Client Guides

March 15, 2022

12 Best Places for Family Photos in Northern Virginia

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Top Photo Locations in Northern Virginia

Are you looking for the best photo locations in Northern Virginia? The good news is there are many beautiful spots! As a family and couples photographer, I’ve been to many of them over the years. Here’s a list of my most requested spots in Northern Virginia.

1. Oatlands Historic House & Gardens in Leesburg* (best at sunrise, early morning, late afternoon, / early evening, or sunset)

2. Old Town Alexandria – (sunrise, early morning, or sunset)

3. Manassas Battlefield National Park (sunrise or sunset)

4. Virginia State Arboretum in Boyce (sunset)

5. Bon Air Rose Garden Park in Arlington (sunrise or sunset)

6. Great Marsh Estate* in Bealeton (sunset)

7. Jones Point Park & Lighthouse in Alexandria (sunrise or sunset)

8. Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna* (late afternoon based on the permit)

9. Great Falls Park in McLean (morning or late afternoon)

10. Airlie* in Warrenton (sunrise, early morning, or late afternoon)

11. The Studio in Sterling, Virginia (10 AM – 2 PM offers the best light)

12. Shenandoah National Park (sunset)

Scroll down to learn more about each location!

*These locations may require a permit or special permission! I’ll walk you through the process.


Oatlands Historic House & Gardens in Leesburg, VA

If you’re looking for a beautiful blend of architecture, gardens, open fields and mountain views, Oatlands Historic House & Gardens might be for you. Nestled in Leesburg, Virginia, it offers all of the above and more! Because of the variety of locations, you can choose sunrise, early morning, late afternoon, or sunset. There are plenty of beautiful shaded areas if we need to shoot later in the morning or in the late afternoon, and it’s stunning during golden hour.

This year (2023) I have a seasonal photography pass. Normally a $125 permit is due per session, but if I’m your photographer, you don’t have to worry about that! You can see more photos from past sessions and info about this location here.


oatlands historic house gardens photos


The following set of photos I took during By Brittany Branson‘s beautiful brand session!

family photos in northern virginia


Old Town Alexandria

Old Town Alexandria is a classic spot for photos. In fact, it’s one of my most requested locations! It’s beautiful in all seasons, and there are many unique spots to choose from. This allows you to create a session that’s completely custom for your family. It’s also perfect if you want a mix of city and nature. The Old Town neighborhoods give you charming city backdrops, while nearby parks give you plenty of greenery and space to play.

Favorite spots include the cobblestone roads, charming row houses, waterfront parks and piers, the town square, and more. I’ll help you narrow it down to your top spots so we can make the most of your photos. See a few of my favorite spots below! Bonus: no permit required. If waterfront is a priority, I recommend either a sunrise session, or a sunset session. Otherwise, there are many locations here that work well in the early morning or late afternoon depending on your preference.

Learn more details about portrait sessions in Old Town Alexandria here.

See more Old Town Alexandria photos here

And here!

Old Town Alexandria family photo location

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Manassas National Battlefield Park

If you’re hoping for an open field, Manassas National Battlefield Park might be the perfect spot for you. With so much land available, we can really customize your session to match your vision. Looking for an open field at the top of a hill? We’ll likely meet at the Visitor’s Center! There’s also a cool Stone Bridge, the Stone House, trails, and many other fields that are stunning during golden hour. You’ll want to go for sunrise or sunset here if you want open field photos.

No permit is required at this time as these are considered personal photos. Learn more about taking your photos at Manassas National Battlefield Park in my portrait guide here.

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We did our own portrait session here last summer! These were taken in August at sunrise by Alicia Lacey Photography.


Virginia State Arboretum in Boyce, VA

This one is a little further into Virginia, but it’s a top spot for a reason. It beautifully combines plenty of nature with unique architecture, giving you even more variety in your photos. It also offers plenty of room for the kids to run around! As of now, they do not require a permit and have lots of parking available. I recommend sunset at this location.

Learn more about taking your photos at Virginia State Arboretum here

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Bon Air Rose Garden in Arlington, VA

Thinking of a garden location? The adorable Bon Air Rose Garden Park in Arlington, Virginia offers plenty of greenery. If you’re hoping for roses, they are at their peak bloom at the end of May through June. They often fade by early July. There’s also a parking lot on-site, which is a huge bonus especially in Arlington! No permit is required at this time. I’ve always done sunset at this location, however, it would also be beautiful at sunrise or very early morning.

