In this article:
There are countless draws to living in Washington, D.C.: history on every corner, cutting-edge cultural events, and, of course, jobs, jobs, jobs. That all said, moving to a nearby suburb can give you access to all of those amenities and more. You may have heard of the DMV — that’s D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. We can’t understate the proximity of the “M” and the “V” to the “D” for new residents. Living outside the city limits doesn’t strip you of the capital’s benefits, and in fact doing so can lead to even more community, opportunity, and affordability.
Northern Virginia in particular has a varied landscape. Towns proximate to D.C. are full of malls and high-rises, but just a quick drive away you’ll find historic reenactors and rustic, cobblestoned avenues. Drive a little further than that and you can see the Blue Ridge Mountains and sip on a craft cider made from local apples. It’s an enviable lifestyle, and one that pulls more and more residents away from Washington’s center. Why endure the skyrocketing cost of living when you can have all that and more just across the river?
While Alexandria and Fairfax are relatively pricey places to settle down, for families looking for excellent schools (according to U.S. News & World Report, nine of the top ten public high schools in Virginia are in the Northern Virginia region) and access to nature, culture, jobs, and more can’t do much better than this. And for young professionals who crave both nightlife and a starter home, there are a wealth of towns that fit the bill without adding too much commute time. Seniors desiring an active but peaceful lifestyle without losing the community or roots they put down in D.C. might be surprised by how much these towns have to offer as well.
Below, you’ll see some of the best places to live in Northern Virginia for families, young professionals, and older folks alike.
The best places in Northern Virginia for families
For an urban oasis, families can’t do much better than Rosslyn, a walkable town in the heart of the DMV. Rosslyn residents enjoy blocks of excellent restaurants and bars, high-caliber schools, and a breezy commute to downtown D.C. Of course, those perks come at a price. Housing in Rosslyn will cost a pretty penny. Consider living here if you like to be at the center of the excitement, hate your commute, and want to ensure your kids have easy city access while they’re growing up. Plus, it’s not all urban fervor — Rosslyn sits on the Potomac River, and taking a boat out for exercise or leisure is a popular pastime.
Located just an hour from Washington, D.C., Bluemont is perfect for families who crave the outdoorsy lifestyle but require access to the jobs and schools provided by proximity to an urban center. Bluemont is a popular day trip destination, but anyone who chooses to put down permanent roots there will find instant gratification with scenic hikes, mountain views, and a wealth of breweries, cideries, and wineries. Many hikes intersect with the famed Appalachian Trail, making it a perfect town for a family of weekend warriors.
Families looking for an urban feel without the price point that more central towns require might do well to consider the city of Tysons. Local industry has brought in excellent shops and restaurants, and its location also means more access to wine country and museums alike. For commuters worried about the distance from the city, fear not: four different Metro stations help you reach both D.C. and Maryland without a single transfer.
The suburb of Lorton is one of the most diverse in Virginia. Add to that its many public parks, scenic trails, and top-tier public schooling system and you’ve got a peaceful and accessible enclave where kids can walk to neighborhood schools and families can take boats out on the Potomac river on temperate weekends. Housing here can be a bit more affordable than some other, tony Virginia towns. Consider Lorton if you can do without nightlife--what it lacks in “hip” it makes up for in parks and trails.
Leesburg tags itself as being both hip and historic. Locals aren’t wrong to boast those two seemingly contrasting qualities, with lively bars and music venues inhabiting restored mills and depots. There’s a little bit of everything here. A short walk downtown will take you to no fewer than five craft breweries, and a quick drive gets the whole family to a number of historic homes, courthouses, and gardens. The jocks in the family will get a thrill out of the ION International Skating Arena, one of the top ice rinks in the country.
Taking up only 2.2 square miles, Falls Church is charmingly nicknamed “The Little City.” That said, residents here seem to make the most of every inch. Foodies will delight in the year-round farmers’ markets as well as long lunches at one of the dozens of restaurants in town (don’t miss the Vietnamese offerings here!). A pleasant ride on the Orange line or any number of bus lines will get commuters straight to the heart of D.C. during the work week. Families can find historic Colonial homes here, as well as condos and newer constructions just outside the heart of the city. Falls Church provides a small-town lifestyle with every amenity of the city just a few miles away. Of course, this lifestyle doesn’t come cheap, and the median price of homes in Falls Church hovers around $600,000.
