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Pros and Cons of Living in Northern Virginia
There are many things to consider when moving or relocating to a new area. If you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking of moving to Northern Virginia. Well, you’ve come to the right place.
Located in the northeastern part of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Northern Virginia is part of the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and borders of Maryland.
Comprised of a geographic area of approximately 1,304 square miles, Northern Virginia consists of several counties and independent cities with over 3 million residents. Today, the area is considered one of the fastest-growing, diverse communities in the country.
Now that you’ve learned a little bit more about Northern Virginia, it’s time to talk about the pros and cons of living in the area. We’re going to cover the areas within Northern Virginia such as Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Prince William County, Arlington County, City of Alexandria, and Stafford County.
#1: Employment Opportunities
Home to 11 Fortune 500 headquarters, Amazon HQ2, and a lot of military and federal government jobs, Northern Virginia is one of the wealthiest and best places to live in the country where many people choose to live or work and businesses choose to locate.
During the Cold War, the Department of Defense's increasing reliance on information technology companies paved the way for the modern Northern Virginia economy, which resulted in more urban developments throughout the region. After the Cold War, Northern Virginia became known as the "Silicon Valley" of the Eastern United States where the Internet was first commercialized.
#2: Public School System
At pro number two, we have the public school system. If you're considering moving or relocating to Northern Virginia with your family, one of the things you're probably looking into is the type of schools available in the area.
Northern Virginia is home to one of the top-rated public school districts in the country. In fact, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, the only Magnet School in Fairfax County, was named the number one high school in the entire country for consecutive years now.
On top of that, Advanced Placement programs are available at most schools beginning at the elementary school level. Certain schools even offer full-time Advanced Placement programs.
Also, there are some schools starting with lower elementary that offer foreign language immersion programs. Clearly, you’ll be more than pleased with what the area’s public school system has to offer.
At pro number three is the weather. The weather in Northern Virginia is pretty much predictable since the area experiences all four seasons.
Even though the summers could get very warm and humid, while the winters could get really cold and frigid, these seasons don’t last long. Bearing through the summer and winter seasons will give you a reason to appreciate the fall and spring seasons.
A few hot days in the summer and a little extra snowfall every few years are all worth it just to be able to enjoy fall in Northern Virginia. In October, the trees come alive, all the leaves agree to turn the most beautiful hues of red and orange, and the temperature is just right for nature walks.
#4: Real Estate
Another reason why you're going to love living in Northern Virginia is the area’s real estate. Whether you’re looking for a single-family home, a townhouse, or a condominium, this place has it all.
If you’re one of those homebuyers who’s planning to settle in a new neighborhood, there’s no need to fret. Plenty of new construction is also available within the communities of Northern Virginia.
#5: Things To Do
Featuring a slew of attractions, Northern Virginia has something for everyone. With various parks, museums, shopping destinations, restaurants, and more, residents and visitors of the area are always in for a relaxing and splendid time.
The beautiful nature surrounding Northern Virginia allows residents to enjoy outdoor adventuring at its finest. Among these places are:
National Museum of the Marine Corps
Great Falls National Park
Manassas National Battlefield Park
National Museum of the Marine Corps
Address: 1775 Semper Fidelis Wy, Triangle, VA 22172
A tribute to the U.S. Marines, the National Museum of the Marine Corps is a 135-acre site that features the history of America through the eyes of the Marine Corps. With several exhibits inside the museum, it showcases how the Marine Corps has evolved over the years.
Great Falls National Park
Address: 9200 Old Dominion Dr, McLean, VA 22102
Located along the Potomac River and only 15 miles from the nation’s capital, Great Falls National Park is an 800-acre scenic park, which offers many ways to explore both nature and the early history of the country such as:
Spectacular panoramic views of the falls
Hiking and biking trails
Horseback riding, rock climbing, and fishing
Manassas National Battlefield Park
Address: 6511 Sudley Rd, Manassas, VA 20109
With 40 miles of hiking trails, Manassas National Battlefield Park is just the place to be, especially if you’re fond of the natural and human history of the United States. This 5,100-acre park encompasses two of the most significant battle sites in the Civil War, which occurred from 1861 to 1862.
