots. It won’t feel cookie cutter, since each room has its own unique décor. You’ll also have a number of complimentary amenities during your stay at the luxury hotel, including housekeeping service three times per day, daily continental breakfast, afternoon tea, bicycle rentals and a full-service business center, to name a few. Don’t miss its Five-Star restaurant, also called The Inn at Little Washington, where you can sample seasonal fare like sesame-crusted Chilean sea bass with baby shrimp, artichokes and grape tomatoes.
 
You’ll find Leesburg, Virginia, located roughly 45 minutes northwest of Washington, D.C. Once the site of the Battle of Balls Bluff during the American Civil War, Leesburg is the quintessential American hometown — boasting more than 20 entries on the National Registry of Historic Places. The town is also near the heart of Northern Virginia’s Wine Country, making Leesburg’s Lansdowne Resort a good base for exploring the area’s wineries. In addition to being close to a number of exciting attractions, the resort offers 45 holes of championship golf, a 12,000-square-foot spa and five restaurants that range from casual to upscale.
 
If you’d like to stay a bit closer to all the action in the nation’s capital, The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City in Arlington, Virginia, is just a mile from Washington, D.C. Situated inside the Pentagon City Mall, the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel still has access to scenic destinations and day trips in Northern Virginia.

  • On June 28, 2012
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    What are the best day trips to take from Northern Virginia?

    While an all-day excursion to nearby Washington, D.C. might be an obvious choice for a full day of fun, there are plenty of other options for day trips in Northern Virginia that don’t require leaving the state.
     
    For the most quintessential Northern Virginia experience, spend the day in Fairfax County. The area is home to a number of notable attractions, like George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts and Great Falls National Park  — plus an abundance of museums, quaint shopping venues and dining options.
     
    As the county seat of the picturesque Loudoun County, Leesburg, Virginia, is a favorite shopping destination for city-dwellers seeking a unique and artisanal retail experience.. Cobblestoned blocks are populated with droves of quaint shops and boutiques, perfect for a leisurely day of strolling through one of America’s most beloved small towns. In addition to being a historically significant destination —The Civil War’s Battle of Leesburg happened here  — the town and its surrounding area is also part of Loudoun County’s scenic wine country, worthy of at least an afternoon of your time. In fact, Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest spending an entire weekend if you have the time!
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    What are the best orchards to visit in Northern Virginia?

    Ask any local, and they’ll tell you — there’s simply no better time to visit Northern Virginia than in autumn apple season. Crisp temperatures and colorful fall foliage make the area inviting, and you’ll be inspired to visit apple orchards or even some pumpkin patches during your stay.
     
    Crooked Run Orchard in Purcellville is one of Loudoun County’s premier apple and pumpkin picking destinations. Open year-round, the orchard really comes alive during September and October, offering hayrides, farm animals, a nature trail and picnic tables, making it an all-day destination of family fun.
     
    Northern Virginia is also home to a number of “pick-your-own” farms, so you can load up on all the seasonal fruits, vegetables or pumpkins you need at any time of the year. Nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the scenic hills of Skyline Drive, Hartland Orchard and Stribling Orchard in Markham are two of the oldest working family farms and orchards in the state.
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    What is the best place to go horseback riding in Northern Virginia?

    Northern Virginia is a popular destination for those hoping to get in touch with the great outdoors — particularly in the form of horseback riding. Whether you consider yourself a seasoned equestrian or you’re just hopping on the saddle for the first time, the area is home to a number of picturesque riding destinations, both big and small.
     
    Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend Stone Gate Stables in Aldie, Virginia, which is a professionally operated riding destination that features more than 100 acres of riding terrain, 44 stalls, in addition to extensive indoor and outdoor arena space. Though Stone Gate has only been operating since 2003, you’ll find it has some of the most experienced trainers and riding coaches in the area.
     
    Located just outside the D.C. beltway in Alexandria is Little Burgundy Farm, an exclusive private riding facility that is a go-to destination for seasoned and aspiring equestrians looking to hone their skills. A riding club membership and monthly fee ($250 for sole-use members) is required for those wanting to ride at Little Burgundy, and additional costs apply if you’re hoping to hire an instructor.
     
    You’ve already heard of its award-winning wine region, but Northern Virginia’s Loudoun County is also home to a number of scenic horseback riding trails. Located just a few minutes outside of Leesburg in Hamilton is Chase Run Stable. Formed in 2008, Chase Run offers group and private lessons, private events, horse training, as well as field boarding if you need somewhere for your horse to stay for a while.
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  • On June 28, 2012
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    Where are the best places to view the fall colors?

    Autumn in Northern Virginia is undoubtedly one of the area’s most idyllic times to visit. Temperatures are crisp and comfortable, and the fall foliage is vivid and gorgeous.  Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest you bring your camera along as you explore some of Northern Virginia’s best spots for fall foliage.
     
