From Sterling to Waterford: 48 Hours in Loudoun County

Photo Courtesy of Visit Loudoun.



Virginia’s Loudoun County provides an idyllic weekend escape with its rustic horse farms, picturesque historic villages, and romantic bed and breakfasts. Dine on delicious Southern cuisine in Sterling. Wander the brick streets of Leesburg with its array of 18th- and 19th-century architecture. Or, explore villages like Waterford and Lucketts, all within mere miles of the Potomac River.

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, beer connoisseur or collector of all things antique or vintage, you’ll find plenty to explore in northern Loudoun County, from Ashburn to Lovettsville and beyond.

Check out this weekend itinerary for touring one of the prettiest counties outside the nation’s capital. 

Day 1: Sterling to Leesburg


If you’re heading out of the D.C. metro area Saturday morning or flying into Dulles from points farther afield, Sterling is a perfect place to kick off the weekend with a dose of southern hospitality. Start the day at Daybreak Kitchen & Biscuit for a hearty plate of doughy biscuits piled high with spicy fried chicken, burrata cheese and sundried tomato gravy.

A mother and son at the Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum in Sterling, Virginia. Photo Courtesy of Visit Loudoun.

Once you’ve filled up for the day’s adventures, it’s time to learn about the region’s farming traditions at the Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum. If you have kids in tow, they’ll revel in playing farmer for a day with interactive exhibits that let them try their hands at milking a cow and gathering eggs. Or the whole family can explore Loudoun’s more than 250 years of agricultural history through scheduled historic encounter days where historians demonstrate how to operate a cider press and make apple butter. 

If the weather’s nice, plan a trip to Algonkian Regional Park. This 838-acre outdoor space includes vacation cottages and picnic shelters along the Potomac, an 18-hole golf course and easy-to-trek trails that afford scenic views of the river. If you’re visiting in the summer, bring your swimsuits for an afternoon at Volcano Island Waterpark, a tropical paradise with waterslides, shallow pools and splash pads within the regional park’s perimeter. On days with inclement weather, clip on those carabiners and master the indoor ropes course at the nearby Summit Ropes


Once you’ve burned off some energy, make the 10-minute drive to nearby Ashburn for biscuits and sausage gravy or bite into crispy pork belly with jalapeno hush puppies at The Lost Fox Hideway at One Loudoun.

One Loudoun courtyard in Ashburn, Virginia. Photo Courtesy of Visit Loudoun.

After brunch, it’s time for a drive north to Leesburg. Let the kids play while you enjoy a coffee and dessert break at Dana’s Cake Shoppe located in the Village at Leesburg. If you get into town early enough, make your way to Morven Park to explore 1,000 acres of neatly trimmed boxwood gardens, well-manicured lawns and rolling fields. Take a guided tour of the Greek Revival mansion, offered Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 2 p.m., to learn more about its equestrian heritage. Whether you want to take a guided tour online or via an app, Historic Leesburg Walking Tours provides audio narration and photos that take you through Loudoun County war memorials, public art installations and African American history. 


Before dinner, snap a selfie in front of the colorful “Discover the Charm” mural adjacent to the Liberty Street parking lot. Or grab a family pic in front of the LOVEwork sculpture, composed of recycled bicycle parts, located at the Washington and Old Dominion Trail.

The plaza at Village at Leesburg in Loudoun County, Virginia. Photo Courtesy of Visit Loudoun.

Briny oysters on the half shell and jumbo lump crab cake sandwiches are on the dinner menu at King Street Oyster Bar, a popular local hotspot, so reservations are strongly encouraged. If you’d prefer a more casual takeout meal, order a family-style taco box or made-to-order empanadas stuffed with savory beef from Mexican street food eatery Senor Ramon

Cap off your evening with live music at the Tally Ho Theatre before checking into the Stone Gables Bed & Breakfast, one of the county’s last stone-gable barns. This quaint inn sits on the ridge of Catoctin Mountain and features luxurious suites and rooms with rustic stone walls and wood beams that add to the charm. Make sure to say hello to Eddy, the bed and breakfast’s resident yellow lab greeter. 

