Living in DC North or South Arlington

Why is Arlington, Virginia one of the most popular places to live in the DC Metro Area? We’re deep diving on Arlington in this video and I’m going to share some insider secrets that anyone moving here with kids will need to know. I do these videos for you every week and break down living in DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia. I’ve lived here over 20 years and I know these areas. I go deeper than anybody. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss the new videos.

Arlington offers all types of lifestyles from peaceful suburban streets with lots of green space to more urban areas with tons of restaurants and nightlife. Arlington has no incorporated cities or towns within its borders. Arlington is the county, everyone’s mailing address is Arlington, and Arlington itself is not a city.

Arlington has a huge expanse of land. Route 50 bisects Arlington into two parts – North and South. Everything south or below 50 is South Arlington and north or above 50 is North Arlington. The addresses have an N or an S in their street address so that you should always know what part of Arlington you’re in.

I’ve had some who hail from Arlington comment on various videos that it’s all Arlington and shouldn’t be divided into north or south. Please understand that this is not some Civil War North and South division. I’m following with the street designations, because as I said, Arlington is huge so referring to it as North or South truly helps. Also, the different parts of Arlington do have different vibes – more so than just north or south, so I’m going to break it down for you.

Arlington VA Neighborhoods

North Arlington is a tale of two cities. I’m going to split North Arlington into two parts – we’re going to call it North Arlington and North North Arlington.

North North Arlington feels more like the “burbs.” It’s less walkable, and more spread out. It’s pretty much comprised of single-family homes, lots of parks and green space. There are a few shopping areas for groceries and conveniences, but if you really want a selection of restaurants or nightlife, you will probably be making your way to the Wilson/Clarendon corridor that runs from Rosslyn to Ballston.

The Rosslyn, Court House, Clarendon, Ballston corridor along Wilson Blvd is the southern most portion of North Arlington. This is a very busy, retail and restaurant packed corridor. You will find lots of commercial coexisting alongside residential areas. These are high density, “mixed use” communities with condos above retail, restaurants and nightlife.

You can live in North Arlington – the Wilson and Clarendon corridors without a car. It wouldn’t be as easy to be car-less in North North Arlington. But then, people who move there are trading in the more urban lifestyle for a more suburban one and they know this.

When compared to North Arlington, South Arlington is smaller in land area but has 2 of the 3 major business development corridors identified by the county. South Arlington is home to Reagan National Airport, the Pentagon and Amazon’s HQ2, also known as “National Landing.” Columbia Pike and Route 1 are the two development corridors where a lot of change is currently happening. Amazon’s announcement to come to Crystal City revitalized what was a relic from the 80’s into a neighborhood to watch.

Arlington VA Transportation

The metro lines follow the commercial development. Blue, yellow metro lines serve South Arlington heading south from DC into Pentagon City and Crystal City and continuing into Alexandria. The Orange and Silver lines serve North Arlington and run east/west along the Wilson Blvd corridor. There is not a metro serving North North Arlington.

Arlington VA Real Estate

North North Arlington is all single-family homes – there are no condos here. Prices are all 7 figures for the most part.

The Wilson/Clarendon corridor in North Arlington has a variety of real estate in both style and price point. There are apartments, condos, townhomes and single-family homes. You will pay for location and walkability. Condos start in the $400,000’s for 1 bedrooms, townhomes start in the $800,000’s and go into the $1M’s. For houses you will pay in the $1M’s and up.

South Arlington was overlooked for many years. The homes were smaller. You will see a lot of bungalows and cape cods here. Some of the neighborhoods and retail felt dated as mentioned about Crystal City. South Arlington was the not so cool little brother to the more sophisticated North Arlington.

But then, Jeff Bezos called and said, “Save my seat!” and it all went crazy.

Prices used to be a lot more palatable here in South Arlington. But the Amazon effect is no joke. So much development has happened, and it is getting harder to find homes under $1M. Home prices are well into the $1M’s in some neighborhoods.

Arlington VA Food

The residents of North North Arlington can just as easily drive to McLean as they can to the Wilson/Clarendon Blvd strip for restaurants. Grocery stores lie along the commercial strips – Langston Blvd and Wilson Blvd.

In South Arlington, the strip in Shirlington is where a lot of restaurants are concentrated in one place. Then you will find many restaurants scattered around the South Arlington neighborhoods as well. There are some excellent restaurants that don’t get the fanfare they should. I’m looking at you Thai Square on Columbia Pike. I stumbled in here one day by accident and it’s some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had. I’m a repeat offender of Thai Square.

