The lighter side of real estate

These Are the 10 Best Places to Live in Virginia

Which Virginia city is best? Find out in Movoto's latest deep dive into the Old Dominion.

Natalie Grigson

Staff Writer

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If you’re a regular reader of the Movoto Real Estate blog, you know that we are all about taking subjective topics, and with some research, hard work, and a little number crunching, turning them into fact.

So far we have looked at the most exciting cities in America, some of the least hipster, and now, we are moving from state to state to figure out just which cities are the best in each. We’ve given you Oregon, Illinois, and Pennsylvania to name a few, and today we are tackling the mother of Top 10s with the Mother of States: Virginia.

With a nickname like that, we knew we were in for some really impressive places (cities, towns, and Census Designated Places); but we didn’t realize just how many. In the end, though, we had to narrow it down to a list of the very best.

So what is the best city in Virginia? According to our study, Centreville took honors, beating out some very tough competition. Here are the top 10 cities in Virginia, the majority of which are in Fairfax County:

1. Centreville
2. Tysons Corner
3. McLean
4. Annandale
5. Oakton
6. Alexandria
7. Chantilly
7. Reston
9. Rose Hill (Fairfax County)
10. Suffolk

Why is Centreville at the top of our list? And why in the world do we have two cities in the No. 7 slot? Read on for a breakdown of our methodology, as well as a deeper look into each of our 10 best cities in Virginia.

How We Did It

Virginia is well known as one of the most beautiful states in the country, it has a rich history, and classic Virginia charm! But in order to find the top 10, we needed something a little bit more concrete. To create our list we looked at seven criteria:

  • Amenities per person (distance to five-star hiking, number of Southern food restaurants)
  • Total amenities in each city (distance to five-star hiking, number of Southern food restaurants)
  • Cost of living (percent above or below state average)
  • Crime (percent above or below state average)
  • High school degree attainment rate (percent above or below state average)
  • Median household income (city’s average compared to state average)
  • Home value (percent above or below state average)
  • Diversity (percent of most populous ethnicity)

We started with a list of the 50 most populous cities, towns, and Census Designated Places in Virginia, then gave each city a rank from one to 50 in the individual criteria above based on the data, with one being the best possible score. As far as amenities go, we chose distance to great hiking, because we simply had to—Virginia has some of the best hiking in the country. We chose Southern food, because Virginia is the quintessence of Southern charm—and a big part of that happens to be boiled and roasted peanuts, Virginia ham, and Shoofly pie. From there, we decided to break this category up into both amenities per person and the total number of amenities per city, because while we recognize that it’s great to have a range of choices for each person, we didn’t want to dock cities points just because they have larger populations.

After we rated each city, we averaged the criteria together and gave each city an overall score. The lower this number was, the higher the city ranked.

For a complete look at how each of the 50 cities fared, scroll down to the end of this post.

Here are the 10 best cities in Virginia, complete with an explanation for how they placed on the list:

1. Centreville

The 10 Best Cities in Virginia

Source: Google Maps

Centreville may be just outside of the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C., but it stands just fine on its own. This town is made up of luxury townhomes, shopping, movie theaters, and some really beautiful houses. When you want to get away from it all, Centreville is just eight miles from some five-star hiking trails.

Centreville also ranked well when it came to safety, with a crime rate 58 percent lower than the state’s average, and their median household income—78 percent higher than the state’s average. That’s an income of over $100,000.

2. Tysons Corner

The 10 Best Cities in Virginia

Source: Flickr user wfyurakso

Tysons Corner is a great community to have in your corner, for many reasons. It is home to Tysons Corner Center, the largest shopping mall in the state, and also to Tysons Galleria and Fairfax Square. Tysons Corner is also Fairfax County’s Central Business District—a huge player in the technology field.

But as our study revealed, there is more to Tysons Corner than shopping and business. Tysons Corner scored well when it came to academia, with a high school attainment rate 22 percent higher than the state average. Its good grade didn’t stop there, though; Tysons Corner also earned high marks for its home values, with an average 125 percent higher than the rest of the state.

