Moving to Northern VA: The Ultimate Guide

Whether you just found out you are moving to Northern VA, or you are still researching where to move, welcome.

I am a lifelong resident and real estate professional. This guide is here to give you some more information about Northern VA and hopefully get you excited about your move.

I have included 21 things you should know about Northern VA, homes for sale and some of the most popular types of jobs that you can look into. And some more information about each area.

Where is Northern VA…and What is NOVA?

But first, where is Northern VA exactly? You will get a different answer depending on who you ask.

If you go by the US census map of the “Washington Metro Area”, it could go as far west as Culpepper and Winchester and as far south as Fredericksburg.

However I can tell you that for the locals here in NOVA their definition is much more narrow and closer to the Potomac.

I would consider Fairfax County, Arlington County, Loudoun County, Prince William County to be in Northern VA. In addition, the independent cities of Fairfax, Falls Church, Alexandria, Manassas and Manassas Park.

Others draw the line farther than those counties, or even closer to DC. To each their own. As you can probably know, Northern VA is not a state like, say, North Carolina…so it is a bit of a blurred line.

One thing is for certain, Northern VA is very much different from the rest of Virginia. It is densely populated, parts are urban, others suburban, fast paced and right next to the DC and Maryland lines.

And yes, locals do say NOVA. From casual conversation, to youth sports teams and clubs, “NOVA” is used commonly to shorten Northern Virginia.

And if you want to go to the next level of local slang, “DMV” refers to the DC, Maryland, Virginia area.

It is common for residents to move from one jurisdiction to another. It is also common to live in one state and work in DC.

21 Things You Should Know About Northern VA

1. Both Suburbs and Densely Populated Areas

Sometimes Northern VA is referred to as the “Suburbs of DC”.

Yes there are lots of suburban neighborhoods, planned communities and subdivisions are available that are driveable to the District.

But there are also densely populated urban areas that are very popular especially with condo and townhome buyers.

An orange sky and dark clouds is the backdrop for a skyline of large buildings.
The skyline of Tysons Corner seen here in the backdrop. Tysons has turned into a small city like town, one of many in Northern VA. The landscape and continues to do so with future development usually in the pipeline on any given year.

For example, Clarendon/Rosslyn in Arlington, sections of Tysons Corner and portions of Alexandria all have a more urban landscape.

2. Northern Virginia is Wonderfully Diverse

The population in the area continues to grow and people have come from all over the world to call the area their home.

There are wonderful people from lots of different countries. This makes the area culturally diverse in cuisine, activities and opinions.

3. There are Four Seasons

Northern VA does get a taste of all four seasons.

The extent you will experience each varies year by year. But usually, we have hot and humid summers and cold and dry winters. We do get a good amount of rain.

Spring and fall are, on a good year, quite mild and enjoyable while they are around.

When the leaves change colors (usually in September), you can head west to the Shenandoah and view some of nature’s “fireworks” along skyline drive.

There are snowstorms, some years quite large ones. But as a whole the area does not get significant amounts of snow compared to states to the north.

Sunset shown on the backdrop of a small town street.
Sunset on a summer night over Fairfax City.

4. Lots of Opportunity…and Wealth

There is a huge and expanding job market in Northern VA, which might be why you are moving here.

There are tons of positions with both private companies and the government all located either in or a close drive from the area.

The local economy is one reason why that you find counties in Northern VA consistently among the wealthiest in the US.

5. We Mean Business…Lots of it

If you are looking to start and grow a small business or expand your existing business, this is a prime area to do so.

First of all, NOVA is densely populated. And full of people looking for all types of services and goods.

A large glass building is seen on clear day with blue skies. The building has the "CapitalOne" logo on the top.
The Capital One building in Tyson’s Corner. This was the tallest building in the area for some time. Capital One has a history of being among the largest employers in the area.

From restaurants to government contractors, no matter what business you are in you will find the entrepreneurial spirit alive and well.

And yes, Northern VA can be very competitive, both in business and mindset.

6. The Selection of Homes is Plentiful

Every NOVA town offers its own amenities, structure and vibe. There is also no shortage on selection of styles of homes.

The classic Virginia style is a colonial home with a basement. But over the decades, there have been many different styles that have been popularized.

The ages of the properties also vary. Near Alexandria’s Potomac waterfront are properties that date back to the early 1800s. However there is also a huge amount of new homes in Northern VA. And every era in between.

The most popular property types are row style townhomes, detached single family homes and condominiums.

7. Technology, Data and Amazon

Back in 2019, tech giant Amazon announced that they would be moving to Northern VA and basing their operation in Arlington.

What is know known as National Landing, the area has seen more and more Amazon employees over the years as they grow into their HQ2.

