Article Overview: Pros & Cons of Living in Virginia
Thinking about moving to Virginia? I think I can help.
Best known for being the birthplace of our nation, moving to Virginia seems to be a hot topic of late. The state is known for beautiful scenery, kind locals, epic historic sites and an easy-going way of life.
But as with most things, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Read on to learn about the honest pros and cons of moving to Virginia based on firsthand experience. I hope you enjoy!
Quick Overview: Best Places to Live in Virginia
For those that haven’t spent much time in Virginia, it may be helpful to get a quick overview of the regions of the state.
Northern Virginia (NOVA) is basically an extension of Washington DC. Arlington and Alexandria are built up, offer ample job opportunities, lots of culture and diversity, great food and entertainment. But you know how it goes, cities are expensive and northern Virginia is no exception.
On the political spectrum, most folks moving to Virginia’s northern region lean democrat.
Central Virginia is anchored by the city’s capital, Richmond. An affordable city with a population of 224,000. Richmond has a charming small town feel yet offers big city amenities like great cuisines, entertainment and jobs. This part of the state is a 2 hours’ drive from the beach, mountains and big cities (like DC), making weekend escapes an easy feat. Political leanings are right/moderate.
Eastern Virginia is calm most of the year but Virginia Beach and Williamsburg are huge draws during the summer months. Home to nearly 500,000 residents, Virginia Beach is the most populous city in Virginia. The area has beautiful coastlines, unmatched colonial history and overall peaceful vibes. In terms of politics, eastern Virginia tends to lean right.
Best Things About Living in Virginia
#1. The Variety of Daily Life in Virginia
One of the best things about living in Virginia is the variety of daily life. There’s something for everyone in this great state. From bustling cities to charming small towns, you’ll find folks from all walks of life moving to Virginia.
The state’s proximity to DC gives some of the northern cities an ambitious (and admitting pretentious) vibe. Many DC big shots move to Virginia to raise children, the suburbs of full of young families (and retirees).
It’s easy to escape the noise of the city for the peaceful countryside and vise versa while living in Virginia. Nature, cities, good food, mixed politics, kind locals and all four seasons — there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Even better, Virginians tend to be really friendly folks, much aligned with the southern hospitality this part of the world is known for. The state is full of warm people that have been instrumental in making me feel welcomed.
#2. Outdoor Recreation
Home to the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah Valley and ancient Appalachian Mountains, if you love outdoor recreation then you’ll be spoiled for choice while living in Virginia.
If you enjoy hiking, climbing, camping, kayaking, canoeing or caving (to name a few) you’ll have your fair share of opportunities to embark on adventures.
The state’s scenery is stunning, especially in the fall when the foliage is ablaze with color. After moving to Virginia I developed a love for the outdoors because the proximity to nature made it easy to be outside. The northwest region of the state is the most scenic (in my opinion) and the coastline is very beautiful.
In any case, regardless of where you choose to live in Virginia, you’ll never be too far from adventure. The state offers plenty of outdoor recreation less than 2 hours’ drive from most spots. It’s the dream scenario.
Local’s Tip: If you’re a hiking or camping nut, you’ll get to know the Appalachian Trail pretty well while living in Virginia, so invest in good hiking boots. These are the ones I live in (worth every penny).
#3. Low Crime Rate
Virginia is rated as the 10th safest state in the country. As with most states, crime rates are higher in cities than in the rural areas. Even still, the overall crime in Virginia is well below the national average. I’m guessing that’s why so many couples end up moving to Virginia to start a family.
Some locals attribute this to the strong military presence in the state. Virginia is home to a plethora of bases and you’re bound to see folks in uniform most days of the week. Having such a high population of veterans makes it easy to see why so many military members end up moving to Virginia for retirement.
#4. Great Public Schools
Did you know that Virginia has some of the best public schools in the country? I have a few friends that ended up moving to Virginia with kids in tow and they said they faced two challenges.
First, affording a home in a good neighborhood (you know the drill: the more expensive the city, the better the schools). And secondly, ensuring their kids are up to speed on the criteria.
One friend mentioned that her twins entered the third grade and felt like fish out of water because the material being covered was more advanced than they were used to in Georgia. They ended up hiring a tutor, so you may need to budget that into your overall cost of moving to Virginia. Heads up!
#5. Proximity to Washington, DC
One of the biggest perks of living in Virginia is the proximity to DC. Like all major US cities, Washington DC offers a thriving job market that draws people from all over the world. I currently live in Arlington, just a few minutes from DC.
I take advantage of the city’s incredible food scene, top notch museums and world-class events that host once-in-a-lifetime speakers like presidents and diplomats. But as I’ve mentioned before, living close to DC comes at a price and you don’t need to look further than the obnoxious rent spikes to know what I mean.
#6. Important Historical Sites to Explore
Living in Virginia is great for history nuts. My father in law is a retired history professor and he tries to visit us twice a year. I joke that the first visit is for us and the second visit is for the historic sites, he has yet to correct me so I might be right, ha!
