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:
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
Who is Movoto Real Estate, you might ask? Movoto is a national online real estate brokerage. Our blog has been recognized for its unique approach to city-based research by major news organizations around the world such as Forbes, CBS News, and The New York Times.