The history of the United States and the state of Virginia are closely intertwined. It was at the end of the 16th century when England decided to start colonizing the North American continent. Queen Elizabeth I gave the land the name of Virginia, which initially cover the entire region that the 1584 expedition of Sir Walter Raleigh that covered the entire coast, stretching from South Carolina to what is now Maine.
The London Virginia Company became incorporated as a joint-stock organization through a proprietary charter drawn up in April 1606. This documentation granted lands stretching from the 34th parallel north to about the 45th parallel. Jamestown would be founded just a year later as the first permanent English settlement on the continent.
Virginia has seen notable events in history occur within her borders, including the end of the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. The state is also sometimes called the “Mother of Presidents” because eight of them were born there. Patrick Henry served as the first governor of the independent commonwealth after 1776, and then a second time starting in 1784.
Virginia was also one of the states that seceded from the Union in 1861, operating independently until joining the Confederacy about two months later. Now over 55,000 people each year move to Virginia to start living there.
List of the Pros of Living in Virginia
1. You are going to be well-protected if you live in Virginia.
The military has an extensive presence in the state of Virginia. There are currently 27 military bases operating within its borders. Every branch has at least one base which is operational right now. This influence does impact the culture in some ways, as more than 60,000 military veterans live in Virginia Beach alone (which is over 10% of the entire city population). Naval Air Station Oceana is responsible for over 165 take-offs and landings each day. Although every community manages crime on some level, you will feel a lot safer living here than in other parts of the country.
2. The educational system in Virginia is world class.
There are some fantastic schools in Virginia, starting at the grade school level. You also have the opportunity to attend the University of Virginia or Virginia Tech when you are a resident of the state. Both institutions are considered to be among some of the best in the United States right now. If you are trying to raise a family and want your kids to have access to the world-class education in their future without a high price tag, then moving to Virginia makes a lot of sense.
3. You will get to experience the friendly Southern charm in this state.
Virginia is a state that is known for being exceptionally polite. Unlike some of the larger cities to the north, most people here will greet you when they pass you on the street, whether they know you or not. They will open doors for you without a second thought. There is never any fear in the offering of a friendly smile. It can be a cultural change that can make some folks uncomfortable when they first start living here, but it is something that most people enjoy once they get used to the experience.
4. The economy always seems to be thriving when living here.
Virginia has a reputation of being a state that is rather wealthy. Jamestown was the first capital of the settlement, and it was founded for the sole purpose to increase the wealth and power of Britain. Even though the trends here tend to follow the national scene in terms of growth or recession, the recovery after the 2008 tumble was much faster in the state compared to the rest of the country. If you are ready to start making some money, then this is one of the places where you will want to live.
5. There are numerous excellent job opportunities available in Virginia.
Thanks to the presence of 27 military bases, there are plenty of jobs through government contracts which are available to you when you start living in Virginia. This part of the economy helps to keep it stable even during tough economic times. There are also 21 Fortune 500 companies that have a presence in the state which offer numerous employment opportunities as well. With an unemployment rate that frequently meets or exceeds the national level, you can find a decent job with a fair salary offer fairly quickly here.
6. The cost of living in Virginia is much lower.
The cost of living in the state of Virginia is admittedly higher than what you will find throughout the rest of the United States on average. When you compare what it takes to live in one of the cities here compared to the rest of the East Coast, there are some savings to be found. With the job market offering comparable salaries to what you can find in Boston, Baltimore, and New York City, you’ll find that the paycheck stretches a lot further than it might otherwise.
You’ll want to take some of that money you save to invest it in the culinary scene of the state. Virginia is famous for its oysters, crab, apples, and peanuts. You can find some of the best fried chicken on the planet here. The climate is also perfect for gardening, so there is fresh produce available throughout most of the year. Farmer’s markets will become an obsession!
7. You will have plenty of opportunities to explore the history of the United States.
The state of Virginia is steeping in U.S. history, so if you love to tour historic places, you’ll love what is available near your home. There are opportunities to tour the homes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, John Tyler, Woodrow Wilson, and William Henry Harrison. There are several historical battle sites to visit here as well, including Appomattox where the Civil War officially came to its conclusion.
There are a lot of family-friendly opportunities to enjoy when living in Virginia as well. Busch Gardens might be one of the more famous attractions, but you can also visit Shenandoah Caverns, the Virginia Aquarium, and Colonial Williamsburg for a fun day out with everyone.
8. The state tends to be politically moderate.
Unlike some of the other places you could choose to live in the United States, Virginia tends to be purple instead of red or blue. It is consistently a swing state in the presidential elections that occur every four years. Most of the down-ballot races are hotly contested as well. There is a solid mix of conservative and liberal ideas that come from this process to create a centrist atmosphere that most people enjoy. You might debate an idea with passion, but there is also an excellent chance that you’ll become friends with that individual.
9. Autumn in Virginia is a special time of year.
You will not believe the fall colors that go on display during your first season in Virginia. Make sure that you head to Shenandoah National Park during the peak weekend of the season to get the full experience. All four seasons happen in this state, so you are going to be in for a special treat if you’re not used to the change. That means you can head into the mountains for some skiing in the winter as well. Since most tourists tend to head into the New England states for the traditional experience, you’ll have a little more elbow room to enjoy.
