Fairfax vs. Arlington: Which County Is Better?

Fairfax and Arlington Comparison

Fairfax County & Arlington County Comparison

 

Being the first county in the United States to reach a six-figure median household income, Fairfax County is a very transient place with thousands of people relocating to the area every year either for a job or to search for better work opportunities. Fairfax County is home to many government agencies and several Fortune 500 companies.

 

On the other hand, Arlington County is a world-class community and tourist destination that tops Niche.com’s “Best Cities to Live in America” list for five consecutive years in 2020. Originally called Alexandria County, Arlington is home to The Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery, The Iwo Jima War Memorial, and several Fortune 500 companies.

 

Arlington and Fairfax County are two of the most popular counties in the Northern Virginia area. Let’s take a look at how these areas differ and why people choose to live in one area over the other.

 

Median Income & Median Sales Price

 

Some of the biggest factors to consider when choosing an area where to live are the median income and median sales price. Arlington has a higher home sales price than Fairfax County yet the latter comes with a higher household income.

 

In line with this, Virginia is one of 27 states in the country that charges an annual tax on personal vehicles, which goes for all motor vehicles with a few exceptions. Most notably, there’s a reduced tax rate for qualified disabled veterans.

 

Fairfax County Median Income & Median Sales Price

 

The median household income in Fairfax County is $124,831, while the median home sales price is $678,757. Fairfax County offers a number of housing options such as condos, townhouses, and single-family homes.

 

As for property taxes, the base tax rate in Fairfax County is 1.15% or $1.15 per $100 of assessed property value. To keep the math simple, if your property has an assessed value of $600,000, you’re looking at a $6,900 annual property tax bill.

 

If you want to know your vehicle’s assessed value, Fairfax County uses the National Automobile Dealers Association’s used car guide to determine your car’s value. Note that your car’s value never reaches zero, so you’ll always have this tax as a privilege to drive a vehicle in Virginia.

 

Arlington County Median Income & Median Sales Price

 

The median household income in Arlington is $120,071, while the median home sales price is $786,957. There are different home types in Arlington including townhouses, single-family homes, and condos.

 

In the Northern Virginia region, Arlington has one of the lowest real estate tax rates. Arlington’s real estate tax rate is $1.026 per $100 of assessed value, which includes the current base rate of $1.013 and the County-wide sanitary district rate of $0.013 for stormwater management.

 

For Arlington County residents, the vehicle personal property tax is assessed on all motor vehicles that are garaged or regularly parked overnight in the area, including cars, buses, motor homes, motor scooters, semitrailers, trucks, motorcycles, trailers, boats, and aircraft.

 

Commute Time

 

It is a known fact that Northern Virginia comes with a lot of traffic, and it continues to be worse as the area grows.

 

Arlington has a land area of 26 square miles, while Fairfax County roughly has 400 square miles of land, which means you can fit 15 Arlingtons inside Fairfax County.

 

Now, let’s take a look at how you can manage traffic when living in Fairfax County and Arlington County.

 

Fairfax County Commute Time

 

With a population of 1.146 million, Fairfax County borders both the City of Alexandria and Arlington County, and it forms part of the suburban ring of Washington D.C.

 

Distance-wise, Fairfax County is 22.5 miles from Fort Belvoir, 17.2 miles from Capitol Hill, 14.2 miles from The Pentagon, and 1.6 miles from Tysons Corner.

 

In Fairfax County, there are various public transportation modes available, including the yellow, blue, orange, and silver lines that all run throughout the area. These metro lines criss-cross and connect Northern Virginia to Washington D.C. and Maryland.

 

There’s also the Fairfax Connector, which is the largest public bus in the Northern Virginia region with stops throughout every part of the county. It runs 91 different routes and transports roughly 30,000 passengers daily.

 

If you’re working at The Pentagon, you’ll be happy to hear that the Department of Defense has shuttle buses that make stops throughout the county and take passengers directly to and from The Pentagon.

 

Additionally, a lot of Fairfax County residents depend on “slugging” wherein strangers hop in other people’s cars to commute to work together for free.

 

Arlington County Commute Time

 

Geographically, Arlington is the smallest self-governing county in the U.S. with a population of about 230,000 residents. Arlington is located just southwest of Washington D.C., directly across the Potomac River.

 

Distance-wise, Arlington is 20.3 miles from Fort Belvoir, 7.4 miles from Capitol Hill, 2.9 miles from The Pentagon, and 11.7 miles from Tysons Corner.

