One way to shape your search is to understand that choosing a community is rooted in personality as well as convenience. If you’re a single professional with conservative politics, you might enjoy the historical flair of Old Town. The neighborhood embraces a preppy aesthetic while offering sophisticated nightlife options such as the PX Lounge, a modern speakeasy; think of it as a logical step for someone graduating from the Georgetown scene in DC.
Conversely, a single professional whose politics skew liberal should consider Falls Church. Give your business to independent enterprises that include One More Page Books, which stages literary events and doubles as a wine shop, The CD Cellar (which also sells vinyl), The State Theater concert venue (go hear The Legwarmers for ‘80s nostalgia), and the Mad Fox Brewing Company. You’ll welcome the breadth of housing options affordable on a budget.
For those with young family, quality of schools becomes a priority. That’s what lures many to Vienna, which hosts a popular main street farmer’s market and has a folksy, small-town feel punctuated by cultural hubs such as Jammin’ Java, which hosts weekend music shows for all ages. McLean is a great option for those families focused on older children, with active intramural sports and exceptional high schools.
What if you’re in the middle years of life, with kids on their way out—or you already have the house to yourself? Reston becomes a perfect refuge, with its self-contained balance of retail and green space, including several golf ranges. Roads are easy to navigate, and traffic is tame compared to other areas in NoVa.
Variety in lifestyles is welcomed throughout the region, but check out Shirlington as a focal point of progressive counter-culture. Busboys & Poets café hosts storytelling and speakers, the acclaimed Signature Theater puts on a busy season (a recent highlight of which was their nationally reviewed Kander and Ebb tribute, including “Kiss of the Spider Woman”), and the Arlington Arts Center is only minutes away. Shirlington also offers a straight drive into DC to visit nightclubs downtown and along the southwest waterfront.
Those in search of ethnic and economic diversity head to south Arlington. Whether eating fresh, authentic burritos outside the small red shack that houses Pedro & Vinny’s, or catching a stand-up comedy show at the Arlington Drafthouse and Cinema, the urban pulse is here. Finding the right home can take extra sifting between the hodgepodge of newer residential complexes, older apartments, and bungalow or colonial houses, but there are deals worth the effort. The county has also committed to providing a streetcar that will service Columbia Pike.
Meanwhile, those who prefer the pristine of expensive landscaping—or who can afford the acreage to build from scratch—take haven in Great Falls, which is known for epic houses and easy access to rural Virginia. Great Falls is quiet culturally, other than a few art studios and The Old Brogue, a popular Irish pub. But the communities of faith and politics are strong, plus the appeal of proximity to one of the main entry points of Great Falls National Park for those who looking forward to picnics or hikes.
For those without a car, Clarendon is an ideal spot with centralized Metro service, Apple and other major chain stores, and high-quality groceries all within walking distance. As a hotbed of clubs and restaurants, the neighborhood is a cultural destination; Iota Club and Café, Galaxy Hut, and Whitlow’s on Wilson are local institutions, augmented by newer places such as Eventide and Fuego Cocina y Tequileria. You’ll never have to plead with friends to come visit.