10 Places to Photograph in Leesburg

You might be thinking to yourself … “How is it that a photography school in Missoula, MT has an event coming up in Leesburg, VA? Say whaaaaatt?”

It’s true, our fourth Weekend Intensive of 2017 will be taking place in Leesburg, VA at the Best Western Leesburg Hotel & Conference Center. Sure, it’s 2,296 miles away from our headquarters, but here is the secret answer: We have a pretty sweet connection to the area. One of our Weekend Intensive instructors, Mary Brunst lives just a hop, skip and a jump down the road! So when she suggested that photographers in and around Leesburg would be excited about the opportunity to spend a weekend learning photography, well … it was a done deal!

Since she is so close, Mary took a drive to Leesburg recently to collect these unique spots to photograph. In her own words, “Leesburg, Virginia is one of my favorite places to visit near me. It is rich with history. The downtown is incredibly quaint and the rolling hills make for spectacular scenery! There are so many places in and around Leesburg that provide amazing photo opportunities – If I were to list all of them, this blog post would be so long that no one would want to read it. So in the interest of holding your attention, I will give you my top 10 places to photograph in no particular order.”

Great Falls Park
1. Great Falls Park
Great Falls Park is east of Leesburg and close to Washington D.C. It’s a place rich with American history and breathtaking natural beauty. It’s like a gorgeous, tucked away gem, that you would never guess is so close to the city.  In 1785, George Washington partially funded a bypass canal to give small barges the opportunity to go around the falls to distribute goods. The visitor center holds the bottom portions of two of the wooden canal lock gates that were excavated in the 1980s from the canal (the gates have survived from at least the 1830’s). If you enjoy history, it’s an awesome park to visit. If you enjoy the outdoors and hiking, it’s an awesome park to visit. Oh, and if you enjoy rock climbing, it’s an epic place to visit! But most of all, if you are looking for a place to photograph that has unique and beautiful scenery, and offers a lot of variety, this is one of my favorite places.



2. Morven Park
Morven Park was once the beautiful home and property of Westmoreland Davis, the governor of Virginia from 1918-1922. Morven Park has 1000 acres of peaceful rolling hills, spectacular gardens, sports fields, museum collections, and trails to both hike and horseback ride. It’s located right in Leesburg, just minutes from downtown. I LOVE photographing portraits in Morven Park. The boxwood garden, close to the mansion, is my absolute favorite– it’s so stately and elegant. Blame it on the fact that I’m a landscaper’s daughter, but there is just something so dreamy about walking on beautiful colonial brick walkways framed by english boxwoods that are taller than you. I give Morven Park all the emoji heart eyes!



3. Harpers Ferry
Harpers Ferry, WV is a little over 20 miles northwest of Leesburg, but it’s a trip you won’t regret! The historic town of Harpers Ferry is incredibly quaint, and sits at the junction of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. Harpers Ferry is quite popular, and rightly so because there is a little something for everyone! For the outdoorsy person there are multiple hiking trails, great rock climbing opportunities, and quite a few places to go white water rafting (have any under-water housing for your camera?!). For the history buff the town is set up like a museum, where you can walk to the different shops and see how the town lived and worked during the 19th century. There are also Living History Events and Historic Trades Workshops held regularly. All of this adds up to an abundance of wonderful things to photograph! Weekdays tend to be less busy than weekends if you would prefer avoiding crowds, especially during the summertime!



4. Historic Downtown
Downtown Leesburg is so quaint and adorable! Colorful little store fronts consisting of restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques make it a great backdrop for portraits – especially engagement sessions! Regardless of the type of photography you do, downtown Leesburg is charming with a lot of interesting things to photograph. While you’re there if you’re looking for a good cup of coffee with a great atmosphere check out Shoes, it’s my favorite. 🙂



5. The Marshall House/Dodona Manor
The Marshall House, also known as Dodona Manor, is the beautiful, restored, home of the late General George and Katherine Marshall (during 1941-1959). General Marshall is best known for being the author of the Marshall plan which laid the foundation for European recovery after World War II. There is an admission to get in, but the house and grounds are lovely. Maybe more importantly….ok, definitely not more important, but for sure worth mentioning…. it sits across the street from a tiny, little bakery called Mom’s Apple Pie, and I kid you not it will be some of the best pie you’ve ever tasted! If you are wandering around photographing and exploring, be sure to stop for a piece of pie!



6. Union Cemetery
I’m not sure what to tell you about Union Cemetery that would make it any different than what you are already probably imagining. It’s serene and beautiful place filled with so much history. Historic Leesburg dates back to 1767 and reading the tombstones can feel like you’re reading pages from a history book. It’s a charming place to visit and to photograph. I was recently there mid-afternoon, but I’d like to return to photograph early in the morning.



7. The Retreat at Cool Spring
A little over a year ago I attended the THRIVE Creatives Retreat at The Retreat At Cool Spring and I can tell you first hand that this restored historic manor house will charm your socks off! The beautiful five bedroom home is impeccably decorated and situated on a hill overlooking the Shenandoah River. The property is about 25 miles west of Leesburg, on the beautiful Cool Spring Battlefield in Bluemont, VA (a historic American Civil War battlefield). Everything about this manor is graceful. It’s in a beautiful and peaceful location and decorated to make you swoon– think Restoration Hardware meets historic mansion…. All the heart eyes!



8. Red Rock Wilderness Overlook Regional Park
If you’re looking for good hiking, nature trails, and exploring wooded areas, Red Rock Wilderness Overlook Regional Park is a great place to go. You can also hike to an overlook that gives you a spectacular view (and photo opportunity!) of the Potomac River. They also have some neat abandoned structures from the 19th century there for you to photograph.



9. Ball’s Bluff Battlefield and National Cemetery
Ball’s Bluff Battlefield and National Cemetery is the site of one of the largest Civil War engagements and the third smallest national cemetery in the US. Again, if you’re a history buff, you’ll love this place. Scenery wise, it’s exactly what you can expect from a park in NOVA – beautiful wooded areas, well marked hiking trails, and rolling hills. Knowing it’s hallowed ground can give you a new appreciation for its deeper beauty. The cemetery is small but very well maintained.

(photo: ©Acroterion – licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license).


10. Bears Den
Bears Den is a hostel for hikers traveling on the Appalachian Trail, located about 20 miles west of Leesburg. Not far from Bears Den is Bears Den Overlook, a spot on the trail perched above the Shenandoah Valley offering some of the best views in Northern Virginia. It cost $3 to park at Bears Den for the day and there are several trails options you can take to get to the Overlook. Since the Overlook is facing westward, it offers an incredible view of the sunset! So although the hike might be on the challenging side at times, schlepping your tripod may be worth it!




Need some pointers for how to photograph Leesburg?
Join us for the Leesburg Weekend Intensive on May 6 – 7, 2017.

Your camera will thank you!