<img src="https://d5nxst8fruw4z.cloudfront.net/atrk.gif?account=5C8hi1agq800qI" style="display:none" height="1" width="1" alt="">

    What to Know for a Military Move to Alexandria, Virginia

    Do you have military orders to the Pentagon or a military installation in the Washington, DC, area? You’re probably overwhelmed with the location options. This post will help you decide if Alexandria, VA, is the right place to call home. Good news—it probably is!

    Less than ten miles from the nation’s capital, Alexandria is close enough to take advantage of some of the country's best cultural activities. But Alexandria also holds its own, providing residents the sophistication of a city filled with amenities and a small town vibe perfect for raising families.

    Portions of the city are nestled into picturesque and quaint suburbs, while other parts are bustling with commerce and the hubbub spillover from DC. In different sections along the Potomac River, outdoor enthusiasts travel the same paths George Washington did hundreds of years ago.

    Alexandria is as varied in population as it is in its neighborhoods. Plenty of government workers reside here, as do those in the private sector. Families, singles, and couples have everything they could ask for in a very close vicinity. A robust tourism industry demonstrates just how attractive Alexandria really is for numerous reasons–excellent schools, low unemployment, and plenty to see and do.

    This all sounds amazing, right? And it is, but to love Alexandria means you’ll have to put up with a host of inconveniences like the amazing lack of parking (forget free parking!) and the major lifestyle changes required to manage your finances and the traffic navigation skills needed to live here. 

    Read on for a solid start in your Alexandria research.

    Pinterest What you need to know for a military move to Alexandria, VA PinterestTerms to Know About the Alexandria and Washington, DC, Area

    Inside/Outside of the Beltway

    Interstate 495 is a 64-mile loop around Washington, DC that encompasses the suburbs of Virginia and Maryland. The term “The Beltway” is used to describe where real estate is located, a reference to where political action occurs (inside the Beltway in DC), and most frequently, in traffic reports.


    Northern Virginia is considered a region without hard boundaries. NOVA consists of the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William, as well as the independent cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park.

    National Capital Region

    The Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms qualifies this geographic area encompassing the District of Columbia and eleven local jurisdictions in the State of Maryland and the Commonwealth of Virginia as the "National Capital Region."

    The DMV

    The DMV consists of Washington, DC,: Maryland: and Virginia. Some government entities, such as the Census Bureau, add portions of West Virginia to this area.

    The Differences between the City of Alexandria and Alexandria, Fairfax County

    One of the most basic but tricky pieces of information to understand about Alexandria is that it is actually split into two different geographic locations and governed by separate bodies. This concept is confusing for newcomers, especially regarding schools and zip codes, because casual conversations usually lump all references to Alexandria into one category.

    map of the city of Alexandria and Alexandria, Fairfax County

    Maps from Military Town Advisor

    City of Alexandria

    Important Stats

    • Population: 154,706 (2021)
    • Area: 15.3 miles
    • About 10,000 veterans live in Alexandria
    • Average commute time: 31 minutes

    Fun Facts

    The city is often ranked as one of the most dog-friendly in the U.S., with many hotels and restaurants that welcome your favorite pooch with fresh water and a treat.

    The City of Alexandria is the commercial and professional focus of the collective region known as Alexandria. Within the city limits, Old Town is the epicenter of tourism and where the charm of colonial history meets modern shopping and dining.

    Popular Neighborhoods

    Old Town, Eisenhower Valley, Rosemont, The Berg, Parker-Gray, Del Ray, Arlandria, West End, North Ridge, and Potomac Yard.

    Review of Old Town, Alexandria:

    “Old Town is a great location for your D.C. assignment. Close to the metro and major highway, making the commutes to the Pentagon and bases very quick and easy. Plenty of shops, restaurants, and historic attractions. You can walk to almost everything and have access to water and long hiking/biking trails that connect the city. I can't say enough good things about living in Old Town!”map of Fairfax county Virginia

    Alexandria, Fairfax County (sometimes referred to as Lower Alexandria or South Alexandria)

    Important Stats 

    • Fairfax County Public Schools is the 10th largest school division in the United States. FCPS serves more than 178,000 students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12.
    • Fort Belvoir is the closest military installation to serve families, but other bases (Fort McNair, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Joint Base Myer Henderson Hall) are accessible and relatively close.
    • 65,000 veterans live in Fairfax County.
    • Vehicles owned by full-time active duty service members and spouses absent from their state of residence or domicile may be exempted from local taxation upon application to the Department of Tax Administration.

    Fun Facts

    • George Washington’s beloved Mount Vernon is, in some cases, only a few miles from numerous Alexandria addresses, and many families purchase annual passes for multiple visits with out-of-town family and friends.
    • For field trips, public school kids regularly tour The Smithsonian Museums and see live performances at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

    Popular Neighborhoods

    Hollin Hills, Franconia, Groveton, Hybla Valley, Huntington, Belle Haven, Mount Vernon, Fort Hunt, Engleside, Burgundy Village, Waynewood, Wilton Woods, Rose Hill, Virginia Hills, Hayfield, and Kingstowne are some of the popular neighborhoods in this area.

