Insider’s Guide to Living in Northern Virginia: Live Like a Local
Nestled just outside of Washington D.C., Northern Virginia is a vibrant and bustling area filled with endless possibilities for both work and play.
From its rich history and diverse culture to its picturesque landscapes in the west and vibrant urban centers in the center and east, Northern Virginia has something for everyone.
Living in Northern Virginia is a blend of so many lifestyles and opportunities. You could work in the thriving local tech sector, travel to wine country for a long business lunch, and then head into Washington, D.C., for a show at the world-renowned Kennedy Center.
This blend of rural and urban, work and play, is what makes living in Northern Virginia so desirable. And it’s even better when you live in a new DRB home!
DRB Homes has been building excellence up and down the East Coast for over 30 years. Ready to bring our award-winning team, design, and building services to create your new forever home, we pride ourselves on personalizing not just your new home, but your entire new home journey.
Let’s take a closer look at Northern Virginia, and explore some of the facets that make this location such a gem. Then you’ll truly understand why living in Northern Virginia is so incredible!
Savor the Local Flavors and Cuisine of Northern Virginia
Northern Virginia’s food scene benefits by its unparalleled location. From rolling hills where historic wineries flourish to gastronomic epicenters celebrating global cuisine, everything is waiting to be tasted.
The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm
Our first course is at the pastoral wonderland of The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm in Lovettsville. A stone’s throw from the Potomac River, this reservation-only restaurant creates extraordinary, multi-course meals specifically for the reservations they have. Nothing extra is cooked, because everything is fresh, local, and tailor-made for each day’s guests. Dining at The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm isn’t just a meal, it’s also an experience in sustainable, farm-to-table culinary perfection.
Continuing the farm-to-table philosophy, Blend 111 creates dishes that are a blend of rustic and contemporary right in the heart of Vienna. Here, a relaxed environment almost belies the complexity and sophistication of the artful creations of award-winning, top-tier chefs. And it all comes together in a dining experience you’ll wish lasted forever. All the flavors that make Northern Virginia cuisine so delightful have a home at Blend 111.
The Salt Line
Perfectly at home in Ballston, The Salt Line blurs the lines between classic New England dishes and welcoming Chesapeake Bay mainstays. Beautiful seafood meals are waiting for you, including oysters prepared in a wide variety of ways. The Salt Line is a restaurant with a great atmosphere and amazing food that you want to bring your friends to again and again.
Northern Virginia—and Virginia in general—are known for quite a few specialties that you should make sure to seek out, order, and eat! Here are three of our favorites:
Virginia is known as the Oyster Capital of the East Coast, and with good reason. The state has 8 distinctive regions of oyster harvesters and the oysters of each location have a different flavor. If you love oysters, you owe it to yourself to travel on The Virginia Oyster Trail and discover each flavor and the beautiful area that produces them.
Without peanuts, you wouldn’t have PB&J sandwiches, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, or (for those old enough to remember) the perfect pairing with Crackerjacks at the ball park. Virginia peanuts are the largest peanuts grown in the US and at one point were responsible for 70% of the peanut factories across the country. Humans have been enjoying peanuts for about 7,600 years, but we think Virginia peanuts are the best!
When European settlers first arrived, the Native Americans taught them how to smoke meats. That’s when Virginia country ham started, and it’s just gotten more and more delicious as time’s marched on. And where there’s smoked ham, there’s also BBQ! Virginia’s BBQ varies by where you get it, just like our oysters. Northern Virginia BBQ is a little bit sweeter than some other areas, which is just as delicious as it sounds.
Farmers Markets & Festivals
With all the farmland in western Northern Virginia, it’s no wonder there are many, many farmers markets in almost every city and town. From Arlington to Alexandria, from Fairfax to Loudoun, when you want fresh and local produce, bread, and other artisanal ingredients, head to a farmer’s market. With so many out there, we’re lucky that Northern Virginia Magazine put together a nice list divided by city!
But there’s more than just farmers markets to enjoy. Living in Northern Virginia means you can expect a whole host of festivals celebrating music, BBQ, wine, beer, food, and all of the above! Here are two of the ones you can’t miss:
Every year, Leesburg’s best restaurants, food trucks, wineries, breweries, and farmers markets all come together for Taste Leesburg. Joined by merchandise vendors and live music, this sums up everything delicious about Leesburg. Buy food as you stroll and purchase a bracelet to sample some of the local beverages.
Around the World Cultural Food Festival
The Around the World Cultural Food Festival puts Northern Virginia’s amazing multi-cultural community in perspective. Setting up in Oronoco Bay Park in Arlington, this festival lets you sample and learn about all the cultures that make up our wonderfully diverse area. Plus, artisans and crafters are on hand to showcase the many ethnicities that are woven together into the bigger Northern Virginia community.
Explore the Recreation and Leisure Experiences in Northern Virginia
When it comes to recreation and leisure activities in Northern Virginia, the options are seemingly endless. Whether you're a sports enthusiast, theater buff, or simply looking to soak in the beauty of the great outdoors, Northern Virginia has it all.
The Great Outdoors
Wrapped on multiple sides by the Potomac River, full of fertile rolling hills, and painted with many parks, Northern Virginia is a haven for outdoor lovers. And because of its location, Northern Virginia is also home to a lot of the country’s history. From battlefields to buildings, many of the area’s parks and protected locations also have something historical to explore. Here’s a list of all the many local parks to experience provided by NOVA Parks.
Just as history flows in every corner of Northern Virginia, so does friendly competition. While most of our professional sports teams are shared by the whole National Capital Region (Baltimore Orioles and Ravens, and Washington Wizards, Capitals, Spirit, Mystics, and Commanders), we do have a few tournament-capable sports venue. Found at George Mason University and the Northern Virginia Community College, these complexes mean that high-caliber live sports are always within reach.
