Northern Virginia aerial view

16 Best Places to Live in Northern Virginia in 2023 

Best Places to Live in Northern Virginia

Northern Virginia, known as NOVA, is a rich mosaic of cultures and community vibes, spanning Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties. Each of these areas boasts its own set of unique and captivating neighborhoods, offering a wide range of living experiences.

Here, you can find everything from the energetic buzz of city life to the quaint charm of small towns and even the tranquility of rural settings, all within a comfortable commute. Due to its diversity, NOVA is ideal for young professionals, busy families, and peaceful retirees.

In this guide, we present the 16 best places to live in Northern Virginia in 2023. Each location was chosen for its high quality of life, amenities, educational opportunities, and community atmosphere.

Whether you’re planning a move or simply exploring options, come along as we reveal NOVA’s top 16, starting with our hidden gems and leading up to the unparalleled number 1 spot.

16. Centreville

Centreville, Virginia

Starting our list at 16 on our list of the best places to live in Northern Virginia is Centreville, a diverse and peaceful Northern Virginia suburb. Known for its affordable housing options, Centreville presents a balanced quality of life. For those who want a quiet, suburban feel without leaving the city, this community is ideal.

Centreville has excellent schools like Centreville High School and Liberty Middle School. Families can take comfort in knowing that their children have access to a nurturing and academically stimulating environment.

Nature lovers will love Ellanor C. Lawrence Park, a hiking, picnicking, and historical park nearby. The Centrewood Plaza and The Field at Commonwealth here offer local and national retailers and a variety of restaurants that reflect the area’s diverse cuisine.

Annual events like Centreville Day, which celebrates local history, culture, and achievements, strengthen the community. This, along with its strategic location, makes Centreville an ideal base for accessing Northern Virginia’s myriad attractions.

Overall, Centreville stands as a distinguished choice on our list, embodying a blend of affordability, educational strength, varied amenities, and a strong sense of community. This makes it an exemplary starting point in our journey through the top 16 places to live in NOVA.

15. Woodbridge

Woodbridge is a suburb that perfectly encapsulates the charm of Northern Virginia. Nestled near the Potomac River, Woodbridge provides a suburban lifestyle enriched with ample shopping, dining, and outdoor activities.

Education is a key focus in Woodbridge, providing ample educational choices. Institutions such as Woodbridge Senior High School and Lake Ridge Middle School stand out for their extensive program offerings, addressing various interests and skill levels.

Woodbridge offers a rich retail landscape, from the vast Potomac Mills, among the state’s largest shopping destinations, to unique local shops. The area’s restaurants range from cozy local spots to popular chain restaurants serving a variety of cuisines.

The Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge is a peaceful escape for nature lovers. Here, one can indulge in bird watching, hiking, and soaking in the tranquil views of the river. Another treasure is Leesylvania State Park, which offers Potomac fishing, boating, and picnicking.

Events like the Woodbridge Beer Fest and WinterFest bring residents together to celebrate local culture and seasonal festivities, building community. These events, combined with the suburb’s scenic location and wealth of amenities, make Woodbridge a desirable destination.

14. Manassas

Manassas aerial view

At number 14, Manassas beckons with its rich historical background and charming downtown area. This Northern Virginia city is affordable and community-oriented. For those seeking a blend of historical charm and modern convenience, Manassas is an ideal choice.

The educational landscape in Manassas is solid, with schools like Osbourn High School providing quality education and a range of extracurricular activities. The focus on education helps foster a well-rounded community atmosphere.

The heart of Manassas is its bustling downtown area, filled with unique boutiques, eateries, and various cultural festivities. Historical landmarks, such as the Manassas National Battlefield Park, offer a deep dive into the area’s rich past, attracting both locals and tourists.

Manassas is replete with facilities that enhance both daily life and recreational pursuits. Its parks, including the Signal Hill Park, provide perfect settings for outdoor activities, while the Manassas Mall is a one-stop destination for diverse shopping and culinary experiences.

Events like the Farmer’s Market and annual festivals strengthen Manassas’ community. This combination of history, educational opportunities, and a close-knit community makes Manassas a standout location in our journey through Northern Virginia’s best places to live.

13. Gainesville

Gainesville offers a slice of rural serenity within the bustling Northern Virginia region. With its more spacious homes and tranquil surroundings, it’s an ideal locale for those seeking a quieter lifestyle without sacrificing urban conveniences.

In Gainesville, Battlefield High School is notable for offering high-quality education. This school is known for its academics, Advanced Placement courses, and technology integration. It’s well-regarded in the community and serves as a reliable educational institution for families.

Gainesville is also experiencing a surge in retail development, blending its rural charm with modern amenities. The popular Promenade at Virginia Gateway provides a mix of shopping, dining, and entertainment options, reflecting the area’s growth and diversity. 

This blend of rural peace, educational strength, and expanding retail opportunities makes Gainesville a noteworthy contender in our list of top places to live in Northern Virginia.

