Your Guide to Moving to Washington, D.C.
Living in Washington, D.C. at a glance:
- D.C. is a thriving metropolis with a population of more than 593,000, with a large population of residents ages 20 to 39.
- The cost of living in D.C. is 60.5% more than the national average, and housing costs have skyrocketed over the last decade, with a current home price average of over $520,000.
- The average salary for individuals in the city is about $60,387
- The city is home to many growing industries (including 16 Fortune 500 companies).
- With over 80 museums to explore in the city, you won’t be at a loss for arts and culture in D.C.
Moving to Washington, D.C.: The Basics
What’s the population of Washington, D.C.?
The capital of our nation hosts people and cultures from across the globe. And although the actual size of the city proper is rather small — about 68 square miles — there’s a thriving population of more than 593,000 residents within its boundaries.
If you’re a young, single professional moving to the city for work, you’re not alone. 20 to 39-year-olds make up the largest age group in the city — about 40% of the total population. The median age is 34 years old. There’s a pretty even gender split in the city, and 70% of the total population is single (so people looking for love in the area definitely have the numbers on their side).
What’s the cost of living in Washington, D.C.?
People moving to D.C. from parts of the country could be surprised by the high cost of living in the area — starting with housing. The average price of a home in D.C. is upwards of $1 million, and the average rent is $3,060/mo.
Aside from housing, new residents might find themselves paying more for other expenses like food and groceries. For example, moving from Richmond, Virginia, to Washington, D.C. would result in a 29.75% increase in grocery costs.
So, if you’re strolling down the grocery aisle in the nation’s capital, expect to pay $1.59 for a half-gallon of milk, $1.73 for a dozen eggs, and $3.97 for a loaf of bread.
Want to explore the cost of living in Washington, D.C.? Crunch numbers with MYMOVE’s calculator.
It’s smart to compare D.C. to other cities to give you an idea of how much it costs to live there. Here’s how D.C. stacks up against cities of a similar size, like Boston, bigger cities, like San Diego, and smaller U.S. cities, like Albuquerque.
|City||Cost of Living (above or below national average)||Average Salary||Average Home Price||Average Rent|
|San Diego, CA||+42.20%||$53,913||$795,864||$2,382/mo.|
*Data sourced from the Council for Community and Economic Research’s Cost of Living Index
How’s the Washington, D.C. job market?
Like most cities in the world, D.C.’s economy has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, despite seeing consistent increases in job growth rates prior to the outbreak. The leisure and hospitality industry has seen the largest decrease, losing 30% of the sector’s workforce, compared to the industry’s national job loss average of 24.2%.
Other areas that have suffered substantial lay-offs include education and government, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The unemployment rate spiked at 11.2% in April, but has improved in recent months.
For job-seekers moving to the area, D.C. is home to four companies on the Fortune 500 list, including Fannie Mae, Danaher, Carlyle Group, and FTI Consulting. The surrounding areas in Maryland and Virginia also house major companies, all within easy commuting distance. These include Northrop Grumman, Freddie Mac, Lockheed Martin, and Discovery.
What do I need to know about education in Washington, D.C.?
Parents moving to Washington, D.C. will have plenty of schooling choices for their children. There are over 200 public and charter options available in the metro area, and they are lottery-based for children ages three and up.
With the start of the 2020-2021 school year, D.C. public schools have gone completely virtual as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The public school system offers free pre-K education for the city’s residents. If it’s time to pick a school in D.C., we recommend reading over this helpful primer on the local school system from the Office of the Student Advocate.
D.C. also offers 108 private schools, as of 2020. And the city is no slouch when it comes to colleges and universities. The District is home to multiple higher education institutions, some of them top-ranked in the nation.
What are the safest areas in Washington, D.C.?
According to Neighborhood Scout, the top three safest areas in D.C. are near the northwest and southwest portions of the city. The following neighborhoods currently have the best safety ranking: Barnaby Woods (near Rock Creek Park), Bellevue (by South Capitol Street), and Potomac Heights (which aptly overlooks the Potomac River).
How do I get around Washington, D.C.?
Living in D.C. comes with all of the transportation options — and traffic jams and commutes — that occur in a large city center. The average commute time in the city is 35 minutes.
