Moving to Northern Virginia: 12 Things to Love About Living in Northern Virginia
If you love history, fabulous restaurants, and lush green spaces, there's no place quite like Northern Virginia. Conveniently located along the Potomac River, Northern Virginia is one of the Mid-Atlantic region's most sought-after areas. Because of its proximity to Washington, D.C., many consider Northern Virginia the "Gateway to the Nation's Capital." From historic cities to picturesque small towns, here's what to know about moving to Northern Virginia.
8 Reasons to Move to Northern Virginia
- Proximity to Washington, D.C.
- Home to numerous major corporations and government contractors and a hub for the tech industry
- Provides residents with a high quality of life
- Opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, boating, and more
- Rich history with many historic sites, including Mount Vernon, Manassas National Battlefield Park, and Arlington National Cemetery
- Contains some of the nation's top healthcare facilities
- Excellent public transportation
- An array of restaurants offering global cuisines and shopping from high-end designer stores to unique local boutiques
Cost of Living in North Virginia
Northern Virginia residents experience an unparalleled standard of living compared to other places due to Northern Virginia's exceptional career opportunities, strong local economy, and easy access to amenities. The area is also known for its beautiful towns and villages, adding to its desirability. Considering these factors, living in Northern Virginia is pricier than living in other areas of the country.
The cost of living in Fairfax County is 48.2% above the national average, with the highest expenses attributed to housing, transportation, and miscellaneous fees. While housing and transportation costs are higher than average, residents see some savings in utility prices, which are 2.6% below the national average.
Alexandria Cost of Living
With its charming cobblestone streets, stately homes, and luxurious boutique shops, the city of Alexandria is often considered one of the best places to live in Virginia. The cost of living in Alexandria is over 40% higher than the national average, with housing and transportation prices being some of the most significant expenses. That said, living in Alexandria is 1.6% more affordable than in Washington, D.C., with far less traffic congestion and more opportunities to live in a more residential neighborhood. Prospective residents moving to Alexandria will also see savings in utilities, which are 3.7% below the national average.
Arlington Cost of Living
Most famous for its historical sites and national monuments, the city of Arlington is one of the most sought-after areas in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area. Ideally located along the Potomac River, Arlington is home to many of the country's most significant government facilities, such as the Pentagon and Arlington Hall. As a result, Arlington is highly popular with military personnel, diplomats, and other government officials.
Like Alexandria and other areas of Fairfax County, Arlington's cost of living comes at a premium, 47% above the national average, with the highest expenses being housing, transportation, and groceries. Fortunately, Arlington residents also find savings with their utility bills, which are 5% below the national average.
North Virginia Job Market
Of the many perks of living in Northern Virginia—namely Fairfax County—one of the most prominent is its strong local economy. There are over 11 Fortune 500 companies in Northern Virginia, 430+ foreign-owned companies, and 15,600 tech firms. It also has one of the most comprehensive healthcare systems in the nation—healthcare and hospitality remain two of the largest sources of employment in the area. Plus, Alexandria and Arlington are less than 30 minutes from downtown Washington D.C.; residing in either of these towns in Northern Virginia provide an easy commute for those with government jobs.
Popular Industries in the Area
While Northern Virginia has numerous employment across various fields, five industries dominate Fairfax County: cybersecurity, aerospace, healthcare, science, and technology. Fairfax County has multiple tech companies, from established corporations to start-ups. Amazon, one of the world's most profitable online commerce companies, has its eastern headquarters in Arlington.
Other significant employers headquartered in Northern Virginia include:
- Rosetta Stone
- Alliant Techsystems
- Capital One
- SpaceQuest, Ltd.
- Mars, Incorporated
- Touchstone Energy
- USA Today
Things to Do in Northern Virginia
From family-friendly activities to wineries and breweries, there is no shortage of things to do in Northern Virginia. Alexandria, considered one of Virginia's most picturesque cities, has a rich history and is the place for history buffs. Arlington is also a popular destination for history lovers and is home to the National Cemetary. Beyond the area's rich history, Northern Virginia has many dining, shopping, and entertainment options.
Considered one of the most naturally beautiful states in the Midatlantic Region, Virginia has many nature parks, gardens, and lush green spaces. Set along the Potomac River, Northern Virginia has many parks and natural areas for people to explore, including Great Falls National Park in the McLean community. For those searching for true rugged beauty, Fairfax County is just a short distance away from Shenandoah National Park, one of the most beautiful national parks east of the Mississippi River.
