Five Pros and Cons of Living in Arlington, VA

The New Diplomat’s Wife is collecting “pros and cons” of the various places we are posted to around the world. So, why not Arlington, Virginia? OK, technically, this post is about Clarendon, since that is where we live in our corporate apartment. But I think these pros and cons will apply anywhere along the Metro’s Orange Line corridor in north Arlington. (An area which has changed a LOT since we first lived here 25 years ago. I can remember when Whole Foods was a Sears. Shoot me now!)

clarendon

The pros:

1.) Arlington is close to everything. I live two blocks from the Clarendon Metro, so I can get just about anywhere without a car. Sure, sometimes a car is more convenient, and sometimes I need it to visit friends in the outer ‘burbs, but in general, I could get by without a car here if I had to. Zipcar is just around the corner, after all. I can walk to two grocery stores and a CVS in five minutes. It is almost like living in Europe!

2.) The restaurants are awesome. We are so enjoying the variety of food after Vienna. Everything from Vietnamese to Persian cuisine is available within a few blocks’ walk from our apartment. (Do not speak to me of the Cheesecake Factory…) There is a wide price range too. The big, fancy restaurants are not cheap, but we can easily have an excellent dinner with drinks for under $50 in the smaller places. The ubiquitous lunch specials are even more affordable. Yeah, we’re eating good this year.

3.) The parks and trails are plentiful. Arlington has an amazing number of walking/biking trails, and most are available by Metro. I like to walk parts of the Custis, Bluemont and Mount Vernon trails for exercise. They are all well-kept and safe in the day time,  and even offer a few public bathrooms along the way. The Washington and Old Dominion Railroad trail also runs nearby.

4.) The community is very diverse. OK, right around the Metro stops the single-family housing is too expensive to allow for much ethnic or economic diversity. Neighborhoods such as Aurora Heights and Lyon Village are overwhelmingly white and wealthy. But everywhere else in Arlington is a giant melting pot. Spanish is widely spoken. Asian, Latino, and Middle Eastern grocery stores are everywhere. It’s a very interesting place to live.

5.) There is so much going on. Arlington is not a sleepy suburb. People don’t move here to get it away from it all—or to get away from other people. It is one of the most densely populated (yet progressively managed) counties in the United States. Stuff is happening, everywhere, all the time, from construction to street fairs. Either you like this environment or you don’t. We do!

The cons:

1.) Arlington is expensive! Not compared to Vienna, of course (Austria, not Virginia!) But, by comparison with other American cities, it’s pricey. Housing costs, in particular, are insane, especially anywhere the Metro. Rents are high, too. It doesn’t matter so much to us this year, because we are on temporary duty in corporate housing. But if you are here on your own dime, good luck with housing. Yikes.

2.) The millennials can sometimes be a pain. Of course, they live here for the same reasons we do.  And I have no problem with them except…bar crawls are not high on our list. They do go on, though, in our neighborhood. It is very strange to be of a certain age and walking home through herds of drunken twenty-somethings with green plastic beer mugs around their necks on St. Patrick’s Day. I have enjoyed living in Clarendon for this year, but I doubt I would want to live here permanently even if I could afford to buy a house in the neighborhood. The bar scene is just a bit much.

3.) Traffic and parking are a bit of an issue. It’s not anywhere as bad as it could be, thanks to good urban planning. And I don’t deal with it much because I don’t have to drive much. But I can see that if you were car-dependent for one reason or another, having to pay to park all the time could get old pretty quickly.

4.) Too many McMansions. Unfortunately, Arlington is plagued with pop-ups, just like most other DC suburbs. Many lovely older bungalows under have giant 3,500-plus square foot “popped-up” houses looming over them. Some people just have too much money, and a lot of those people want to live in Arlington. It’s truly a shame.

5.) Ballston Common. I’m running out of cons, so I’ll toss in the lamest mall in the DC area, occupied primarily by athletic shoe stores and cell phone kiosks. Take the Silver Line straight past it to Tysons Corner if you are in a mall sort of mood.

Just to wrap up, here’s an oldie but a goodie. ICYMI, The Arlington Rap. (Dudes here still wear brown flip-flops!)

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