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  1. #1
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    Where to live in VA?

    Ok, say you were moving from the Midwest to VA. DC area is the most likely place to land, but you have some flexibility and could live in a number of parts of the state. Where do you go? Looking for reasonable cost of living, good schools, tolerable traffic, and of course good xc riding. Thanks in advance for your suggestions.
    Last edited by loginhater; 02-28-2013 at 03:33 PM.

  2. #2
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  3. #3
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    Harrisonburg

  4. #4
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    Woodbridge, Dumfries area

  5. #5
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    Well it largely depends on what you can afford, or rather I should say what you want to spend. The closer you get to either Richmond or DC the more expensive it is going to get. Fairfax, Arlington, and Alexandria are fairly expensive to live in. I lived in Alexandria about 6 years ago and was paying $1500 for a 2 bedroom apartment. You can probably find cheaper apartments but it puts you in not so nice areas. Sorry to anyone that lives there, but stay away from Dumfries. There really is nothing going on for that little town other being close to Quantico or Woodbridge.

    Fredericksburg, Staffford or Spotsylvania is not so bad. All three are pretty much situated half way between DC and Richmond. Housing and apartments are pretty reasonable and of course some local trails to hit up, if you want google FAMBE or Fatmug to see the trail situation.

    In regards to traffic, anywhere in NOVA (Northern Virginia) is going to be bad. At rush hour it's not unheard of to take 2 1/2 - 3 hours to get from DC to Fredericksburg, VA (A 55 mile drive).

    So depending on what you are used to (Country vs.City living) you might also want to check out Culpepper, Warrenton, or Winchester, VA. FYI all three of those are for those who do not mind not having local access to a mall or other big centralized shopping centers.

  6. #6
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    Harrisonburg. Best riding around. Stay WELL AWAY from the DC area. People are saying the traffic is bad but you have no idea. Northern VA has the worst traffic in the US. You can get NOWHERE in the morning for 3 hours and evening for up to 6 hours. Forget I66. Unless you are well inside the beltway (495) and want to ride everywhere... but then it's impossible to get out.

    The 'burg has a downtown, no traffic, a close interstate, major college and actual big mountain riding right there. Massanutten is on the east side. Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania and Stafford are not where you want to be. Far enough out from everything to be basically nowhere.

    Prepare for major housing sticker shock pretty much everywhere compared to the midwest. The riding is WAY better here though.

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  7. #7
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    I'll make a case for the DC area. If you don't mind riding to work/taking public transportation it makes it a lot better. I've been doing the public transport thing for the last year and it has SIGNIFICANTLY improved the quality of my life. Mind you, I haven't sold my car and use it on the weekends for some of my MTB rides and other activities. The Washington and Old Dominion (WOD, for short) is a Rails to Trails project that goes clear from Purcellville into DC. So commuting on the WOD is a good option, too.

    Cost of living gets lower the further west from the city you can go. But if you live out in Purcellville and work in Arlington/DC your commute will suck unless you can work 6 - 2 or something like that.

    The schools in both Fairfax and Loudoun Counties are among the best in the country.

    The cycling is pretty good. Decent trails in and around the Virginia side. Also close to good places with MD and WV. Lots of races in the Spring/Summer, if you're into that. In Spring/Summer I'm going out 2-3 nights a week for a quick ride due to my proximity to a trail.

    The places I'd look at:
    Prince William County: Haymarket
    Loudon County: Leesburg, Purcellville, Round Hill, and Sterling
    Fairfax County: Reston, Herndon, Centreville

    If you ask me, living as close to work as possible is the secret to happiness, no matter where you live.

    Good hunting!

  8. #8
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    From someone who grew up in Va, but doesn't live there anymore, if I was going to move back I would find myself picking from Harrisonburg and it's surrounding areas or someplace around - by which I mean outside of - Charlottesville. You couldn't drag me into the NOVA/DC area kicking and screaming behind a freight train. If forced to consider a third and forth area besides those listed, I'd look at the Roanoke area, then maybe Petersburg. But that last is stretching a bit.

