Pressed up against the bustling cities of Arlington, Virginia and Washington DC, Alexandria, Virginia sometimes gets left out of conversations about the DC area. But as the people living in Alexandria VA will tell you, anyone who ignores this gorgeous, unique city is missing out on some of the most amazing cultural experiences available in the DC metropolitan area.
Resting along the western bank of the Potomac River, Alexandria is a vibrant city that has seen rapid growth over the past several years. The community is just a few miles away from the heart of Washington DC, and is connected to the rest of the DC metro area by public transportation and highway systems — this convenience, combined with the city’s charm and beauty, have helped drive a wave of new residents coming to live in the riverside settlement.
As is often the case, this expansion has brought a lot of attention to Alexandria. And, as always, it’s important (and fun!) to learn about a city before moving there. So, here are the top 10 things that you need to know about living in Alexandria VA.
Bustling Job Market
Like the rest of the Washington DC area, Alexandria has seen a lot of economic growth over the past several years. In addition to some big-name companies — more on that below — Alexandria is also home to several high-tech corporations that employ many in the city. A lot of residents of Alexandria work with government contractors and trade organizations, which might be unsurprising considering the proximity to the nation’s capital.
With the ease of travel between Alexandria and the other communities in the DC metropolitan area, people who live in Alexandria can take advantage of similar growth and job opportunities across the DMV. One of the most notable examples of this is…
Amazon’s new headquarters
In November of 2018, internet retail giant Amazon announced that they were going to build new headquarters on the east coast — a project commonly called ‘HQ2.’ Initially, these headquarters were planned to be located in Long Island, NY and Arlington, VA. However, the plans for the Long Island campus fell through, leaving Virginia as the sole home to Amazon’s east coast headquarters.
Although Amazon’s HQ2 was originally slated to be in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, the final location that they chose is just as close to Alexandria as it is to anywhere in Arlington. In fact, people have started referring to the area around Amazon’s upcoming headquarters as National Landing.
National Landing is composed partly of territory in Arlington and partly of Alexandria — particularly the Potomac Yard neighborhood of Alexandria, VA. This means that residing in Alexandria VA gives people ample opportunity to work with the tech supergiant. In 2020 alone, HQ2 is on track to open up over 500 new jobs for residents of Alexandria, Arlington, and DC.
Old Town Alexandria Still Feels Fresh
Alexandria has plenty of amazing, culturally diverse neighborhoods to explore — but none are more famous than Old Town Alexandria. Located directly on the bank of the Potomac, Old Town is one of the main cultural centers of Alexandria, and the DC area at large. Most commonly, Old Town is noted for its cobblestone-lined streets, famous restaurants, and historical significance.
Although Old Town is a hot spot for visitors and people living in other areas of the DC area, it still holds a ton of appeal for people who live in Alexandria. Beautiful historic buildings sit side-by-side with trendy gastropubs, and you’d be hard pressed to find better shopping opportunities in the area.
On top of this, Old Town is highly condensed, meaning that you can take in all the culture, beauty, and atmosphere that you can handle without having to travel far from home. More than 100 retail stores sit on the iconic, historic King Street. This mile-long stretch of rich culture leads directly to the waterfront, where you can enjoy dinner and drinks or catch a ride on a water taxi to see Alexandria from the river.
Amazing Dining Opportunities
Gourmands, rejoice — Alexandria is an absolute heaven for foodies! Not only is Alexandria full of long-standing favorites like Magnolia’s on King — one of the best places to grab brunch in the entire DMV — but it also has a constantly evolving scene of hot new restaurants.
Our suggestion? When you’re in Alexandria, make sure you try Lena’s Woodfired Pizza!
Your tastebud tour won’t stop at food, either. Alexandria is also home to a ton of great breweries and nightlife stops. Port City Brewing Company which is the oldest package craft brewery in the DC area, serves as a great introduction to the world of Alexandria craft beer.
For a less conventional experience, check out Captain Gregory’s, a speakeasy-style cocktail bar sequestered in the back room of a local doughnut shop. Pop by for a stiff drink and some delicious, sugary treats — just make sure to reserve your spot online so they know you’ll be coming!
Another excellent dining option in Alexandria is Mia’s Italian Kitchen where we recently did one of our neighborhood spotlights which you can watch here
Easy Access to the Rest of the DMV
Alexandria might be an independent city, but it is intrinsically linked to the neighboring settlements of Arlington and DC. The heart of Alexandria is located within I-495 (also called the Capital Beltway), and the city is connected to DC by the Metrorail service. There are 3 Metro stops in Alexandria: King Street, which gives easy access to Old Town and tons of shopping; Braddock Road, which sits near the chic Del Rey neighborhood, and Eisenhower Avenue, located just off I-495 and near the Eisenhower East region of Alexandria.
These three stations make it simple for people living in Alexandria VA to access the rest of the DC metro area, while also lending improved walkability to the city. Don’t feel like sitting in DC’s notorious traffic? Just hop on the metro at King Street and head to the District to enjoy one of many free federal museums or take in the nightlife in Arlington!
