Well, when I started Things You Should Know Before Moving to Northern Virginia (updated in 2019), I had to force myself to stop at fourteen “things”. Over the years I have heard myself giving these tips over and over to clients who are relocating here, so, I thought that I should put down my observations for the world to read.
The list is really not in any particular order of importance, but know there are a lot of fun things to do in the D.C. suburbs that will keep you busy 365 days a year.
Let me know what you think… and I’m always open to your tips too!
1. So, what is “Northern Virginia”? Northern Virginia includes Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William Counties. The City of Alexandria, City of Falls Church, City of Fairfax, Manassas City, Manassas Park, Town of Clifton, Town of Vienna and Town of Herndon are included. Some significant areas are Ballston, McLean, Reston, Tysons Corner, Occoquan and yes, The Pentagon. We all live nearby, really!
2. Traffic is a common topic of discussion. “Rush hours” consume about
eight ten hours of every day, which is to be expected in an area with 2.5 million people. Some highways have HOV restrictions which means you need 2+ people in the car. There is a toll road from the Beltway (495) out to Leesburg (Route 267) and a pay-per-mile express highway within 495 that accepts EasyPass. Fantastic options including the George Washington Parkway along the Potomac River.
3. Education is a high priority. The Public School systems in Northern Virginia are recognized nationally for achievement and graduation rate. There are many private schools with excellent reputations too. There are four-year Universities like George Mason and Marymount, the Northern Virginia center for UVA and Virginia Tech in Falls Church, and programs at Northern Virginia Community College. It is also easy to reach other institutions in DC like Georgetown University or in Maryland, the University of Maryland. Overall, the area has a high percentage of residents with college and advanced degrees.
4. We demand a lot from our sports teams. The Washington Redskins play in Maryland, but their football training facility is in Ashburn, VA. The Washington Capitals play in D.C. at Capital One Arena and practice at their hockey facility in Ballston. The Washington Wizards are our NBA team, and our MLS soccer team is D.C. United which plays at Audi Field in D.C. The Washington Nationals are our baseball team and they play in D.C.
5. Politics. It’s an easy photo-op for the White House, so expected to bump into a motorcade, or a Member of Congress at the market, or a neighbor who works on Capitol Hill.
6. Northern Virginia’s population is culturally diverse. Since D.C. is an international destination, many people have selected to move here from all over the world thanks to a robust job market, excellent universities, the World Bank and easy access to flights “back home”. Virtually every nationality is represented. Other benefits of this immigration are the multitude of authentic restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, and cultural events.
7. There is plenty of U. S. history to see. You can start along the Potomac River at Mt. Vernon in Alexandria to the Manassas National Battlefields. Did I mention that Northern Virginia is across the Potomac River from Washington, DC? Make sure to see the Udvar-Hazy Smithsonian Air and Space Museum next to Dulles Airport.
8. We have two major airports. Dulles International Airport offers direct flights around the world by virtually every international airline and is a United Airlines domestic hub. Reagan National Airport offers domestic flights including Delta, American, Jet Blue, Alaska and Southwest, and is the most accessible to D.C.
9. Public transportation systems continue to expand. The Metrorail System sends the Orange Line through Arlington out to Vienna, and the Yellow and Blue Lines to Reagan National Airport then to Alexandria and Springfield. Metro Bus, DASH, ART, Fairfax Connector and CUE Bus run through the counties. The new Silver Line to Reston goes through McLean, Tysons Corner and Vienna, and is under construction to Dulles and Ashburn. Virginia Rail Express (VRE) is an option from Fredericksburg or Manassas. Amtrak has a station in Alexandria and the AutoTrain departs from Lorton. (Union Station in DC neat the U.S. Capitol is where the Northeast Corridor service begins).
10. We love being outdoors. The climate is excellent for people who like to garden or landscape, and for bike riders, runners and hikers. The W&OD bike trail runs for 45 miles from Arlington through Falls Church, Vienna, Reston, and Herndon out to Leesburg and Purcellville along an old rail line turned path which is heavily used by runners, bikers and walkers. Great Falls National Park in Virginia and C&O Canal National Park offer hiking along the Potomac River. There are also sports teams for any sport and age group imaginable. Wolftrap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna is a perfect outdoor venue to see theater, concerts or the symphony.
11. Northern Virginia is famous for shopping. It may not seem exciting to everyone, but we have plenty of grocery stores including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Wegman’s, but there are plenty of weekend farmers’ markets, and roadside markets like DePaul’s Urban Farm in Vienna, and Cox Farms in Centreville. Tyson’s Corner is a regional super-shopping district with everything from L.L. Bean, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus. There is simply too much to mention. There are excellent restaurants and hotels.
12. We experience all four seasons of the year. Winter usually features a cold snap when temperatures can be in the teens. There may be a foot of snow, total, for the season. There are many days when ice covers the roads (a traffic nightmare), and there may be a 20+” snowstorm every few years (2010 was an exception with three). Spring starts in March (cherry blossoms) and runs through June (70°’s and 80°’s). Summer begins July 1 and it can be hot (90°+) and very humid through mid-September. Fall begins in October with brilliant displays from our tall Oak and Maple trees.
13. Northern Virginia isn’t just Federal Government workers. Yes, there are plenty of Feds, but the economy is much more diversified than once was as many corporations have based themselves here thanks to Virginia’s favorable business climate. hospitals, banking, accounting firms, software, telecommunications, technology, Internet, hospitality, automotive, association industry, retail, real estate, security, defense, government contractors and much more. Need I mention Amazon setting up their east coast HQ2 in Arlington? Yikes!
14. Restaurants and Foodies. Northern Virginia is covered with destination restaurants. Restaurants in Vienna like Bazin’s, Clarity, Taco Bamba, or Sweet Ginger have great reviews. A trip to Chez François in Great Falls for lunch or dinner will be an adventure. What makes the area creative is the mix of people from all parts of the world. Five Guys started here, Ted’s Bulletin makes original pop-tarts, and then there are those gourmet cupcakes!
Relocating to Northern Virginia
Overall, the DC area is a very exciting place to live and your friends will want to visit you here. There is always something going on in DC, in Bethesda, Annapolis, Old Town Alexandria, Vienna, McLean or Reston. And on the off chance that things are slow, heading to the Smithsonian or out to one of the many fantastic restaurants in the area will keep you busy.
If you are planning to relocate to Vienna or any part Northern Virginia, let me know because I can help you to help find a new community and a new home. Here is my contact information or send me an email and how to reach you. I look forward to hearing from you.