February is Black History Month - a moment of recognition for the central role African Americans have had in shaping U.S. history. It is also a great time for me to highlight my own experiences as a Black woman living in the U.S. I moved to Leesburg, Virginia a few short months after my 25th birthday and it has been a journey. From diverse dining options to well-known historic settings, here are the top five experiences I have had living in Loudoun.
Art & History
When arriving in Leesburg, you are greeted with eye-catching murals on the side of brick walls and historic buildings - a showcase of local Loudoun artists. This was one of the first experiences I had moving to Loudoun, and later I was able to explore art more intimately through Loudoun Art Tours. Aside from the infamous 'LOVE’ sculpture, the murals of accomplished Black business owners from Loudoun’s past are a must-see. Just outside downtown Leesburg, the team at Oatlands Historic House & Gardens has done a tremendous job showcasing the enslaved community that worked on the property through its Reclaim Your Story program. The idea is to ensure nobody is ever forgotten and people can come today and search for their ancestors or read about the people who worked and lived on the land. On February 24 Oatlands will host a special panel, White Pages, Black Stories.
Wine & Beer Education
I was not a wine enthusiast prior to moving to Loudoun, however, I can say I’ve learned a lot and enjoy a glass of Virginia vino. After coming here, I had the opportunity to work part-time at a winery where I learned the difference between a Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon - spoiler: the distinction is the type of grape. Loudoun is home to more than 50 wineries and countless varietals, but I usually prefer a Rosé. In 2021 the first Black-owned wine company in Loudoun, Fifty Leven, launched. Last year I got a chance to speak with the CEO, Kindra, to hear about her journey into the wine industry. She shared that her passion was to create a wine that would please all palates and what better place to do that than in DC’s Wine Country®. While I had a lot to learn about wine, I do know a bit about beer. With more than 30 breweries, I enjoy tasting everything from refreshing citrus-based Indian Pale Ales to dark, earthy Stouts – a personal favorite during the cold months. On a regular night out, I stick to the classic Lager on tap, it is light with just the right amount of malt flavor to tingle your tastebuds.
Diverse Food Selection
I can confidently say I am a food connoisseur. I love experiencing different food from all over; Thai, Indian, Korean-thankfully Loudoun has an enticing selection of restaurants that specialize in culturally rich foods as well as farm-to-table dining. The European-inspired restaurant in Purcellville, Bia Kitchen, gets credit for being my first upscale restaurant experience. The sleek and cozy interior contributes to the upscale experience, its walls lined with vibrant backlit paintings and countertops crafted from Italian wood. Another option for a high-end dining experience is at Salamander Middleburg, which is owned by Sheila Johnson. Check their event calendar for all the culinary happenings!
Experiencing Big Events
In October, I attended the Middleburg Film Festival for the first time and, as a film lover, it was one of the best experiences. The scenery when you drive through Middleburg in the fall is breathtaking. The festival has featured a handful of award-winning and popular films including “La La Land” starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. This past year showcased recent blockbuster hits like Rustin, a biographical drama highlighting the civil rights movement. Salamander Middleburg owner Sheila Johnson and chef Kwame Onwuachi also collaborate on an annual event coined “The Family Reunion” - a four-day occurrence to celebrate Black and brown contributions to the food and hospitality industry by bringing in talent from all over the world, some of whom have made appearances on popular cooking shows such as Top Chef.
Proximity to D.C.
With Loudoun being a rural paradise, it’s difficult to grasp that the city of D.C. is just 25 miles away. Being so close to the city, I like to spend time in D.C. too - a great complement to the tranquil suburbs of Loudoun. The new Metro Silver Line extension makes the commute easy and affordable. Loudoun Station is just minutes away from my home and goes right into the city. It also serves as a modish town center precinct where people traveling on the metro can stop to enjoy a variety of dining and shopping choices.