 

In Arlington, there is availability and ease of use of their public transportation. The D.C. metro rail system stretches throughout most of Northern Virginia, which makes daily commute simple for those hoping to avoid the crazy metro area traffic.

 

The blue, orange, silver, and yellow lines all make stops in Arlington. In addition to the metro rail system, the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) runs through Arlington and stops in the Crystal City neighborhood.

 

Similar to Fairfax County, the Department of Defense shuttle bus also makes stops throughout Arlington, which takes passengers directly to and from The Pentagon.

 

Diversity

 

One of the most important aspects to know about the area you’re planning to live in is its diversity. In Fairfax County and Arlington, the least expensive neighborhoods are more diverse, while the more expensive communities have the least diversity.

 

Diversity in Fairfax County

 

With a diversity score of 99 out of 100, Fairfax County is one of the most diverse counties in the U.S. Within Fairfax County, the most diverse areas are located in the east, while the least diverse areas are in the northeast parts of the county.

 

Diversity in Arlington County

 

Having a diversity score of 96 out of 100, Arlington is much more diverse than other counties in the country. Within Arlington, the most diverse areas are located in the south, while the least diverse areas are in the northwest parts of the county.

 

If you want more information about the diversity in Fairfax County or Arlington, you can check out City-Data where you can input a specific ZIP code, and it’ll give you a breakdown of the diversity numbers for a certain area.

 

Public Schools

 

As a whole, Northern Virginia is known for having an excellent public school system. Both Fairfax County and Arlington have high attendance rates, test scores, and graduation rates.

 

Fairfax County Public Schools

 

When it comes to public schools that service the Fairfax County residents, Niche.com has given these schools an A overall rating. Some of the top-rated public schools in the area include:

 

 

Address: 4201 Stringfellow Rd, Chantilly, VA 20151, USA
Phone: +1 703-222-8100

 

Chantilly High School has an A-plus overall rating on Niche.com and a 7/10 summary rating on GreatSchools.org. U.S. News rates them as the 6th best public high school in Fairfax County.

 

Chantilly High School offers both Honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses that are open to all students who seek academic rigor, and they also have a Secondary Transition to Employment Program (STEP), which brings job opportunities to students.

 

Additionally, this school has an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program to support students’ English language development needs as well as a World Language Program of Studies that includes Spanish, French, and Latin.

 

 

Address: 5035 Sideburn Rd, Fairfax, VA 22032, United States
Phone: +1 703-426-2100

 

Robinson Secondary School has an A overall rating on Niche.com and a 7/10 summary rating on GreatSchools.org. U.S. News ranks them as the 10th best public high school in Fairfax County.

 

Robinson Secondary School offers the Advanced Placement Program (APP), International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (IB MYP), and International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IB DP).

 

This school also has an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program and a High School World Languages Program that includes Chinese, French, German, Latin, and Spanish.

 

 

Address: 13440 Melville Ln, Chantilly, VA 20151, United States
Phone: +1 703-633-7400

 

Poplar Tree Elementary School has an A overall rating on Niche.com and a 9/10 summary rating on GreatSchools.org. This school offers advanced academic services, an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program, and a Spanish Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES).

 

 

Address: 1205 Waynewood Blvd, Alexandria, VA 22308, United States
Phone: +1 703-704-7100

 

Waynewood Elementary School has an A-minus overall rating on Niche.com and an 8/10 summary rating on GreatSchools.org. This school offers advanced academic services, an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program, and before, during, and after-school activities.

 

 

Address: 3300 Lees Corner Rd, Chantilly, VA 20151, United States
Phone: +1 703-904-5100

 

Franklin Middle School has an A overall rating on Niche.com and a 7/10 summary rating on GreatSchools.org. This school offers advanced academic services, an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program, and World Language Courses that include Spanish and French.

 

 

Address: 4400 Stringfellow Rd, Chantilly, VA 20151, United States
Phone: +1 703-802-7700

 

Rocky Run Middle School has an A overall rating on Niche.com and a 7/10 summary rating on GreatSchools.org. This school offers after-school programs, an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program, and World Language Courses that include Spanish and French.

 

 

Address: 5400 Willow Springs School Rd, Fairfax, VA 22030, United States
Phone: +1 703-679-6000

 

Willow Springs Elementary School has an A overall rating on Niche.com and a 7/10 summary rating on GreatSchools.org. This school offers advanced academic services, an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program, and a Spanish Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES).

