A Guide to Moving to: Virginia
So you’re thinking of a move to Virginia, but your arm needs a bit more twistin’. Well you’re in the right place, friend. We've created an informative insider's guide to the state that we filled with facts, fun ol’ trivia and some just plain weird stuff.
Some may be super-helpful and some may not, but you never know when any of this will be a Final Jeopardy question that could land you a ton of money. So pay attention! But have fun - and make sure you're covered with an affordable home insurance policy.
Virginia in a Nutshell
Virginia has racked up some pretty impressive nicknames throughout its storied history. It’s often referred to as the Mother of States because of the large numbers of American pioneers birthed here, and it's apparently not a shout-out to all the mom’ out there as we originally thought.
And the mother thing didn’t stop there. It’s been called the Mother of Presidents because eight US presidents were born here—not a bad batting average if you ask us. Then there’s Old Dominion, a more popular nickname, which was given to Virginia because it was the first of the 13 original colonies.
But our favorite is probably the popular state tourism slogan, "Virginia is for lovers," which was a cheeky way of attracting a younger crowd to the state during 1969’s “Summer of Love.” It worked and has become one of the most iconic advertising campaigns of the last fifty years, also bringing the state’s population to a twelfth-ranked 8,525,660. In fact, 55,640 people moved here in 2017 alone.
But what do all these people do? Well, let’s talk about jobs next.
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A quarter of the folks who live in the Old Dominion work for the government. Not surprising at all, though, due to its proximity to Washington, DC. But if working for the government isn’t your thing, don’t worry. Virginia's job market has much more to offer.
Although it operates right on the nose of the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour, Virginia’s unemployment rate is still 3.4%. And that’s below the national average. But there’s also a fair number of growing career fields out there worth exploring that can offer a far more competitive wage.
The fastest-growing job fields include: occupational therapist, physical therapist, home health aid, nurse practitioner, interpreter/translator, statistician and operations analyst. And on the higher end of the pay spectrum, Zippia recommends looking into a role as a surgeon, CEO, OB/GYN, psychiatrist, nurse anesthetist, pediatrician or dentist.
So the jobs are out there, and with the right prep work, you could be rolling in dough. You could even call yourself the Mother of All Moneymakers!. But what happens when the work day is over? Where do Virginians lay their heads? Let’s find out more about the housing game.
Whether you’re looking for a house, an apartment or a large yurt nestled high in the Blue Ridge Mountains, you should have no trouble finding it in Virginia. And a little background can certainly go a long way while you search for the right fit.
If you’re looking to buy a home, the current median home value is $251,100, with home values that have increased 3.7% over the past year. Homes are currently listed on the market for an average of $314,970 with average closing prices of $270,600. But if you fear long-term commitment, you can rent a house for around $1,700/month.
If you hate mowing the lawn, you could always rent an apartment. The state capital of Richmond has one-bedroom places going for about $950/month. However, for the same one-bedroom, you’d pay about $1,026/month in Virginia Beach, $1,512/month in Alexandria, and a whoppin’ $1,868/month in Arlington. So as you can see, prices are all over the map all over the map of Virginia, but there are plenty of options out there.
Plus, Virginia has quite a bit of new construction underway at the moment. So there’s always plenty more housing on its way. There's a lot going on along the eastern coast, from Virginia Beach to Norfolk and Hampton, and even all the way up to Alexandria and Arlington.
So there’s a lot happening in Virginia, which is great. But what are the people like?
Culture and Natives
Virginians insist that they are "hard-working," "loyal," "friendly," "nice" and "hospitable," but they can also be "stubborn," "suspicious of outsiders," and even, at times, "snobs." They say that the northern part of the state, close to the DC metro area, is much more urban with a culture pretty “off” from the rest of the state. In fact, the state only has two major-metropolitan areas: Virginia Beach and Richmond. The rest of the land is made up of itty-bitty to mid-sized cities.
When they're not working, locals say that Virginians are still very active. You'll find runners all over the place—so be careful while driving around. Locals are also super-outdoorsy, and like to enjoy their state's green mountains (the Blue Ridge Mountains), as well as the rivers, streams and lakes.
The entire population is known to be extremely diverse. One local called Virginia a "purple state," meaning that there's a good mix of liberals and conservatives within its borders. Another resident referred to their home state as "beautifully diverse and accepting." So that’s nice.
Residents say that their state is often referred to as being "too northern for southerners and too southern for northerners." If you want to get technical, Virginia is south of the Mason-Dixon line, and therefore considered to be part of the South by default.