3. McLean

The 10 Best Cities in Virginia

Source: Flickr user vj_fliks

Also in Fairfax County, McLean cleaned up when it came to scoring well in many of our criteria. Just like Centreville, McLean is safe—so safe, in fact, that the crime rate here is 58 percent lower than the state’s average. This makes sense when you consider the fact that the median household income in McLean is 192 percent higher than the state average, and its home values are 289 percent higher. Excellent security is a luxury that its residents can afford.

McLean also scored well for its proximity to Scott’s Run Nature Preserve and other hiking spots, as well as the number of amenities in the area overall. It lost a few points when it came to “amenities per person,” because of their population of just under 50,000—but hey, No. 3 on our list is certainly nothing to scoff at.

4. Annandale

The 10 Best Cities in Virginia

Source: Flickr user teakwood

Yet again, Fairfax County brings it home with Annandale, scoring the No. 4 spot on our list. Annandale came in as the most diverse city in our top 10, with a just 50.4 percent of the population being one ethnicity (as opposed to McLean, for example, which is 79.3 percent Caucasian.) It also scored really well in its median home value—95 percent higher than the state average.

Outside of the numbers though, Annandale is the perfect place to, literally, get outside. Parks like the Mason District Park, the Annandale Community Park, Kendale Woods Park, and over 20 more, are scattered throughout the area.

5. Oakton

The 10 Best Cities in Virginia

Source: Wikipedia user sailko

Coming in at No. 5 on our list is Oakton, the town so named for its hundreds of tall, beautiful oak trees. With a high median household income of over $120,000 (115 percent higher than the state average) and an even higher median housing value of about $600,000 (158 percent higher), Oakton is clearly doing something right. Aside from making bank and absolutely rocking the real estate market, Oakton gets high marks when it comes to school, with a high school disploma attainment rate 20 percent higher than the state average.

6. Alexandria

The 10 Best Cities in Virginia

Source: Alexandria

Just outside of Washington D.C., Alexandria serves as home base for many who work in the nation’s capital—particularly those in government and the U.S. military. And what a home base to return to; Alexandria’s Old Town is one of the state’s gems, dotted with old historic buildings, homes, art galleries, and shops.

Alexandria always has something going on—which is no doubt why the community scored so well, both in amenities per person, and number of amenities in the city overall. It’s just over six miles away from one of the best hiking trails in Virginia, Mount Vernon Trail, and even have some southern restaurants to choose from, like Southside 815. A perfect way to end a long day of hiking.

7. Chantilly

The 10 Best Cities in Virginia

Source: Wikipedia user EikwaR

Chantilly definitely ranks No. 1 for the “daintiest” name on our list, but since that doesn’t win it any real points, let’s take a look at how it scored on our criteria. Chantilly came in strong with a high school graduation rate 22 percent higher than the state’s average, and a crime rate 58 percent below. It’s a bit of a drive from any five-star ranked hiking trails, but with a median household income 99 percent higher than the state average, folks in Chantilly can probably afford the gas money—or a gym membership.

7. Reston

The 10 Best Cities in Virginia

Source: Wikipedia user Kubigula

Tied with Chantilly for the No. 7 spot on our list is Reston. It came in strong with an excellent high school graduation rate—20 percent higher than the state average—and a median household income of almost $100,000—73 percent higher than the rest of Virginia.

Reston residents can also rest easy at night knowing that with their numerous bike paths, foot pathways, bridges, and tunnels, pedestrians are much safer here than in many nearby towns. Not only that, but Reston is simply filled with parks, wooded areas, wildflower meadows, two golf courses, public pools, bridle paths, and tennis courts.

9. Rose Hill (Fairfax County)

The 10 Best Cities in Virginia

Source: Wikipedia user Ixnayonthetimmay

Rose Hill may be one of the smaller towns on our list, with a population of just under 20,000, but it is by no means lacking—well, except maybe in crime. Rose Hill was ranked No. 1 on our top 10 in terms of safety, with a crime rate 63 percent lower than the state average.