A 3d rendering of several large buildings with ample glass windows, and some metal artwork going up the side of the building.
An early rendering of Amazon’s HQ2, which was part of the Metropolitan Park site of National Landing in Arlington, VA. Amazon has become one of the biggest employers in Northern VA as they also have offices and data centers in multiple counties in the area.

What you may not realize is that Northern VA was becoming a technology hub before Amazon’s arrival.

A large portion of the world’s internet traffic goes through data centers operated in Loudon and Fairfax County.

You will also find numerous technology companies both startups and established corporations that call Northern VA home.

8. Accessibility to DC

Whether you will be working in DC or just want to go sightseeing or for a night out on the weekends, the city has all the culture, food and festivities you can handle.

A sunset over a memorial and reflecting pool. Trees and the sun rays can be seen in the reflecting pool.
The National Mall is a scenic outdoor collection of monuments including the National Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Great place to walk around for date night. Here is the reflecting pool with the Lincoln Memorial in the distance.

The Cherry Blossom Festival, The Smithsonian, The National Gallery of Art, The White House, The National Mall, The Lincoln Memorial, The Kennedy Center, Capital One Arena, The Wharf, the list could go on.

Washington DC is full of museums, cultural events, live music, dining and more. And if you are moving to Northern VA, it will likely be a short drive or metro ride away.

9. Politics are Front and Center

This should be no surprise, as the President lives just across the river. In addition to that, many high ranking government officials call Northern VA home.

The Pentagon and CIA Headquarters are also located on the Virginia side.

So if you love politics, there will plenty of others to argue with, er, I mean talk with. Or both.

If politics is not your thing, you can let it go in one ear and out the other and avoid the conversations altogether. Usually that is also a respected stance.

10. DC Sports Extend to NOVA

A large metallic trophy on the mound of a baseball field. Surrounded by the Nationals baseball team and Capitals hockey team.
The Capitals hockey team celebrate with the Stanley Cup at Nationals Park in 2018. The Capitals broke a long championship drought for us sports fanatics to celebrate. The Capitals practice in Ballston, which is in Arlington, VA. Courtesy Capitals Instagram.

As an avid sports fan, this one is near and dear to my heart. The major Washington sports teams include the Commanders, Capitals, Nationals, Wizards and Mystics.

These teams fan bases and interactions extend well into the neighboring areas. The Commanders and Capitals both have their practice facilities in Virginia.

Many of the teams stars have made waves moving to Northern VA and buying large and impressive houses. Washington Capital’s star Alex Ovechkin bought a new home in McLean back in 2012.

The great thing about being a fan of these teams is they are starting to bring home championships again.

Shirtless members of the Nationals baseball team are pictured riding the zamboni at intermission of a Capitals game. Fans look on and cheer.
In 2019, what started as a celebratory zamboni ride for members of the Nationals during a Capitals game, ended as wild party. The World Series trophy is hoisted by Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton. Capitals Instagram.

After a 26 year long drought, The Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018, followed by The Nationals winning the World Series in 2019.

11. The Cost of Living is High, but That is Relative

If you are moving to Northern VA, your living expenses will likely rise, depending on where you are coming from.

However, there are parts of the area that are more affordable than others. For example, living in Burke is going to be cheaper than living in McLean.

The cost of living also has historically been noted by many estimates to be lower than some other major east coast cities such as New York City.

Find a town that fits your budget.

12. Public Transportation Continues to Improve

The main mode of transportation is the metro rail system and busses, which runs through Washington DC and extends into Northern VA and Maryland.

The metro also has expanded, with the silver line extending into McLean, Tysons, Reston, Herndon and Ashburn.

The silver line in Reston VA, the metro Arrived in Reston back in 2014. It makes DC much more accessible for anyone who lives along the line.

The orange line runs along route 66 east and west, with the blue and yellow lines going south through National Landing in Arlington and into Old Town Alexandria/Springfield.

In addition, the metrobus offers rides to a metro station and back to various stops throughout the area. There are thousands of stops walkable to many Northern VA neighborhoods.

13. George Mason University has Grown Up

George Mason University (GMU) for a long time was known as a “commuter school”.

The school was on the smaller side, with little on campus housing and older buildings.

That has changed over the years, as GMU has added lots of on campus housing and new development has expanded the campus with new buildings.

George Mason University in Fairfax VA has undergone several large redevelopment projects over the years. With new and larger buildings come more students, more funding, better programs and a better school.

The college has climbed in national rankings over the years. For some subjects such as nursing, law and technology related degrees, it is very highly ranked. And other programs continue to grow and improve every year.

If you are moving to Northern VA to attend or work at GMU here are some neighborhoods nearby.

14. TONS of Shopping

If you like to shop in person, you will always have somewhere to go.

