What you should know before moving to Fairfax County

1.  Fairfax County is BIG. Our county has a larger population that 8 US States.  Fairfax is estimated to have 1.04 million people, making it the 37th largest county in the US.

2.  Fairfax is rich. I write that knowing many in Fairfax will bristle at the idea.  But, Fairfax has the second highest median household income in the nation at $106,785 right behind neighboring Loudoun County which sits on top of the list.

3.  Education is a priority in Fairfax. 7 Fairfax County Public Schools High Shools were named as top schools in the United States by US News.  Thomas Jefferson was ranked the #1 high school in the US, and Langley came in at #47.  Marshall and Madison were give the Silver Medal Award.  Lake Braddock, McLean, and Woodson were given Honorable Mention.  The average SAT score in Fairfax County Public Schools (09-10) was 1664, comparing favorably to the Virginia average of 1521 and the US average of 1509.  Fairfax County is also home to George Mason University, Northern Virginia Community College, and quite a few extensions of universities from around the country.

4.  Fairfax spends a LOT of time in cars. The Beltway (I-495) is the main artery of the DC area.  You’ll hear traffic reports talking about “the inner loop” and “the outer loop.”  Both of these terms refer to The Beltway.  The inner loop is simply the direction that goes clockwise around Washington and the outer loop is the direction that goes counter-clockwise around DC.   I-66 is a key road for Fairfax County residents, running straight west from DC, going through Falls Church, Vienna, Oakton, Fairfax, Fair Lakes and Centreville.  I-395 runs south from Washington, through Alexandria and Springfield then joins I-95 South at the Beltway.  High-Occupancy-Vehicle Lanes (HOV) are on parts of both 66 and 395 during designated times of the day.  66 is totally HOV-2 (two persons must be in the car) inside the beltway during rush hour (heading east in the morning, west in the evening), and has a designated lane outside the beltway that is HOV for those hours also.  I-395 has 2 center lanes, blocked off from regular traffic, that go north in the morning and south in the evening.  These lanes are HOV-3 during those hours, and open to all traffic, in one direction or the other, during non-peak times.  The Fairfax County Parkway (7100) serves as a wider loop through the county from Northwest to Southeast.  Tune in to Angie to keep up to date on how to stay out of traffic.

5.  Fairfax has International taste buds. There is a huge variety of restaurants available in Fairfax County and in Washington.  Check out Washingtonians list of the Top 100 restaurants or search to your hearts desire.  We also like the good old American hamburger.  5 Guys started here, but they have a lot of competition for the best burger in the area.

6.  Fairfax is mainly suburban, but has both urban and rural areas. The largest urban area is Tysons Corner, a major office and shopping area in Vienna and McLean.  A north to south line through the  center of Fairfax County, including Great Falls, Oakton, Fairfax Station, and Clifton contains large areas of housing with larger yards and a more rural feel.  Clifton is the most rural area of Fairfax County with most lots being atleast 5 acres, and many horse farms dotting the land.  Check out the satellite view to see for yourself.

7.  Fairfax plays hard. Youth sports is a major pastime here.  One example is the Northern Virginia Swim League which is made up of 102 neighborhood pools and keeps kids all over the area busy all summer.  Every sport you can think of is available to the youth of Northern Virginia.  Fairfax County runs a popular Adult Softball League and adults in Fairfax participate in sports as varied as hockey, soccer and cricket.

8. Fairfax County is right next to Washington DC. This fact not only gives our economy a huge boost, but it also let’s us enjoy all the capital has to offer.  Smithsonian Museums, the Capitol, White House, the Kennedy Center, the Capitals, Redskins, Nationals, and Georgetown are just across the Potomac.

9.  Fairfax freaks out when it snows. It’s not just us, it’s the whole DC area.   But Fairfax will close schools on just a forecast of coming snow, and sometimes it doesn’t come.  If you have lived somewhere that has real snow, get ready to laugh at your neighbors when you see them react to a snowstorm or even a little flurry.

