The state of Virginia may be steeped in deep history but one thing that time has taught us is that you can only rely on past glory for so long. Thankfully, this is not the case with the state that produced four of the nation’s first five presidents as they keep improving themselves in areas of health and education. Virginia is now consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in the United States of America, and such a reputation is down to several towns such as Arlington and Roanoke. This reality is not across the board though as there are several Virginia cities that are performing poorly in several key areas and have come to acquire a notorious reputation over the years.
Are you thinking of taking a visit to Virginia anytime soon, or perhaps you want to relocate on a more permanent basis? Well, no need to worry as we have embarked on the task of rounding up some of the best places in the city just for you. Also included is a list of areas that you may want to avoid when making your plans.
10 Best Places To Live In Virginia
- Population – 236,842
- Median Family Income – $120,071
Arlington is home to important American institutions such as The Pentagon. It is also where the iconic National Cemetery and Iwo Jima Marine Corps Memorial are sited. Some attractive facts about this town include low property rates and a magnificent network of hiking, biking, or jogging trails. Arlington is also quite near to Washington D.C. This fact means that many people who work in the nation’s capital often escape from the hustle and bustle by making their homes in Arlington.
2. Falls Church
- Population – 14,617
- Median Family Income – $137,105
With a total landmass of 2.05 square meters, Falls Church ranks as one of the smallest cities in Virginia. What it lacks in size though, it makes up for in other areas such as its nearness to Washington D.C. which means that you can work in the nation’s capital and then retire to a small-town ambiance of a home. Though its cost of living is a bit on the high side, this is offset by other attractive features such as a public school system that is ranked amongst the best in Fairfax County.
- Population – 24,368
- Median Family Income – $117,553
Chantilly is located in western Fairfax County in the northern region of Virginia. It is home to Dulles International Airport and a Centre of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. This means that you can explore aviation and space history abundantly. Going by niche.com ratings, Chantilly has top scores in areas such as public schools, housing, outdoor activities, health & fitness, commute, nightlife, and cost of living. Another area it also performs well in is diversity meaning that you will fit right in no matter your background.
- Population – 157,613
- Median Family Income – $104,031
In 2020 alone, the town of Alexandria was recognized as one of the top 5 best small cities in the U.S. by the Conde Nast Traveller Reader’s Choice Awards. Southern Living Magazine also named it one of the south’s best cities for that year. Such achievements are not unconnected to the fact that the city has managed to infuse its rich historic old town with a cosmopolitan feel and walkable lifestyle. Still brimming with well-preserved 18th and 19th-century buildings, Alexandria also offers you a smattering of boutiques, about 200 museums, a bustling waterfront, etc.
5. Virginia Beach
- Population – 457,832
- Median Family Income – $75,623
Just as the name suggests, the town of Virginia Beach boasts of numerous beautiful beaches, including the famous Virginia Boardwalk that extends for about three miles and offers opportunities for cycling, running, and rollerblading. There are also surfing, fishing, kayaking, and water-skiing activities available, which means that you never run out of fun things to do in the town. Of course, having fun requires money and Virginia Beach also offers a host of employment opportunities to its residents. This comes in the form of the booming tourism industry and the three naval and air force bases located there.
- Population – 249,865
- Median Family Income – $51,325
The independent city of Norfolk lies on the Elizabeth River in the Tidewater region, at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. Such a strategic location means that it hosts one of the fastest-growing ports in the country, a great catalyst for vibrant economic activity. Downtown, a performing arts center serves as the home of the Norfolk Forum Lecture Series, Virginia Symphony and Touring Broadway Shows, and the Virginia Opera. The city also scores high in the areas of civics (49), demographics (56), economy (65), education (54), health (48), housing (66), and infrastructure (88).
- Population – 14,927
- Median Family Income – $50,091
If you fancy living in a historic town buzzing with tourists, Williamsburg is for you. Founded far back in 1632, the city has managed to preserve its history while also ensuring that it is not left behind by time. It scores high in areas such as outdoor activities, public school, diversity, nightlife, health and fitness, commute, and suitability for families. It also records decent scores on other important factors such as job availability, cost of living, housing, crime, and safety indices.
- Population – 228,482
- Median Family Income – $48,487
Richmond is the third-largest city in Virginia as well as the state capital. While some cities sacrifice culture for the economy and vice versa, this town is a perfect combination of both. Economy-wise, Richmond has thousands of small businesses and several Fortune 500 companies resulting in an unemployment rate that is as low as 6.50%. Culturally, the city boasts of great opportunities to relax outdoors. There is also a thriving collection of locally-based chefs, sommeliers, and restaurants which made Forbes Magazine describe it as a hidden culinary gem in March 2021.
- Population – 99,998
- Median Family Income – $43,212
If you are a great fan of outdoorsy activities, then you will fit right in Roanoke. This city of little less than a hundred thousand people is located in a valley between Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, meaning that there is never a shortage of hiking trails. There are also zoos, art galleries, sporting, and live theatre events to benefit residents. The town of Roanoke also boasts of a collection of public and private middle schools as well as higher institutions which means that kids don’t need to go far away from home to get a good education.