Easygoing and central, Chantilly can be considered a sweet spot for any house-hunting Goldilocks who can’t choose between town and country. Hiking trails and golf courses offer residents the chance to stretch their legs, but worker bees can also rest easy knowing Dulles International Airport is just seven miles away. Of course, this much serenity comes at a price: there aren’t convenient train lines from Chantilly to D.C., so it would behoove you to have a car and brace yourself for the commute.
Vienna is a fantastic place to put down roots for families. A Metro line gets commuters to D.C., but there’s plenty to do in town, both on long weekends and nights out. One of the main attractions here is the renowned Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, which draws huge acts from around the world. By day, the Meadowlark Gardens Regional Park is a draw, with its winding paths and lakes. Children will benefit from the highly ranked schools and enjoy the trails that cut right through the center of town.
The best places in Northern Virginia for young professionals
Clarendon, a village in Arlington, is a popular choice for young professionals. With exciting nightlife, a bustling shopping district (known as The Crossing), and a long list of restaurants spanning all types of cuisine, Clarendon has so much to offer that even D.C. residents make the trip to Virginia to partake. A wide range of housing options keeps the population mixed--if you choose to stay here for the long haul, the transition from central condo to single-family home should be seamless. The town’s walkability means you’ll likely even be able to preserve your daily routine.
With its small-town vibe, Del Ray might not seem like the go-to spot for young professionals, but its residents insist otherwise. Folks who work in the city and need a bit of respite after clocking out will feel cozy relief when they return to the artsy, eclectic Del Ray, which is home to parks, independent businesses, and coffee shops. The commute is quick and takes you a world away. Plus, there is a range of housing options here, from adorable bungalows to brick apartment buildings. Del Ray doesn’t have “something for everyone,” the way many more bustling Virginia towns do, but it has enough character to be everything to someone.
For years, Crystal City had a reputation as a sort of government super-office. Full of tall, glassy buildings, it was a hub for military contractors and government agencies. However, in the last twenty years, Crystal City has slowly shifted its identity. Public art, restaurants, and transit improvements are popping up, as well as community engagement efforts like 5Ks and food festivals. If you’re a worker bee who doesn’t mind the high-rise life, Crystal City could be an exciting place to call home. More improvements and changes are on the horizon, and you could be a piece of that movement.
The best places in Northern Virginia for seniors
If you see a 40-mile distance to the heart of D.C. as a blessing, not a curse, then the village of Aldie is your hidden gem. This gorgeous hamlet offers leaf-peeping in the autumn, visits to historical sites in the winter, antiquing in the spring, and hikes come summer. Frequent festivals keep the community engaged, but having a car here is handy so that you can jaunt to D.C. or Baltimore (75 miles away), or scoot to a new trailhead. Keep an eye out for charming period details on the homes dotting the neighborhoods here, such as chimneys and extra-wide porches.
Old Town, a village in Alexandria, lines the west bank of the Potomac River. As the name suggests, history is in the town’s core. The cobblestone streets and historic 18th-century townhomes turn any quick errand run into a leap back in time. From jazz to boating, shopping to museums, Old Town has so much to offer anyone who has the time to take it all in. This is to say nothing of the easy access to downtown D.C.--a quick ride on the Metro takes you to the heart of the city and back home in no time. Of course, the many cyclists in town will scoff at that suggestion: just ride your bike! A pricey place to settle down, Old Town might be better for retirees looking for a walkable, active neighborhood with plenty of activities.
As evidenced above, Northern Virginia has some of the best neighborhoods for families with children, young professionals, and retirees alike. With so much variety, the hardest part of settling down here might just be choosing which town is more your speed. Regardless of if you choose a bustling city block or a rugged, park-filled town a bit further out, you’ve got options. There are, luckily, so many charming and exciting neighborhoods in Northern Virginia that no matter what draws you in, there is likely an affordable home within reach.