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ALEXANDRIA, VA

Just south of Washington DC you will find Alexandria gracing the shores of the Potomac River. History fans can bask in its Old Town, with its well-preserved 18th- and 19th-century buildings as well as Gadsby’s Tavern which used to be the Founding Fathers’ hangout (now a museum). In addition, Alexandria is home to many historical landmarks such as the Masonic Temple, Christ Church, Alexandria City Hall, the Torpedo Factory Art Center, and the Alexandria Black History Resource Center.

Alexandria engages in strategic efforts to achieve sustainability, which earned it the title  “Ecologically Healthy City”. Its citizens, businesses, and city government participate in a vibrant community that is always mindful of the needs and lifestyles of generations to come. This “green” attitude is also reflected in the 70 major parks and 30 recreation centers which enrich Alexandria, such as Cameron Run Regional Park, and the Mount Vernon Trail. To shake things up every now and then, the town organizes many events including, among others, the Scottish Christmas walk through Old Town, the Red Cross Waterfront Festival in June, and the First Night Alexandria (family-friendly entertainment ) on New Year’s Eve.

        Although slightly less expensive than DC, housing options in Alexandria are nevertheless on the expensive side. For those who must have an environment with a bustling restaurant scene and an exciting nightlife, Alexandria might be a little too much of a snooze-fest.

Average home price: $492,700

Alexandria School Information: Here

FAIRFAX, VA

In 2009, Fairfax reached number 3 on Forbes’ Top 25 Places To Live Well List. This suburb is a little further out from DC and its immediate suburban neighbors, like Arlington. To many it is, therefore, a welcome escape from the bustling busy and ambitious environments that tend to characterize those areas. Fairfax is known for its great public school system and it houses a number of top universities including George Mason University. You can get around easily by bike, as there are bicycle paths galore. 

For those looking for a cultural experience, Fairfax offers free entrance to a number of interesting museums and parks including both the Workhouse Arts Center and Lake Accotink. Also mark your calendar for the many festivals that are hosted in Fairfax such as the Chocolate Lovers Festival in February, the Fall For The Book festival in the—surprise—fall, and the Festival Of Lights And Carols in December. Are you rather in the mood to go on a shopping spree? Definitely do not miss out on Tyson’s Corner Shopping Center--a diverse and eclectic shopping center that attracts shoppers from all over the DMV.

        Housing in Fairfax is about as expensive as in Washington DC and heavy traffic characterizes this suburb on a daily basis. To keep up with the increase in popularity, Fairfax has invested heavily in the building of many new apartment blocks. Although state-of-the-art, some critics say the surge in new apartment buildings and mini-malls has turned Fairfax into a run-of-the-mill looking town without character.

Average home price: $506,700

Fairfax County school information: Here

ARLINGTON, VA

If you’re looking to settle down in a town where you’re close to everything, Arlington is the place to be. The Key Bridge and the Chain Bridge bring you into DC in a jiffy. Running and bike trails are never more than a couple of blocks away, and the bar and restaurant scene is bustling. Some of the DMV’s most interesting landmarks can be found along the Potomac River, such as the Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon. Moreover, Arlington has been voted Second Best City For Millennials and Best City For New College Grads In 2016. Dog-lovers can choose among the many pet-friendly parks to take a walk with their man’s-best-friend (or woman's), and the Lubber Run Amphitheater offers free family-friendly shows between June and September.

        Although Arlington is a little more affordable in the southern parts, it offers, on average, more expensive housing options than most of the other DMV areas, including DC. Also, parking can be a challenge when going out to dinner.

Average home price: $634,000

Arlington Public school information: Here

 

WASHINGTON, DC

Few other cities have as much diversity to offer as Washington DC. This diversity can be found in terms of neighborhoods, architecture, people, and entertainment. DC really offers something for everyone. Each neighborhood has its distinct character. Find that real “House of Cards” feel while walking from the White House to the Capitol. Hang out with George Washington University’s undergrads in Foggy Bottom. For those quirky little boutiques (as well as larger brand stores), go M-street shopping in Georgetown. Get your yuppie groove on in the Dupont Circle area before walking a little north to the hipster-packed Adams Morgan. Clubbers and bar crawlers, make sure to stroll down 14th & U at night. And if you like to experience gentrification at its best, don’t forget to visit Navy Yard.

        In terms of entertainment, DC has much more to offer than a bustling nightlife. All the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall offer free entrance, as well as does the Smithsonian Zoo. DC more than fulfills architecture lovers desires as it is home to 6 out of  the 10 buildings ranked in America’s Favorite Architecture Index. It is also home to sports fans, government fans, politics fans, academia fans, coffee fans, and bike fans.