However, many visitors don't consider the state to be very southern, in terms of its culture. Locals say that their home state is split into three “cultural zones”: "NoVA" (northern Virginia), Virginia Beach and southern Virginia. One of them has to be “just right” for you, right?
Old Dominion Trivia
The first ever permanent English settlement in what later became known as America was in Jamestown. Virginia remained the most populated state from its settlement all the way up until 1805, when it was surpassed by New York.
This state is rich in American history. Eight of our nation's presidents were born here: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler and Zachary Taylor. Now, seven former presidents are buried here. You can even tour many of their homes, including perhaps the most famous, Mount Vernon, where George Washington lived and was buried.
Half of the battles during the Civil War were fought in Virginia. In fact, it’s also home to Manassas National Battlefield, where both Battles of Bull Run were fought and Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson earned himself the nickname “Stonewall.”
Virginian residents are from the lucky few who get the pleasure of enjoying all four seasons to the max. They get to enjoy all kinds of terrain, from mountains and beaches to forests and lakes. Along the Atlantic coast, you'll find a big city feel, but also a maritime experience. Plus, the US Navy has a large presence here.
Aside from a ton of former POTUSes, there are quite a few other famous people who hail from the Old Dominion. Like: Chris Brown, Katie Couric, Rob Lowe, Warren Beatty, Wanda Sykes and Ella Fitzgerald. In addition, several big box office hits were filmed or set in Virginia, including: Pocahontas (she lived in the area that is now Richmond), The Bourne Identity, Donnie Darko, Mission: Impossible, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Minority Report and Deep Impact. Goodness, that's a lotta spy movies, and a lotta Tom Cruise. It makes sense, though, considering that the CIA headquarters are located right in Langley, Virginia.
The Virginian diet is pretty eclectic hodgepodge. When they're not chowing down on fresh, organic, local produce, they're chowing down on kebabs—a local fave. They also love Brunswick stew, which is a stew where chicken is the main protein source ...and rabbit is the secondary. For dessert (or an appetizer, depending on who you ask), Virginians greatly enjoy their wine and cheese courses, as well.
Hopefully some of these trivia tidbits can help you fit in with the locals, or at the very least win you some cool prizes at your next pub trivia session.
Can't-Miss Virginia Fun + Activities
No matter what kind of weird things you’re into, Virginia has plenty of things to see and do.
Here just a few of the state's popular attractions:
- Parade of Sail: Harborfest, hosted in Norfolk by the Virginia Pilots Association, is held annually in the Downtown Norfolk Harbor. The parade fleet includes tall ships, Navy ships, USCG Cutters, antique and classic wooden boats, cruisers and all types of other vessels. So sea pirates, rejoice. This is the spectacle for you.
- Tysons Corner: Shopaholics loooooove Virginia. Fairfax County is home to a humongous retail spectacle known as Tysons Corner that features more than 300 stores and all types of restaurants. At the heart of it all is The Plaza, which hosts open-air outdoor concerts and seasonal/holiday festivals. Come with deep pockets, an empty stomach and hungry ears.
- Luray Caverns: Located in Luray, Virginia, it’s the largest and most popular cave on the East Coast. The inner, underground winding path was forged by the ancient sea. When it dried up, the result was the caverns. This cave has got teeth like crazy - you'll find stalactites and stalagmites everywhere you look. You’ll see a spectacle known as Dream Lake, which reflects the hanging stalactites above and creates almost a Stranger Things-esque upside-down world. It’s pretty trippy.
- Edgar Allen Poe Museum: Dedicated to the master of goth, this museum holds the largest known collection of "Poe stuff" in the world. You'll find original manuscripts, personal letters and belongings, furniture and household items. There's even a lock of Poe's hair—ew—that was collected when he died. Poe lived in Richmond, the city where the museum is located, at various times throughout his life. Established in 1922, the museum is now the oldest building in the city. Give it a visit and grab yourself some Poe swag while you’re at it, like a black T-shirt or a black coffee mug.
- Foamhenge: In Centreville, is prooobably the coolest tourist attraction ever—an exact replica of England’s own Stonehenge. BUT, this one's made entirely out of Styrofoam. The stone replicas are full-sized and positioned just like the original monument. The spectacle was created by fiberglass sculptor Mark Cline. Be aware, though, that there are extremely limited visiting hours, and off-seasons.
