Though we did not see central Virginia, we did get to see parts of the western and northeastern borders. From the Appalachian Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, this state not only offers up a variety of landscapes, but also a depth of history like no other, being the first English colony and one of the original 13 colonies of the American Revolution.
I often talk about access to the outdoors, because it is near and dear to my heart, and an important quality of life factor that I pay close attention to everywhere I go. Virginia is among the top 20 states for public land access, helped significantly by its Shenandoah National Park lands. And, its next door neighbor Washington DC is ranked as the #1 city in the nation for park access, and is incredibly walkable. Its National Mall is a great example of the public parklands available to enjoy.
Virginia also happens to be one of the US’s top 10 bike-friendly states. We saw road cyclists and mountain bikers everywhere we went, and there were greenways in every town we visited, which makes biking safer for people of all ages. Not to mention, it is right next door to DC, which has loads of biking infrastructure and is also among the top 10 bike-friendly cities in America. Arlington also gets great bike and walk scores.
Economically speaking, Virginia is great for many reasons. The state as a whole offers a wide variety of jobs and employment industries, low unemployment rates, higher median household income, and thus lower poverty than a majority of US states. It is also considered a small business-friendly state and has better income equality than the national average. Forbes even ranked Virginia #1 for quality of life in 2019.
Virginia’s education record is mixed. It is one of the top 10 most expensive places to obtain an education at a public university, on par with every state in the NE, except the more affordable states of West Virginia and Maine. However, for Pre-K through high school education, Virginia is one of the Top 10 states in the country to live. It also has one of the most educated populations in the US. Anecdotally, of the 4 universities I visited on our journey, University of Virginia did have the highest tuition and fees, which definitely gave me pause, considering that the immediate area did not have a lot of job availability.
If you like to experience all four seasons, Virginia is a great option. The biggest natural disaster risks you should be aware of are tornadoes and hurricanes, depending on which part of the state you live in. The climate has been trending toward higher temperatures, heavier rainfall and thus more flooding events, which is of greatest concern if you live in the coastal region. Incidentally, we spoke with some residents of Charlottesville who grew up in the area, and they said they have seen more days above 90 degrees there in the last 5 years than ever before. Conversely, one the most significant blizzards on record occurred in 2016, so the overall weather patterns are seemingly headed toward the extremes.
Straddling the north and the south, Virginia has a mixture of both, giving the state a sordid history and track record for civil rights. However, since the 1970’s, Virginia has slowly been shifting from a largely conservative state to a more moderate state, with the most progressive voting record being just outside of Washington DC. Virginia is not unlike most states in which the more populous areas and college towns tend to be the most liberal and the rural areas tend to be the most conservative, so that is the best guide for expectations if political affinity is important to you.
We personally found the areas of Virginia we explored to be some of the most beautiful to see in the springtime, being lush and green with beautiful blooms and stunning views. And, the roads were actually in great shape as well. Especially after heading into Pennsylvania, we started to miss the quality of roads very quickly. 😂 We noticed that the areas we visited were really clean, but sensed that several regions were also struggling economically, seeing more business and houses boarded up than other areas of the country.
As always, I highly recommend visiting any place you are considering moving to, and gauging your personal comfort level compared to past experiences. I hope this post and the previous four posts sharing our travels throughout the state give you a sense of what these regions of Virginia have to offer. Like everywhere we have visited, places are never like you assume they will be and there are pluses and minuses that you simply cannot know until you go and see for yourself. Come visit this beautiful state and see what I’m talking about.