Learn more details about taking your photos at Bon Air Rose Garden Park here



Great Marsh Estate in Bealeton, VA

Great Marsh Estate is located in Baeleton, Virginia, and remains one of my all-time favorite spots. This renowned Georgian mansion is located on over 121 acres of lawn and woodland. I’m not sure which parts I love better – the stunning columns, majestic mansion, or the sun-drenched fields. It’s an hour drive from DC and close to the town of Warrenton.

As of now a $150 permit is required, but it’s worth it if you love the architecture and privacy. We even opted to take our own engagement photos here!

Learn more about taking photos at Great Marsh Estate here

great marsh estate photos in northern virginia

We did our engagement photos here because we love it so much! Photos by Alicia Lacey Photography.

Great Marsh Estate engagement photos


Jones Point Park in Alexandria, VA

Jones Point Park is located just south of Old Town Alexandria on the Potomac River. It includes a lighthouse built in 1855, trails through the woods, an open field, and waterfront views. You’ll want either sunrise or sunset to make the most of the waterfront views.

Parking is available on-site and a permit is not required.

Learn more about taking photos at Jones Point Park here 

jones point park family photos northern virginia


Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, VA

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens is as beautiful as it sounds. Featuring 95 acres of gardens, native plant collections, and woodland trails, there are many spots for your portraits. The flowers are particularly pretty in the spring!

The gardens require a $50 permit reserved in advance, along with a $6 per person admission fee. They limit the number of sessions per day, so we’ll need to schedule this in advance to make sure they have an opening on your portrait date. The best time based on their permits is to have the session in the late afternoon. For most of the season (spring, summer, early fall), that’s at 4:30 or 4:45 PM. Late fall we sometimes start even earlier in the afternoon depending on the sunset time.

Learn more about taking your photos at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens here

meadowlark botanical garden family photos


Great Falls Park in McLean, Virginia

Great Falls Park is a nature location that’s always a beautiful backdrop! You can also see the rapids of the Potomac River. There are overlooks we can capture these at, just keep in mind we may need to wait our turn as tourists and photographers alike enjoy the view! There are also many trails and trees we can use for photos.

This location is always very busy, so a weekday is the best choice. Even then prepare for crowds and potential long lines getting into the park. An entrance fee is required per vehicle. Cell phone service is often not available once you enter the park, so we will coordinate our meet-up location before the session to ensure we can find each other. I recommend early morning or late afternoon / early evening.

See more photos from this Great Falls engagement session here


engagement photos in Northern Virginiafamily photos in northern virginia

Airlie in Warrenton, VA

Tucked into Virginia’s countryside, Airlie is a magical choice for a portrait session. Capture your memories in front of the Spanish Steps, in the formal gardens, or throughout their impeccable grounds. They also have a lake on the property. It’s beautiful at sunrise, early morning, or sunset.

As of now, the permit fee is $150. You can view their details here!

family photos in northern virginia


The Studio in Sterling, Virginia

Looking for something indoors, but with plenty of gorgeous natural light? The studio might be for you! Featuring a custom hand-painted backdrop from Willow Canvas, neutral light gray walls, and a wall of windows, it’s one of my favorite places for maternity photos, family photos, and newborn photos.

Learn more about our natural light photography studio in Northern Virginia here!

northern virginia natural light photography studio

Shenandoah National Park

If you’re open to a little adventure, keep reading. Shenandoah National Park isn’t far away and gives you mountain views you’ll love. I’ve done many sessions here over the years, and I have a list of hidden gems to match your vision. An open field with mountains in the background? Check. Stunning overlooks? Check. Plenty of greenery and trees? Check!

They don’t require a permit, but you do have to pay admission to get into the park. Sunset is best here!

Inquire here to learn more about family photos at Shenandoah National Park.


mountain maternity photos shenandoah national park northern virginia maternity photographer photo northern virginia fine art photographerbig meadows shenandoah wedding photos skyline-drive-sunset-mountain-engagement-photo

Like what you see? Let’s chat about your own portrait session:



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  3. […] a little bit of city and nature, I promise there’s something for you. Get some ideas for Northern Virginia maternity session locations here! Or check out the top DC portrait session locations […]

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