That said, there are a plethora of ways to get around town. Lots of residents choose to walk, bike, take a taxi, or use a ride-sharing service, like Uber or Lyft. Cab rides start at $3.50 for the first ⅛ mile, with each additional mile costing $2.16. There’s also an additional ride-sharing fee if you’re joined by friends.
People in D.C. also have the option of taking the Metro, which serves 91 stations in Virginia, Maryland, and the District. The cost of the Metro varies by how many stops a person travels and whether the trip takes place during peak hours.
Biking is another popular option for getting around the city. In fact, D.C. ranks third in the percentage of people who bike to work in the U.S. Electric scooters are also on the rise as a preferred mode of transportation in the city.
What’s the weather like in Washington, D.C.?
You’re likely to experience the District’s winter wonderland at some point, as the city typically sees an average of 15.4 inches of snow every year.
What are Washington, D.C.’s fastest-growing neighborhoods?
If you’re seriously considering making the move to D.C., then you’ll need to know the fastest-growing neighborhoods in the city. Take a look at the top five neighborhoods with the highest growth rates between 2010 and 2018.
In Washington, D.C.:
With a population of over 10,800, the Union Market neighborhood is filled with many of D.C.’s finest restaurants, local shops, and more. The area also features several newly built apartment buildings in close proximity to all of the excitement.
Homes don’t seem to go for sale very often in this area, but when they do, they’re expensive. One row house sold for over $1.3 million. For renters interested in the area, the average monthly rent ranges from about $2,000 to $6,000.
The Union Market area has excellent scores for walking and public transit opportunities.
The H Street Corridor is the second-fastest-growing area in D.C. and is known as the “Near Northeast” neighborhood for its location within the city. The neighborhood is “a playground for foodies, performing arts fans, and music lovers,” according to Washington.org, and is home to plenty of up-and-coming restaurants, music venues, and shops.
Homes for sale in this neighborhood can range from about $400,000 to $600,000, or more. The average rent for H Street ranges from $1,700 to $4,700, depending on apartment size. This part of town also receives excellent scores for walking and public transit.
Brookland and Edgewood offer access to several parks, schools, churches, and other community facilities, giving residents an excellent selection of opportunities and activities for the whole family.
Brookland, which is located in the northeast portion of the city, has a population of about 6,000 and is known as “Little Rome” for the several ornate Catholic Churches in the area. Edgewood has a population of about 6,700 and is located in the 5th Ward. Edgewood has a nice urban feel to it, while also being a perfect place for families and young professionals alike.
With average rents ranging from $1,500 to $2,200, rentals in this neighborhood are a little more reasonable compared to the rest of the city. Homes for sale in Brookland and Edgewood can range from $200,000 to well over $1 million.
Mount Vernon Square
Located in downtown D.C., Mount Vernon Square is a mixture of business and pleasure, with varied and popular restaurant options in close proximity to the bustling Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The neighborhood is also one of the most historic in the city.
Mount Vernon Square has a population of about 6,400 and gives residents access to several restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and parks. Renters in this neighborhood can expect to pay around $2,000 to $4,000/mo. in rent, and homes in the area go for around $400,000 to $800,000.
Another historic and fast-growing neighborhood, Southwest provides access to D.C.’s great monuments and memorials. The area also features waterfront dining and plenty of activities (including outdoor movies) and is home to the century-old seafood market. It has a population of around 11,000.
In the Washington, D.C., metro area:
Stone Ridge, VA
Stone Ridge has a population of almost 13,000 and is one of the best places to live in Virginia, according to Niche.com. This suburb of the D.C. metro area has a lot to offer, including restaurants, parks, and places to explore arts and history. The area is located about 48 minutes west of the District’s city center.
North Potomac, MD
North Potomac has a population of just over 24,000. The Maryland suburb has its fair share of options for shopping, restaurants, nightlife, coffee shops, and parks, and it’s located about 43 minutes north of D.C.
Arlington has a population of about 237,500 and offers a lot to do and see, including great restaurants, parks, and playgrounds. It’s located about five miles west of the city center and has convenient transport links for commuting.
