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Washington D.C: Everything You Need to Know About Moving There

by Team NextBurb 5 March 2021

Moving Guides By City

As the center of American government and politics, Washington D.C. is arguably the most important city in the country.

Here you’ll find national archives, blooming cherry trees, and unique neighborhoods with their own character.

Quick facts about Washington D.C.

  • This city wasn’t always the capital of the United States.
    D.C. was planned and built specifically to become the nation’s center for government and military planning, but it wasn’t completed until 1790.

    Its location was a compromise between the north and south states that constituted the country at its origin. Today, it exists as the only unofficial city-state in the country and shares borders with both Maryland and Virginia.
  • Washington D.C. is a great place to be for government work and networking in the finance and healthcare industries, but it also has a great location on the East Coast.

    You’ll find beautiful hikes and wineries in the Virginia mountains, coastline views from Maryland harbors and sandy beaches, and quick flights to other nearby major cities, whether it’s a one-hour trip to New York or a two-hour direct flight to Miami.
  • While D.C. is best known for being the center of government action, it’s a city with a unique culture of its own.

    International communities and neighborhoods with Victorian homes have their own extensive parks, and enclaves with local shopping, upscale dining, and eclectic street art: a (welcomed) far cry from the grandeur and formality of the National Mall and government districts.

What to Know About Washington D.C.

Population & History

President George Washington founded the site that later became Washington D.C. in 1790. Much of the initial city and official buildings were burned and destroyed in the War of 1812. In 1901, the National Mall was expanded into the stately park that we know today.

Today, it has a population of nearly 700,000 and a metro area population of over 6 million, which includes nearby cities in both Virginia and Maryland.

Weather in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. is located approximately 35 miles inland off the East Coast and experiences both the humid subtropical climate of the central/southeastern states and winds brought in from the Atlantic Ocean.

Fall and spring weather is breezy, sunny, and mild, while summers are intensely humid and hot, with an average temperature of around 80 that often rises to 100. Humidity often increases apparent temperature as well (in other words, air conditioning is a necessity).

Winters bring an average of 15 inches of snowfall every year, with average temperatures around 38 degrees. Large blizzards (called nor’easters) blow through the city every few years and bring up to 30 inches of snow.

Top Attractions in Washington D.C.

In many ways the birthplace of American history, there are endless things to do and see in D.C., and many of them are free. Here are some of the top experiences that the city has to offer:

Places to Visit

  • Tour the National Mall: This expanse of monuments and memorials lies at the heart of D.C., and it’s free.

    Bring good walking shoes and water if it’s hot out to visit the memorials, the U.S. Capital, and the Washington Monument.

    If you visit in March or April, you’ll catch the breathtaking site of thousands of blooming cherry trees throughout the mall. Many of the museums flanking the mall are free, including the National Gallery of Art, the National Air and Space Museum, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Museum of Natural History among many more.

    After picking up a hot dog or ice cream from one of the trucks or stands that line the walkways, you’ll have fit in a fantastic day of sightseeing.
  • Tour D.C. neighborhoods: It’s not just the city’s extensive national buildings and historical monuments that make D.C. a great place to live.

    The city has iconic neighborhoods that function as cultural hotspots for families, visitors, and young professionals alike.

    Spend a day out on the weekend at Union Market in the NoMo neighborhood, where you’ll find local shops, fresh seafood and produce, and eclectic coffee shops that are the perfect place to curl up with a book.

    Head to the Adams Morgan neighborhood for a rainbow of houses of all colors, gritty street style, and intimate places to eat and drink on 18th Street. The Shaw neighborhood sports Victorian-style homes, spice shops, and art-house movie theaters, perfect for a Friday-night outing.
  • Catch a game: While professional sports isn’t what always comes to mind when thinking of D.C., and nation’s capital does have local teams, including the Redskins in the NFL, NHL’s Washington Capitals, and MLB’s The Nationals (affectionately known as the Nats).

To Eat

Washington D.C. is such an anomaly of American cities (practically a state of its own, with a culture focused around government and military organization) that it’s hard to find an iconic cuisine or cultural dish that the city is known for.

