Jun 14, 2023

Arlington vs. Fairfax: Where Should You Live in Virginia?


a “welcome to Virginia” road sign

Choosing where to put down roots can be an overwhelming decision, particularly when the options are as desirable as Arlington and Fairfax, Virginia. Both of these locations offer a unique blend of rich history, diverse culture, excellent education, and thriving job markets. But when it comes to Arlington vs. Fairfax, how do you decide which place is the best fit for you? Let's dive in and analyze what each city has to offer.

A Snapshot of Arlington

Arlington is steeped in American history and national symbolism, located directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. It is home to several famous landmarks, including the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery. These landmarks contribute to Arlington's historical relevance and offer unique educational and leisure activities for residents and visitors alike. Arlington also hosts various annual events and festivals that celebrate its diverse cultural roots, such as the Arlington County Fair and the Columbia Pike Blues Festival.

With a population of around 230,000, Arlington boasts a vibrant, bustling urban area with a diverse community. The demographic composition reflects a rich mix of professionals, families, and students, creating a dynamic social environment. The city is also characterized by its high-rise apartments and modern office buildings, juxtaposed beautifully against the backdrop of its historical monuments. With its array of dining, shopping, and entertainment options, there's always something to do in Arlington. The city's cosmopolitan vibe, coupled with its historical charm, makes it a unique and appealing place to live.

The Pros of Living in Arlington

Proximity to Washington, D.C.

If comparing Arlington vs. Fairfax, Arlington is an ideal location for those who work in D.C. but prefer not to live in the capital. It offers excellent public transportation options, including the Metrorail and Metrobus systems, making the commute quick and hassle-free.

Quality of Life

Arlington ranks high in terms of quality of life. It has numerous parks, trails, and green spaces, such as the popular Mount Vernon Trail, that provide a peaceful respite from city life. In addition, it offers a broad range of restaurants, shopping venues, and cultural activities.


Schools in Arlington are among the top-ranked in the nation. They offer excellent academic programs and extracurricular activities, contributing to a high graduation rate. Moreover, Arlington's focus on education attracts families to prioritize academic excellence for their children. The school district's commitment to inclusive and innovative education has also earned them numerous accolades, reinforcing their reputation for educational excellence.

The Cons of Living in Arlington

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Arlington is considerably high. The housing market is competitive, with prices often reflecting its desirability and proximity to the capital. It's not just the housing that's costly – groceries, healthcare, and transportation also tend to be more expensive than the national average. However, these costs are often offset by higher average salaries, especially for professionals working in the D.C. metropolitan area.


While public transportation is excellent, road traffic can be quite congested, particularly during rush hour. This is largely due to its proximity to the nation's capital and the dense population of the area. Despite efforts to alleviate congestion through urban planning and improvements in public transportation, local Arlington VA movers say that the traffic remains a frequent concern for many residents. 

A Snapshot of Fairfax

Located about 20 miles west of D.C., Fairfax is a smaller city with a population of approximately 24,000. Despite its size, Fairfax has made a significant mark on the map of Virginia with its rich history, dating back to the colonial era, and its vibrant, closely-knit community. Known for its small-town charm, Fairfax boasts a picturesque downtown area featuring historic buildings, local boutiques, and cozy restaurants. 

Beyond its quaint core, Fairfax expands into suburban neighborhoods, combining the tranquility of a small town with easy access to metropolitan amenities. The city regularly hosts vibrant community events, enhancing the sense of unity among its residents and offering engaging activities for all ages. Whether it's the annual fall festival, the chocolate lover's festival, or the lively farmer's markets, there's always something happening in Fairfax.

The Pros of Living in Fairfax

A Family-Friendly Environment

Fairfax offers a quiet, family-oriented environment. Its neighborhoods are safe, and the city hosts numerous community events throughout the year. It's the type of place where people know their neighbors and children play in parks.

Quality Education

Just like Arlington, Fairfax boasts a high-performing school district. The city is also home to George Mason University, Virginia's largest public research university. In addition to primary and secondary schools, Fairfax offers a range of adult and continuing education options. The proximity to George Mason University also brings a lively college-town feel to the city, enriching it with a variety of academic events, cultural activities, and sporting events.

Lower Cost of Living

While still higher than the national average, the cost of living in Fairfax is lower than in Arlington. Housing options are diverse, offering opportunities for various budgets. This affordability extends beyond housing, as day-to-day expenses such as groceries, healthcare, and transportation are generally more affordable compared to Arlington. Plus, Fairfax's lower cost of living doesn't mean a compromise on quality; the city still offers a rich, fulfilling lifestyle that's easy on the wallet.

The Cons of Living in Fairfax

Distance from D.C.

Fairfax's distance from D.C. makes commuting more challenging than in Arlington. Although there are public transportation options, they are less frequent, and commutes can be long during peak hours. However, if you do choose this area as your new home, you can reach Fairfax with expert movers without having to worry. These locals know all the best routes and tricks to get you to your destination so you can relax and enjoy this lovely area. 

Less Urban Vibe

Fairfax lacks the bustling urban atmosphere of Arlington. While this might be an advantage for some, those seeking a vibrant nightlife or a broad array of cultural attractions might feel limited.


When comparing Arlington vs. Fairfax, there is no definitive winner. It all boils down to personal preference. If you want an urban environment close to the heart of the nation's capital, Arlington is the place for you. But if you prefer a quieter, family-friendly atmosphere without completely sacrificing metropolitan amenities, then Fairfax may be more up your alley. Both cities offer excellent opportunities for work, education, and leisure, making them top choices for living in Virginia. Remember, home is not just a place but a feeling, and both Arlington and Fairfax have a lot to offer to make you feel right at home.



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