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Why we love Loudoun County

Bluemont Vineyards in western Loudoun is known for its stunning views. Courtesy Photo/Jim Hanna
It happens several times a year. Loudoun, the statistics and surveys tell us, is the best county in America to live. We're the happiest place in the U.S. The richest. The fastest-growing. The most romantic.

It's not that we disagree. It's just our profession dictates that we take these listicles with a grain of salt.

We in the modern news business know these surveys make for irresistible clickbait – for fun, rapid-speed blurbs. Sure, we'll report on them. We'll underscore them. Because, hey, the methodology is interesting, and who doesn't revel in knowing “their town is No. 1?”

But here's the problem. Statistics are so impersonal.

These lists, compiled too often by people who have never stepped foot in Loudoun, don't talk about a Sunday-afternoon drive along Route 9 wine country. They don't mention Loudoun Interfaith Relief feeding our hungry. They don't consider how many people per capita are willing to dig their neighbors free from a blizzard – a Loudoun selling point we recently learned.

These "Top ___" lists never seem to mention the profoundly brilliant minds that call Loudoun home – Pulitzer-winner Russell Baker; former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; best-selling author Tony Horwitz; wealthy entrepreneur and author Sandy Lerner.

The methodology never factors in how comfortable the seats are at Starplex Cinemas in Ashburn.

So, we're taking it upon ourselves.

Loudoun. It's one of the most enigmatic, perplexing and delightful places in the country. And not because a Huffington Post article said so.

Loudoun is a gem because of its places and its people. Because of inspiring women like Sheila Johnson and Karen Schaufeld, Sarva Rajendra and Maria Kopsidas, Charlotte Nurge and Carmine Gothard.

Middleburg – that's one reason we love Loudoun. In Middleburg, we can fox hunt is fancy getup and savor a local chardonnay at Salamander. Like JFK and Jackie did decades ago, in Middleburg we can appreciate simple, authentic beauty.

We love Loudoun because we can read some funktastic tasting notes at Leesburg's Wine Kitchen and then step around the corner to see George Clinton at Tally Ho Theater.

Our "wet economy?" Don't get me started. Catoctin Creek Distilling Co., the county's first distillery since Prohibition, is a can't-miss. Mt. Defiance hard ciders taste delicious in the morning.

The wineries. I dare not mention a specific one – because we have 44.

A craft beer after a rigorous morning bike ride? Old Ox, Corcoran, Belly Love, Dirt Farm … you have plenty of options.

OK, I lied about not mentioning a specific winery. Bluemont Vineyards – it's where you take visitors when you want to brag on your county on a sunny spring Saturday.

Loudoun is the only place where legendary bartender Joni at Spanky's Shenanigans will make sure you have a good time and get home safe. While you're there, get some steamed shrimp. Do it.

Speaking of shrimp, the Shrimp n' Grits at Leesburg staple Tuscarora Mill are everything Southern comfort food is supposed to be. Up the road in Lovettsville, Chef Tarver King's Patowmack Farm is perennially revered as one of D.C. metro's best dining experiences. In Sterling, in an unassuming little strip plaza, you can find Mokomandy, a Korean-Cajun fusion joint that titillates the taste buds.

Nearby in Sterling, golf at Algonkian Regional Park all but guarantees the sight of 10, 20 or 30 deer. Nature is no small reason why we love Loudoun.

Or spend a little (a lot) more cash down the street at another golf club, one owned by a certain business titan dabbling in politics who likes to put his name on things.

To its most fervent admirers, Loudoun's scenery is unmatched. Vibrant, rolling green hills have the same entrancing effect as a West Coast sunset. The Blue Ridge Mountains, it turns out, indeed look blue.

These things. These are why Loudoun is the “best.” The “happiest.” The “richest.” Well, they're actually just a fraction of what makes Loudoun so special. There's much, much more to explore.

As we embark on a new Times-Mirror, with a major shift in format and a slight shift in focus, we reflect on why we love this community. We invite you to do the same. How do you kill an afternoon in Loudoun? What is your hidden gem? Share it with someone. Share it with us.

Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or on Twitter at @TrevorBaratko.


SGP - please reread your last comment.  First, you quoted me incorrectly.  Second, your statement that according to the PISA, “students were among the least likely to believe teachers cared about their well-being relative to other students in the US” does not translate to teachers not caring.  Once again, you are drawing improper conclusions using faulty logic.