12. Sterling

Sterling aerial view

Claiming the 12th spot as one of the best places to live in Northern Virginia is Sterling, a diverse community nestled in the heart of Northern Virginia. Sterling stands out for its affordable housing, making it an appealing choice for a wide range of residents, from young professionals to families.

Sterling is not only affordable, but also rich in recreational opportunities. Many parks, like Claude Moore Park, offer trails, sports, and educational programs. Algonkian Regional Park, another local favorite, is great for picnics, hiking, and Potomac River views.

Education and belonging are important in Sterling’s diverse community. Outstanding schools like Park View High School and River Bend Middle School are known for their academics and welcoming environments. 

Sterling is desirable for its accessibility, recreation, and affordable housing. Residents can live a diverse, active lifestyle without the high costs of Northern Virginia. This balance of affordability, diversity, and plentiful recreational facilities rightly earns Sterling its place on our list.

11. Chantilly

Positioned at number 11, Chantilly stands out for its educational excellence and strategic location near key employment hubs. 

Chantilly High School and Franklin Middle School are known for their STEM programs and innovative learning methods. These institutions prepare students for future success, especially in the thriving tech and defense sectors nearby.

The proximity to major employment centers in the technology and defense industries is a significant draw. This closeness not only offers residents short commute times but also ensures a steady influx of opportunities for professionals in these fields. 

The combination of top-tier educational facilities and easy access to prominent employment areas makes Chantilly a sought-after location for families and individuals pursuing careers in the tech and defense sectors in Northern Virginia.

10. Herndon

Herndon is a vibrant and diverse community known for its rich cultural fabric and burgeoning tech sector. The town is a melting pot of cultures, reflected in its numerous cultural festivals and events that celebrate the diversity of its residents. 

The Herndon Festival and Friday Night Live! concerts showcase local music, art, and cuisine, drawing people from all backgrounds. These events enhance the community’s social life and foster shared identity.

Herndon is also a haven for outdoor and recreational enthusiasts, boasting a plethora of parks and recreational facilities. From the scenic W&OD Trail for biking and jogging to the Herndon Centennial Golf Course for a leisurely game, there’s something for everyone. 

The town’s growing tech sector, boosted by its proximity to Dulles Technology Corridor, makes it ideal for tech professionals. This blend of cultural vibrancy, recreational offerings, and tech opportunities positions Herndon as a top choice for a balanced and fulfilling lifestyle.

9. Fairfax

Fairfax, Virginia

Events abound, from the Fairfax Festival and Holiday Craft Show to Old Town Square’s lively scenes. Theaters and museums like the Fairfax Theatre Company and the National Firearms Museum enrich Fairfax’s culture.

When it comes to education, Fairfax stands out with its well-regarded schools. George Mason University, one of Virginia’s top universities, offers excellent higher education and enriches the city’s intellectual atmosphere. 

Fairfax’s combination of engaging community events, diverse entertainment choices, and outstanding educational facilities make it an ideal place for those seeking a harmonious blend of suburban and urban lifestyles.

8. Leesburg

Leesburg blends history and economic growth. This picturesque locale is steeped in history, evident in its well-preserved downtown and historic sites. Leesburg’s rich past and dynamic present make it appealing to residents and visitors.

Businesses and jobs, especially in tech and services, are growing in the town. The town’s picturesque surroundings, which include numerous wineries dotting the landscape, complement its economic vitality by providing the ideal weekend getaway for wine enthusiasts.

Additionally, Leesburg has access to beautiful outdoor spaces like the tranquil Morven Park and the Rust Nature Sanctuary. These places let residents escape the city and enjoy nature’s peace while engaging in various outdoor activities like hiking and bird watching.

Leesburg’s unique blend of historical ambiance, thriving economy, and beautiful natural surroundings makes it a compelling choice for those seeking a vibrant community setting where history and modernity coexist harmoniously.

7. Ashburn

Ashburn Virginia

Ranked 7th is Ashburn, a community celebrated for its family-friendly environment, burgeoning tech industry, and commitment to quality education. This Northern Virginia suburb is a magnet for young professionals and families alike, offering a lifestyle that balances work and play

Ashburn is part of the thriving Dulles Technology Corridor, known for its abundance of tech jobs. This attracts a dynamic population of professionals, driving the local economy and fostering a culture of innovation and progress.

When it comes to education, Ashburn’s schools, such as Briar Woods High School and Belmont Ridge Middle School, are highly regarded. They provide excellent educational opportunities, preparing students for success in both higher education and future careers.

There are many family-friendly events and activities in Ashburn, which contributes to the welcoming and inclusive community atmosphere. Parks like Ashburn Park and community centers with a wide range of activities ensure that residents of all ages have something to do.

Due to its tech-driven jobs, great schools, and close-knit community, Ashburn is a great place to live in the suburbs.

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6. Vienna

A suburb that expertly blends a close-knit community atmosphere with the convenience of urban living is Vienna. This town is ideal for those who value strong community ties, great education, and easy access to cities.

Vienna is celebrated for its vibrant community spirit. The town’s calendar is dotted with events such as the Vienna Summer Music Concerts and the Vienna Oktoberfest, which serve as catalysts for community bonding and create a warm, close-knit atmosphere.

