You’ve got to give an A to Arlington and Alexandria! Both are well-known for being family-friendly cities with great housing opportunities in the Washington DC area. But you can only choose to live in Alexandria or Arlington.
Don’t rush your decision. Some people may benefit from living in Arlington, and other people may benefit from living in Alexandria. To make the best comparison possible, you should start with the pros and cons of living in Arlington VA and Alexandria, then you should juxtapose their strengths and weaknesses. Here is your essential guide on how to choose between Arlington and Alexandria.
Table of Contents
Pros and Cons of Living in Arlington vs. Alexandria
Before you contrast Arlington with Alexandria, you should break each city down. Each place has its own positives and negatives, and you may be able to disqualify one city based on its liabilities right away.
Living in Arlington Pros
Arlington is a mere five miles from downtown Washington DC. You can drive between the two cities in less than 20 minutes using multiple routes, reducing your chances of running into traffic. Arlington Transit provides bus routes throughout Arlington and Arlington County, including stops that connect to WMATA stops.
The Trust for Public Land ranked Arlington’s park system as being the third-best in the country in 2022. Almost all residents live within walking distance of a park, and many of Arlington’s parks are famous. The Bon Air Park Rose Garden is an English-style rose garden home to more than 130 varieties of roses. If your kids want to go on playgrounds, they can play at the Long Bridge Park, which also has playing fields and walking trails along the Potomac.
Arlington County Public Schools is one of the best public school systems in the state. Three-quarters of its teachers have at least three years of experience. US News and World Report rank Yorktown High School and Washington-Liberty High School in the top 25 high schools in Virginia. At least 95% of students at both schools graduate, and more than 50% of students at each school pass at least one AP exam.
Living in Arlington Cons
Arlington has a cost of living index of 146. This means that items in the city cost 46% more than the national average. Arlington’s housing index is 232.1, so homes in the city cost nearly two and a half times more than America’s average. According to the Economic Policy Institute, it costs a family of four $9,885 a month ($118,614 a year) to live in Arlington County.
According to SmartAsset, the average commute in Arlington takes more than 30 minutes. 7.3% of commuters have a commute that is at least one hour long, despite Arlington being only 26 square miles. Though the city government is trying to reduce the terrible congestion, commute times went up by 2.4% between 2015 and 2020.
The housing market in Arlington is pricey. According to Redfin, the median sale price of a home in Arlington is $645,000. The average sales price per square foot is $422.
Living in Alexandria Pros
Alexandria is one of the most walkable places in the United States. The city is only 15.4 square miles in area, and Old Town Alexandria contains many of the city’s historic sites and attractions. The streets are well-paved and well-lit, and you can walk them at night.
Alexandria has a vibrant and diverse restaurant scene. You can enjoy great eateries for couples and adults like Le Refuge, the oldest French restaurant in Old Town. You can find German, Vietnamese, Peruvian, and other cuisines throughout town.
The city is 8 miles away from Washington DC. Alexandria is also close to several other major attractions in Northern Virginia, including Mount Vernon, which is just 8 miles away.
Living in Alexandria Cons
You may have difficulty finding a home in Alexandria. According to Redfin, the median sales price of a home is $568,000, and the average sale price per square foot is $352. The city is located in the Potomac River floodplain. Any heavy rain can cause a sewer backup that leads to flooding in your basement. Severe storms can lead to even worse flooding, especially if you have a riverfront property. Even if your home does not get flooded, the streets may be filled with water, which can make it hard to move around the city.
Old Town’s popularity means it can get very crowded, especially on weekends and holidays. You may find it hard to park on the street or drive through Old Town to get somewhere. The tourist season peaks in the summer, but tourist numbers remain high throughout the year.
Arlington or Alexandria: Comparisons Between the Two
Now that you know about the pros and cons of living in Arlington and Alexandria, you can make proper comparisons between the two. Here are some important points of comparison in the Alexandria vs. Arlington VA debate.
Arlington’s population is diverse. More than half of students at Washington-Liberty identify as being a member of at least one racial minority group. 15.4% of Arlington residents identify as being Hispanic, while 10.3% identify as Asian, and 9% identify as Black. 22.2% identify as being foreign-born, almost nine percentage points higher than the national average.
Alexandria’s population is also diverse. 16.4% of residents identify as Hispanic. 21.3% identify as Black or African American, while 6.7% identify as Asian. 26.1% identify as being foreign born, though this rate has been decreasing in recent years.
If you value living in a diverse community, you should prioritize Alexandria over Arlington.