I love Loudoun too…but loving a place doesn’t mean you turn a blind eye to its flaws.  There are legitimate problems here and many of the complaints listed here are valid.  Yes, a lot of posters here like to complain…but we have suffered from poorly managed growth, our leaders have often been in the pockets of the developers, our schools are overcrowded, and our traffic is often terrible.  Loudoun is still a great place to live, and, as someone from Buffalo, no—I don’t want to move back.  Having an honest discussion doesn’t mean you don’t love a place—in fact, it may mean you love it that much more.

Dante_Callme…...If you haven’t noticed already, 90% of the people on these boards like to complain about things, whether they actually don’t agree, some people are just complainers. 

I too enjoy living here, been here about 16 years, yes there are challenges, but you can’t be 100% agreeable with everything.  They are going about getting the roads squared away.  As you said if they don’t like it, then move, pretty cut and dry.  You don’t like traffic and growth, I’m sure cities like Cleveland, Buffalo, etc would gladly take you.

Maybe if those people would stop being so miserable and complain so much you they might live a better life.

Callme says the teachers “really care about the students”.  Not according to the PISA exam results.  It showed that in most high schools LCPS students were among the least likely to believe teachers cared about their well-being relative to other students in the US.

But I’m guessing that no LCPS student will ever participate in the PISA tests again now that Supt Williams forced Dr. Breeden out.  Better for Loudoun citizens to not know the state of their schools so LCPS workers like Callme can claim they are great.  Better to leave no trail to Hades, eh Callme?

I am confused by those commenting on this story who complain so much.  You are free to move elsewhere.  If you don’t like the 90 minute commute, perhaps you could move closer to Fairfax or look for jobs in Loudoun, maybe even start your own consulting firms here. 

I like living here.  The schools are top notch and the teacher care about the students.  There are many activities, from music to nature.  We can get into DC or to NYC easily.  Dulles airport is convenient.  There are wineries and breweries, chain restaurant and indie fooderies.  We have 6 movie theaters and plenty of shopping. We feel safe and our property taxes are appropriate, not near the rates in places like NJ. 

Yes, we like Loudoun

Any road you take, you sit in traffic, pot holes, constructions, ridiculous rent and home sale prices. Is this where people like to move? We spend so much time in traffic, we don’t want to go anywhere, we just want to sit at home. Crime, break ins, stealing stuff from vehicles, drunk people. Loudoun was beautiful long time ago. Now, piggy back condos with high condo fees are every where. Media should stop encouraging people and making loudoun seem like a paradise. Everytime, this type of news appear, more trees are cut down for freaking condos to be built!

where is the glowing praise for Umstattd.  After all it has only taken her 6 weeks on the BOS to complete change our for the better

Such a wonderful place…Dick Black representing us in Richmond…traffic so bad it takes me 90 minutes to get to Fairfax each day for my job…paying 3 times the national average for 1/10 the internet speed…wine bars filling up my Western Loudoun with drunks in stretch limos..wonderful spot, really.

Is this article from the editorial department or advertising?

Drink, drink, drink, drink, drink, drink, golf.  Boring. Is this really all we are about? No hike the Appalachian Trail? No visiting a local park, a bike ride down the tow path?

If you are a 20-something boozer this is the place to be! However, there is so much more to this part of the nation than indicated in this brief article.

Why is there no mention of all the rich history in the county?  The county was started in the 750s and you could not come up with one historic event or location to mention?  Sounds like you are just promoting businesses in the county.

@David Agreed! Great spot all around.  Love Stoneybrook…great food, coffee and people.

Surprised they did not puff Mike OConnor again

Lest we miss the other side:

Sitting in traffic on Rt 7

Paying over $5 to go a couple of miles on the Greenway

Living in western Loudoun and not having access to broadband Internet, although you are 5 miles from the much touted datacenters.

Watching the “unmatched Vibrant, rolling green hills” torn up and replaced with thousands of identical plastic houses around a fake “town center”

Well done Trevor—it was as if you pulled parts of the article directly from my mind!

Stoneybrook farm and organic market in Hillsboro on Rt 9.  It is nice to sit on their patio on a lazy Sunday afternoon, knosh, and talk.  People are great too.

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