21 Mar The Best Neighborhoods Near the Pentagon
I have just been stationed at the Pentagon and have to move my family to the Washington, DC, area… Where should I be looking? Arlington? Alexandria? DC? What neighborhoods should I consider? What is the difference in housing prices? Schools? Where do others at the Pentagon live?
Congratulations on your new orders and on relocating to the area! Washington, DC, is a terrific place to live and work, especially for military personnel and their families. You will find we have an educated, diverse, patriotic, and welcoming community. With a significant number of military families living in the national capital region, you will quickly find that many of us are used to the transitions inherent in a military career.
So it’s time to start learning as much as you can about the area, exploring all it has to offer and, of course, finding a place to live. As you start planning your move, don’t be surprised that finding the right place to live will require research. Because the Pentagon does not offer on-base housing, it’s important to discover which neighborhoods near the Pentagon are considered “the best.”
What Do We Mean by “The Best”?
In the DC metro area, a great neighborhood has a lot to offer its residents: well-regarded, high-quality schools; an easy and/or reasonable commute time: a family-friendly feel with great shopping, ample access to playgrounds, dog parks, and other outdoor spaces; and a diverse community all go into the making of a desirable place to live. And, just like other major metropolitan areas, great neighborhoods can be found all over the area. But whether it’s perfect depends on understanding your family’s needs.
Just like with any other state, the quality and structure of school districts vary. The good news is that many of the school districts in and around the beltway are considered among the best in the country. Best of all, many top-rated schools can be found in neighborhoods close to the Pentagon. Just do your homework to find the best of the best. A few key metrics include student:teacher ratio, ratings by independent third parties, graduation rates, and average test scores. Also, look into which colleges and universities the local high schools send their graduates. To find the right schools for your family, two of the best resources are school report cards and greatschools.org. It’s also helpful to call the schools you’re interested in and get more detail about the types of programs and support they offer. This will give you a better sense of whether the school is the right fit for your kids.
It’s no secret that the DC Metro area has some of the worst traffic in the entire country. According to a recent Census Bureau survey, the average commute to work for Washington D.C-area residents was just over 34 minutes. Depending where you live in relation to work, your commute could be significantly longer, particularly if your commute traverses major thoroughfares, such as I-395 or I-95. So as you research potential neighborhoods, it’s critical to make sure that you look at actual commute times rather than just a map.
You will be happy to discover that the Pentagon is considered one of the easiest workplaces to get to via public transportation. In addition to Metrobus and Metrorail, there are many other public transit options in the area and many of the best neighborhoods offer special bus service directly to the Pentagon. Keep in mind that these options can only do so much to shorten actual commute times, But it can make it less of a stressful experience for you and your family. Furthermore, for those stationed at the Pentagon, the government does provide compensation for use of Metrorail or Metrobus to get to and from work. During the check-in process, military members have the option to request a Pentagon parking permit or a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) monthly voucher providing full compensation for actual commute fares. You should note that these vouchers do not cover parking at the Metrorail stations, so you will need to pay for this out of pocket if you choose to commute via Metro. The average parking fee is $5 a day at the stations that have parking garages.
According to recent FBI crime statistics, there are many safe neighborhoods close to the Pentagon. To find out if the neighborhoods you are considering are safe, use crime tracking and mapping resources, like Neighborhood Scout.
The Pentagon employs more than 23,000 military and civilian employees and about 3,000 non-defense support personnel workers. According to governing.com, the state of Virginia ranks 4th in having the most active duty and reserve workforce members of the military. With the many government agencies in Washington, DC, Fort Belvoir, and the Pentagon nearby, no matter where you consider living in the DC Metro area, you are likely to find residents with close ties to the different branches of the armed forces.
For many families looking to move into the DC metro area, finding a safe, lively, friendly, and diverse neighborhood is a top priority. When you start to evaluate the different neighborhoods, make sure to ask about how many residents show up and enjoy the day together when community events are held. A sure sign of a strong community can be found by finding out how active its residents are.
Many of the neighborhoods near the Pentagon are ideally designed for family living with well-situated town centers, community and fitness centers, small parks and trails for walking or hiking, and lots of big and small retail shops with dining options. As for outdoor recreation, there are many National and State parks in the area. And “the District” as the locals call it, is nearby and also offers ample things to do whether on a date with a significant other, or spending a day meandering around the National Mall with the whole family. In short, you will never be hard-pressed to find something entertaining to do.
Also, because so many neighborhoods have a strong military connection, you are likely to find support, resources, and clubs created especially for military families aimed at replicating the tight-knit family feel usually found on base. Ask around, and you will find out all the different ways each community connects with its residents.
Some of the Best Neighborhoods Around the Pentagon
Here are just a few of the many neighborhoods that you should consider as you begin to look for a place to live once you have begun your new assignment at the Pentagon. We start with neighborhoods in Northern Virginia. We will spotlight areas in southern Maryland in future posts.
Located in Alexandria, Virginia, Kingstowne is a pedestrian-friendly planned community with a nice mix of apartments, condos, townhomes and single-family houses. Its residents enjoy amenities like two community centers, family-friendly pools, recreation centers, and neighborhood clubs and events. And because it’s close to Washington, D.C., residents can regularly enjoy all the entertainment that a big city has to offer and still come home to the quiet of suburbs.
Close to the Pentagon, Fort Belvoir, and D.C., Kingstowne is a popular place for government and military families to call home, which has helped create its renowned close-knit community feel.
Because of its close proximity to D.C., Fort Belvoir, and the Pentagon, you will find this medium-sized neighborhood attracts a large number of military families. Springfield has a strong military support network and even offers an express bus to the Pentagon to accommodate its residents’ daily commutes.
Known for being a quiet community with streets lined with well-maintained lawns, rec centers, neighborhood pools, parks, shopping, and restaurants, West Springfield is a great family-friendly suburban neighborhood.
Virginia’s Ballston offers a little bit of everything: an easy, short commute to the Pentagon via a Metro station, lots of family-oriented activities, and a community filled with parks, recreation centers, libraries, and shopping options. But Ballston has something special to offer its residents—a small town with a touch of urban.
Spend some time in Ballston, and you are likely to feel the unique blend of city and suburbia that this community has created with apartment complexes and high-rises blocks away from single-family homes and suburban neighborhoods.
As your moving plans start to take shape, don’t lose sight of how important it is to find a neighborhood that represents who you are and meets your family’s needs. Keep in mind: in addition to doing your research online, a simple way to discover the area’s best neighborhoods is to ask other military families who have been down this same road before. Reading about the different areas is important, but it won’t tell you everything. You need to visit the different neighborhoods and spend time talking with other families who live or have lived there. The information you glean from that, coupled with the research you have gathered, should help narrow down your choices and make deciding where to live easier. If you’re interested in buying a home near the Pentagon and would like a customized assessment of the best neighborhood for your family, feel free to call us at 703-957-8762.