    Just outside Washington, D.C. is Fairfax County, one of Northern Virginia’s most historic and photogenic areas. To experience a myriad of picturesque fall colors, be sure to stop by George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, which also hosts a number of fall festivals for the whole family to enjoy.
     
    Another Fairfax County gem for fall foliage is Great Falls National Park, located in nearby McLean, Virginia. Nestled along the banks of the Potomac River, the park is an amateur or professional photographer’s dream. Crashing waterfalls are set against a backdrop of mature trees with leaves of various hues. The area is such a serene escape that you’ll find it hard to believe you’re just 15 miles from the nation’s capital.
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    Where are the best places to go hiking in Northern Virginia?

    When it comes to finding hiking trails that combine history with the elements of nature, Northern Virginia is a destination that can’t be beat. Whether you’d like to stay within close proximity of the D.C. beltway or you don’t mind wandering off the beaten path a bit, there are plenty of hiking trails in the area for a wide range of skill levels.
     
    Most seasoned hikers have probably heard of Shenandoah National Park. The massive Shenandoah National Park passes through parts of eight Northern Virginia counties and contains more than 500 miles of hiking trails. One of the most popular is Big Devils Stairs, which is considered a moderate hike that rewards with amazing canyon views. You’ll find both guided and private hikes, as well as “Twilight Hikes,” designed for guests to experience the mountain sky’s dramatic changing colors as dusk falls.
     
    If you’re looking for something on the less strenuous side without compromising stunning natural views, Great Falls Park in McLean is a favorite hiking trail option for many travelers. Just 15 minutes from Washington, D.C., the 800-acre park sits on the banks of the breathtaking Potomac River. Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest that you pause on one of the platforms throughout Great Falls Park to experience various vantage points of the cascading falls.
     
    Located along the historic Bull Run — as well as being one of Fairfax County’s best kept secrets — Bull Run Occoquan Trail covers 17 miles and 4,000 acres of breathtaking woodlands. This is definitely one Northern Virginia trail that isn’t suitable for novice hikers; you’ll be traversing steep hillsides and deep ravines.
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    What are the best wineries in Northern Virginia?

    Thanks to its crisp climate  and elevated terrain, Northern Virginia is one of the country’s most ideal locations for winemaking. Curious wine lovers will enjoy exploring the more than 70 wineries in the region that produce every variety you can imagine — from crisp chardonnays and refreshing Rieslings to chocolaty merlots and hearty zinfandels. To take in the most of Northern Virginia’s vibrant wine culture, Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest following one of the five wine trails. This way, you can visit several wineries in one day, or over the course of a long weekend.
     
    One of Northern Virginia’s most prominent wine destinations is Loudoun County, an area chock full of charming small towns and sprawling landscapes. Spend a day here and you’ll find it hard to believe this quaint countryside gem is situated just 25 miles from Washington, D.C. Loudoun County is home to several boutique wineries, like Bluemont Vineyard which is  perched above the historic towns of Leesburg and Middleburg as well as Breaux Vineyards, nestled between the scenic Blue Ridge and Short Hill Mountains. Because there are so many wineries to see in Loudoun County, we recommend stretching your visit into an overnight or weekend stay full of leisurely wining and dining as you take in all the area has to offer.
     
    The newest route along the Northern Virginia wine trail is the Artisanal Wineries of Rappahannock County, a casual trail that features visits to five family-operated wineries located all within a short scenic drive from one another. If you’d like to make your visit an overnight adventure, the trail has partnered with two local lodging options: the Marriott Ranch in Hume, Virginia, and the Sharp Rock Bed & Breakfast in Sperryville, Virginia.
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    What are the best activities to do in Northern Virginia?

    Whether you consider yourself a foodie, fashion guru or history buff, you’ll find plenty to experience in and around Northern Virginia. While activities vary depending on what time of year you visit, Northern Virginia has many attractions year-round, especially when you include nearby Washington, D.C. These are the best activities in Northern Virginia according to Forbes Travel Guide editors:
     
    1.  Experience the Wolf Trap summer concert series. Grab a blanket, some lawn chairs and pack a picnic while enjoying hillside performances of some of your favorite musical acts and theater performances for just $20 to $30. Operated in conjunction with the National Park Service, it’s hard to believe this breathtaking outdoor venue — located near Vienna — is just 20 minutes from the capital.
     
    2. Hit the Loudoun County wine trails. When it comes to experiencing fine wine on the East Coast, Loudoun County is a destination that can’t be surpassed. Boutique wineries are scattered along winding roads through rolling hills, making the views just as memorable as the wines. Loudoun’s 30-plus wineries have been divided into five scenic driving areas, so we highly suggest making a weekend of exploring the area if you have the time.
     
