Why Alexandria, VA is a Top 100 Best Place to Live
Walkable, historic Alexandria is an intimate contrast to the larger city atmosphere of Washington.
Alexandria, Va., sits 6 miles from the hustle and bustle of downtown Washington, D.C., but the area is far more than just a bedroom community or suburb; it’s an independent, self-determining small city with all the amenities that make it a desirable place to live. The warmer, more intimate feel of Alexandria offers up a contrast to the larger scale of D.C., with a population of just 150,000 and a historic character and culture that make it perfect for families.
“The city offers a cosmopolitan feel in an intimate scale,” says Claire Mouledoux of Visit Alexandria. “It’s historically rich, with lots of intimate sites that are a great counterpoint to the large museums of the Smithsonian nearby on the National Mall. We’re steeped in history from George Washington through the Civil Rights movement.”
Major employers include the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture and Defense, the city itself, the public schools and the Metro Transit Authority, with large private employers such as Inova Health and many nonprofits also represented.
One of the most appealing aspects is the potential to leave your car parked, or to not have one at all. Walkability remains a hallmark, including in the historic Old Town, where you’ll also find readily available bike- and car-sharing options. Downtown on King Street, a free trolley travels between the Metro and the beautiful waterfront with its views across the Potomac to the Capitol Building.
At the riverfront? Catch a water taxi. Readily available traditional taxis plus services for Uber and Lyft also help alleviate personal car congestion. The wonderfully efficient D.C. Metro system has multiple stops throughout the city, making commutes easy for those who work either in or outside Alexandria.
If you’re a frequent business traveler, it’s effortless to reach distant spaces via the Amtrak station in Old Town – or Reagan international Airport is just 10 minutes away via Metro.
And one of the best aspects of walkability? Alexandria’s also one of the most dog-friendly in the nation – from treats and water bowls at local businesses to seasonal canine cruises on the river.
The city’s 70 parks and 30 recreation centers, plus a section of the Mount Vernon running and biking trail between the historic estate and D.C., provide abundant green space and additional exercise potential.
History and Culture
Alexandria showcases great neighborhoods for family living, many with longstanding historic bona fides, including the popular Old Town, Del Ray and Rosemont. Additional good neighborhoods of Fairfax County adjoin Alexandria, many with city addresses. And for residents, there’s plenty to do. The presence of so much history offers constant learning opportunities for kids and family.
Among the historic sites are the Masonic Temple (George Washington Masonic National Memorial) and the Museums in Market Square, including the fantastical Stabler Leadbeater Apothecary Museum where Martha Washington was a customer; the John Carlyle House gets a starring role in a PBS series this year. Arts aficionados visit the Little Theatre of Alexandria and the Torpedo Factory Arts Center, as well as King Street galleries.
The robust year-round Saturday Farmers Market dates back to the Colonial era. Foodies enjoy a vibrant, thriving restaurant culture, including newcomers Blackwall Hitch and Carluccio’s, as well as popular Vermilion, Restaurant Eve, Bastille, Murphy’s and Daniel O’Connell’s.
“Of course, our best-kept secret is that we have a fantastic live music scene in Alexandria,” Mouledoux says. “We have so many restaurants and venues hosting performances, including The Birchmere in Del Ray, which gets top national acts in for really intimate performances.”
For Alexandria residents, amenities like easy commutes, walkability, arts and culture and actually living amidst historical sites with deep ties to the country’s very foundation all tie in to make the city a powerful draw for residents, only minutes from the faster paced, larger Washington, D.C.
The city offers a cosmopolitan feel in an intimate scale. It’s historically rich, with lots of intimate sites that are a great counterpoint to the large museums of the Smithsonian nearby on the National Mall. We’re steeped in history from George Washington through the Civil Rights movement.