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Pros and Cons of Life in Virginia
We can talk about presidents, battlefields and foam sculpture all day, believe us. But wouldn’t you just love to hear the good and the not so good from real-life Virginians themselves?
Pros (as voted on by Viriginia residents):
- Top o' the line healthcare: There are more than 100 hospitals in Virginia, and 21 meet U.S. News’ highest standards. The University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville ranked #1 with a number of renowned adult and pediatric specialties. Other top hospitals include: Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital and Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church. So, if you get a bad case of the sniffles, or heaven-forbid worse, you’ll be in great hands.
- Rich history: It’s like taking a walk inside the high school history book you never opened. Colonial Williamsburg "was the thriving capital of Virginia when the dream of American freedom and independence was taking shape," and was the "political, cultural and educational center of what was then the largest, most populous, and most influential of the American colonies," says history.org. You can tour the town and stop at various museums and historical sites, take a carriage ride, and even watch a Civil War reenactment. It's about to get old school, up in here.
- Epic diversity: One of the most-popular pros, according to Virginians, is the ginormous amount of diversity. Being so close to the nation's capital, you’ll find people from all walks of life doing all kinds of different things. There's also quite a mixture of different political beliefs, earning Virginia the title of a "purple state," as it blends both red and blue parties together. Yay, unity!
- Proximity to DC: Literally in Virginia's backyard, a day trip to DC can include museum hopping, monument tours, festivals and of course shopping and eating. Living so close, locals have the ability to make an infinite number of trips there and back, and experience all of DC.s wonders, one day trip at a time.
Cons (as voted on by Viriginia residents):
- Seriously uncool traffic: Right along I-95 South from Fairfax County Parkway to Fredericksburg is what’s been called "the single worst traffic hotspot in the US." The average traffic jam can last 33 minutes and cover six miles. The DC area overall ranked third worst in the nation for traffic congestion, just behind New York and Los Angeles. Gross. So stock up on podcasts and audiobooks, ‘cuz those errands may take a while.
- Seriously high taxes: Virginia was ranked #7 on the GOBankingRates list of the "Top 10 Worst States for Income Tax in 2015." Its neighboring state, West Virginia, pays "an effective tax rate that's 26% lower on average," than “Regular” Virginia. As much as Virginians dislike being compared to West Virginians, they might wish they were more similar—at least in this category.
- Seriously smoggy air: The Old Dominion is home to several nuclear power plants, which contribute to a fair amount of air toxicity and pollution. In fact, Arlington and Fairfax received "F" grades for smog in 2018 from the American Lung Association. And “F” doesn’t stand for “fantastic,” that’s for sure.
It's time now, folks, to dive into the stranger side of VA. This short list has some of the most peculiar and baffling laws still in existence in the state, for your entertainment, puzzlement and so you don’t get stuck in a sticky situation with the wrong side of the law. You’re welcome.
- Children can't trick-or-treat on Halloween. Dang kids, up to no good (and taking all of our candy). Virginia put a stop to that. However, there's no law that they can't cause sugar-fueled mischief on any other holiday...
- Motorists can't drive without shoes on. Look, we all know how great it is to take the top down, the flip-flops off and feel the wind between your toes. But not inside of these state lines, you won’t.
- It's illegal to curse at another person in town. Even if they're being a real jerk and totally asking for it. So save the swearwords until you’re back home.
- It's illegal to spit on seagulls. We know how much they love to crap all over everything and steal your food when you're not looking. But NO SPITTING! We're unclear as to where the line on swearing at birds is, though.
Set Sail for Virginia!
Alright folks, there it is. Our brief insider's guide to the bizarrely factual and factually bizarre world of Virginia. Unfortunately, we probably weren’t able to cross all the concerns and questions off your list, but we do hope to have covered a few. And if you’re still on the hunt for more info, Google a few key questions, and join a "Virginia is for lovers" Facebook Group—careful there, though.
Just close your eyes for a sec and imagine yourself exploring historic Colonial Williamsburg, watching a huge fleet of ships, shopping at Tysons Corner, or even posing in front of Foamhenge. If that all sounds great to you, then you’ve got your answer. If it doesn’t, well, we’ve got a whole series of these guides to help you find the right state for you. Just make sure you're covered with an affordable home insurance policy.
Good luck, and may the wind guide your ship in the perfect next direction.
NOTE: if you decide Virginia isn't right for you, we've got a whole series of these guides to help you find the perfect spot. Ever thought about West Virginia?