For an exceptional shopping experience, located in Northern Virginia are various shopping options including:
Tysons Corner Center
Tysons Corner Center
Address: 1961 Chain Bridge Rd, Tysons, VA 22102
Being the largest shopping mall in Virginia, Tysons Corner Center has everything you need in terms of daily or personal household goods and even luxury merchandise. With around 300 stores in a gigantic space, they have a wide range of shopping, dining, and entertainment options. Tysons Corner Center is also home to top brands, restaurants, and establishments like:
Lenkersdorfer, Sephora, Bloomingdale’s
Lord & Taylor
Barrel & Bushel
The Capital Grille
The Plaza for concerts and cultural or holiday festivities
Address: 2700 Potomac Mills Cir, Woodbridge, VA 22192
As the largest outlet mall in Virginia, Potomac Mills features over 200 stores including a large selection of name-brand outlets and retail stores including:
Bloomingdale’s - The Outlet Store
Last Call by Neiman Marcus
Nike Factory Store
Kate Spade New York Outlet, and more.
The AMC Potomac Mills 18 is also located here if ever you’re in the mood to see the latest blockbuster movies.
Address: 2001 International Dr, McLean, VA 22102
For your upscale shopping, Tysons Galleria has you covered. With 30-plus exclusive-to-market designers, they have a unique collection of high-end retail shops that feature luxurious brands such as:
Prada, Saint Laurent
Versace, and more.
Apart from this, they offer various dining options like:
The Cheesecake Factory
P.F. Chang's China Bistro
As far as dining options go, some of the top-rated restaurants in the area are:
Old House Cosmopolitan
Address: 1024 Cameron St, Alexandria, VA 22314
Located at Cameron Street in the City of Alexandria, Old House Cosmopolitan serves lunch, brunch, dinner, and drinks featuring German, European, Central European, vegetarian-friendly, gluten-free, and vegan options. Some of their popular dishes are the Chicken Schnitzel, Wiener Schnitzel, and Crepes.
Address: 8081-D, Alban Rd, Springfield, VA 22150
Located at Alban Road in Springfield, Afghan Bistro serves lunch and dinner featuring Middle Eastern, Afghan, Halal, vegetarian-friendly, gluten-free, and vegan options. Some of their popular dishes are the Lamb Chops, Lamb Shank, and Spicy Beef Dumplings.
Address: 12724 Occoquan Rd, Woodbridge, VA 22192
Located at Occoquan Road in Woodbridge, Bistro L’Hermitage serves lunch, brunch, dinner, and late-night meals featuring French, European, vegetarian-friendly, gluten-free, and vegan options. Some of their popular dishes are the Lobster Bisque, French Onion Soup, and Crispy Oysters.
Northern Virginia Cons
First on our list of cons is the traffic. Now, this is something that you probably already know about and are already preparing for.
Traffic is pretty much a given in Northern Virginia but it will still depend on several factors including where you’re going to work, what region you’re going to live in, and your comfort level with the area.
Since the area attracts a lot of people due to the many job opportunities available, Northern Virginia has become a very densely populated area, making it one of the most congested metro areas in the nation. For this reason, you will have to wrap your head around the fact that you’re going to be dealing with a lot of traffic when you relocate to Northern Virginia.
Morning traffic starts at around 6 am and until around 9 am, while afternoon rush hour begins at 4 pm and lasts until 7 pm. So, unless you leave for work a bit earlier, expect to be adding another 15 to 20 minutes of commute time.
Another thing that adds to the traffic in Northern Virginia is the fact that it is a car-dependent area. Whether it’s getting to work or going somewhere else, it is wise to travel throughout the area via car.
While it is possible to get around without a car in some parts of Northern Virginia, this is possible mainly in Arlington and not really in the suburbs of Northern Virginia, which includes Fairfax County, the City of Alexandria, and even Prince William County, Stafford County, and Loudoun County. So if you’re living in these areas, it will be pretty difficult to get around without a car.
Weekend traffic is also a thing in Northern Virginia. So that really means you experience traffic seven days a week.
Lots of people also do vacations in the area which only adds to the traffic in the area from around springtime with cherry blossom season until school starts back up. So right until early fall, you will see an increase in traffic because of vacationers.
Fortunately, there are ways to avoid the traffic and other means to get around Northern Virginia.
One way to avoid dealing with heavy traffic is to move closer to work or move as close as possible to the metro station.
Several modes of public transportation such as commuter buses, VRE, and Amtrak train are also available to get you around Northern Virginia. So even if you have a lengthy commute, you can relax and catch up on some audiobooks, podcasts, or some sleep while you travel to your destination since these modes of transportation do not rely on you.
Another option is through slugging, which is essentially where you meet up with a stranger at a pre-determined location and they will drive you to whatever final destination is for that particular slug line. This is done in order to meet the number of passengers needed to use the HOV lanes without having to pay the toll.
Furthermore, to avoid traffic, it’s best to learn the back roads, tips, and tricks because at the end of the day, traffic is here and it is not going anywhere.