10. There are plenty of oceanfront beaches to enjoy in the state.
If you make your way to Virginia Beach or another coastal community, then you are going to be in for a special treat when living in this state. When you reach the beach, there will be plenty of local restaurants for you to enjoy. The occasional chain eating spot is there as well. You will also find plenty of stores that you can’t find anywhere else, even if it is a little expensive.
Living near the beach doesn’t mean that you’re out of the way either. You are going to be close to Norfolk, Chesapeake, and Portsmouth along several sections of the coast. When you add in the annual festivals that each community celebrates, then it can be a pretty amazing experience to call Virginia your home.
List of the Cons of Living in Virginia
1. There are some traffic challenges to manage in Virginia.
Because the northern part of Virginia comes up close to Washington DC, the traffic in the area is some of the worst in the country. If you are moving to the state from a city like Los Angeles, New York City, or Chicago, then this may not seem like such a disadvantage. If you are not used to being on a highway where it feels like you’ve all been packed into a tiny phone booth, then it will be an adjustment. You’re not able to jump into a vehicle to reach your destination in under 20 minutes unless you live in the rural areas of the state.
2. You can be fined for swearing in some places when living in this state.
If you start living in Virginia, then you will want to pay attention to the signs that instruct you not to curse. It is illegal in some parts of the state to swear in public. Breaking this law can result in a fine still even though a bill to decriminalize the behavior makes its run through the legislature regularly.
Anyone who profanely curses or swears in public is deemed guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor. The punishment is a fine of up to $250, but Virginia Beach doesn’t tell you which words are actually not allowed to be spoken.
3. Some of the housing markets can be challenging to afford for some families.
Because the northern part of the state is in commuting distance for Washington, DC, it tends to see housing prices that are about as bad as the traffic can be. If you are going to be living here because you got a position in the nation’s capital, then you are moving into one of the most consistently strong real estate markets in the country. The median price for a home in Fairfax is currently over $505,000 according to information from Zillow. Rental prices are about $500 more per month above the national average as well.
There are other parts of the state that are cheaper, especially if you can move into the rural Appalachian communities. If that doesn’t work for your needs, then the housing expenses will be significant.
4. Peanuts are a big deal when living in Virginia.
If you or someone in your family has a peanut allergy, then living in Virginia can become a literal headache. Virginians love to eat peanuts in many different ways. You will find them salted, roasted, boiled, creamed – pretty much in any way that you can imagine. Because it is an integral part of many local dishes, you will need to ask about preparation techniques to avoid a cross-contamination issue. If your allergy is severe, carry your shots around with you at all times.
5. The culture in Virginia can vary widely based on where you choose to live.
There is a significant cultural divide in Virginia between the cities and the rural areas. Although this disadvantage is relatively true for the entire United States, the borders are well-defined in this state. You will find pockets where traditional conservative ideas that date back to the Civil War era are still routinely put into practice. The liberal college towns can sometimes feel less inclusive despite the push for diversity. You will discover that this is a land that is full of different cultures, ethnicities, and perspectives that can be challenging (or fun) to explore.
6. You will want to get used to the jet noise overhead.
Because there are extensive military training operations that occur in Virginia, you will be seeing a lot of jets overhead every day. If you live close to Virginia Beach, then the aircraft will fly low and become exceptionally loud. Even if you have double-paned windows in your home, you will feel it every time a pilot passes your place. Since there can be over 200 flights in a single day, there really is no respite from the noise pollution. You’re either going to need to get used to it, or you can decide to not move here in the first place. Unless you live in the mountains, there is no middle ground.
This disadvantage is not always agreed upon, as jet noise is sometimes described as the “sound of freedom.” If you purchase a home in some areas of Virginia, then you are told what the jet noise zone is for your home with regards to the surrounding bases. You might even need to sign a waiver that states you understand that the property is in the flight path of military aircraft.
7. Unless you live in one of the bigger cities, public transportation isn’t very helpful.
Although every city has a neighborhood where you can live and walk to every place that you need, the public transportation options throughout the state are woeful compared to other states along the East Coast. The system typically uses a network of buses or Amtrak trains to get you where you need to be, which means it is a system that is slow and rarely on time. You will want to invest in a car if you plant to live in Virginia because most workers commute, and you might not be able to afford living in the city centers.
8. To say that the weather in Virginia is weird would be an understatement.
Although the weather in Virginia is usually mild and temperate, it can also change a moment’s notice. You can experience a shift in temperatures of more than 30F in a single 24-hour period for the daytime highs. When you reach the summer, then it can get pretty hot and sticky unless you live right near the coast. Winters tend to be mild, but snow tends to happen in the upper elevations more than anywhere else.
Of course, all of these observations are also subject to change at any time.
9. You will shift from being a tourist to dealing with them.
The Hampton Roads are essentially tourist towns during the peak summer months. That includes the Outer Banks, Virginia Beach, and the other small communities in the region. Heading out to the ocean can be a lot of fun when living here, but it can also become a nightmare between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Traffic levels can double in the span of a couple weeks during the summer. The best beach weather tends to happen late September after most of the vacationers leave, but that doesn’t change the fact that the bad traffic gets a lot worse.
The pros and cons of living in Virginia can help you to decide if the rich history, strong economy, and beautiful scenery it offers can support your household. There are certainly some challenges to manage here, including housing costs and traffic, but it can also be a memorable experience. More than 8 million people are already calling this state their home. Will you be one of the next to start living here?
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.