  9. #9
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    I grew up in the DC area, escaped for a few years and returned back 5 years ago when the economy tanked to find DC on the rise. While the economy was on the rise, so we're the housing prices. Last year, for the first time, housing prices in the city passed those of New York. In sept my lease ran out, and decided rather than spending a cool $1700 on a one bedroom in a city I did everything I could to escape (riding in the mountains) I moved to Harrisonburg. I still work in DC 4 days a week, spending 2 nights over, but there is much speculation that DC bubble is close to bursting. Many government contractors have been laying folks off as of late and the furloughs are also giving people reason to worry. Just a couple of things to keep in mind when people talk about the DC metro area being a promised land. That, and NoVA traffic.

  10. #10
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    I grew up in Roanoke, good riding and decent amount of things to do. I go to school in Charlottesville and love it here. Easy drives to trails in staunton and harrisonburg, good trail system surrounding town and excellent road riding if your into that thing. Plus the general atmoshphere of the town is awesome.

  11. #11
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    I grew up in Sterling, Loudon county and it was pleasant enough. The rail trail and other bike infrastructure is favorable and the Fairfax/east traffic isn't quite there yet. Given the choice and budget I would take Leesburg. A good balance of highway access(7 and 15) and rail trails and good bike shops. Mass transit has come a long way as far as the Fairfax-DC range. The bus fare for the same trip equates to a fraction of the personal driving expense(though still more than the paved rail trails )
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  12. #12
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    Prepare for major housing sticker shock pretty much everywhere compared to the midwest. The riding is WAY better here though.
    This x 10.

    I'll just add, as someone who has moved around all over the country, Viriginia is nothing like the mid-western states. Compared to mid-western states, Viriginia varies wildly in terms of terrain, politics, culture and living. Driving the expanse of any mid-western state, you won't find much variation from town to town. Each town is the same as the next and the landscape doesn't change. In Viriginia, things shift dramatically in most aspects depending on where you live. Sure, there's a Starbucks in every town, but NoVA is a completely different ball game compared to the southern parts and the eastern shore varies just as much from the west. Just something to keep in mind.

  13. #13
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    Thanks for the great responses everyone. A lot of good insights on things I never would have thought to ask.

    In the DC area, the possibility of commuting by bike is really appealing. I have some friends who lived near Reston that were daily commuters. What is the -politics, culture and living- profile of the towns along the western half of the WOD trail?

    Also, how come there's not a lot of love for Richmond?

  14. #14
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    You really need to provide more details on your priorities to get better answers. How can you choose to live anywhere? Are you teleworking? What type of mountain biking do you like? Do you like snow? Are big mountains a priority? Do you care what size city you live in?

    You can bike commute anywhere you live.

    I live in Richmond and like it a lot but would definitely live in Charlottesville if I could maintain my same standard of living, but that's just not possible. I would say Charlottesville for access to mountains, good size city, good schools, good people, and cooler temps.

    Harrisonburg is also a good choice but smaller.

  15. #15
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    Seems that everyone has their opinions on the best place to be in Va so let me offer my .02 cents

    I live in Orange VA which is right outside Charlottesville VA. I can hit Richmond, NoVa/DC, Charlottesville, Fredericksburg, and all points in around an hour. Anything at the foothills of the Blue Ridge is where you need to be.

  16. #16
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    I'm a big Roanoke fan. I cannot tell from your thread if you need to live close to DC or not. If so, we are 3-4 hours away and out of the picture. Further west and south you go the more rural southern Appalachian and the stereotypes are not all wrong. Some like it some don't. Bear hunting and 4 wheeling in my area are bigger than mountain biking, although we all co-exist quite well.

    Mountain biking in western Virginia is great due to the massive amounts of national forest. Old CCC era trails are the general rule west of the Blue Ridge, east of the mountains you will find more built as singletrack. It's all in what you like, national forest riding is hard with many rocks, climbs and hike a bike sections. The downhill rewards are great though. A good place to test drive this type of riding is Douthat State Park, sort of like National Forest Light.

    The Roanoke area has a lot of CCC trails as well as a fair amount of built/as singletrack at Carvins Cove, Mill Mountain, and Explore Park.

    Best of luck in your relocation.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by loginhater View Post
    Also, how come there's not a lot of love for Richmond?
    I live in Midlothian which is southwest of the city. I can get to Pochahontas State Park in under 15 minutes. The JRPS trails are 20-25 minutes away and new trails are being added. There are also some other smaller city trail networks nearby (e.g. Powhite, Larus) and Poor Farm out in Hanover county.

    Within 1-2 hours east there is Freedom Park, York River State Park, Wahrani, New Quarter among others. Two hours to the west you have 1,000,000 acres of the George Washington National Forest to explore, plus Jefferson National forest. Not to mention the great trails around Charlottesville (e.g Walnut Creek), Douthat State Park and so on.