 

Arlington County Public Schools

 

As for public schools that service the Arlington residents, Niche.com has given these schools an A overall rating. Some of the top-rated public schools in the area include:

 

 

Address: 5200 Yorktown Blvd, Arlington, VA 22207, United States
Phone: +1 703-228-5400

 

Yorktown High School has an A-plus overall rating on Niche.com and a 6/10 summary rating on GreatSchools.org. U.S. News rates them as the number 1 public high school in Arlington County.

 

Yorktown High School has an AP Scholars program, which provides college-level course work aligned with the National Advanced Placement (AP) Program.

 

In addition, this school offers an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program and a World Languages Program that includes Arabic, French, Spanish, American Sign Language (ASL), Chinese, Japanese, Latin, and German.

 

 

Address: 1301 N Stafford St, Arlington, VA 22201, United States
Phone: +1 703-228-6200

 

Washington-Liberty High School has an A-plus overall rating on Niche.com and a 5/10 summary rating on GreatSchools.org. U.S. News rates them as the 2nd best public high school in Arlington County.

 

Washington-Liberty High School offers the Advanced Placement Program (APP), International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IB DP), English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program, and World Languages Program that includes American Sign Language (ASL), Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Latin, and Spanish.

 

 

Address: 1030 N McKinley Rd, Arlington, VA 22205, United States
Phone: +1 703-228-4210

 

Arlington Traditional Elementary School has an A-plus overall rating on Niche.com and a 9/10 summary rating on GreatSchools.org. This school offers gifted services for gifted students, an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program, and a Spanish Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES).

 

 

Address: 1501 N Lincoln St, Arlington, VA 22201, United States
Phone: +1 703-228-7670

 

Arlington Science Focus Elementary School has an A overall rating on Niche.com and a 9/10 summary rating on GreatSchools.org. This school offers gifted services for gifted students, an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program, and a Spanish Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES).

 

 

Address: 3700 N Delaware St, Arlington, VA 22207, United States
Phone: +1 703-228-5275

 

Jamestown Elementary School has an A overall rating on Niche.com and a 9/10 summary rating on GreatSchools.org. This school offers gifted services for gifted students and a Spanish Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES).

 

 

Address: 1770 N Glebe Rd, Arlington, VA 22207, United States
Phone: +1 703-228-6280

 

Glebe Elementary School has an A overall rating on Niche.com and an 8/10 summary rating on GreatSchools.org. This school offers gifted services for gifted students, an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program, and a Spanish Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES).

 

 

Address: 1030 N McKinley Rd, Arlington, VA 22205, United States
Phone: +1 703-228-5280

 

Cardinal Elementary School has an A overall rating on Niche.com and a 7/10 summary rating on GreatSchools.org. This school offers gifted services for gifted students, an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program, and a Spanish Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES).

 

New Construction

 

If you’re interested in new construction and you’re willing to be a part of a neighborhood that’s undergoing transition, there are a few options in Fairfax County and Arlington that might work for you.

 

Fairfax County New Construction

 

The downside of living in Fairfax County is there isn’t really a place to buy new construction since most of the county is already developed. Every now and then, there is new construction, but it’s mostly just existing properties being torn down by builders or investors.

 

Some of the areas in Fairfax County that mostly have new construction include Fairfax, Alexandria, Chantilly, and McLean, just to name a few.

 

Arlington County New Construction

 

With Arlington’s expanding population, there has been an ongoing need for additional homes in the area. In order to make way for new constructions, developers and builders either build, replace, or alter old homes in the area.

 

Some of the communities in Arlington that have a large amount of new construction include Broyhill Forest, Country Club Grove, Country Club Hills, Stratford Hills, Virginia Highlands, and Aurora Hills.

 

Parks & Trails

 

If you’re someone who loves the great outdoors, Fairfax County and Arlington both have plenty of parks and trails you’ll definitely find enjoyable.

 

Fairfax County Parks & Trails

 

Having over 23,000 acres of parkland comprised of 420 parks and 325 miles of trails, Fairfax County offers a multitude of outdoor activities for everyone. Some of the parks and trails in the area include:

 

Huntley Meadows Park. This park has three entrances with the main entrance at 3701 Lockheed Blvd, Alexandria. It’s the largest park operated by the Fairfax County Park Authority that includes 1,452 acres of parkland, a beautiful meadow, a pond for birders, and an entire boardwalk.

 

Providence Park. This park is located at 10715 West Drive, Fairfax, and it consists of 20 acres of parkland, a bike/hike/jog/walk trail, 3 grills, a rentable picnic pavilion, a playground, seasonal portable toilets, a large multipurpose field, and a tennis court.

