While Fairfax County is generally considered the suburbs of Washington DC, it actually offers incredible diversity in lifestyle and real estate options. Everything from luxury condos just steps from upscale shopping and dining, to townhomes in planned communities or even estates on acres of land, Fairfax County has an option for everyone.
Living in Fairfax County
Fairfax County is enormous, approaching 1.2 million residents (13% of Virginia’s population!) and covering 406 square miles. Deciding where to call home within Fairfax County can be challenging because there are so many options, so we want to break it down to give you a bit more guidance on where to start.
Fairfax County: Southern Area
Generally speaking, the southern part of Fairfax County consists of Alexandria (non-City), Springfield, Burke, Lorton and Fairfax Station.
Alexandria (Fairfax County) is governed completely separate from the City of Alexandria and most of it sits outside the beltway and east of I-95. Alexandria is popular for residents commuting not only into DC, Arlington or Old Town, but also those who commute over to the MD side such as personnel at Andrews AFB. You can find everything from high-rise condos in Huntington and multimillion dollar estates on the Potomac, to new active adult communities or a planned neighborhood such as Kingstowne.
Springfield feels more like the suburbs, with lots of green space and parks interspersed around mature, tree-lined communities. If you’re looking for a single family home or a townhome, Springfield has a ton of options at a slightly more reasonable price than many other parts of Fairfax County.
Burke is primarily residential, with some commercial areas interspersed such as the planned community of Burke Centre. Similar to Springfield, Burke offers a lot of green space and gives off a quieter vibe than some of the more fast-paced regions of Northern VA. While there are condo options, townhomes and single family homes dominate most of Burke’s housing choices.
Lorton might be best known for the Workhouse Arts Center, it has experienced a housing boom since the early 2000s. There are older homes, there has been a lot of new construction over the past 2 decades. If you’re looking for a “newer” home or townhome with more modern layouts, Lorton is a good area to explore.
Fairfax Station is dominated by single family homes. Further east you’ll find more planned communities on quarter acre lots, but to the west and south you’ll find much larger lots many of which are multiple acres. If you’re looking for more of a quiet, private setting away from the action then this is a great area to explore.
Fairfax County: Central Area
Central Fairfax County includes Annandale, Fairfax, Clifton, Centreville and Chantilly.
Annandale has a very eclectic mix of housing options, from century old homes to new construction condos and townhomes. You’ll also find a lot of “infill development” with older homes being replaced by larger, modern ones.
Fairfax and Fairfax City - two distinct but not completely separate entities - offer a variety of living options right in the heart of the county. Downtown Fairfax offers condos, townhomes and homes just a brief walk to Main Street’s plentiful shopping and dining options. Other parts of Fairfax offer more suburban home and townhome options, but still provide easy commuter access to nearby areas.
Clifton, similar to Fairfax Station, is dominated by single family homes and estates. You’ll even find some horse farms! With winding back roads and multiple acre lots, Clifton is a great place to live if you want to “get away from it all” at the end of a long day.
An influx of tech companies starting in the late 90s really helped the Centreville area to grow and prosper. Multiple parks, nearby historic sites and even wineries provide a lot to do especially outdoors. You can find all home types in this area from quaint condos to sprawling estates.
Chantilly offers a place to live at a slightly more reasonable price, but still has easy access to nearby shopping and dining as well as Dulles Airport for those who travel frequently. Many of your housing options in Chantilly will be single family homes or townhomes.
Fairfax County: Northern Area
The Northern part of Fairfax County consists of Falls Church, Vienna, Oakton, McLean, Great Falls, Reston and Herndon.
At the center of the Northern part of Fairfax County, tucked between Vienna and McLean, is Tysons - one of the largest, most dense business centers in the country. Tysons also offers a plethora of shopping and dining options, including many luxury and upscale brands.
McLean, which is the northeastern most tip of Fairfax County, is know for its single family homes and multi million dollar estates. Homes range from smaller, century old homes to brand new mega mansions - you can find the whole spectrum in McLean, one of the areas wealthiest and most expensive zip codes.
Great Falls is similar to McLean in many ways, but usually offers even larger lot sizes and more privacy. This area also offers a lot of outdoor activities including visiting the - you guessed it! - Great Falls!
Vienna offers easy access to the Tysons business corridor, but is also a popular option for those taking the Metro into Arlington or DC. While there are condo and townhomes options, the most common housing in Vienna is detached homes. These range from small 1950s cape cods, to brand new modern Craftsman homes. Vienna is another area with a lot of infill building.
Oakton is almost like Vienna’s smaller sister to the West. It offers similar amenities and convenient location, and mostly consists of single family homes with some condos and townhome communities interspersed.
Falls Church likely has the most diverse housing options in northern Fairfax County, and also the easiest commute into DC. Everything from mid-century garden style condos and new luxury mid-rises, to post-war cape cods and brand new mega mansions, you can find any type of home in Falls Church.
Reston is a master planned community where commercial development, residential neighborhoods and usable green space all intersect and intermingle. The Reston Town Center offers a multitude of shopping and dining options, as well as hosting local events and Summer concerts. Housing in the area includes everything from luxury townhomes and condos in the heart of the Town Center, to contemporary townhouses and single family homes in more mature suburban neighborhoods.
Herndon sits at the northwestern tip of Fairfax County right in the heart of the Dulles Tech Corridor. With easy access to Dulles Airport and Tysons Corner, as well as Arlington/DC via the Silver Line Metro, Herndon offers slightly more affordable home options without sacrificing convenience.
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