On the other hand, D.C. brings such a variety of visitors, residents, and businesses that good food isn’t hard to find.

Classic Steakhouse: Where else can you imagine meetings between diplomats and government officials taking place?

Head to The Palm, which has hosted its fair share of politicians and celebrities, serves a classic menu with perfected lobster bisque, Italian dishes, and dry-aged steak.

DC Prime Steakhouse provides a dark, intimate interior for dinner dates (or important, top-secret meetings of national importance) with fresh seafood and carefully curated plates.

Mexican cuisine: D.C. does tacos well. From affordable classics to upscale experiences across the city, you’ll find exactly what you need in a Mexican restaurant.

Check out Mi Vida for queso fundidos and hand-made tortillas with a view of the wharf or catch a baseball game with your tacos and draft beer at The Mission.

Famed chef José Andrés serves a menu complete with ceviche, salted margaritas, and marinated chicken tacos at his highly successful (and usually packed) restaurant Oyamel Cocina Mexicana.

Ethiopian: Washington D.C. has a large Ethiopian population, and some of the best dishes in the city come from numerous award-winning Ethiopian restaurants across the city.

We recommend Zenebech, a family-owned spot that serves savory authentic dishes and roasted meats.

Another iconic spot is Chercher, which just opened a second location and pairs its meals with tej, a wine made with honey.

Outdoor Experiences in and around Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. might be one of the busiest, most important cities in the United States, but that doesn’t mean that residents can’t escape the urban grid and get out into the beautiful natural landscapes in nearby Maryland and Virginia.

Only ten minutes from downtown is Rock Creek Park, which offers 32 miles of hiking paths. 33 minutes northeast by car is Great Falls Park, with trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

Another good way to spend a sunny day is at the beach, which isn’t far: the Sandy Point State Park beach is only 38 miles from downtown.

Many D.C. residents vacation at Virginia Beach, an energetic beach town with waterfront condos three hours southeast of the city.

Living in Washington D.C.

Top employers in Washington D.C.

The biggest employer in Washington D.C. is the federal government, but the city is a center for the finance and healthcare industries as well as for aerospace and technology companies under contract with the military and government.

Some of the largest non-government employees in the area are MedStar Health, Marriott International, INOVA Health, Leidos Holdings, and Deloitte. Other large companies are the Danaher Corporation, Fannie Mae, Lockheed Martin, Capital One, and Hogan Lovells.

Working from home in Washington D.C.

D.C. has coworking spaces for creatives, startups, and entrepreneurs alike.

Creative Colony is a great spot just over the state border in Maryland that caters to designers, creative strategists, and digital media specialists.

AdvantEdge combines business networking opportunities with a rooftop event space for corporate parties and meet-and-greets. There are also several WeWork locations with flexible membership plans across the D.C. area.

Want to set up reliable internet for your home office? Top internet providers in the D.C. area include Xfinity, with speeds up to 1,200 Mbps and plans starting from $39.99/month, Verizon Fios, with speeds up to 940 Mbps and plans from $39.99/month, and Viasat, which has speeds up to 100 Mbps and satellite plans starting from $89.99/month.

Cost of Living

Due to high demand for housing and the professional working class culture, the cost of living in Washington D.C. is about 50% higher than most cities in the U.S.

Most of this comes from increased housing prices. The median home value for a two-bedroom house is $599,579 within city limits and $411,500 in the broader metro area.

D.C. is inhabited by more renters than owners, and average rent within the city for a two-bedroom is $2,451/month on average ($1,653/month in the metro area). Utilities and food are also more expensive than in other areas, although healthcare is below national averages.

Sales tax in D.C. is low at 6%, and property tax is low as well, calculated roughly as $0.85 for every $100 in assessed value.

Transportation & Commute

Washington D.C.’s Metro rail and Metrobus systems provide wide and efficient coverage of the city and provide access everywhere in the city.