 

Mount Vernon Trail. This trail is nearly 18 miles long, which stretches from George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate in Alexandria and the Potomac River to the national monuments and memorials in Washington, D.C.

 

Arlington County Parks & Trails

 

With about 155 parks and nearly 49 miles of paved multi-use trails, Arlington provides a lot of places to stay as well as many hiking trails. Some of the parks and trails in the area include:

 

Mosaic Park. This park is located at 538 North Pollard Street, Arlington, and it features a multi-purpose court, rain garden, flexible-use lawn area, and children’s play area with a climbing wall.

 

Rocky Run Park. This park is located at 1109 North Barton Street, Arlington, and it has 2 acres of parkland, a picnic shelter, picnic tables, an oval, a basketball court, outdoor fitness equipment, restrooms, a pre-school, and a school-age playground.

 

Thrifton Hill Park. This park is located at 2814 23rd Street North, Arlington, and it comes with both paths and nature trails, an open green space, a kiosk, a picnic table, and access to the Custis Trail.

 

Recreation Centers

 

If you like to participate in recreational, educational, artistic, social, or cultural activities, Fairfax County and Arlington have recreation centers for that exact purpose.

 

Fairfax County Recreation Centers

 

There are a total of 9 recreation centers in Fairfax County, which include tennis courts, football fields, soccer, indoor basketball, ice skating rink, full gyms, indoor swimming, and a whole lot more.

 

In all of the 9 rec centers, there are also gyms you can join as a Fairfax County resident, especially if your HOA doesn’t have one and you’re looking for a full gym experience. Some of these rec centers include:

 

Lee District RECenter. This rec center is located at 6601 Telegraph Road, Franconia, and it consists of a heated indoor pool, diving boards, a spa, locker rooms, a family changing room, saunas, showers, an outdoor sun deck, a grassed sunbathing area, racquetball/wallyball courts, dance/fitness rooms, multi-purpose rooms, a mezzanine, and a preschool.

 

On top of all that, the center has a soccer field with 2 overlay T-Ball fields, 2 football fields with 2 overlay softball fields, 4 basketball courts, 4 lighted tennis courts, a tennis practice wall, an amphitheater, a playground, and walking trails.

 

Oak Marr RECenter. This rec center is located at 3200 Jermantown Road, Oakton, and it features a new fitness center, 2 racquetball/wallyball courts, a golf course, and an 18-hole mini-golf. There’s also a heated Olympic-sized indoor pool with spa, beach and wading area, a diving complex, a sauna, and showers with fully equipped locker rooms.

 

Mount Vernon RECenter. This rec center is located at 2017 Belle View Boulevard, Alexandria, and it has a heated indoor pool, a poolside spa, a beach area with play features, locker rooms, showers, a sauna, a fitness center, a dance room, multipurpose rooms, and an indoor ice arena.

 

Arlington County Recreation Centers

 

There are a total of 17 recreation centers in Arlington, which feature full-size gymnasiums, basketball courts, tennis courts, fitness rooms, game rooms, multi-purpose rooms, playgrounds, and more. Some of these rec centers include:

 

Lubber Run Community Center. This rec center is located at 300 North Park Drive, Arlington, and it comes with a gymnasium, fitness center, wellness studio, multi-purpose rooms, an indoor track, and multiuse court for volleyball, pickleball, and basketball. The center also provides programs for youths, adults, and seniors through their pre-school and senior center.

 

Walter Reed Community Center and Park. This rec center is located at 2909 16th Street South, Arlington, and it has a gymnasium, game room, meeting rooms, multipurpose rooms, public computer use, and wireless internet access. Their park amenities include a basketball court, tennis courts, pickleball courts, green space, and a playground.

 

Thomas Jefferson Community & Fitness Center. This rec center is located at 3501 2nd Street South, Arlington, and it features an indoor track, indoor pickleball courts, and an expansive fitness center. The center also has Adult Nights and TJ Game Room for members under the age of 18.

 

Restaurants

 

Both Fairfax County and Arlington have lots of dining options for you to try. These areas have restaurants that are within walking distance or only require a short drive.

 

Fairfax County Restaurants

 

Whether you’re looking for local or international cuisine, restaurants in Fairfax County have got you covered. Some of the top-rated restaurants in the area include:

 

 

Address: 8081-D, Alban Rd, Springfield, VA 22150, United States
Phone: +1 703-337-4722

 

Afghan Bistro offers lunch and dinner with Middle Eastern, Afghani, Halal, vegetarian-friendly, gluten-free, and vegan options.