    Review of Kingstowne (Alexandria):

    “What a welcome! Lots of military and retired military. The day we moved in, the whole row moved their cars. People brought cleaning supplies, refreshments, and dinner. Very easy drive to Ft. Belvoir, short bike ride or medium walk to metro, right next door to a school parents love.”

    DC road with Capitol Hill in background

    Photo from Pixabay

    Cost of Living in Alexandria, VA 

    Unless you're arriving from expensive duty stations like San Diego or Hawaii, newcomers to Alexandria and the DC area will likely notice an uptick in the price of everything. It’s just a part of life in NOVA, and military families become experts on how to make the cost adjustments work. Utilizing on-base amenities like the Exchange, gas stations, daycare, and recreation becomes a regular savings technique.

    Fort Belvoir has a relatively new Commissary and an Exchange that is only a few years old, making it less of a hassle to navigate the inevitable crowds. Other nearby bases, such as Joint Base Myer- Henderson Hall, have shopping outlets, too.

    A helpful but potentially eye-opening resource to put the cost of living into perspective further is Numbeo. Numbeo is a website detailing all aspects of costs of living sources by zip code. They have a comparison tool allowing you to enter and compare your zip to your potential Alexandria zip code. 

    Look at this example comparing the cost of living in Alexandria to Fayetteville, North Carolina. One entry says an inexpensive meal costs $14.00 per person in Fayetteville and  $25.00 per person in Alexandria.

    It’s also essential to factor commuting fees into your cost of living. Payments for riding the Metrorail, parking, and more frequent trips to the gas station affect real estate option affordability. 

    Read our Alexandria Guide For Newcomers for more information. 

    townhouse door with bike parked

    Photo from Canva

    Alexandria, VA, Real Estate

    Buying a Home in Alexandria

    In general terms, the real estate market in Alexandria stays stable. For most people who relocate here, the sticker shock takes some getting used to. Homes that are competitively priced move quickly and will likely entertain multiple offers. The benefits of living in the area (commute, access to good schools, and amenities) drive the constant high demand. 

    These pricing examples show the significant differences in pricing between Alexandria’s two locations. 

    Median Sold Price in 2024

    The Fairfax County figure is a little misleading. This is a wide swath of real estate geography, and premium locations will price far above this median. In the sought-after Alexandria neighborhoods near Fort Belvoir and the George Washington Parkway, such as Waynewood, Riverside Gardens, and Stratford Landing, these sale numbers reflect a market entry home with many renovations needed.

    Review of Waynewood:

    “We lived in Waynewood during my husband's joint tour at the Pentagon. While we expected it to be a stressful tour, we ended up having the best tour for our family due to this neighborhood. Waynewood is a family-friendly neighborhood with great schools, many social activities, an overall active community that supports its residents (both renters and owners were more than welcome at all social neighborhood functions). Waynewood is a very central location in between Old Town Alexandria and Mount Vernon/Fort Belvoir. We were able to enjoy the restaurants and city life in Old Town but able to keep our budget in line by shopping at the commissary at Fort Belvoir and using the medical center on base. Waynewood is an amazing community in a fabulous location off the Potomac River.”

    Renting a Home in Alexandria

    Due to the lengths of typical PCS cycles and expensive real estate prices, many military members choose to rent a house for their tour. The housing payment goal often is to stay at or near the servicemember’s BAH. But, renters should know the likelihood of renters paying beyond their BAH is a distinct possibility in Alexandria­–not always, but often enough to mention, particularly in desirable areas and the historic city center of Old Town. Those who don’t need access to public schools have more room for negotiation for affordable living near their workplace.

    Alexandria BAH comparison reference: 

    This is the 2024 BAH Calculator for an O4 with Dependents in the 22314, Old Town Zip code: $4056.00 monthly. In comparison, MilitaryByOwner advertises rental homes available in this zip code that top out at $4,600.

    It’s common to encounter military landlords in the Alexandria area. They realize the need for staffing in military facilities in the NCR isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so the income stream will likely remain. Fluctuations with annual BAH reconfigurations occur, but the opportunity to, at minimum, pay the mortgage payment exists.

    Military landlords also find plenty of advantages in working with other military members, including the consistency of monthly payments and the natural workplace camaraderie.

    Students standing in front of school

    Photo from Canva

    Education, Military Spouse Careers, and Quality of Life in Alexandria, VA

    Schools in Alexandria

    During a PCS move, families with school-aged children face a challenge in finding the right school for their children that also allows for a high quality of life at home. The cost of living and BAH numbers rarely match up, and commute times separate busy military families even more.

    There are many options for private schooling in Alexandria. Expect private schools to be competitive and expensive, forcing some military families to make difficult choices: choose a high-performing public school (at the cost of high-priced real estate) or use homeschool opportunities.