Home to some of America's most prominent battlegrounds, Northern Virginia has no shortage of 18th- and 19th-century history. One of the area's most popular tourist destinations is Mount Vernon, the home of President George Washington. Those who prefer more modern marvels should visit the National Air & Space Museum, which has one of the world's greatest collections of aerospace exhibits. Check out the National Museum of the Marine Corps for more insight into the country's rich military history.
Restaurants & Nightlife
From upscale dining to international cuisine, there are many fabulous restaurants in Northern Virginia. Every type is available, from fine dining to unique dessert spots like Alexandria Cupcake. Many options offer gourmet, farm-to-table, or other iconic dining experiences. Searching for live music? Check out The Birchmere for the best bluegrass and folk music outside the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Northern Virginia Climate
Virginia is ideal for those who love living in an area with four distinct seasons and milder winters than New England or the Midwest. Like many Midatlantic states, Virginia has a humid, sub-tropical climate with pleasantly warm summers and relatively mild winters. Many residents describe Virginia as a "Goldilocks Climate," meaning it's just right. Summer temperatures rarely exceed 90° F, while winters are mild compared to many northern states. Virginia does experience snowfall, but it doesn't usually accumulate like in New England and Upstate New York.
Northern Virginia's warmest months are July and August. The coldest months are December and January, when average temperatures range from 0 to 24° F. For many, the best time to visit is during the fall and spring, when the weather is nice and foliage is at its best.
Northern Virginia Traffic
While living in Northern Virginia has many benefits, traffic is one of its biggest challenges. Because many people commute to and from Washington, D.C., traffic experiences congestion during rush hour, Monday through Friday from 6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. Fairfax County residents have an average commute time of 31.2 minutes one way, which is higher than the national average.
Another factor increasing gridlock traffic is the construction work on Northern Virginia's highway to keep up with increased traffic and wear-and-tear on the roads. The main traffic routes are I-95 (north to south), I-495 (west to east), and I-66.
Because traffic is so congested on the main highways, many Northern Virginia commuters turn to alternative routes to beat rush-hour traffic. Those who live in Alexandria and work in Washington, D.C., can bypass the highways by taking Highway 1 or roads running parallel to it until they cross the Potomac River.
Public Transportation in Northern Virginia
Like many major metropolitan areas on the east coast, Northern Virginia has a robust public transportation system to transport commuters in and around Fairfax County or to and from Washington, D.C. While many Northern Virginia residents drive their own cars, public transportation is quite popular.
The Virginia Railway Express runs from Northern Virginia to Washington, D.C. Amtrak has many routes throughout the east coast line for those who need railway transportation beyond these destinations. Many bus routes run within Fairfax County, such as Arlington Transit, Fairfax Connector, and Alexandria Transit Company DASH.
Fairfax County transports over 30,000 passengers daily and has 91 regularly scheduled routes. Rideshare options like Lyft, Uber, and local taxi companies can also transport commuters.
Schools in Northern Virginia
For many, educational opportunities are integral to whether they choose to relocate to an area. Fortunately, many schools in Alexandria, Arlington, and surrounding towns in Northern Virginia are part of the Fairfax County School District. Serving over 185,000 students in over 220 schools, the district is one of the largest in the state. Ranging from pre-K to adult education, Fairfax County School District consists of 142 elementary schools, 23 middle schools, and 28 high schools, as well as alternative options. There are also numerous private, charter, and online schools for students.
For those searching for post-secondary education, Northern Virginia is just a short distance from several universities, including Marymount University, Virginia Tech, George Washington University, and Georgetown, among many others. Northern Virginia is also home to the Virginia Military Institute for those interested in the armed forces.
Northern Virginia Welcomes You
Is Northern Virginia a great place to live? From its historic charm to its endless amenities, there is so much to love about living here. While some consider Northern Virginia an extension of the Washington, D.C. Metro Area, Fairfax County offers much more than an easy commute to and from the nation's capital. Whether you're looking to live in a historic row home or a fabulous estate in Alexandria or Arlington—or somewhere else in the area—Northern Virginia is a wonderful place to call home.