Ivangorod — the Russian half of a city split in two at the fall of the USSR, across the river is Narva and two big medieval castles stare each other down from each city across the Narva River, the new border of Russia and Estonia
Lodeynoye Polye — home to a pretty cathedral and the Alexander Svirsky Monastery
Priozersk — a popular dacha town with a big medieval Karelian castle
Staraya Ladoga — an incredible gem of a sleepy village, this is the first capital of Russia, founded in the 7th century, which was for its first 200 years one of the most important ports in Eastern Europe; boasts some very old churches with 12th century frescoes painted by Russian Master Andrey Rublev and Russia's first kremlin, built by the first Russian Tsar, the Rus Viking Rurik
Tikhvin — the Uspensky Monastery is this small city's main attraction
Vyborg — a very attractive city with a big Swedish Castle on the Karelian Isthmus near the border with Finland
Nyzhnesvirsky Nature Reserve
Leningrad Oblast is most often visited by travelers staying in Saint Petersburg, either daytripping or overnighting to places of interest. If you are interested in Russian history or Orthodox art, you should put Staraya Ladoga at the top of your destination list, but be aware that it is difficult to get to on your own and a tour would be invaluable. If castles are your thing, Vyborg, Shlisselburg, and Ivangorod are excellent destinations, but in the case of the latter, be sure to get all your paperwork in order because the Estonian side of the city is more interesting and accommodating. And if Saint Petersburg and its suburbs haven't tired you out of seeing palaces, Gatchina's is quite impressive.
As a general rule, the closer you are to either a major tourist site or to Saint Petersburg, the more likely you will find people who speak English or other European languages, like German, Finnish, or French. But some knowledge of Russian or a qualified guide will almost certainly elevate your experience here.
The main border crossings are at Narva/Ivangorod for Estonia and along the main Helsinki–Vyborg highway for Finland. For the Russians especially, triple check that your papers are in order.
Most visitors to the region arrive via Saint Petersburg's airport or rail terminals.
In general, the most efficient and cheapest mode of transport is to take electric rail (eh-lehk-TREECH-ka) services from Saint Petersburg's main rail terminals. Tickets are very cheap and the electrichki will take you to all but the smallest destinations in the region (Staraya Ladoga).
Saint Petersburg beers predominate in this region, and that's a good thing. Go for a light Baltika #7 or a dark Baltika #8.
The whole of Northwestern Russia and major cities across all Russia await from the rail stations and airports of Saint Petersburg. The region is also a convenient last stop in Russia for travelers heading on to the Baltic states, Finland, or Belorussia.