Stone Tower Winery, Leesburg
Long before the Oscars and First Lady Michelle Obama discovered the famous sparkling wines and seyval blanc produced in Loudoun County, Virginia, this Washington, DC, suburb was a noted thoroughfare and getaway for politicians and socialites. As home to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), Loudoun County is a prime meeting destination that exudes the sophistication of a world-class metropolis, with solitude that fosters focus and relaxation among delegates.
Ann Diamond Hayes, national sales manager for Visit Loudoun, says it best: “You’re further away than where you are.”
Loudoun County features two primary meeting cities: Middleburg and Leesburg. Middleburg helped put Loudoun County on the meetings map as early as 1728 with the opening of The Red Fox Inn and Tavern. Turn the hospitality history book page to 2013, when the Salamander Resort & Spa opened, and Middleburg continues to be an elegant place to gather.
Sheila C. Johnson developed the 340-acre Salamander property as a welcoming getaway from the hectic lifestyles of DC movers and shakers. (For more on Johnson, see Smart Meetings’ cover story.)
The resort boasts an equestrian center, full-service spa, millions of dollars of artwork—some from Johnson’s private collection and other pieces that were commissioned—and trails that allow guests to explore the former farmland on foot, mountain bikes and horses. The 168-room resort offers 16,256 sq. ft. of indoor event space, including a 5,000-square-foot ballroom, and 115,970 sq. ft. outdoors.
“When I saw the land in Virginia, I knew I was going to build a resort on it,” Johnson says. “We have a staff designated to bring meetings to our resorts—it’s our bread and butter. Companies love the intimacy of the resort. They find that they get a lot done here.”
40 Wineries & Counting
Down the road from Salamander is Greenhill Winery & Vineyards, which features a 1763 manor house. Greenhill’s sparkling wine made its way into swag bags for the 2016 Oscar nominees, and the First Lady is said to be partial to Greenhill’s seyval blanc. (It was supposed to be confidential, but 22 members of Congress had a private dinner in the manor house in spring.) New barrel and tasting rooms will be completed this year, allowing Greenhill to host up to 120.
Loudoun County, known as DC’s Wine Country, has 40 wineries, the most of any county in the state. With groups in mind, Stone Tower Winery in Leesburg opened new meeting space last year. It features a barn that can seat 175 for dinner and a ballroom capable of seating 250. Outdoor event space abounds. Breaux Vineyards in Purcellville has a new pavilion that can seat 150 and terrace space for up to 400. Its tasting room offers views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Visit Loudoun has divided its wineries into six clusters to create tasting-experiences that direct visitors down winding roads, atop mountains, past horse farms and historic estates, and along miles of stacked stone fences.
“With rolling hills, lush vineyards and stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Loudoun is a unique and affordable meeting escape just 25 miles from Washington DC,” says Jennifer Ritter, director of sales for Visit Loudoun.
Leesburg Meeting Venues
Leesburg is home to 21 properties that have been named to the National Register of Historic Places, with at least 63 historic markers. Leesburg is the largest town in Loudoun and serves as the county seat.
The National Conference Center, former training headquarters for Xerox, completed a major overhaul last year, improving networking and public spaces. It offers 917 newly renovated guest rooms and 265,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Adjacent West Belmont Place features one of the largest ballrooms in Northern Virginia with 16,552 sq. ft.
Once primarily used for government training, The National is open to all markets, according to Julia Lumsden, sales manager. “There’s something for everybody,” Lumsden says. “We operate like a hotel. Our much-improved farm-to-table food is very popular with guests and locals.”
Lansdowne Resort and Spa is located on 476 acres overlooking the Potomac River. The AAA Four Diamond rated property is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with a multimillion-dollar renovation, including updates to its 296 guest rooms, a refreshed spa and four rebranded restaurants. Resort staff members have undergone training to elevate guest experiences.
The resort offers 55,000 sq. ft. of event space and can seat up to 1,000. The largest banquet room accommodates 720. When meetings are over, attendees can enjoy the resort’s 45 holes of golf, indoor and outdoor pools, and fitness room.
Best Western Leesburg Hotel & Conference Center is a conveniently located meeting property with 99 guest rooms and event space for up to 150. It’s near several historic sites, including Balls Bluff Civil War Battlefield, Selma Plantation and Manassas National Battlefield Park.
Hotels with meeting space near the airport include Washington Dulles Airport Marriott, with 13,000 sq. ft. for events, 368 guest rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, and airport shuttle service.
Building on History & Hospitality
Loudoun County has evolved into much more than a getaway for Washingtonians. Already a historic treasure chest, the county’s hospitality providers, including resorts, wineries and craft breweries, have helped this once quiet countryside build a thriving meetings and events industry.
Visit Loudoun and the Loudoun County Department of Economic Development have pushed hard for international visibility, including the launch of a partnership between Dulles and Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK). As part of the agreement, images of Loudoun County and Dulles airport will be displayed throughout PEK, which had nearly 90 million passengers in 2015, making it the second-busiest airport in the world in terms of passenger volume.
“This partnership greatly increases our visibility and opportunity to be in front of both potential visitors and future investors in Loudoun County,” says Beth Erickson, president and CEO of Visit Loudoun.
Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)
The 23rd busiest airport in the United States is located in Sterling, which is in southeastern Loudoun County. Since opening in 1962, the airport has been a catalyst in the county’s emergence as a tech and business hub, with employers such as U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Verizon Business and AOL Inc.
The 1,000-acre Morven Park estate in Leesburg has structures that date to 1789. It has an international equestrian center, three museums and formal gardens. Westmoreland Davis Mansion was once home to Virginia’s governor. The Carriage Museum can host 250 for receptions and has outdoor space for 1,000.
LoCo Ale Trail
Featuring 18 craft breweries and hops farms, LoCo Ale Trail includes Lost Rhino Brewing Co. (pictured) and Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn. Crooked Run Brewing in Leesburg has a boutique farmhouse feel. Urban breweries can be accessed on bikes and country tours allow guests to explore where ingredients are grown.
The Red Fox Inn and Tavern
Dating to 1728, The Red Fox Inn and Tavern is historic and colorful. The four-story fieldstone inn in Middleburg ranks as one of the nation’s oldest gathering places, hosting Civil War planning sessions and presidential press conferences. Named to the National Register of Historic Places, the inn features unique buildings and cottages that house its 18 guest rooms. There’s reception and lecture space for up to 40. There’s a small upstairs bar perfect for cocktails and appetizers, so even if you’re just passing through or staying nearby, there’s a space to toast history. Former guests include President John F. Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor.