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Per WalletHub, Virginia is the best state for retirees. It outranks the other 49 states in affordability, access to healthcare, and quality of life. Although that doesn’t pertain to the widest margins of the population, it is good to know that Virginia is a place where you can settle down for good.
For everyone else, Virginia is still a contender for one of the best places to live based on the state’s excellent real estate availability, job opportunities, and high-performing schools — at both primary and university levels.
Beyond the day-to-day livability of Virginia, the state is also widely considered one of the prettiest. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to the state because of the plentiful green spaces, including over 500 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
You don’t have to live in a major city like Virginia Beach to get the full experience of this Southern coastal state. Whether you’re looking for a home base with abundant outdoor destinations, myriad Civil War history, or an impressive arts community, Virginia has it all.
- Best Places to Live in Virginia
- 1. Tysons
- 2. Arlington
- 3. Big Stone Gap
- 4. Charlottesville
- 5. Glen Allen
- 6. West Point
- 7. Chesapeake
- 8. Virginia Beach
- 9. Bon Air
- 10. Ferrum
- 11. Alexandria
- 12. Chincoteague
- 13. Middleburg
- 14. Staunton
- 15. Richmond
- What to Know About Living in Virginia
- What are the safest cities and towns in Virginia?
- What are the most affordable places to live in Virginia?
- What are the best small towns to live in Virginia?
Best Places to Live in Virginia
Tysons, also known as Tysons Corner, is in Fairfax County and is home to a wealthy community with a median home price of over $600,000. Compared to other Virginia cities, Tysons has a much higher cost of living. Even so, it’s a thriving city with low crime rates, terrific roads, and lots to do — especially if you like to shop.
There are two major malls in Tysons, Tysons Galleria, and Tysons Corner Center, each with its own set of shops. Corner Center is a massive downtown mall with over 300 shops. It’s so big it’s one of the biggest malls in the country.
Besides shopping, from Tysons you have access to shows at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, and Glen Echo Park Aquarium. While an easy commute to some major companies in McLean, such as Capital One, Gannett, and Hilton Worldwide, makes this city a haven for young professionals, it’s equally appealing to young families.
See Related: Virginia Beach vs Ocean City
Arlington is a city in Northern Virginia along the banks of the Potomac River and just south of the nation’s capital. Interstates 66 and 395, Route 7 (the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge), and the George Washington Bridge are all major roads in Arlington that signify the area’s historical importance.
It’s known primarily for its museums, monuments, and Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington County is littered with historically significant sites in addition to the national cemetery, with over 80 markers identifying these historic sites.
Four forts, nine historic houses, and federal government buildings like The Pentagon exist. Not to mention the nearly two dozen historic town district designations. Arlington is also only about 20 minutes from the historic Mount Vernon Trail.
Given its proximity to Washington, D.C., it’s no surprise that both home and rent prices are high. Even so, this is one of the best cities to call home because of its economic growth, expansive park system, and general safety. It has frequently been named one of the best places to live in Virginia and the country.
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3. Big Stone Gap
Big Stone Gap is one of the small towns in Virginia that was once known as a coal mining town. Even renowned author John Grisham has written several books about this historic town. As part of Appalachia, you don’t have to look far for miles of walking trails and innumerable outdoor activities.
Despite its petite size, in Big Stone Gap, you’ll still find all the necessities for your personal life, including lots of local boutiques, grocery stores, outdoor equipment stores, and even dog grooming. This town is known for its affordable cost of living and attainable median home value.
Founded in the mid-nineteenth century as Three Forks, because it lies where the Powell River branches off, this Southwestern Virginian town isn’t always considered one of the best places to live in Virginia. Even so, you can’t beat the views or the home values of this quaint mountain town.
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Three Presidents (Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe) once called Charlottesville home. While this city is still on the small side, it’s the ideal mix of the fast-paced life of a city with the quaint charm of a cozy town.
This little college town has a long and illustrious history. Plus the Charlottesville area has a wealth of centuries-old houses and buildings. Not to mention the area boasts access to some vital American history.
Just outside Charlottesville is Virginia’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site: Monticello. Monticello was the home of Thomas Jefferson from 1770 until he died in 1826. The plantation is considered architecturally renowned, but the history of the place far outweighs its aesthetics.
A day trip from here can take you to the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains, home to many hiking trails. The Shenandoah National Park is located nearby, with spectacular views and a lovely walking route.
Charlottesville has a low crime rate, an excellent public school system, and plenty of outdoor activities. It does have a somewhat average median home value range, though the real estate in Charlottesville is highly competitive.
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5. Glen Allen
A suburb of Richmond, the state capital, Glen Allen, is considered one of Virginia’s best places to live. It’s a great location to call home if you’re searching for a place in Virginia that is affordable and just a short drive from the sprawling Richmond.
It’s like a small city but rapidly becoming more populated and prosperous, with over 400 businesses. Families will love the proximity to the Kings Dominion theme park or the golfing possibilities of Hanover Sports Park. Meanwhile, the parents will adore the nearby Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Glen Allen was twice named by Money Magazine as one of the Top 100 Places to Live, demonstrating the affordability of the town’s median home value. Although it has continued to grow since its founding in 1836, Glen Allen remains a well-connected community.
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6. West Point
Military families might recognize the name West Point. However, the military academy is located in a different West Point — the one in New York. This West Point is a quaint town along the Mattaponi River near Tidewater, Virginia.
It’s just a short drive from Richmond, and it’s the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The town has several historical sites and museums like the Pamunkey Indian Museum and Chelsea Plantation.
There are also plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities and aquatic-inspired attractions because of the town’s river access. And if you’re a fan of the arts, you’ll be happy to know that West Point is home to the Virginia Shakespeare Festival and the annual Crab Carnival that celebrates West Point culture and seafood.
See Related: Things to Do in Norfolk, Virginia
If you’re looking for a place to live with all the advantages of a coastal lifestyle without actually living on a beach-clad coast, Chesapeake is your best bet. Known for having more miles of deepwater canals than any other city in the United States, Chesapeake is a stunning city.
However, that view comes with a price making it among the top 5% of priciest cities in the world, according to LivingCost.org. That said, it’s still far from being the most expensive city in the country.
Being so close to the water, it makes sense that Chesapeake has terrific seafood served by award-winning restaurants. The schools are well-respected, and many nature-focused activities are throughout the city.
Some spots you’ll love here include Chesapeake Arboretum, Oak Grove Lake Park, and the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail. Unlike its name, Dismal Swamp is an incredible swath of protected wetland.
See Related: Best Beaches in Virginia to Visit
8. Virginia Beach
Virginia Beach is a seaside city located on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Besides being home to where the colonists first landed in the Americas in 1607, Virginia Beach houses an exciting music scene, the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, and (obviously) a lot of beach access.
If you want to live along the ocean, Virginia Beach is one of the most affordable spots to relocate to. Partly because the state doesn’t have an income tax, Virginia Beach is by far one of the cheaper oceanside places to purchase real estate or rent. Families with kiddos will love the easy access to the previously mentioned Virginia Aquarium, Mount Trashmore Park, and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
See Related: Where to Stay in Virginia Beach
9. Bon Air
With a name that translates to “good air,” Bon Air is now a suburb of nearby Richmond, though it began as a resort town. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the area was considered a summer haven for wealthy city dwellers.
The central Virginia town isn’t just a resort space, though many gorgeous Victorian homes remain. You should consider this town, particularly if you’re a fan of older homes.
Although there isn’t much to do in Bon Air, the short drive to Richmond offers residents easy access to plenty. But, when you live in this town, you have well-planned neighborhood layouts, gorgeous homes, a reasonable cost of living and a historic district to wander time and time again.
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One of the smallest towns in this list, Ferrum is largely considered one of Virginia’s most affordable places to live. The population of this small town is small, but it’s known for Ferrum College and the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival.
Ferrum is located within the Blue Ridge Mountains. Living here offers one of the best cost-of-living options in the state.
You can easily get to many museums and attractions from Ferrum, too that will delight residents of all ages. Cool off at the Massanutten Indoor WaterPark, learn more about the ancient world at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, or get to know the area at the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum.
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Alexandria is only a few miles south of the city center of Washington D.C., and is located along the western bank of the Potomac River. With brick and cobbled streets, Alexandria is a historic city with just a fraction of the population of nearby D.C. It is by far a much cheaper option than the country’s capital with a lower sales tax.