10.  Fairfax County is in Virginia. We don’t go to Maryland.

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Written by Jeff Royce of Frankly Real Estate, Inc. Fairfax, VA,  703-585-5663

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  • WARNING: Fairfax LOVES shopping! Move over Safeway…a wide range of grocers – from local (Magruders, Maple Avenue Market) to organic (Whole Foods, Trader Joes) to International (Super H, Great Wall) everywhere you look. There are huge indoor malls with many Chicago/NYC/San Fran stores (Tysons, Galleria, Fair Oaks, Pentagon) and two major outlets nearby (Potomac Mills, Leesburg Outlets). And because of the affluence of the city, consignment/thrift stores in FFx are to die for.

  • JD

    you should mention that rush hour traffic is a little tough…especially when show is forecast…

  • Mike K

    Fairfax County is also very politically diverse. Conservatives and Liberals are generally intermixed, and while we might curse each other’s bumper stickers, we’ll also have a big ol’ barbecue together anytime.

  • Very true Mike. And people tend to hold their views very strongly. There are very few apolitical people here. Even so, people get along and respect people on the other side for the most part.

  • Dave

    Fairfax isn’t just close to DC, it is a great starting point for quite a few day trips to places like Williamsburg, Gettysburg, Baltimore, the Virginia wine country, Skyline Drive and the Shenandoah River, even Hershey Park.

  • Carol Davs

    …and Fairfax County is a DESTINATION. We are the home of many historical sites: Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s Estate and Gardens; Claude Moore Colonial Farm, a pre-revolutionary war farm; Civil War sites including Ox Hill Battlefield Park, Blenheim, Fairfax Station Railroad Museum; Museums: Udvar Hazy Air & Space Museum; the National Firearms Museum; Gardens–Meadowlark, Green Springs, River Farm; Entertainment: Wolftrap Center for the Performing Arts; the Mason Center for the Arts, the Workhouse Arts Center…and more…the Visit Fairfax website lists events, sites and has details about the Susquecentennial of the Civil War happening right now in Fairfax County http://www.fxva.com, Carol Davis, trainer for the Visit Fairfax Ambassador program.

  • You are right Carol; Fairfax is a destination. Thanks for the list of sites. I enjoy your website and seeing your pictures on Flickr.

  • I LOVED this! …and when friends ‘bristle’ about being the second highest income in U.S. (and having been the first)…just remind them of what everything costs!…another “yikes!” ….and where else would people think a 3 or 4 hour daily commute is ‘okay’! Seriously? You, my friend, are a talented writer, who explained it all very well!
    Linda Kessler
    Agent -Long & Foster, Fairfax Office

  • Mpiotro803

    I was born and raised in Michigan. Moved to Fairfax County in 89 and our 2 sons grew up here. My comment has been snow flurries here brings a 2 hour delay and I’d never make it to school in Michigan if we had the same “Rules” In fairness Fairfax County is kinda large and extends to the west quite a bit so they have to encompass the whole county regarding school delays and closings. Finally after 20 years of kdding DC land about their lame winters. I must admit last year was quite Stellar which was great for a change.
    Detroit Mike

  • Arlington resident

    #5 Fairfax has International taste buds… 5 Guys started here,…
    Get your facts straight!!
    1986: The first Five Guys location opens in Arlington, VA.

  • Guest

    My mother lives in Clifton, and has for 30 years. Please drive a bit further west or south before you call anything in Fairfax County rural.

  • Guest…I meant no disrespect by calling Clifton rural. Areas are generally classified as urban, suburban or rural. Of the three, I’d say that rural describes Clifton the best. Most homes have at least 5 acres of land with them. There are woods and farms, and 2-lane rolling roads. Of course, if you drive further south or west, those areas would be even more rural. I think Clifton brings so much character to Fairfax County; it’s one of my favorite areas. But it is rural.