This town also scored well when it came to median housing values—102 percent higher than the state average, making it one hot spot for real estate. Way to be awesome, Rose Hill.

10. Suffolk

The 10 Best Cities in Virginia

Source: Wikipedia user Kubigula

Last, but certainly not least, is Suffolk. Suffolk ranked highly mostly due to its much lower cost of living than the rest of our top 10—just 1 percent higher than the state average. Compare that to, say, Arlington, with a cost of living 79 percent higher than the state average, and you’ll see why one small percent is actually quite good.

Suffolk also scored points when it came to diversity and amenities. Just 52.3 percent of the overall population are of one ethnicity; and when it comes to hiking and the number of Southern food restaurants, both per person and in the town in general, you really can’t beat Suffolk (and you really can’t beat Vintage Tavern).

The Mother of Top-10 Lists

Well, Virginia, the Mother of States, the Mother of Presidents—there you have it, a top 10 list to finally answer the question, “which of our wonderful cities is the best?” You do have some truly wonderful cities; center among them being Centreville—the best city in Virginia.

(click to enlarge)
Best Cities in Virginia Ranking

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posted on: December 5, 2013
[views], 7 comments


  1. Rachel

    Centreville is a horrid place. There are some good housing and areas within Centreville and I’m shocked every time it comes up on some ‘list’. The high schools there are horrid (Westfield and Centreville HS). I chose to move to Loudoun to avoid the Centreville area. Having grown up in Fairfax County – McLean, Oakton and Alexandria (only Old Town Alexandria and NOT regular Alexandria) should be on this list.

    In this area only the places with houses in the 500k plus are decent areas unless you move out to Purcellville or Hamilton or even Middleburg/Aldie area.

    Reston has one of the worst high schools (South Lakes) and the only reason we refused to move there when looking at houses is the high school. It had a bad rep 20 years ago and it still has a bad rep now. There are high crime areas in Centreville, Alexandria and Reston for sure. Chantilly isn’t too bad, but the traffic is the complete pits.

    If I had the money, I would hands down move to Oakton or McLean.

  2. Angry Guy

    Your list is stupid. I think your website proves what happens when you attempt to use statistical data without context to draw conclusions. For example Annandale, VA you posted as diverse, while it it ethnically diverse it is also very segregated. A highway divides the city into two parts where one side has a huge mix of immigrants from all over, and the other side predominately white.

    You also attempt to make a conclusion people who live in Annandale are outdoors people, which is BS again. Annandale is geographically in the center of most major arteries in Northern Virginia which makes it accessible to many of the parks, but if I could pick people who are more prone to spend free time in the outdoors I’d say Arlington, Alexandria, Vienna, or parts of Fairfax city.

    I don’t know anyone who chooses to live in Tyson’s because it’s such a great place, most live in there because they want to avoid the horrible traffic which is a daily part of life. You’ve also ranked cities that are truly the armpits of Northern Virginia way above cities which are highly coveted areas. Seriously Dale City above Arlington and Leesburg?

    Your methodology is worthless.

  3. Sarah

    This list is a joke right? Come on, DALE CITY ranking higher than Arlington??? You all are delusional.

  4. Mort

    Obviously whoever wrote this has never been to VA much less lived here. Centreville, Herndon??!! Laughable.

  5. SuZQ!

    Stafford and Fredericksburg are far better academically, living, affordability, economically, low crime, dining, shopping, services. The down side is dealing with the traffic north bound. Shame on you for sleeping on the quiet cities/counties of NOVA

  6. Trae

    Chesapeak? Traffic hell and a big draw bridge that stops all traffic on both sides of the city during the day, The loudest Navel Air station in history just miles away and every tourist in the nation trying to get to VA beach and Kitty Hawk NC. Next your going to tell us Norfolk is the best city ever. Yeh, nice try but next time ask someone from the Virginia, Hampton roads area.

  7. Lois

    I have lived all over Northern Virginia and with the traffic mess. how on earth could this top 10 rank at the top. This is terrible.


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