Since traffic can get congested and parking is notoriously expensive and hard to find, most commuters use the Metro to get around the city. The MARC Train Service and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) provide commuter access into the city from nearby cities and suburbs as well.

There are also several regional bus routes that provide additional transport from within the city to surrounding areas.

Washington D.C. and surrounding cities are served by three international airports: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI).

Ronald Reagan Airport is the closest and is accessible by Metro trains, a 30-minute train ride or a 9-minute drive from downtown.

Dulles Airport is a little farther away in Virginia but has more international flights. Metro lines don’t extend to Dulles, but you can get there by bus or car in under an hour from D.C.

Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI) is a 45-minute drive northwest of D.C., and generally provides flights at slightly lower costs.

You can reach BWI by MARC/Amtrak trains as well.

Best places to live near Washington D.C.

Best neighborhoods for families with kids

  • Urbana, MD: One of the best suburbs in the Washington D.C. area is Urbana.

    Urbana is a quickly growing city with convenient amenities, top-rated schools, and an affordable median home price of $480,260. The only downside is the commute time: it’s a 55-minute drive southeast of downtown D.C.
  • Broadlands, VA: Another great suburb is Broadlands, which is 35 minutes west of D.C. Broadlands has a higher median home price of $746,758, and housing in the area is only getting more competitive as D.C. continues to attract more residents.

    Schools in Broadlands are highly ranked and the town boasts stellar parks and quaint, tree-lined streets.
  • Mantua, VA: For an established suburb with a top-rated school district, check out Mantua.

    This town has a rural-suburban feel and a tight-knit community. You’ll find year-round events for all ages and great shopping amenities. With a median home price of $862,312, Mantua is only a 28-minute drive west of D.C.

Best neighborhoods for young professionals:

  • Neighborhoods in Washington D.C.: For those who want quick access to the urban lifestyle, D.C. has great affordable neighborhoods with eclectic culture and charm.

    Check out Adams Morgan and Foggy Bottom for apartments and condos close to public transportation and trendy spots to grab food or a drink with friends. In D.C., the median home price is $599,579.
  • Arlington, VA: Another city growing in popularity is Arlington.

    Only 17 minutes southwest of D.C., Arlington has its own businesses and downtown.

    Arlington is known for being a healthy city, with creative gyms and miles of biking paths. The median home price in Arlington is $811,301.
  • Merrifield, VA: Want juice bars and trendy restaurants within walking distance of your home?

    Merrifield is a growing city with its own charm located west of Arlington.

    It’s a 25-minute drive to D.C. and has a fairly affordable median home price for the area: $576,702

Higher Education

D.C. not only has its own impressive list of universities, but is home to second campuses and programs from dozens of universities founded all over the state, including NYU, Brigham Young University, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, and Stanford.

Many universities native to D.C. have both international renown and unique internship opportunities with government and independent programs in the city.

Notable institutions include Georgetown University, American University, George Washington University, and public state school University of the District of Columbia (UDC).

Crime in Washington D.C.

D.C. has a troubled reputation when it comes to crime rates.

It scores relatively high in crime-heavy cities across the United States but has seen lowered rates and successful incentives to improve safety in recent years.

Neighborhoods to the east and far south of the city have higher crime rates, but the areas close to government buildings and the national mall are well secured and are safe places to walk and spend time during the day and night.

As always, keeping your home and car secure and being aware of your surroundings when out and about will always lower your chances of being a victim of crime.

Are you considering D.C. as your next home?

Whether you’re moving to work in a government-related role or within one of D.C.’s growing industries, you’ll find a diverse range of neighborhoods and suburbs that each offer their own lifestyle and amenities.

While it might be difficult to escape the business-class formality in parts of downtown, the fast-paced and fun-loving culture has something to offer for everyone.

Here at Nextburb, we’re committed to providing you with the facts you need to know about any area you’re considering as a future home.

Discover the best places to live in the United States to find out more about neighborhoods to live in, school ratings, crime data, and real estate options.

We’ll provide you with recommendations based on your lifestyle and budget preferences to help you discover where you want to go.

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