The Washington DC Metro area is full of employment and growth potential, however, many choose to live in the surrounding counties rather than within the city limits.
On this page, I’m going to share with you the real pros and cons of living in one of the area’s most popular counties, Fairfax County.
When my wife and I were determining where we wanted to relocate out than young family in 2013 there were a few criteria we considered must-haves and Fairfax County hit all the marks.
What are the Real Pros and Cons of Living in Fairfax County?
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Pro #1: Highly rated Public Schools
Fairfax County is home to one of the top-rated public school districts in the country.
It’s one of the things that are big draws many folks to the area.
Fairfax County schools are constantly named as a top school system in the US.
In fact, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology was named by US News in Spring of 2020 as the #1 high school in the entire country.
It should be noted that TJ is a magnet school and was also named the #1 magnet school in the country as well.
If you aren’t familiar with magnet schools, students must meet certain minimum criteria including GPA and test schools to apply.
While TJ is the only magnet school in the area, advanced placement programs are available at most schools beginning at the elementary school level.
Certain schools even offer full-time advanced placement programs.
Additionally, some schools starting with lower elementary offer foreign language immersion programs.
As a parent to both elementary and middle school students, I’ve been more than pleased so far.
Pro #2: Low Crime Rate
Another great thing about choosing to live outside the city and in the suburbs of Fairfax County is the lower crime rate. The crime rate in Fairfax County is lower than that of the nearest major city of Washington DC.
But it is also lower than neighboring Arlington County and the city of Alexandria. Crime is ranked on a scale of 1 (low crime) to 100 (high crime) on the Best Places dot net.
Fairfax County’s violent crime is 10.2. (The US average is 22.7)
Fairfax County property crime is 23.1. (The US average is 35.4)
Pro #3: Strong Job Market
Another good thing about living in the Fairfax County area is the incredible job market. The pre-covid unemployment rate in Fairfax County is about 2.3% which is about 1.4% lower than the national average.
The military and federal government are the area’s largest employers in the DC metro area. Fairfax County has more Fortune 500 headquarters than 35 states and the District of Columbia and is home to 11 of the 17 companies based in the Washington, D.C., region.
A few of the area’s largest employers are included on that list for example Freddie Mac Booz Allen, and Northrop Grumman. Additionally, in 2019 it was announced the Amazon’s second headquarters would be coming to neighboring Arlington County.
Not to mention the number of opportunities in the tech and IT space.
Pro #4: Public Transportation
While the Metro system has its problems it’s still a huge plus. A large number of Northern Virginia residents depend on it to get to and from work.
The Yellow, Blue, Orange, and Silver lines all run throughout Fairfax County. And those lines crisscross and connect Northern Virginia to Washington DC and Maryland.
The Fairfax Connector is the largest public bus in the Northern Virginia region with stops throughout nearly every part of the county. It runs 91 different routes daily transporting roughly 30,000 passengers.
Finally, the Department of Defense shuttle buses makes stops throughout the county taking passengers directly to and from the Pentagon.
Pro #5: Proximity
Our proximity to so many attractions is a definite plus.
For starters, you’re only miles away from Washington DC and all, it has to offer between its world-class museums, national monuments, The Kennedy Center, and the likes.
I can get from my front door to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in just about an hour.
If you’re up for a slightly longer drive you can make it to Philadelphia in 2 hours.
Those are 3 major cities you can visit for the day and return home by dark.
But also you’re just a few hours from a number of beaches including Virginia Beach, Ocean City, MD, Dover, Delaware.
If the beach isn’t your thing and you’re more into mountains Virginia has got that covered too.
You can travel just 75 min to Shenandoah or go a little farther out to the Blue Ridge Mountains in 2-3 hours.
Pro #7: Things to Do
There’s seriously so MUCH to do here in the Washington DC Metro Area. From parks to historical sites, to museums, restaurants, wineries, and festivals.
Fairfax County is home to 10 regional parks, like Hemlock Overlook, Bull Run, and Occoquan Trail in addition to a number of states and county parks like Mason Neck State Park and Lee and Audrey Moore District Parks.