- Population – 8,020
- Median Family Income – $41,117
Just like Roanoke, Abingdon is also a hotspot for outdoor lovers. Its fishing, hiking, biking, and birding opportunities are simply legendary thanks to an avalanche of farmlands, mountains, and forests, etc. There is also a growing number of local artisans which means that unique accessories, antiques, collectibles, and clothing are not hard to find. The cost of living is also on the low side and as such, the town has increasingly attracted both the young and old.
10 Worst Places To Live In Virginia
- Population – 8,272
- Median Family Income – $44,829
On several occasions, the city of Franklin has been ranked as one of the worst places to live in Virginia. This lowly position is due to their high unemployment rate (9.3%) that has inevitably led to a poverty rate as high as 16.6%. Crime rates are equally high with a total of 364 violent crimes for every 100,000 people. Such appraisal has caused the city and its mayor to go on the defensive and they have argued that there is a revival in the economy. The effect of that revival remains in doubt though as more and more people keep on moving away from the city hence its low population.
- Population – 95,162
- Median Family Income – $51,184
Portsmouth boasts of several pros, including low cost of living, and low real estate and rental prices. It is also described as generally nice, with great hotels, restaurants, and parks. All these wonderful features are, however, outweighed by one simple fact – a high crime rate. Portsmouth’s crime rates are 268% higher than the Virginia average as the streets are riddled with theft, abductions, drug abuse, and the likes. It has gotten to the extent that these crimes now feel normal to many young people who are impressionable and easily swayed.
3. South Boston
- Population – 7,762
- Median Family Income – $31,885
One of the largest towns in Halifax County, South Boston reportedly offers a sparse suburban feel that attracts young professionals and retirees alike. It also performs well in cost of living, which is 19% lower than the national average. It is, however, a different ball game when it comes to other factors such as housing, employment, and crime. It records 4,828 crimes per 100k people, a whopping 92% higher than the U.S. average. Its home value and employment rate are also lower than what is obtainable in other parts of Virginia.
- Population – 31,362
- Median Family Income – $32,169
Petersburg was actually ranked the worst Virginia County to live in 2019 by a Wall Street 24/7 analysis. The analysis indicated that the average life expectancy was at 72.2 years while there was a 0.6 negative change in the town’s population for a period of five years, indicating that not many people are keen on moving to the city. The city’s poverty rate was as high as 27.6% while the proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree was a mere 17.5%.
- Population – 6,000
- Median Family Income – $34,738
Back in the early 2010s, the public image of Marion received a major boost when it was named America’s coolest hometown. It also garnered other accolades such as SBA small business community of the years and semi-finalist of Great American Main Street in 2014. Some of the attributes that helped it achieve these feats remain to this day but one thing that the town cannot seem to shake is its crime which is put at 343 per 100k people. There are higher than average incidences of thefts, burglaries, aggravated assaults, and the likes, making the city one of the worst places to reside in Virginia.
- Population – 5,442
- Median Family Income – $27,169
Despite its parade of historic buildings, the town of Emporia still ranks amongst one of the worst places in Virginia. Going by ratings on niche.com, Emporia scores low on essential areas such as public schools, housing, jobs, and suitability for families. It performs better off with regards to diversity, commute, nightlife, and weather but whatever solace one can gain from this is soured by the fact that it has a high crime rate; 4,140 per 100k people, 124% higher than the Virginia average.
- Population – 6,517
- Median Family Income – $31,110
Back in 2010, the population of Galax was put at 7,042. That number has since dwindled and this may not be unconnected to the fact that there is a paucity of economic opportunities in that part of Virginia. Asides from retail or food service, there are not many avenues to gain quality employment. Such a bleak outlook is further compounded by a high crime rate (4,494 per 100k) and a drug problem that does the town no favors.
- Population – 41,070
- Median Family Income – $33,721
The town of Danville actually has some good features, including historical landmarks, recreational opportunities, and beautiful rolling countryside. It also has a low cost of living which is always a good thing in the face of the current economic challenges. The high crime rate is, however, one thing that will turn potential residents off. If you live in Danville, you have a 1-in-24 chance of being a victim of a property crime as well as a 1-in-167 chance of being the victim of a violent crime.
- Population – 28,622
- Median Family Income – $65,641
Fredericksburg boasts of several historic landmarks. Its nearness to Washington D.C. also means that it should ordinarily attract droves of young professionals. It is however not so in reality and the town remains a bit backward. One reason for this may be the inability of the occupants to move with the times. Another may be the crime rate which is amongst the highest not just in Virginia but in all of America.
- Population – 17,075
- Median Family Income – $39,225
The town of Bristol prides itself as “a good place to live” but it is arguable how good it is in reality. It scores decently on parameters such as public schools, housing, cost of living, outdoor activities, and commute. There is, however, a lull in economic development which means that there are not many opportunities for entrepreneurship. This has consequently led to low property prices as well as high unemployment rates.
In compiling the list of some of the best and worst places to live in Virginia, we looked at key indices such as civics, demographics, economy, education, health, housing, and infrastructure. Also factored in were areas such as the nightlife on offer, cost of living, suitability for families, and diversity, which is quite important. Another major issue that was evaluated was the crime rate in these areas in comparison with the Virginia and U.S. national averages.