Arts & Culture
The arts are woven into the fabric of Northern Virginia, creating its lush and enthusiastic culture. With Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, George Mason University Center for the Arts, The Birchmere, and many more venues, there will always be something artistic to experience. Listen to Beethoven performed by the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra one day and take your kids to The Little Theatre of Alexandria the next. And if you to celebrate the fruits of imagination, head to the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center and see a space shuttle!
Northern Virginia Communities
Northern Virginia is a wonderful combination of many different communities and neighborhoods, each adding something unique to the overall region’s flavor. We’ll just focus on a few here.
Arlington & Alexandria
For lovers of a more urban atmosphere, there’s Arlington and Alexandria, whose proximity to Washington, D.C., makes them happening hotspots. These are also locations with strong ties to the past and bold innovations towards the future. Classic and contemporary restaurants—some on the water—join boutique shopping experiences to create destination cities.
Fairfax is an amazing location that straddles the suburban and urban line. It’s a bit farther from D.C., but close enough to make commuting still easy. With glitzy shops of Tysons and live music from Wolf Trap, there’s always something exciting to do in Fairfax. And when you need to travel, Dulles International Airport is right down the road—sharing space in Fairfax County and Loudoun County.
Fairfax County’s northwest neighbor, Loudoun County still offers easy commutes into the city, while retaining a much more relaxed atmosphere. This is where suburban really starts to blend into rural, where it doesn’t take long to drive to the countryside and enjoy breaths of fresh air. Loudoun County treats you to special homes and communities, too, like the luxury condos at Kincora in Dulles and single family homes at Hartland in Aldie.
The City of Fredericksburg is further south than the previous areas, but that doesn’t make it any less dynamic and exciting. In Fredericksburg, you’ll find breweries, wineries, history, and outdoor adventures galore. In historic Downtown, the exclusive townhome community of Highlander Park is right in the middle of it all. That’s a great way to think of Fredericksburg too: right in the middle of everything that makes living in Northern Virginia so amazing.
Northern Virginia Employment
The job market in Northern Virginia is strong and continues to prosper. At the time of writing, the latest (April 2023) Bureau of Labor Statistics show Northern Virginia has an unemployment rate well below the national average (2.2 compared to 3.5). And with many future-looking industries and leading-edge employers, there is an amazing job here for anyone!
Major Industries and Employers
Northern Virginia is known for its tech industries, with jobs in cybersecurity, aerospace, and other sciences driving job growth. Leidos, Northrop Grumman, and SAIC are just a few of the impressive employers here.
Healthcare and health sciences are also a major industry here. Inova, UVA Health, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute are three big names in this sector where residents can find employment.
Military and government jobs are also plentiful here with Marine Corps Base Quantico, the Pentagon, Fort Belvoir, Fort Myer, and the National Maritime Center being the tip of the employment iceberg. Our proximity to D.C. means government and government contractor positions are a big source of employment.
Education in Northern Virginia
Education is paramount in Northern Virginia and, once again, the proximity to D.C. means this area benefits. Public and private schools abound, with many being recognized as tops in the state and nation. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, for example, was rated by U.S. News & World Report as: #1 high school in Fairfax County, the DC-Metro Area, Virginia, and the nation!
Northern Virginia Colleges & Universities
With over 16 colleges and universities ready to take education to new heights, Northern Virginia prepares the next generation to excel. Here are four of the great institutions here:
George Mason University
One of the most well-known universities in the area, George Mason offers not only outstanding academic programs, but also exceptional artistic ones. As already mentioned above, their theater and sports complexes provide students professional-level opportunities while also hosting many visiting programs and performances.
Though not their main campus, Virginia Tech has 7 locations in Northern Virginia and 1 more in D.C. The newest of these is the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus in Alexandria. Opening in 2024, this extension of Virginia Tech will help students launch into cutting-edge research and leading-edge science and technology. And all about two miles from Amazon’s newest headquarters location!
Shenandoah University is in the southmost region of Northern Virginia. With almost 150 years of uplifting and educating students, this private institution “blends professional career experiences with liberal education.” Shenandoah University offers studies in business, the humanities, and natural, social, and health sciences. Plus, their music program is nationally recognized as one of the best in the country.
Northern Virginia Community College
NOVA (as it’s known to students and locals) is one of the largest community colleges in the nation and continues the reputation for quality education at an affordable price it’s been known for since 1965. With their commitment to excellence, NOVA offers programs in a wide range of studies, including health sciences, computer science and information technology, and education and social sciences.
Continued Educational Opportunities
The best students never stop learning, and that’s why Northern Virginia has many types of continuing education opportunities. Here are two:
NOVA Workforce is the continuing education program from Northern Virginia Community College. With focuses on IT, cybersecurity, business management, healthcare, and more, NOVA Workforce is ready to help you take the next step in your training and career.
UVA School of Continuing and Professional Studies
The University of Virginia (UVA) has flexible and online programs devoted to continuing education. From undergrad and graduate certificates in programs such as cloud computing or human resources management to undergrad and graduate degrees in health management or public safety, UVA SCPS has just the program to help you get ahead.
Living in Northern Virginia: Final Thoughts
Northern Virginia continues to grow and gain popularity as an excellent place to live. The area boasts a beautiful landscape and is home to many professionals and cutting-edge business opportunities
Overall, living in Northern Virginia could be the perfect opportunity to gain prominence in your personal and professional life. When you are ready to come home to Northern Virginia, then it's the perfect time to find your forever home by DRB Homes.
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