    Against a national backdrop, the NOVA region is gifted with robust public school systems. Many schools are either highly rated in Virginia, nationally ranked, or both. In fact, Fairfax County has a solid reputation for educating kids and has for decades. But in recent years, the Fairfax County Public School System has struggled to make its budget meet its needs. Shortages have been regular hurdles to overcome.

    Both the City of Alexandria and Alexandria, Fairfax County have more than acceptable public schools to choose from, but they also have less desirable options. Using school research tools is necessary in Alexandria because the addresses associated with The City of Alexandria and Alexandria, Fairfax County, are vast and diverse.

    Military Spouse Careers and Jobs in Alexandria

    Due to its proximity to the DC area, Alexandria, on the whole, is often lumped into job searches with Washington, DC.

    Sought after skills in the Washington, DC, area:

    • Healthcare Management
    • Sales
    • Retail Store Operations
    • Lean Manufacturing and Quality Management
    • Logistics and Supply Chain Management
    • Purchasing and Contract Negotiation
    • Product Development and Management
    • Customer Service

    Alexandria is also home to many nonprofit and for-profit offices for military support groups you’ve probably heard of: Blue Star Families, Military Officers Association of America, and National Military Family Association, to name a few. Not only are there options for volunteering, but all have support for spouses to advance professional skills and conduct job searches.

    Higher Education

    Northern Virginia Community College is an excellent and affordable option for progressing military family members' education. The school has campuses near Alexandria (Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield, and Woodbridge) and offers online learning.

    Fort Belvoir is another wealth of education opportunities. Satellite college campuses include:

    • Northern Virginia Community College    
    • Park University                           
    • University of Maryland University College            
    • Central Michigan University        
    • Webster University        
    • Old Dominion University

    Social Networks

    Working with hyper-local information is often the best way to become aware of the details needed to determine your best neighborhood, school, work, and commute options in Alexandria. Military families are always up for sharing advice and experiences.

    As soon as PCS orders for the DC area are a strong possibility, start subscribing and following several social media outlets for a good compilation of opinions and local news. This is especially helpful for finding upcoming rental homes, as military families tend to pass on their housing gems word of mouth to incoming families months in advance.

    Military Town Advisor (the quotes above are from this site) is a must to research the Washington, DC area, including Alexandria. The website’s creator is a former Navy spouse with years of PCS experience in the region. Honest reviews curated from military families with personal knowledge are written to make the next family’s transition easier. You’ll find descriptions and reviews for neighborhoods, shopping, restaurants, housing, and much more.

    • Facebook Groups: GAMS-National Capital Region Military Spouses, Fort Hunt Military Families, Alexandria, Virginia Homeschoolers, NoVa Moms, Fort Belvoir Spouses.
    • Patch: Greater Alexandria, Mount Vernon, Kingstowne-Rose Hill, Old Town, and West Alexandria.
    • Nextdoor

    More Useful Information for Life in Alexandria, VA

    The number of military installations in this area. It's entirely possible to live in Alexandria because of initial orders to locations such as the Pentagon, but follow-on orders could appear for further away locations like Fort Meade, Maryland. Keep in mind that a move just to avoid heavy traffic is likely not paid for unless the new orders require more than the standard 50-mile radius. Of course, there are some exceptions.

    Embrace the traffic suck only when necessary. Build your lifestyle in a bubble that keeps commuting to a minimum. Choose strategic neighborhoods where grocery stores, schools, and other important-to-you amenities (Target, Starbucks) are convenient as possible.
    Commuting via Metrorail and bus is an essential part of life in Alexandria. Metro stops that serve Alexandria include King Street Station, Van Dorn Street, Eisenhower Avenue, Huntington, and Braddock Road Station.

    The US Family Health Plan has recently entered the NOVA region as an alternative to Tricare Prime. USFHP is connected with Johns Hopkins and Inova Hospitals and allows military families to receive care away from military facilities. Active duty members, their families, veterans, and retirees completely fill medical facilities in the NCR to capacity and beyond. The wait times for appointments and pharmacy stops reflect the crowding. Note that you might live closest to Fort Belvoir, but if those assignments are full, you will be assigned to another military treatment facility, making USFHP or Tricare Select an attractive option.

    When it comes to a potential move to Alexandria, having too much information isn’t something to worry about. You’ll need opinions from multiple trusted resources in addition to the facts. Life is fast-paced here; planning early is the best bet to make good PCS choices.

    The Washington, DC, area is one of MilitaryByOwner’s most robust markets for selling and renting, so there are always houses to search for and detailed information about moving to the nation’s capital. Visit frequently to keep up with the best around Alexandria!

    Main image via Flickr Ken Lund

    New call-to-action

    Dawn M. Smith


    Dawn M. Smith

    Dawn is a real estate and military life writer who has a serious HGTV habit. When she is not writing, her teen daughter, Army husband, and golden retriever keep her busy through chauffeur duties, travel planning, and long dog walks. Dawn is pleased to share her experiences with MilitaryByOwner readers who are hoping to simplify military family journeys of all kinds. Follow Dawn on Pinterest for more ideas and resources and visit her site at Dawn M. Smith Custom Content Creation.

    Popular Posts