        Unfortunately, the provocative license plate (“end taxation without representation”) has yet to motivate Congress to declare the District of Columbia the USA’s 51st state. In addition, some of the worst traffic situations can be found in DC, causing some road rage and accidents on a daily basis. Although the universities of George Washington and Georgetown are top notch, DC also has the highest-cost, yet lowest-performing school system in the country.

Average home price: $509,000

DC school information: Here

 

SILVER SPRING, MD

Birthplace of Dan Snyder, Josh Hart, and Lewis Black, Silver Spring seems to be a fertile breeding ground for success. Its public high schools consistently produce a large number of Intel Science Talent Search finalists and some notable private schools are included in the Silver Spring region as well. But Silver Spring is not only entertaining for the brainy folks; music and festival lovers’ needs are attended to as well. For instance, the annual Silver Spring Jazz Festival always manages to attract an impressive line-up of great jazz artists such as Arturo Sandoval and the Mingus Big Band. Foodies can eat their hearts out at the extremely varied restaurant scene which includes tastes from around the globe. The Red Line Metro service provides direct access to downtown DC and many easy transfer options that allow for exploring the rest of the DMV area. The family-friendly, welcoming demeanor of Silver Spring might make it a less attractive place for those who enjoy being immersed in a wealth of cultural and (late) evening activities.

Average home price: $383,300

Montgomery School Information: Here

 

 

FREDERICK, MD

The first thing Frederick residents rave about is Carroll Creek. Because it flooded downtown Frederick in the 1970s, the creek needed to be re-engineered in order to prevent it from flooding again. Among other things, that resulted in a beautiful promenade through town with lots of green areas, foot bridges, local artwork on display, and an outdoor theater. A stroll along the canal offers lovely views and many festivals are held on its shores. It’s also the least expensive location in the DMV in terms of housing costs. In addition, Frederick is close to the Appalachian Mountains which makes it a perfect spot for those who like nature, peace, and quiet. Whereas Frederick is bigger than some other DMV areas (about 70,000 inhabitants), it does not offer quite the variety of options in areas such as shopping, health care, or cultural activities that can be found in other areas.

Average home price: $250,700

Montgomery School Information: Here

 

RESTON, VA

Consistently placed at the top of America’s Small City List, Reston generally attracts individuals who appreciate nature, a family community, and culture. Reston also has a wonderful downtown area where young adults congregate after work. In addition, it offers many outdoor activities as well as offering many getaways in nature close by. Unless you are employed in Reston, you would, however, have to tolerate horrific traffic on a daily basis.

Average home price: $438,300

Fairfax County school information: Here

 

GAITHERSBURG, MD

Looking for a quieter, slower-paced environment within the DMV? Then Gaithersburg is definitely worth a visit. It welcomes and unites its residents with many recreational community programs; houses are more affordable and more spacious than in most other areas of the DMV; and it attracts a lot of young families. It’s a perfect location for those who enjoy the little things in life, but obviously not a great fit if you are looking for a little more variety in terms of entertainment options.

Average home price: $347,200

Montgomery School Information: Here

 

ROCKVILLE, MD

The charming town of Rockville has a vibrant community that attracts both families and professionals. It exudes the comfort and hospitality of a small town and the history and culture of a cosmopolitan city. In Downtown Rockville, the Rockville Town Square is home to a large variety of restaurants and boutiques, a large lawn area that turns into an ice skating rink in the winter, as well as to live music and yoga classes. If you work in the heart of the DMV area though, Rockville is pretty far out—particularly in terms of commuting time. Unless you’re within walking distance of the Rockville or Twinbrook Metro stations, you will need a car, and you will get stuck in traffic-- A LOT.

Average home price: $459,800

Montgomery School Information: Here

 

BETHESDA, MD

In 2014, Bethesda was placed 1st on Forbes’ List Of America’s Most Educated Small Towns, as well as on Time’s List Of Top Earning Towns. And Bethesda is not shy about flaunting the latter. The streets are lavished with Bentleys, BMWs, and Lamborghinis. Housing options are by far more expensive than anywhere else in the DMV area. In return, Bethesda offers its residents an eclectic restaurant scene, interesting shopping options, and relatively low crime rates. It might be hard to avoid stepping on the occasional toe though as most Bethesda residents have been found to have higher than average snobbish attitudes.

Average home price: $825,500

Montgomery School Information: Here

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