#2: Cost of Living
At number two on our cons list is the cost of living in Northern Virginia, which is pretty expensive.
However, do note that the most expensive thing about living in Northern Virginia is the cost of homes. Aside from that, the cost of other things including utilities, transportation, and groceries does not have a lot of variation from the national average.
Whether you’re buying or renting, finding a home in Northern Virginia can be pretty costly. The average home sales price in Northern Virginia is around $600,000, although it will still depend on a number of factors including where you want to live, the type of home and community you are looking for, how important commute is, and the kind of lifestyle you are looking for.
The median sales price in Northern Virginia is $530,000. In comparison, the median sales price in these counties in Northern Virginia are as follows:
A good rule of thumb is that the closer you get to D.C. and other major areas, the higher the cost of homes is going to be. If you want convenience and easier access to things, the cost of those is a hefty price on your home.
As far as solutions are concerned, you’re going to have to compromise in this region. You’re going to have to think about whether you want the bigger homes or be able to stay closer to the Fairfax County area.
If you really want a bigger home, you are probably going to end up increasing your commute. However, if you’re satisfied with townhome living and do not necessarily need a lot of yard space and huge rooms, you may be able to stay closer in Fairfax County.
Also, keep in mind that small spaces are okay. For those who don’t think they can do a townhouse, just know that it is fairly common for people in the area to switch from a single-family home to a townhouse.
If you’re able to make that compromise on space, you would be able to make that up in your commute time. Otherwise, you would need to increase your commute.
At con number three, we’ve included weather on our list. While this is included in the pros list, there are times when it can also be a con, depending on where you’re from.
While all four seasons can be experienced in Northern Virginia, the summer and winter seasons can be a bit of a problem. The summer season tends to get hot and humid while the winter season can be blistering cold, with the temperature dropping below 0º at times.
Nonetheless, Northern Virginia has lots of mountainous areas for those who like skiing, snowboarding, or hanging out at a cabin during winter. To combat heat and humidity during summer, you can go to the beach, have a pool in your backyard, or go to the community public pool.
Next on our cons list, at number four, is allergies. The thing about living in Northern Virginia is that even if you previously did not have allergies or are managing your allergies well from where you previously lived, you may end up with them after some time of living in the area.
Northern Virginia is one of the top areas in the country and the 7th highest on a Google search for allergies. It has also been rated as the fifth worst place to live for people with allergies.
The area is known for people having allergies in both spring and fall. Usually, during the middle of spring, pollen can get pretty high and will start to bother people, while during fall, there are also going to have ragweed allergies.
The reason for this is that there are a lot of different trees that are not native to the area but are flown in over time. Being an international city, there is also going to be all the pollen that you didn’t know about beforehand.
Some ways to manage your allergies include watching the pollen count, changing your clothes often, wearing face masks, and stocking up on over-the-counter allergy medication.
The good news is it’s only going to last about six weeks or so during both seasons. You’re going to have to deal with those allergies for four to six weeks and then everything will level out and it will be over.
#5: Meeting People
Finally, we put meeting people at number five on our cons list. Since the age of most people in Northern Virginia ranges from the early 30s to the late 30s, meeting people and making friends can be a little different and challenging.
Since people here are very busy and career-oriented, they don’t spend a lot of time being proactive and trying to make new friends. It can also be quite challenging to make work friends because there’s a chance that even though you both work in the same place, you live in different areas far away from each other.
There are people that you can also meet during school functions but since Northern Virginia is a transient area, people are always in and out, which may prevent others from meeting new people.
Other times, when you have just moved into a new place, it can be difficult to introduce yourself to others, especially if you’re both new and no one wants to break the ice.
Meeting people can also be discouraging if you have tons to do to occupy your time, especially with work. Even if you want to make friends and engage in new relationships, you simply don’t have enough time to socialize.
Furthermore, the whole D.C. metro area also has this myth that people only want to know what you do. This notion that people like to know what you do in order to figure out what they can get from you is a common thing in the area and can be a reason why it is hard to meet people.
Fortunately, there are tons of ways to connect with people in the area. Large meetups and different community events can be great places to meet people and create some new friendships.
You can also connect with others through the various hobbies you enjoy. Meet people organically by joining groups for the activities you are interested in.
Having kids is also a great way to gain new friends, especially if your kids are interested in sports. You can meet people simply by sitting in practice for a few hours or at the ballparks on weekends as your kids participate in team sports.
If you’re moving to Northern Virginia for work, you could end up living here for most of your life. So remember to have some fun and find people to enjoy this wonderful environment that you will call home.