Day 2: Lucketts to Waterford


The Old Lucketts Store in Lucketts, Virginia. Photo Courtesy of Visit Loudoun.

Once you’ve enjoyed a hearty breakfast of Mr. Wayne’s blueberry buttermilk pancakes or a homemade quiche at Stone Gables, begin your second day by driving 7 miles north to the historic hamlet of Lucketts. Old Lucketts Store is worth a stop, whether you like antiques and vintage finds or not. The grounds are a mingling of rusted-out automobiles with flowers planted in the engines, artfully stacked salvage doors and outdoor “rooms” piled high with everything from antique dressers to metal chandeliers. Inside, a maze of rooms offers up vintage hats, old cameras, home decor, and delightful collections of doorknobs and drawer pulls. For more one-of-a-kind antiques or new furnishings, head down US-15 toward Rust & Feathers, where you can pick up everything from a burnished leather sofa and local artwork to vintage snowshoes or antique hutches. 

Then make your way to Lovettsville for lunch at 1836 Kitchen and Taproom. Low-hanging ceilings and planked walls give the establishment a cozy feel, complemented by the warm, hearty menu. Fill up on the pork schnitzel topped with mustard and kraut sandwiched in a pretzel bun. Next, order a local beverage, like the Lovettsville Lager, a European-style golden draught with a smooth finish. 


If you want to get to know Lovettsville, call ahead to arrange a visit to the Lovettsville Historical Society Museum. This small, off-the-beaten-path museum offers visitors more history about the town known as “The German Settlement” through stories, old household objects and area artifacts. 

Lovettsville Historical Society Museum in Loudoun County, Virginia. Photo Courtesy of Visit Loudoun.

Next, spend the late afternoon exploring Waterford, a short drive from Lovettsville. Stop into Waterford Corner Store, an inviting shop on Main Street, to pick up a booklet about the town, a cup of Aperture Coffee, a fresh pastry or a local farm cheese — and maybe a handmade craft or home decor item. 

As you stroll downtown, snap photos of the Waterford Post Office, one of Virginia’s oldest continuously operating post offices, hearkening back to the early 1800s. Then take a short stroll down Main toward the brick facade of Waterford Mill, a former grist and sawmill and current National Historic Landmark that served as an economic driver of the community from the 1740s to 1939. Check out the historic signage near the building to learn more about the site and its significance. 

If you want more legwork before dinner, pay a visit to Phillips Farm Interpretive Hiking Trail, a 1.5-mile loop beginning at the mill that runs through Phillips Farm. This easy, flat walk takes you through picturesque farmland along the meandering Catoctin Creek, with points of interest sprinkled throughout the walk. Learn more about the town’s history, the conservation efforts along its streambanks and the Civil War soldiers that camped out in Waterford. 

If you’re visiting in October, get a dose of Americana at the Waterford Fair, a seven-decades-plus fall tradition throughout the town featuring local artisans, historic home tours, reenactors, musicians, food and libations. Also, be sure to check out Oktoberfest celebrations throughout the area. 


Toast your travels with a visit to Waterford’s Terra Nebulo Winery, a 21-and-over destination inspired by the “ne’er-do-wells famed for plundering travelers in Colonial Virginia.” Sample the unique Traminette with hints of lychee, or savor the earthy, tannin-laden taste of a Chambourcin vintage as you sip a glass of wine while savoring a woodfired pizza topped with fresh basil and mozzarella. 

More of Loudoun County

One weekend isn’t enough to scratch the surface of all Loudoun offers. So if you’re itching to spend more time in the area, be sure to check out more of Loudoun County’s villages and sites, from Middeburg’s equine history to Hamilton’s distilleries and farms.

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