Living in Washington, D.C.: The fun part
For the sports fan
Sports lovers have an array of options when it comes to celebrating on game day. The city has a number of major league teams for fans to cheer for, including the Washington Football, the Washington Nationals (baseball), the Washington Wizards (basketball), the Washington Mystics (WNBA), the Washington Capitals (hockey), D.C. United (soccer), and the Washington Kastles (tennis).
For the culture-seeker
Living in D.C. is the perfect place to satisfy your need for art and culture! You can spend a whole weekend (or multiple!) losing yourself in 81 of the country’s best museums, from the National Portrait Gallery to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. As an added bonus, the 11 Smithsonian museums in D.C. all offer free admission. Don’t know where to start? Check out this sample itinerary that will hit some of the city’s highlights and hidden gems.
The city is also home to 65 music venues, ensuring a lively way to spend any day off.
Families will have many kid-friendly options for a fun night or day out. Take the kiddos to the National Museum of Natural History for a hands-on science experiment or to the International Spy Museum for a night of fun and intrigue. Have animal lovers in the family? Make sure to check out the Smithsonian National Zoo! There are also over 630 city parks to enjoy.
For the foodie
The Capitol is a foodie’s dream come true. As a melting pot of delectable cuisine from all corners of the world, you’ll truly get a taste of amazing dishes that are sure to excite your taste buds. From Afro-Caribbean and Filipino spots to Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern restaurants, D.C. has one of the most diverse and vibrant restaurant scenes in the country.
Want to sample some of the Capitol’s best cuisine? Try a D.C. metro food tour for your next taste buds adventure! There are also 20 breweries to explore.
For the traveler
For anyone looking to jet set, D.C. residents have access to three major airports in the area. Dulles International Airport offers direct flights to places like Paris and Tokyo, making achieving your next bucket list trip a breeze. The District also features options for cruise lines that sail to destinations like New York City.
But if you’re more of a weekend explorer, you don’t need to travel far to find fun short getaways. Travelers can check out nearby cultural centers like Baltimore and Charlottesville, which are easily accessible destinations from the city.
For the outdoors explorer
Moving to D.C. allows you to enjoy the great outdoors with numerous activities and adventures. Home to numerous national parks, D.C ensures nature lovers have a diverse range of activities to choose from, like running trails, paddle boats, and access to the National Arboretum and Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.
You’ll also have a range of outdoor events to participate in, including the D.C. Bike Ride and several marathons and races. With over 44 hiking trails to explore, you may even forget you’re in the middle of the nation’s capital.
What you probably didn’t know about Washington, D.C….
The District’s long and storied past holds many interesting stories. Digging beneath the surface to discover a few of the city’s secrets will help newcomers feel like long-time residents in no time at all.
- The Washington Monument is two colors: According to the Culture Trip, the famous monument is actually two different colors. If you get up close and personal, you’ll see that about a third of the way up, the monument actually changes color.
- There are tunnels underneath the Capitol: They are for staffers and members of Congress and are closed off to the public.
- The capital city almost changed its name: Back in 1983, D.C. unsuccessfully petitioned to become a state called New Columbia because the citizens of D.C. don’t technically have voting representation in the national legislature. Since 1971, there’s only been one representative in the House of Representatives, although they don’t have any voting rights.
- George Washington never actually lived there: Although the city shares a name with the nation’s original president, the first president to live in D.C. was John Adams.
- The National Cathedral features Darth Vader: The famous “Star Wars” character’s face is sculpted along the northwest tower. The cathedral also features many gargoyles.
- The Whitehouse has 35 bathrooms: Even if the storied home is where the leader of the nation dwells—who’s ever heard of a house with so many bathrooms?!
If you’re interested in moving to the area, check out our city page on D.C.!
The bottom line
Moving to the nation’s capital city is an exciting journey that will bring its fair share of challenges and rewards. And although this guide is a good introduction to what a new resident can expect in the city, it only scratches the surface of the wide-ranging culture and opportunity that exists in Washington, D.C.
From top schools and world-class universities to national monuments and Fortune 500 employers, the District is a place that truly has something for everyone who decides to call it home. The DCist and Washington.org offer further resources to get people who recently moved to the area up to speed.
Lauren Ward contributed to this article.