Several of the county parks include their own water parks like Pirates Cove. If you like to hike Fairfax County’s got you covered with over 900 miles of trails according to the Fairfax County Park Authority.
Your county doesn’t have a waterfall?
Well, Fairfax County does and it’s breathtaking. You’ve got to check out Great Falls located in McLean, Virginia.
In addition to taking in the view of the falls and river, you can also enjoy bird watching, horseback riding, boating, climbing, and fishing. Moving on to Mount Vernon, home of our nation’s first president George Washington.
You can visit his estate to tour the grounds and mansion. Spending the Fourth of July there watching fireworks on the Potomac is not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
While DC hosts a number of Smithsonian museums Fairfax County has one of its own in the National Air and Space Museum located in Centreville. Fairfax County is also home to two historic and beautiful wineries – Paradise Springs Winery in Clifton, VA, and The Winery at Bull Run in Centreville, VA.
Many consider these two to be the “Gateway to Virginia Wine Country.” They are also the closest to Washington, DC, and are home to a selection of some wonderful, award-winning Virginia wines.
I won’t include them all because honestly there are just too many. But there are festivities throughout the entire year in Fairfax County.
A few favorites are Kite Fest, Revolutionary War Weekend, Spring Wine Festival, and Wolf Trap Summer Blast Off!
Con #1: Traffic
There’s a reason why Traffic is our first con. It’s everywhere.
You know traffic is our biggest con because everyone talks about their favorite way to avoid traffic like it’s a game.
I mean, have you ever seen a place that has traffic on the weekends? If not, welcome to the DC Metro area.
While traffic is at its worst during rush hour it can also be pretty bad on the weekends too. To avoid rush hour traffic some residents resort to heading into work during the wee hours of the morning, I’m talking 5 am, just to get a head start.
Others opt to carpool and use the HOV lanes which can be a major time saver.
Con #2: Weather
So I’m not sure I really want to call this a con. The weather in Fairfax County is pretty predictable which to me is a good thing. Sure, when I moved here from New Orleans I thought I was leaving swamp-like humidity behind. I quickly found that summers here in Virginia rival those in the deep south.
July can be squelcher, with the temperature getting into the high 90s.
Again going back to the reliability of the weather it snows here, but we only get a real blizzard every few years.
Some years the schools will use all their snow days and the next year they may not use any.
What are snap days?
At this point, I think we get a good heavy snowfall once every two to three years. I can’t recall a time in the last few years where we had heavy snowfall in back-to-back years.
After a really quiet winter in 2019, I’m expecting some serious snow this year. But the rest of the year temperatures are pretty fair. I mean it’s 73 degrees today, in October!
And autumn, oh my, you’re going to love Autumn. Fairfax County comes alive in October. The trees turn the most beautiful hues of red and orange and the temperature is just right for nature walks.
Seriously, you can deal with a few hot days in the summer and a little extra snowfall every few years just to be able to enjoy Fairfax County in the fall. Okay, so I’m a little biased, as you can tell I love fall and it makes living here during the other seasons worth it.
Con #3: Cost of Living
The cost of living in Fairfax County is pretty high. It’s about 53% higher than the rest of the country.
And a big chunk of that difference comes from our housing market. The cost of housing is 136.2% higher than the national average.
While the median home sales price is $546,100 with the national average being just $231,000. Aside from housing and transportation, other costs in the area for things like groceries, healthcare, and utilities are roughly the same or pretty close.
But I want to go back to one of our pros and state that our strong job market makes that a possibility. While the cost of living is significantly higher the average household income of $117,515 is two times the national average.
I’d love to hear what you think? If you’re familiar with the area what are your favorite and least favorite things about Fairfax County?
If you want more information about finding a home in Fairfax County feel out the perfect home questionnaire below. After you complete the form, we’ll schedule a time to jump on a Zoom session to answer all your questions about moving to Fairfax County.
I’d love to answer any questions you might have about the area.
As always, if you have any questions you’d like me to answer in future posts, please post them down below in the comment section.
Thanks for reading my article.