Local Art is Everywhere
If you created a list of adjectives to describe Alexandria, ‘artsy’ would easily deserve a spot on that collection — because Alexandria is a dream city for artists and art lovers alike.
One of the most unique aspects of the city’s artistic culture is the Torpedo Factory Art Center. True to its name, this art collective is housed in an old munitions factory that created torpedoes a century ago. The factory was shut down in 1946 following the end of the Second World War, and it was acquired by the Art League of Alexandria almost 40 years later. Once the League purchased the factory, they turned it into the site of their studio spaces.
The Torpedo Factory Art Center is the largest collection of working-artist studios in the entire nation, with more than 165 artist studios spread throughout the 3-story campus. The Art Center is also open to the public, so art lovers can go to the maker spaces and watch local craftspeople create their art — and, if they want, purchase it directly from the artist!
Although the Torpedo Factory Art Center is the most famous example of Alexandria’s artsy atmosphere, it is far from alone. There are plenty of galleries in Alexandria for you to enjoy while living there!
Home for History Lovers Too
With roots tracing back to 1669, Alexandria is one of the oldest settlements started by European settlements in North America. That long history is astonishingly well preserved in the city, both in original architecture and through careful preservation in museums. You can find all manner of homes in Alexandria, but only a few are as well-storied as historic homes such as the Carlyle House or the Spite House — the latter of which is the narrowest historic home in the country!
On top of these beautifully preserved historic homes that dot Alexandria’s map, there are some truly unique and amazing museums to explore while visiting or living in the city. Two of the most famous and unique museums are Gadsby’s Tavern Museum and the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum. Gadsby’s Tavern offers guests the chance to tour a revolutionary-era inn building, originally built in 1785. The tavern itself also operates as a functioning restaurant.
The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum is a repository of medical and business historical knowledge, as well as home to a massive collection of historically significant herbs, medicines, reagents, and blown-glass medical instruments.
The George Washington Masonic National Memorial has become the unofficial landmark of Alexandria. Founded in tribute to the country’s first president George Washington, it offers an interactive platform for visitors to learn about the country’s first president while enjoying a beautiful landscape and exquisite architecture.
In addition to the unique historical character of the city itself, residents of Alexandria can easily access the amazing museums, archives, and galleries across the DC area — making it a truly amazing place to live for people who are interested in history.
And for Nature Lovers
The DC area is very popular with nature lovers and health-conscious folks — and Alexandria is no exception! The city has been ranked highly in the list of the nation’s healthiest communities, only barely scoring lower than their neighbors in Arlington.
There are a ton of green spaces in Alexandria proper, and the city is criss-crossed by a network of biking trails and nature trails that let you feel the beauty of Northern Virginia’s nature without actually leaving the city. If you do step outside of the urban space, however, there are even more gorgeous vistas to explore near Alexandria.
One beloved nature getaway is Huntley Meadows, located nearby in Fairfax County, Virginia. This wildlife preserve, which is a historically significant tract of land in its own right, also contains vital wetlands that are home to some of Virginia’s most elusive and beautiful wildlife. Visitors can tour these wetlands and use viewing installations to observe local birds and other fauna in their natural habitat, while remaining confident that the ecosystem is being protected against outside influence and damage.
Alexandria has a Neighborhood for Everyone
When residents talk about Alexandria, they often describe where they live by neighborhood, rather than simply city. In large part, this is because Alexandria has an incredibly diverse collection of neighborhoods that come together to make up a wonderful whole. If you are looking for a more urban experience close to all that the city has to offer, the neighborhoods of Old Town & Del Ray are quite popular options. For those looking for a more suburban feel, Rosemont is a very popular option.
No matter who you are, what you like to do for fun, or your needs as a home buyer, there is a neighborhood in Alexandria for you. It’s one of the things that makes living in Alexandria so amazing — you can find and craft an experience that is perfect for you!
Property Values are Going to Keep Rising
Home values in the DC area have been trending upwards for a while now. As more people flock to the area to join the swiftly growing tech sector, they are paying higher prices for their home. As Amazon makes progress on their HQ2 project — and as other companies follow suit and make their home in Alexandria and surrounding areas — those prices are only going to get higher.
That means that if you are interested in living in Alexandria VA, now is a great time to invest in a home. Prices will likely continue to rise steadily over the next several years, so purchasing a home can lead to a great return on your investment when you decide that it’s time to sell and move up to a more valuable home.
Because housing costs can be high right now, it’s important to work with a real estate team that knows how to get you the best price on your new home. Alexandria (and the rest of the DC area) is a seller-heavy market, which means that bidding wars are common — but at the Keri Shull Team, we specialize in helping you win your dream home without being the highest bidder!
Moving to Alexandria VA?
If you’re ready to learn how living in Alexandria could be the perfect move for you, and get started on your home search, then contact the Keri Shull Team today! As the top-rated real estate team in the Washington DC Area, we have helped hundreds of individuals buy and sell homes in Alexandria. Our Home Search Experts are standing by to help customize a home buying plan to suit your needs, so you can get into your dream home cheaper, faster, and with absolutely zero stress! Just click here to schedule a time to meet with us!