This blog post was inspired by Vanessa’s post on her favorite locations to shoot at! Recently, I’ve had quite a couple of people come to me wondering where I believe the best place to have their pictures taken would be. My favorite locations span across Charlottesville, near my home in Herndon & Reston, as well as farther out in Washington D.C. However, I believe that the best location to take pictures is one that has some sort of significance to you or your event. For example, when I took my best friend’s senior pictures we just took an afternoon to walk around our high school and even though South Lakes High School is not the most beautiful spot we could have chosen (no offense SL), I value the location due to its significance. Despite this, I do have some favorite spots that I believe encapsulate the UVA experience in Charlottesville as well as some picturesque spots near my hometown that I’ve had photoshoots at. I broke my favorites down into the well-known spots and some not so known spots that made for beautiful locations that you should explore if you’re ever in the area! Also as I write this I realize that I have to include food suggestions because, well I must admit, I’m a total foodie 🙂
You Gotta Know It:
1. The Lawn
The Lawn is a total UVA classic with the famous Rotunda on one end and Old Cabell housing the Music Library & the performance hall on another end of the massive multilevel greenway. It used to be the absolute center of university life where both students and professors lived together. Today at any given time the Lawn is filled with students walking in between classes, people throwing frisbees around, dogs & babies (!!!), construction work (hahaha), or students flyering for their clubs. No matter how many times a day or month you get to walk by the Lawn (not very many if you’re in the Engineering school), it is still the center of your time at UVA due to all of the ceremonies and special events like Lighting of the Lawn that occur there.
More to Explore:
2. The Gardens & West Range
A more secluded spot, the Gardens are little havens of paths, flowers and peace surrounding the ever busy Lawn. They are gated off and are behind pavilions that house professors but are open to students, families, and even clubs to use. Some of my most relaxing evenings have been spent in a Garden painting pumpkins with friends, scarfing down some free food from class council events, or for ceremonies for my sorority. Every garden is different so if you ever find yourself at UVA, you should take the time to explore as many as you can!
3. Old Cabell, New Cabell Hall & Nau Gibson Hall
This little spot I have to say is one of my favorites at the University. In between Old Cabell & New Cabell as well as right before Nau/Gibson (called the South Lawn) I feel is always overlooked. This place always has some gorgeous light reflecting off of the windows of the newly renovated New Cabell. Study spaces overlook the small seating area that is right outside of Rising Roll Café which has some killer sandwiches and Caribou Coffee! I especially like the stone work that differs from UVA’s normal red brick & white columns architecture. On the other side of New Cabell Hall, on a super sunny day you can find smaller classes being held outside and your way to Nau Gibson which hosts a Starbucks as well as killer views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains from the top floors!
Here’s an iPhone picture of the view from the top of Nau Gibson. I would definitely recommend watching a sunset from way up there!
4. McIntire School of Commerce
This place has THE perfect lighting whether it’s at a photographer’s favorite golden hour right around sunset or even during the mid-day. They courtyard is in the middle of the building which shades everyone from the bright afternoon sun. The patio is filled with benches, little trees, stairs, and beautiful stone that is so different from UVA’s normal architecture. I first shot here with Meklit (middle of the top row!) but have come back so many more times to take pictures there! It’s definitely a quieter spot for anyone looking for an outdoor place to get some studying in without fearing having a frisbee thrown your way.
Northern Virginia Spots
You’ve Seen It Before:
5. Georgetown Waterfront
I only started going here frequently after I started college but it’s become my go to spot in D.C. I love that it’s usually not as crowded as D.C. and offers lots of walking, shopping, good food (I recommend a pizza place called Pizza Paradiso!), Georgetown University campus to explore, canals, and obviously the waterfront which has the most beautiful sunsets and a great view of the Kennedy Center. If you’re in the area check out Baked & Wired (especially if the Georgetown Cupcake line is too long). You’re bound to find great photo spots in cobble-stoned alleyways or along the canal paths!
Places to Explore:
6. Reston Town Center & Meadowlark Gardens
These two places are a bit more local and lesser known unless you’re a native! Reston Town Center offers a plethora of shopping (at somewhat pricier places, but sales are your best friend!) and great, great food. It also hosts really seasonal events throughout the year such as ice skating, food festivals, summer concerts, and more. The place has a newly renovated movie theater which has the comfiest seats that you can’t help but melt (and almost nap in) while watching a new movie! I would definitely recommend sticking around for a meal and trying out Vapiano’s for lunch, The Counter for dinner (get their fries!), and Pitango Gelato or Red Velvet Cupcakery for dessert! As for taking pictures, definitely visit the fountain & pavilion in the heart of the place and the wooden structure. The wooden structure is very similar to one we actually have on UVA Grounds near the Drama Building but is located towards the GRACE Art Gallery in RTC which is also well worth a visit! Fun fact: I actually had the honor of creating a piece of artwork with a partner to showcase in an exhibit that was up for a month my junior year in high school. The exhibits rotate out every month or so but I never cease to be amazed at the current one that’s put up. Also, take the time to go up on a garage rooftop to catch the sunset & take in the view!
The Meadowlark Gardens is a BEAUTIFUL & scenic spot that I’ve actually only been to once to take Nicky’s prom pictures at. However, I loved this place so much that I would definitely want to go back. It had gorgeous flowers blooming along the paths, sloping hills, a small lake, cute benches everywhere, a bridge and even small little playgrounds for kids. It was so quiet & serene and is worth a couple hours of a slow stroll. There is a small fee but it is well worth exploring the area.
I actually went back and visited Charlottesville this past weekend and had a BLAST being back without the pressure of school work. I’ve also made it a goal of mine to revisit each of these spots before the end of the summer. Next time you find yourself needing a place to visit on the weekend, I suggest you guys check one of these places out! Heck, even make a weekend trip to Charlottesville if you can, I promise it’ll be worth it!! Take advantage of those long summer days while they last!
If you’d like to see more of these locations go back to these blog posts:
Meklit’s Senior Portraits | Naro & Shreya’s Senior Portraits | Radhika’s Senior Portraits | Nicky’s Prom & Nicky at RTC | Sayali’s Georgetown Portraits | Suma’s Senior Portraits | Maya & Neil’s Portraits |