Northern VA has luxury malls, outlets and everything in between. And you likely will not have to travel far to find a mall or shopping center. They are all over the place.

Check out Tyson’s Corner Center in McLean, Fair Lakes in Fairfax, and Ballston Mall for starters.

And if you are thinking about grocery stores, you have nothing to worry about on this front either. In most areas you will be a short drive to a selection of them from health food stores to more traditional.

16. Nature, Parks and Trails are Plentiful

Virginia is naturally very beautiful. And for as populated as Northern VA is, moving here does not mean you will be out of nature.

There are an abundance of large parks, walking and hiking trails, rivers and lakes and other open spaces to enjoy.

A river flowing over some rapids. Rocky outcrops surrounded by greenery can be seen.
Great Falls is a series of rapids and waterfalls of the Potomac River. It attracts hikers, kayakers and also anyone who is looking to go sightseeing.

There are lots of places to explore closeby, you can spend entire weekends outside easily and there is plenty to see.

Some of my favorites: The Difficult Run hike in Great Falls, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Lake Anne in Reston and Theodore Roosevelt in Arlington.

17. The Health and Fitness Lifestyle is Alive and Well

Exercise is a part of life for many NOVA residents. For some it is a way of life. And many have made it their profession.

Yoga and Pilates studios have become wildly popular and you can find one closeby quite easily.

There is also a lot of varying kinds of gyms, from larger chains to smaller niche gyms.

Crossfit and other high intensity cross-training facilities have grown throughout the area.

Orange Theory is another high intensity workout, that is more suited for beginners and many have sprung up around NOVA.

And if you would rather run outside, use the trails or run around a lake or neighborhood easily.

18. There Are Lots of Places to Eat Out

Foodies get ready. If you are moving to Northern VA you will easily find new places to try every night if you would like.

The diversity of cultures represented means you can get authentic (and some not so authentic) cuisine from different continents a short drive away.

There is also a large number of health conscious options including vegan, vegetarian and gluten free friendly restaurants.

The sheer number of restaurants is also impressive, from fine dining to chains and fast casual restaurants.

19. Easily Take A Road Trip

If you want to go on a day trip or a quick weekend getaway, there are lots of destinations nearby.

Although we have the Potomac River, there is no beach in Northern VA. But drive a few hours and you can be at a selection of beaches.

For boardwalks and sunbathing, check out Virginia Beach or Ocean City MD.

If you are looking for more hiking, fishing and sightseeing type of beach, Sandy Point in Maryland is only an hour away and overlooks the Bay Bridge.

Southern Virginia has lots of destinations as well, like Charlottesville and Richmond, accessible by car.

If you are up for camping and more intense hiking, a trip west to the Shenandoah National Park is probably just what you are looking for, with multiple campgrounds, hiking trails and a scenic drive known as Skyline Drive.

A panoramic view of blue skies over a far off mountain range and forest with trees and leaves that are changing color.
The Shenandoah Valley in the fall, as seen from Skyline Drive. This is one of many day trips or weekend trips available when you live in Northern VA.

If you are looking to city hop, New York City is also accessible by car with about a 4 hour ride. Philadelphia is only 2.5 hours.

20. The Traffic is Real

NOVA’s reputation for bad traffic tends to precede it. If you are moving here, you may have already been warned.

The truth is, yes there is a lot of traffic, just like most densely populated areas. So if you are moving from a rural area it will be an adjustment.

The traffic pattern, generally, goes toward DC in the morning hours, and heads back the other direction closer to the end of the workday and evening.

However, if you know this, maybe you can structure your schedule to miss the worst times. If you can find a home closer to where you will be working, that will work wonders for your quality of life.

Route 66 was also expanded (completed in 2022) to allow for some better traffic flow.

And as time goes on, many companies allow more remote work. Which can improve both traffic and scheduling.

Yes there is traffic, but it quickly becomes a background in your life once you get into your daily routine. And you may be able to avoid the worst of it.

And you get time to listen to books or music in the car. Silver lining.

21. You are Close To Wine and Horse Country

You may not think of horseback and vineyards when you think of Northern VA, but neither are far.

Bull Run Winery in is Centreville, which is in Fairfax County. It is a large winery with beautiful scenery and hills rich with Civil War history.

Bull Run offers tours, tastings and also a wine club if you plan to be a frequent flyer.

There are numerous wineries in near and/or in Northern VA including in Purcellville, Leesburg, Clifton, Delaplane and others.

Wineries require ample open land, so not far from where you find wineries, you will also find horses.

A large, white horse with some dirt on him from rolling around in the mud. The horse is peering over a wooden fence and fields can be seen in the background.
Up close and personal with a horse that lives in Orlean, a small community near Middleburg. This is about an hour drive from Fairfax County.