Those moving to Virginia will be able to spend countless weekends learning about American history. It’s hard to explain, but living in Virginia simply feels important.
One of my favorite things to do is tour the homes of US Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, William Henry Harrison, James Monroe and Woodrow Wilson.
#7. You’ll get all four seasons while living in Virginia
No list outlining the pros and cons of living in Virginia would be complete without mentioning the breathtaking seasons. From rich springs ripe with fragrant blooms to mild tempered autumns with dazzling fall foliage, moving to Virginia feels like a blessing.
The state seldom gets natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, wildfires or earthquakes. We do get snow, but if I’m being honest — winters in Virginia feel rather pointless. The season is mostly wet and gray, with dirty roads thanks to the buildup of melting salts and road treatments.
But I have plenty of friends that like the short winter season and consider it a perk of living in Virginia. To each their own!
Cons of Moving to Virginia
#1. The high cost of living in Virginia
Like many places in the US, Virginia saw in influx of city dwellers during the pandemic. As such, the cost of living in Virginia has skyrocketed in recent years because homes are unaffordable.
I know, I know, unaffordable housing is not unique to Virginia, but the issue is acute regardless and warrants mention. The median home price in Virginia is $351K, to put it in perspective, the median home price in 2020 was $270K.
#2. Terrible Drivers
Speaking from personal experience, aggressive driving habits is one of the worst things about living in Virginia.
People cut me off like they’re meeting quotas, blinkers seem optional (spoiler alert: they’re not), and the way some folks squeeze into the space between me and the following car is dangerous (impressive, but dangerous).
Between the terrible interstates and equally terrible drivers, dangerous driving conditions while living in Virginia are par for the course.
#3. Allergy Season
Virginia is surrounded by beautiful mountains and bordered by the formidable Atlantic Ocean. What could possible go wrong? Well being trapped between the two creates the ideal conditions for allergies, especially during the summer months thanks to high pollen count.
Richmond is especially miserable for allergy sufferers. Don’t just take my word for it, Richmond is ranked as one of the most challenging cities in the US for seasonal allergies. Being located in the eastern/central part of the state gives the city a warmer (and longer) summer season, which means allergy season tends to overstay its welcome.
Likewise, the central part of the state gets a decent amount of rainfall, which makes the area a landmine for those with mold allergies. All this to say, if you’re considering moving to Virginia but are prone to allergies, think twice.
#4. Summer heat and humidity
Living in Virginia is a bit tough during the summer months because the humidity is oppressive. You’ll be sweating daily from June through September anytime you step outside. I swear, it’s like breathing in water.
Summer high temperatures average around 77-80°F, but the average humidity rate across the state is 68.7%.
The humidity is especially bad for home owners because it causes mold, especially in basements. When I first moved to Tennessee I had a huge problem with bugs and later learned it was because my basement was damp, so it was attracting critters. Take note.
#5. Nightmarish Traffic
No large city or state is immune from traffic, but damn — Virginia’s traffic is something else, especially NOVA. The I-95 is in constant gridlock, as is 1-495. Virginia’s proximity to DC is the main culprit, but knowing the reason doesn’t make living in Virginia any easier during the nightmarish rush hour.
If you’re moving to Virginia but plan to work in DC, take note – you will spend hours of your life in traffic. It’s brutal and the constant gridlock will wear on you quickly. Try to live as close as possible to your work (budget permitting) to avoid one of the biggest disadvantages of living in Virginia.
Retiring in Virginia (FAQs)
Is Virginia a good place to live?
Yes, Virginia offers a steady and easy-going lifestyle ripe with opportunities. The state offers something for everyone, from breathtaking outdoor nature to incredible cities. But those seriously considering moving to Virginia should consider allergy season, summer heat and humidity and the overall high cost of living in Virginia.
As you know, there’s pros and cons to everything, life in Virginia is no exception.
Is Virginia a good place to retire?
This is a toss up and largely depend on what you want out of retirement. Those moving to Virginia for retirement may find themselves sticker-shocked by home prices near larger cities. But the larger cities tend to offer better amenities and medical care, so while the rural areas are more affordable they may not be feasible.
Is weed legal in Virginia?
Adults 21+ can possess one ounce of recreation marijuana and are allowed to cultivate a small number of plants at home. The law went into effect July 2021. You can read more here.
Pros & Cons of Moving to Virginia (Post Overview)
In sum, here’s a quick roundup of the pros and cons of living in Virginia.
- The Variety of Daily Life in Virginia
- Outdoor Recreation
- Important Historical Sites to Explore
- Great Public Schools
- Proximity to DC
- Low Crime Rate
- You’ll get all four seasons while living in Virginia
- The high cost of living in Virginia
- Terrible Drivers
- Allergy Season
- Summer heat and humidity
- Nightmarish Traffic