 

 

Address: 332 Springvale Rd, Great Falls, VA 22066, United States
Phone: +1 703-759-3800

 

L’Auberge Chez Francois provides lunch, dinner, brunch, and late-night meals featuring French and European cuisines, vegetarian-friendly, gluten-free, and vegan options.

 

 

Address: 11880 Grand Commons Ave, Fairfax, VA 22030, United States
Phone: +1 571-321-8000

 

Ozzie’s Good Eats is a great spot for pasta, flatbread pizza, and more. This restaurant offers lunch, dinner, brunch, and late-night meals that come with local cuisine, Italian, American, vegetarian-friendly, gluten-free, and vegan options.

 

Arlington County Restaurants

 

Regardless of what you’re craving for, there’s a lot of diversity in the types of food available in Arlington. Some of the top-rated restaurants in the area include:

 

 

Address: 2201 N Westmoreland St, Arlington, VA 22213, United States
Phone: +1 703-533-5600

 

Yayla Bistro offers lunch, dinner, and drinks featuring local cuisines, Mediterranean, Turkish, Middle Eastern, Greek, Halal, vegetarian-friendly, gluten-free, and vegan options.

 

 

Address: 2901 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201, United States
Phone: +1 703-875-9663

 

Ambar provides lunch, dinner, brunch, and late-night meals with European, Eastern European, vegetarian-friendly, gluten-free, and vegan options.

 

 

Address: 4000 Campbell Ave, Arlington, VA 22206, United States
Phone: +1 703-931-0777

 

Carlyle has drinks, lunch, dinner, brunch, and late-night meals that come with American, vegetarian-friendly, gluten-free, and vegan options.

 

Shopping Centers

 

As far as shopping options go, Fairfax and Alexandria both have various shopping centers to choose from.

 

Fairfax County Shopping Centers

 

Regardless of what you’re looking for, Fairfax County has lots of great shopping options. Some of the top-rated shopping centers in the area include:

 

 

Address: 2910 District Ave, Fairfax, VA 22031, United States
Phone: +1 703-992-7832

 

Mosaic District is an urban shopping center that features national retailers, gourmet dining, and a movie theater. In Mosaic District, there are a lot of national and local shops along with boutiques, salons, spas, restaurants, cafés, and bars.

 

 

Address: Kingstowne Center, Kingstowne, VA 22315, United States
Phone: (949) 588-7925

 

Kingstowne Towne Center features all big-box stores like TJ Maxx, HomeGoods, and World Market. This town center also has a lot of small-owned restaurants with different ethnic foods to try.

 

 

Address: 1961 Chain Bridge Rd, Tysons, VA 22102, United States
Phone: +1 703-893-9400

 

Tysons Corner Center is one of the largest shopping centers in Fairfax County that comes with a distinctive collection of shopping, dining, and entertainment destinations. This shopping center has upscale stores, eateries, a cinema, and an elevated outdoor plaza.

 

Arlington County Shopping Centers

 

If you’re in search of a wonderful shopping experience, Arlington comes with a variety of shopping destinations. Some of the top-rated shopping centers in the area include:

 

 

Address: 1100 S Hayes St, Arlington, VA 22202, United States
Phone: +1 703-415-2400

 

Fashion Centre at Pentagon City offers world-class shopping with 140-plus stores. Needless to say, this shopping center has all of your favorite brands in one place.

 

 

Address: 4238 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22203, United States
Phone: +1 703-243-6346

 

Ballston Quarter is an urban destination that features various shopping, dining, and entertainment options. This place has something for everyone.

 

 

Address: 825 10th St NW, Washington, DC 20268, United States
Phone: +1 202-289-9000

 

CityCenterDC is a mixed-use development space and an amazing spot for luxury shopping that offers high-end boutiques, upscale dining, and entertainment.

 

Now that you have learned about the things to do in Fairfax County and Arlington, the next step would be to come to a decision.

 

All in all, Fairfax County and Arlington are both great places to live in, but the choice between these areas still revolves around what you deem as important factors in choosing where to buy a home.

 

If you’re interested in working with us, fill out our Perfect Home Questionnaire, and we’ll schedule a time to meet online and answer any questions that you have about moving to the Fairfax County or Arlington County area.

 

Hopefully, when you’re searching for properties online, you’re using our website as well.

 

Conclusion

 

Overall, you have learned about the differences and similarities between Fairfax County and Arlington.

 

Which county do you prefer better?

 

Let us know your thoughts.