Middleburg Virginia has deep roots as a nationally renowned horse town. It has been home to some famous thoroughbred horses. It is the self proclaimed “Nations Horse and Hunt Capital“.

There are many rolling estates in Middleburg with ample land and stables to house horses. Many will even board and care for your horse for you for a fee.

This way you can live in a more densely populated area and still own a horse.

Homes For Sale in Northern VA

There is a huge selection of homes for sale at any given time in Northern VA, this list is just a preview. Use the search bar to search by city, county, town, price range and more.

The list below will update every 15 minutes with new listings as they become available.

Fairfax County

Fairfax County has well over 1 million residents and encompasses many towns in the area.

It covers over 400 square miles that extends all the way up to the Potomac River in McLean and Great Falls.

Fairfax County is a great place to live because of the location and the continuing development over the years. No two towns are the same and you will always find something new to do.

Falls Church City

Falls Church City is a small jurisdiction that spans the section of Route 7 between Seven Corners and Pimmit Hills (both of which are Fairfax County).

It has some established neighborhoods with a mix of beautiful older homes and also new construction homes.

There are some condo complexes and townhomes as well, but not nearly as many as some neighboring towns.

Fairfax City

Fairfax City is a small section in the middle of Fairfax County that spans a section of Rt 236 and Rt 50.

The City has its own resources but also uses the larger Fairfax County governing systems for some matters.

It has a quaint old town district that was restored in the early 2000s. The area consists mostly of single family homes with some townhomes mixed in, and a couple of condo complexes.

Fairfax City is conveniently located near 66 and a short drive from 495.

Alexandria City

The City of Alexandria is located just south of Washington DC across the Potomac.

It includes the iconic Old Town Alexandria, a historic waterfront town with some properties dating back to the 1800s.

If you are moving to Northern VA to work for Amazon, National Landing includes the Potomac Yard section of Alexandria, so this could be a good landing spot for you.

Arlington City

Arlington is an independent county in Northern VA. It has sections with older single family homes, many of which are being torn down to build new homes. Ballston, Clarendon and the National Landing area are more urban.

Arlington offers the best access to DC, with multiple bridges spanning the Potomac into the city. The Key Bridge is my favorite entrance, which leads to Georgetown.

Loudoun County

Loudoun exploded in popularity starting in the early 2000s. The homes in this county are newer on average, with lots of communities being built through the area through 2005 into the 2020s.

Ashburn, Leesburg, Brambleton, Aldie and Sterling area all more populated areas of Loudoun closer in toward Fairfax County.

Other areas of Loudoun can be a bit more rural and quiet if that is what you are looking for.

The Ashburn/Reston/Herndon area has become a hotbed for technology companies and data centers, so if you are moving to Northern VA to work in this area Loudoun is definitely worth a look.

Job Market in Northern VA

The most common reason you may be moving for a new job or a transfer, or following a spouse or loved one who has a job in the area.

Top Jobs in Northern VA

• Technology. This sector has grown in our area in the recent decades, with Amazon cementing the idea of NOVA as a tech hot spot on the east coast.

Whether you are looking for a startup or a large corporation, there are lots of technology companies around.

• Education and School Management. Between the massive public school systems, George Mason University and an array of private schools, this could be the largest source of jobs in the Northern Virginia.

It is definitely the case for Fairfax County, which has confirmed this in past year’s reports. Teachers are also very well paid in many of the schools relative to the rest of the country.

Healthcare. If you are a nurse, doctor or other otherwise in the healthcare field you will find a lot of opportunity. The Inova healthcare system is the biggest healthcare company in Northern VA and they opened up a new research center in 2019.

• Hospitality. The restaurant and other hospitality industries are booming in Northern Virginia.

During times of economic expansion and development new chains and local restaurants are opening all the time.

Whether you are a server, manager or working for a hotel you can find somewhere to call your home away from home quickly.

• Government. This one should go without saying, seeing that we are next to the heart of the United States Government. In addition, the local governments such as Fairfax County have a large amount of well paying jobs.

• Real Estate and Finance. This is the sandbox I play in, and there is plenty of room for others. Freddie Mac, Capital One, NVR are just some of the big employers in the financial world in Northern VA.

There is also a slew of smaller and medium sized developers and construction companies that hire aggressively during expansion.

More Questions?

Relocating can be difficult. If you are looking to buy a home in Northern VA, our job is to make that process easier.

Do you have any more questions about the area? Want so do some virtual showings of homes before you move?

Drop us a message below and let us know how we can help you.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Share this article: 

Will Rodgers

Will Rodgers is a real estate expert, creator of this site and partner at the Alper Real Estate Group. Will has been sought after by many major publications for his expertise and creates sought after content for buyers, sellers and investors.