    You are only a couple hours form DC, the beach, and as mentioned above, the mountains. Housing may be more expensive than some of the areas mentioned, but not near as bad as the DC/Northern VA area. Traffic is nothing compared to DC.

    It's a great location and is really an up and coming as a biking town, as well as an outdoor town in general.

    Good luck no matter where you land.
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  18. #18
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    Orange? I'm amused because I grew up there. Centrally located? Yep. Happening place? Nope. If you pass through there though, I recommend popping down 15 to Gordonsville for some BBQ at the BBQ Exchange. Don't miss their cornbread.

  19. #19
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    My two favorite spots are Charlottesville and Roanoke (I've lived in both). C'Ville has much more of a white collar feel to it (with accompanying prices to boot), and is considered my some as wealthy, elitist, and sometimes a bit snooty as well. For example, a, say, 200k home in/around Roanoke will run you at least 300k in C'ville, if not more in areas near downtown and the Ivy area. Roanoke has more of a blue collar, southern feel, but IMHO its absolutely an up and coming area. The MTB riding is phenomenal in both locales (Carvins/ROA, Walnut/CHO etc., so you can't go wrong there with either.

    Overall, if you can afford the price tag, I'd go with C'ville, especially considering Roanoke is far removed from another major metro area (whereas C'ville is 1 hour from Richmond and about 2 hours from D.C.). Plus, C'ville is roughly 45 minutes from skiing (Wintergreen), and slightly closer to Snowshoe as well. With that said, Roanoke feels more like a mountain town, whereas C'Ville is more in the Piedmont, with mountains as your backdrop. C'ville shopping, access to transportation, and restaurants easily trump Roanoke as well. Flights in/out of ROA are insanely expensive...CHO not nearly as much plus RIC is only 1:15 away. This is a big deal if you plan to visit family far away or they plan to visit you.

    My third choice would be Richmond, though Richmond is really flat overall. Still, Richmond is a great area that is improving yearly; just is way too flat for my tastes; much flatter than, say, even Atlanta. I'm personally more of a fan of central and western VA; not so much the eastern part of the state as it reminds of Florida to a certain extent. NOVA is out of the question unless you absolutely have to live there thanks to the ubiquitous gov. jobs.
    Last edited by Roanoke4; 03-30-2013 at 07:24 PM.

  20. #20
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    Where to live in VA?

    My .02:

    DC has the most "culture." But coming from the Midwest, I'll go out on a limb and say that isn't a concern for you. The DC area also has a LOT of bike infrastructure. But, there are just TOO damn many people. I live 14.5 miles from work. I bike commute 2-3 times a week and drive the other times. This is important to my next bit of data. In damn near a year to the week from when I replaced the nav unit in my car (it has traffic avoidance), I've logged 9500 miles of driving. Over that 9500 miles, I've been at a dead stop for over 45 HOURS. At least half of my driving occurs on weekends when traffic is lighter as I'm driving to a trail. So, that particular takeaway is that no matter how bad you can imagine mid week driving in the DC metro area, it is far, far worse. Back to the plus side, there are lots of trail options within a 1-1.5 hour (w/o traffic) drive.

    If trail riding is a top priority, Harrisonburg is the place to be. If you want bigger city feel than Harrisonburg and with a bit of an upscale college town/small town feel (but not as small as h-burg) Charlottesville fills the bill nicely and is about an hour away from H-burg with its own nice trails.

    I can't rally speak to the community feel of Roanoke or Richmond. Iv only ridden once near Roanoke, but a fair number of times in Richmond back in the 2005-2007 time frame. Some good fun trails in Richmond for sure. But Richmond used to get a bad rap for crime, of which I never understood during my day trips to ride there.

    So, if i were given the choice, i'd only consider the DC metro area if: (1) you are either very close to a great trail system with multiple ride options to stave off boredom (Frederick watershed & Gambrill or patapsco for example) or you are a distance from work where commuting to work via means other than a car are viable and reasonable in terms of time) and (2) the trappings of DC (power, politics, suits and ass hat local & diplomatic plate drivers) is something you will enjoy. Clearly, I wasn't given the choice.

    Aside from that, I think Charlottesville offers the best balance of riding opportunities and community feel that is neither small nor big.

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