For grocery stores, there’s all the usual suspects – Safeway, Giant, Trader Joes, Harris Teeter and Costco and they are all over South Arlington in a way you won’t see in North Arlington. You don’t have to go far for grocery stores in South Arlington, and you have incredible access to Potomac Yard which is technically Alexandria but right on the border of Arlington making it really easy to visit.

There are also several farmer’s markets in Arlington. In Courthouse there is a year round market on Saturdays. In Westover there’s a year round market on Sundays. Ballston has a farmer’s market on Thursday nights from April to October.

Arlington VA Families

As a resident of Arlington you can take advantage of so many activities offered through Arlington Parks and Recreation. There are classes and camps for kids to seniors. I am jealous of the Arlington Parks and Recreation Programs. I’m almost jealous enough to move there, were it not for my Baltimore-born and raised husband who would never live in Virginia.

Arlington County boasts that any resident of Arlington can walk to a park within 10 minutes. There are tons of parks throughout both North and South Arlington that it would be hard to compare. The county does an excellent job here. In North North Arlington check out Potomac Overlook Park. They have trails, gardens, camps and run some Girl Scout Programs.

Chestnut Hills Park, Hayes Park and Woodstock Park are more suburban parks in North Arlington. Potomac Yard, Four Mile Run and Shirlington are more urban feeling parks in South Arlington.

In North Arlington you will find the YMCA Gymnastics Program and a dedicated tennis center. There are pools all over the county. Upton Hill Regional Park has a pool and waterpark that’s open to the public. You can buy an annual pass or just pay for a daily pass when you want to go. Each of the high schools have indoor pools that are fee-based and open to the public depending on school schedules. There are also several swim clubs but be sure to get on the lists right away as the wait can take several years. Overlee, Donaldson Run, Dominion Hills and the Knights of Columbus all have membership based pools.

The county spends half its revenue on schools. Historically, people preferred North Arlington for the solid school scores, but Covid, plus time, were great equalizers. A diversity in student population offered by South Arlington schools shifted the old paradigm of thinking that North Arlington was the place to be. Many families are moving to South Arlington. Thanks Jeff Bezos!

Some schools offer language immersion as well which is a huge draw for many families.

Pre-schools are a hot commodity in Arlington. Make sure you get on to a waitlist somewhere – there are preschools all over Arlington. Some are play based, some have a Montessori format and others are through religious institutions.

Encore Stage and Studio is a theatre by and for kids. Childs Play is a fantastic toy store and also has a location in Arlington.

Other Arlington Fun

In South Arlington, the W & OD Trailhead which starts in Arlington. The Washington and Old Dominion Trail is 45 miles and it goes through so many neighborhoods – Vienna, Reston and ends in Purcellville.

There’s an outdoor ice rink in National Landing. As this is a very busy place, reservations are highly recommended. Ballston Mall has an ice rink as well.

North and South Arlington each have a Nature Center. Gulf Branch Nature Center is in North North Arlington and there are animal exhibits, a children’s discovery room, pollinator garden and classrooms. They also host birthday parties here. Long Branch Nature Center is in South Arlington in Glencarlyn Park and has a lot of the same you will see at Gulf Branch – children’s room, animal exhibits, discovery room, a pond and gardens.

In June there’s a Blues Festival called the Columbia Pike Blues Festival.

Don’t miss the Arlington County Fair that happens at the end of summer each year. There’s rides, food, music and entertainment for all ages.

And as an avid reader, I couldn’t not mention the Arlington Library system. They don’t only have books! You can participate in a whole array of events – poetry readings, meditation, bingo, art events, author talks plus events for kids. There’s also a teens helping with tech event!

Is Arlington Dog Friendly?

Both North and South Arlington have their share of dog parks. The county is dog-friendly.

In North Arlington there’s James Hunter Dog Park, Benjamin Banneker Dog Park and Fort Ethan Allen Dog Park.

In South Arlington there’s Shirlington Dog Park along Four Mile Run River. Fort Barnard and Glencarlyn both have a dog park. Pentagon City has a Bark Park.

Is Living in North or South Arlington Right For You?

As you’ve just learned, there is definitely a different vibe in the different parts of Arlington. One area isn’t better or worse, it’s just a question of finding your vibe and where your people are. I’ve had clients leave Arlington when they found it too sleepy to move into DC and I’ve had clients leave DC and move to Arlington when they want more space or other amenities not found in the city.