The city has a thriving arts scene, with plenty of museums and theaters. Alexandria is home to the Old Town Alexandria, Carlyle House Historic Park, and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. Those spots, combined with the well-respected public schools and affordability, make this mini-city, besides a major city, an excellent place to lay down roots.
See Related: Tips for Traveling to Washington D.C. on a Budget
If you’re searching for an affordable, seaside small town to call home, Chincoteague on the Eastern Shore is the place to go. One of the oldest settlements in the United States, Chincoteague is an island town known best for its Chincoteague Pony Centre and its wild horses.
These horses are small so they’re referred to as ponies. Each year they have a pony swim to help transport the foals to the island. It is also the only resort island in Virginia.
Although it’s a resort island, Chincoteague has a smaller cost of living than the state and national averages. The island and town are near Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on Assateague Island. Once you make the town your home, you can visit the Museum of Chincoteague Island to learn more about the location’s history as well as its oyster industry.
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Middleburg, located in Loudoun County, was named Frommer’s best place to live in Virginia. Middleburg has a rich history and is home to some incredibly gorgeous homes.
It’s also known as America’s horse and hunt country capital. With less than 1,000 residents, Middleburg is officially the smallest town on our best Virginian places list. It isn’t the most expensive place to live in the state, though it is slightly less affordable than other places we’ve mentioned so far.
Despite its size, there is no shortage of things to do in Middleburg, Virginia. From high-end shopping and dining to horseback riding and golfing, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful town.
Both Robert Duvall and Willard Scott call Middleburg home though former famous residents have included President John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy, and Elizabeth Taylor. Middleburg is also home to one of the oldest continuously run inns in the United States, The Red Fox Inn and Tavern.
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Staunton was established in 1732 and was the birthplace of President Woodrow Wilson. This town is located in the Shenandoah Valley and is known for its scenic beauty, excellent schools, and lower-than-average living expenses. Staunton is also home to Mary Baldwin University, a top-rated liberal arts school that underpins many local jobs.
Though several towns in this list have arts scenes, they can’t compete with Staunton. This town is home to the American Shakespeare Center and the Heifetz International Music Institute.
The Shakespeare Center, home to Blackfriars Playhouse, hosts the annual Blackfriars Conference that brings together early modern theater scholars from all over. I presented a paper on Epicoene, a play by one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, Ben Jonson, at the conference in 2013.
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Richmond is Virginia’s capital city and is located about two hours north of Washington, D.C. Richmond offers eight Fortune 500 corporations, including Carmax Universal Corp., Brinks & Co., and Government Finance & Education, making it popular for young professionals. Millennials make up almost 50% of the city’s population.
Richmond was incorporated in the 1740s and is one of the oldest American cities. Named after Richmond in the United Kingdom, this Richmond has a thriving art and music scene with over 100 public murals. Richmonders can visit The Poe Museum to get more familiar with the father of modern horror, get scientific at the Science Museum of Virginia, or enjoy the Tudor-style home at Agecroft Hall and Gardens.
See Related: Things to Do in Baltimore, Maryland
What to Know About Living in Virginia
There are endless reasons why Virginia is a great place to call home, particularly for families and young adults, but here are some of the top things you should know:
- The cost of living in Virginia is relatively low, especially compared to other states along the East Coast.
- The median household income in Virginia is higher than the country’s average, so you can be assured that a great place to make a living.
- The schools in Virginia are some of the best in the country, so your children will receive a top-notch education.
- Because so many companies are headquartered in Virginia, job opportunities are vast and diverse, making it an excellent place for young professionals to establish a career foundation.
- The scenery throughout Virginia is simply amazing. From stunning mountain ranges to historic buildings, you’ll never get bored living there.
What are the safest cities and towns in Virginia?
For the most part, Virginian towns and cities are more safe than the national average. That said, some of the safer places to call home are Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, and Alexandria. As always, it’s important to use your best judgment whenever moving to a new place.
What are the most affordable places to live in Virginia?
On the whole, Virginia is more affordable than the national average. But the most affordable places you could move to in the state include Richmond, Virginia Beach, and Staunton. Each differs from the others while all offer a higher quality of living with a smaller price tag.
What are the best small towns to live in Virginia?
We’ve listed a handful of lovely small towns here, though some rise to the top above the rest. If we had to choose the three best small towns, it would have to be Staunton, Chincoteague, and Middleburg.
- About the Author
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.