Northern Virginia is one of the most popular suburbs in the United States. Its popularity comes from its close proximity to the nation’s capital. It is also home to three counties that annually make the list of top 10 richest counties in the United States. With an annual estimated household median income of $117,876, Loudoun County in Northern Virginia is ranked the richest county in the United States.
Although there are a growing number of private sector jobs in the area, Northern Virginia’s economy is heavily driven by federal contracting. According to a five-year study by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, from 2010 to 2014, Northern Virginia received $219 billion in federal procurement spending. No surprise, a large amount of the federal procurement spending occurs in the three counties in Northern Virginia that annually make the top 10 richest counties in the United States.
So, if you’ve made the awesome decision of relocating to Northern Virginia, here is my guide to living in Northern Virginia.
What exactly is Northern Virginia? Northern Virginia, commonly referred to as NOVA, is made up of a number of counties including Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William. Also, independent cities such as the City of Alexandria, City of Falls Church, Fairfax City, Manassas City, Manassas Park, Town of Clifton, Town of Herndon, and Town of Vienna make up Northern Virginia.
Traffic, Traffic, Traffic. According to a report done by the Department of Transportation, three of the nation’s worst bottlenecks are in Northern Virginia. Mentioned in the report is a popular half-mile bottleneck in Fairfax County, where according to the report 500,000 hours and $12 million are lost each year. Traffic is a major topic of discussion in the Northern Virginia area. Most Northern Virginians will tell you that traffic is unavoidable and very unpredictable. The popular traffic app, Waze, which provides real-time traffic info, is a great tool to have because you just never know when you’ll hit a gridlock. Unfortunately, there are a limited number of major highways in the area that cater to a continued growing population. The area’s highway infrastructure planners did not foresee the population boom that has been occurring since the mid 90s. So, there is a huge possibility that you will experience a lot more traffic than you are used to. Also, avoid I-66 if you can!
Public transportation systems expansions. To mitigate the traffic issues, the area’s transportation departments have done an excellent job of planning and expanding the metrorail system. A new metro line known as the Silver Line, was launched in 2014 to serve the McLean, Reston, and Tysons Corner area. There are plans to expand the Silver Line to other areas in Loudoun County in the next few years. The other metro lines such as the Orange, Yellow and Blue lines go through Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, Springfield, and Vienna. The Virginia Rail Express (VRE) runs through Manassas, Burke, Springfield, Woodbridge, Lorton, Fredericksburg, and Spotsylvania.
Great school system. Arlington, Fall Church, and Loudoun County school systems are consistently ranked as the best school districts in Virginia. According to K12’s annual ranking of best public high schools in America, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology in Alexandria, VA was ranked number fourth in the nation.
Two major airports. How many suburbs in the country have two major airports? Dulles International Airport, located in Sterling offers a number of direct flights to most major cities in the world. If you plan to live in the Alexandria and Arlington areas, Reagan National Airport is just a few miles away. Chances are that if you are looking for a flight online to Northern Virginia, you will come across options to fly into Baltimore Washington International, which is about 30 to 45 miles from the Northern Virginia area.
We love our sports team. You probably already know that we support the Washington DC sports teams – Redskins, Nationals, Capitals, D.C. United, and Wizards. Expect huge traffic delays on I-495 towards Maryland on a Sunday morning during football season. Train delays and crowded metro stations are common on a Washington Nationals game day.
Diverse population. Northern Virginia is a very diverse area. The area is made up of people from different nationalities. According to a 2014 USA Today report, the three fast-growing Virginia counties – Fairfax, Arlington and Prince William – are at the leading edge of a diversity explosion sweeping the USA. The cultural diversity has brought about the opening of a number of ethnic restaurants and grocery stores in the area. So, if you are a lover of authentic Vietnamese food, there will probably be a great one nearby you.
A number of shopping options. There are plenty of grocery stores in the area. Most residential neighborhoods in the area are within a few miles of a grocery store. In recent years, the area has seen an increase in the number of organic grocery store options such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Popular malls such as Tyson’s Corner, Pentagon City, and Fair Oaks are home to a number of shopping options such as Bloomingdale’s, Banana Republic, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Sears, and much more.
Plenty of outdoor recreation activities. If you love hiking, Great Falls National Park has fifteen miles of hiking trails. The Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Railroad Regional Park bike trail runs for 45 miles from Arlington to Leesburg.
Perfect weather for being in the North East. If you are looking to move to the area and you are dreading the treacherous winter storms that typically hit the North East, have no fear. Although there are years that the area gets hit with 15+ inches of snow, it is not uncommon to go through the entire winter with a total of a foot of snow.
Live musical events. If you are into live musical events, Wolf Trap and Jiffy Lube Live are great places in Northern Virginia to catch your favorite musical acts. It’s a great idea to plan for parking to avoid getting stuck in the common parking lot gridlocks at these venues.
Hope this helps. Please contact me if you need help finding a home in Northern Virginia.