Cost of Living in Alexandria vs. Arlington
Both Alexandria and Arlington are expensive to live in, especially if you are buying a house instead of renting. According to the Economic Policy Institute, it costs $9,055 a month ($108,654 a year) for a family of four to live in Alexandria. Though Alexandria is cheaper than Arlington, it’s only cheaper by $830 a month.
Alexandria has a slightly lower cost of living index at 139.5. Its housing index is almost 20 points lower than Arlington’s housing index. However, Alexandria has a higher grocery index (112.3 vs. 110.4 for Arlington) and a higher healthcare index (102.6 vs. 94.6 for Arlington).
If you have significant healthcare expenditures, you may want to live in Arlington instead. Otherwise, you may prefer to live in Alexandria, especially if you plan on renting a house or apartment.
Crime is one of the clearest points in the Arlington VA vs. Alexandria VA debate. Arlington is a safer place to live than Alexandria, though safe neighborhoods exist in both places. Arlington experiences crime rates that are 46% lower than the state average, while Alexandria’s crime rates are 13% higher than the average. Alexandria experiences 1,878 offenses per 100,000 people compared to Arlington’s 899 offenses per 100,000 residents.
Its violent crime rate is 207 offenses per 100,000, while Arlington has a rate of 113. Its property crime rate is 1,671 crimes per 100,000 residents compared to Arlington’s rate of 786 offenses per 100,000 residents.
Things to Do
Both Arlington and Alexandria have exciting things to do. Arlington’s most famous attraction is Arlington National Cemetery, which in and of itself contains numerous historic sites, like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Arlington is also home to the Pentagon and numerous public parks, as mentioned previously.
Alexandria’s attractions are smaller in scale and less famous, though many people enjoy them. You can visit various museums and stores in Old Town, including Gadsby’s Tavern Museum.
Whether you will prefer Alexandria VA vs. Arlington VA depends on your interests. Outdoor enthusiasts should prioritize Arlington due to its phenomenal park system. People who like politics and American history should prioritize Arlington as well. If you prefer to go to small attractions or shops, you may want to consider Alexandria.
Alexandria and Arlington have nearly identical climates. Arlington is slightly colder; its average low in January is 29 degrees, while Alexandria’s average January low is 30. Arlington also receives slightly more snow – 15 inches, compared to Alexandria’s 14 inches. However, Alexandria’s extremely high flood risk means that anyone who values weather and climate should move to Arlington. Some Alexandria residents advise against moving to Alexandria at all due to the flooding.
Alexandria is better for traffic congestion than Arlington, which has some of the worst traffic in any American city. Some residents complain about the traffic, but their complaints are not nearly as common as Arlington residents.
Jobs and the Economy
There are a few figures you should understand in the Alexandria vs. Arlington economic debate. Arlington’s median household income was $122,604 in 2020, while Alexandria’s median was $102,227.
148,000 people were employed in Arlington compared to 96,700 in Alexandria. Jobs grew by .8% between 2019 and 2020 in Arlington, but jobs shrank by 0.2% during the same time period in Alexandria. The industries and distribution of jobs across sectors are very similar in both cities; Alexandria has slightly larger health care, transportation, and construction sectors and a smaller professional services sector than Arlington.
Arlington workers are paid more than Alexandria workers. The average base salary in Arlington is $85,000 a year, with an hourly wage of $24.86. The average salary in Alexandria is $81,000 a year, with an hourly wage of $20.62. In both cities, wages trended upward by 1.5% in the fourth quarter of 2022.
If you’re actively looking for work, you should prioritize Arlington because there are more job assets there and higher salaries. If you work in health care or transportation, you may want to live in Alexandria due to those industries being more prominent there.
Arlington to Alexandria Distance
How far is it from Arlington to Alexandria? The distance from Arlington to Alexandria is 9 miles. Depending on traffic congestion, you can drive between the cities in less than 20 minutes using the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
Alexandria vs. Arlington: Where Are You Moving?
Both Alexandria and Arlington have a lot to offer. They are both bustling communities with delicious restaurants, family-friendly things to do, and great job opportunities. Yet there are living in Arlington VA pros and cons and living in Alexandria VA pros and cons.
You should decide where to live based on a few factors. Alexandria is a greater option if you’re looking for affordable housing, less traffic, and walkable streets. Arlington is superior if you’re looking for a high-paying job, public safety, and major attractions.
Whether you’re moving to Alexandria or Arlington, you need great Washington DC movers. Suburban Solutions is a top-rated Washington DC area moving company. Get your free quote today by giving our friendly team a call at 301-928-8669.