    3.  Go shopping in downtown Leesburg. Leesburg isn’t just one of the most historical small towns in the U.S. — it’s also packed with a number of charming boutiques, restaurants, art galleries and specialty shops, making it very easy to lose yourself for a few hours.
     
    4. Enjoy a Fall Festival. Autumn is the most visually pleasing season in Northern Virginia. It makes a perfect time to visit pumpkin patches and apple orchards for some fall fun of all ages. Located in Centreville, Virginia, Cox Farms hosts autumn activities from late September through October. The 90-acre farm is a great place to spend a day enjoying hayrides, rope swings, farm animals, five giant slides, along with food and entertainment options,
     
    5. Visit Alexandria, Virginia. This historic town is one of Northern Virginia’s most popular destinations, and it’s easy to see why. Spend a day getting to know this charming town with a cruise on the Potomac River, horse drawn carriage ride or historic walking tour. Attractions include the Torpedo Factory Center, the Alexandria Black History Museum and the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum.
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    What are the best historic attractions in Northern Virginia?

    Being such a short distance from the nation’s capital, the Northern Virginia area is naturally home to a high concentration of history-rich attractions like monuments, museums, battle sites and significant buildings. But if you have a limited time, Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend these as the best historic attractions in Northern Virginia.

    1. Arlington National Cemetery. No trip to the D.C. area is complete without a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, one of the United States’ oldest cemeteries, made up of 624 acres that are the final resting space for more than 14,000 veterans. The cemetery is also where you’ll find the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame on his tomb. Located a few minutes from Arlington National Cemetery is the Iwo Jima Memorial, a 32-foot-high sculpture that pays homage to one of the most historical battles in World War II.
     
    2. Mount Vernon. Located just 16 miles south of Washington, D.C. along the banks of the Potomac River, George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate has been a popular historic attraction for decades. In addition to the mansion that George and Martha Washington called home for more than 40 years, Mount Vernon features a museum dedicated to the life of Washington, a forest trail and a working farm that boasts a recreation of the President’s 16-sided treading barn.
     
    3. Fairfax Station Railroad Museum. Travel back in time and visit this museum to explore the rebuilt Fairfax Station, which played a role in the Civil War. Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, started her humanitarian efforts here. The depot is home to historic steam engines and all kinds of railroad history to delight guests from ages 2 to 102. Open on Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. in Fairfax Station, Virginia, this is the place to learn all about railroading and the vital role it played in our nation’s history.
  • On June 28, 2012
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    What is the best shopping in Northern Virginia?

    From multi-level malls and shopping centers, to neighborhood boutiques and antique shops packed with charm, Northern Virginia is a retail melting pot for shoppers, making it easy to stumble upon something you’re sure to love.
     
    For one of Northern Virginia’s best shopping experiences, Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest you visit Alexandria, Virginia’s Old Town neighborhood. What was once a colonial village rich with American history is now home to one of the country’s most exciting shopping destinations. Cobblestone sidewalks are lined with vintage buildings and old homes that house retail shops featuring many locally owned designer boutiques and antique shops.
     
    If you prefer shopping in a mall, Northern Virginia has its fair share of modern ones that offer all the shops you could possibly desire. Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax boasts more than 200 stores, including Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, Banana Republic, J. Crew, Michael Kors and H&M. Located just four miles away from downtown DC, Arlington’s Ballston-Common Mall is another mall destination for shoppers, with 163 clothing stores, furniture shops and restaurants.
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    What is Northern Virginia’s restaurant scene like?

    When you visit Northern Virginia, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover so many fine restaurants. Since it’s so close to the nation’s capital, Northern Virginia is has a diverse population, making international cuisine of almost any variety easy to find.
     
    Forbes Travel Guide editors highly recommend making reservations at The Inn at Little Washington — it’s one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country. The restaurant located in the town of Washington takes reservations up to one year in advance — a true testament to how unforgettable the modern-meets-classic-French cuisine really is. Wine lovers will especially appreciate dining at The Inn, as the restaurant boasts an impressive and award-winning, 14,000-bottle cellar.
     
    Acclaimed as the “Best Restaurant of 2011,” special-occasion spot 2941 in Falls Church, Virginia, offers contemporary American cuisine by esteemed chef Bertrand Chemel. The sleek and sophisticated interior design of 2491 is complemented perfectly by its tranquil location in the woods overlooking Fairview Lake. Nibble on housemade spanakopita, crispy calamari or tuna tartare as you enjoy the view and ambience.
     
    Another Northern Virginia spot serving up mouth-watering international cuisine is Foti’s in rural Culpeper, Virginia, located about an hour outside of Fairfax. Chef Frank Maragos whips up classic Greek fare with recipes inspired by his close-knit Greek family — if you’re looking for something authentic and intimate, this is the place to be. Maragos is also an alumnus of The Inn at Little Washington, where he perfected his cooking chops while serving as executive sous chef of the restaurant.
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