Editors' pick

Oatlands Plantation

Historic Site
A National Historic Landmark, the Oatlands mansion and gardens are open for tours and leisure.
March 28 to Dec. 30: Mon-Sat 10 am-5 pm
Sun 1 pm-5 pm Last tour at 4
(Leesburg)
$12, $10 seniors, $8 ages 6 to 16. $8 grounds-only tour
703-777-3174
12/21

The Gingerbread Chase

A newly baked cookie runs away, hoping to find happiness in fancy decorations.
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Editorial Review

An immediate standout for its striking view of Bull Run Mountain, the Oatlands Historic House and Gardens was once the home of the prominent Virginian plantation owner George Carter and his family.

The gardens are terraced — now for beauty, but once for practicality.

“As a plantation, this would have been completely different,” says head gardener Mark Schroeter. “They were farming everything.”

It wasn’t until 1903, when William and Edith Eustis bought the estate, that the grounds were designed more for pleasure.

What might surprise some visitors is the number of sculptures in the gardens, thanks to David Finley, the first director of the National Gallery of Art, who married one of the Eustis daughters.

Each terrace is lovely in its own way, and the best way to take it all in is to walk counterclockwise around the outer edge of the gardens. As you venture down the stone stairs, to your right are themed beds of yellow and red; to your left, boxwood parterres stretch the length of the terraces. At the bottom of the terrace is a boxwood parterre that serves as an aisle when the estate hosts weddings.

Head back up the hill to a tea house that has one of the most picturesque views of the grounds. In one direction you see the mountains and, to the other, an expansive bowling green ending in a reflecting pool.

--Amy Orndorff, April 20, 2012

What's a visit to Leesburg without a little history? Step back in time with a trip to Oatlands Plantation, a storybook-like property one would expect to see here, just below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Built in 1798, the mansion, gardens, outbuildings and greenhouse still stand today. The beautiful property belies some of its history, as it once housed the largest number of slaves in Loudoun County.

Today, visitors can tour the mansion and the oldest restored propagation greenhouse in the nation, have tea or stop in the gift shop. The holidays, in particular, are a good time to visit, as Oatlands is decked out in all of its Christmas finery.

-- Amy Joyce (Dec. 2, 2011)