In Vienna, the quality of education is a significant draw, with Madison High School and Thoreau Middle School standing out as exemplary examples. The diverse interests and needs of their students are met by these schools’ comprehensive programs, ensuring a top-notch education.

A perfect balance exists between peaceful suburban living and urban convenience. Its strategic location near key highways, coupled with a local metro station, makes commuting to Washington, D.C., and other metropolitan areas both effortless and efficient.

This harmonious combination of a friendly community, outstanding educational facilities, and convenient access to urban centers positions Vienna as a top destination for those seeking a harmonious and interconnected lifestyle.

5. Falls Church

Falls Church is a testament to the saying “small but mighty.” This small city is full of community spirit, with neighbors knowing each other and regular events. It is small-town-like but full of community energy.

Falls Church schools are also top-ranked. The city is known for its excellent educational programs and facilities that support student development. Families are particularly drawn to Falls Church for this commitment to quality education.

The local economy in Falls Church is robust and diverse. A strong business environment supports local businesses and attracts investments in the city. This economic strength not only adds to the city’s appeal but also ensures a stable and prosperous community for its residents.

Falls Church’s blend of a warm community atmosphere, educational prowess, and a thriving local economy makes it an attractive option for those who value a balanced and enriching living environment.

4. Alexandria (Old Town)

Ranking 4th as one of the best places to live in Northern Virginia in 2023 is Alexandria’s Old Town, a place where historic elegance seamlessly merges with contemporary lifestyles. The waterfront views in this charming neighborhood make for relaxing walks and dining. 

Shopping in Old Town is a delight with its unique boutiques and shops selling artisanal crafts and high-end fashion. Theaters, museums, and galleries showcase Alexandria’s rich cultural history and present. 

Torpedo Factory Art Center is a beacon of art in Old Town. A studio and gallery art community has grown in this former munitions factory. A dynamic cultural experience, visitors can watch artists work, view contemporary art, and participate in workshops.

The blend of historical allure, modern amenities, and cultural richness makes Alexandria’s Old Town a captivating destination for residents and visitors seeking a unique, sophisticated living experience.

3. Reston

Reston, Virginia

Reston, occupying the third spot, stands out as a meticulously planned community that harmoniously blends urban amenities with the tranquility of nature. It offers residents a unique lifestyle that combines city convenience with natural serenity, designed for balanced living.

This community is known for its diverse housing options for all tastes. From modern apartments and condominiums in the town center to charming single-family homes nestled near wooded areas, Reston provides an array of choices for different lifestyles.

The town’s parks and recreation areas show its commitment to green space. With the Reston National Golf Course, Lake Anne, and Walker Nature Center, residents can enjoy a round of golf, a boat ride, or a hike through scenic trails.

Regular events and gatherings bring Reston residents together, fostering a strong community spirit. This sense of belonging and the well-planned blend of urban and natural elements make Reston an appealing place to live.

2. Arlington

Arlington, securing its second position, offers a perfect mix of bustling city vibes and the comfort of suburban life. The area is a hotspot for nightlife, boasting a variety of dining and entertainment venues. 

Education is a standout feature in Arlington, with public schools like Yorktown High School and Swanson Middle School known for their academic excellence. These institutions provide a broad spectrum of extracurricular activities and advanced learning programs. 

Historical landmarks such as the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery add to the area’s rich tapestry. These significant sites, coupled with a host of memorials and museums, offer insightful glimpses into the region’s historical significance in the United States.

Arlington’s blend of lively urban charm, educational prowess, and historical depth renders it an appealing and distinctive community. It’s an ideal locale for those seeking a vibrant, culturally enriched, and comprehensive living experience.

1. McLean

McLean, Virginia

Securing the top rank, McLean is synonymous with luxury and practicality. Its upscale residences, coupled with its close distance to Washington, D.C., position it as a premier choice for homeowners.

The area boasts exceptional educational institutions, including McLean High School and Langley High School, known for their robust academic offerings and extensive extracurricular activities. These schools are renowned for delivering a superior educational experience, making McLean an ideal location for families prioritizing academic excellence.

The area has many amenities in addition to luxury homes and great schools. McLean has plenty of leisure and entertainment options, from Tysons Corner to fine dining. The community’s proximity to parks and trails balances urban and outdoor lifestyles.

Its luxury, education, and accessibility make McLean at the top of this list. The overall quality of life in McLean makes it the top choice, not just its homes or schools. With its blend of suburban comfort and city convenience, this community defines a luxurious, well-rounded lifestyle.


In conclusion, Northern Virginia has many charming communities. From the historic allure of Alexandria’s Old Town to the luxurious lifestyle in McLean, these areas provide a diverse range of living experiences. 

It covers a wide range of tastes and lifestyles, from Herndon’s vibrant tech scene to Ashburn’s family-friendly atmosphere to Arlington’s urban-suburban balance. This region is indeed ideal for those seeking a fulfilling and dynamic home due to its high-quality education, rich history, cultural diversity, strong sense of community, and economic vitality.

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