Lately, there have been a lot of “best of” lists going around. These lists highlight the best overall places to live in Virginia, best small towns, best cities, etc. And with so many lists out there – and so many of them using different criteria – we decided to do a little research for ourselves. What we found was the following 15 towns and cities that have gained national and statewide recognition from leading organizations like Forbes and USA Today. The resulting list is what we like to call “the best of the best.”
And so without further ado, we give you The 15 “Best of the Best” Places to Live in Virginia…
1. Best Overall City – Arlington
Arlington sits just at the border of Virginia and Washington, D.C. so it’s no wonder this vibrant city scores so high in terms of things to do, economy and livability. In fact, Livability.com, a website that scores cities nationwide, ranks Arlington #3 out of their Top 100 places to live in the U.S. This “urban village” provides a unique blend of homes, apartments, neighborhoods alongside retail shopping and businesses. Great schools, diversity, a strong job market (thanks to so many government jobs), high home values (median $600k) and safety are all part of what makes Arlington so special.
2. Best Overall Town – Charlottesville
While technically a city, this haven in Central Virginia is often categorized with other towns thanks to its close community feeling and small city status. Highlighted by the University of Virginia, which is also ranked one of the most beautiful college campuses in the nation, Charlottesville came in #1 in Niche.com’s “Best Towns in Virginia” list. The list uses weather, safety, schools, activities, jobs, housing, and transportation to determine the scores – and Charlottesville makes the grade on all counts. Surrounded by gorgeous mountains and countryside, this town offers all of the amenities of a bigger city with excellent housing, shopping, dining and business. Plus, when it comes to history and architecture, there are few places more beautiful.
3. Best Small Town to Raise a Family – Big Stone Gap
Niche.com considers age demographics, school ratings, crime rates, and access to affordable housing, childcare, libraries, and grocery stores when determining the best place to raise a family. And Big Stone Gap made their highest grade for small towns in Virginia. This beautiful little town in Wise County gained national attention when local author Adriana Trigiani wrote a series of novels about the town.
4. Best City to Raise a Family – Glen Allen
Glen Allen in Henrico County received Nerdwallet.com’s vote for best place to raise a family. This Richmond City suburb was chosen for its affordability, great schools and overall prosperity. Glen Allen offers urban conveniences, but a slower pace of life and undeveloped spaces, like Crump Park shown here, make it perfect for families. With 3 Fortune 500 companies located here, the future looks bright, indeed, for Glen Allen.
5. Best Overall Schools by Test Scores – West Point
According to Schooldigger.com, the small town of West Point gets big scores for their public schools. Listed as the #1 out of 129 school districts reviewed, West Point Elementary, Middle and High School came out tops for test scores based on Department of Education data from the 2013-14 school year.
6. Best Public Schools by District – Arlington
Arlington County Public Schools won the #1 spot for Niche.com’s survey of public schools in Virginia. Using parent and student surveys, as well as government data, Niche determined that Arlington schools provided the best overall experience for students, parents and teachers.
7. Best Cities for Millennials – Alexandria and Virginia Beach
Niche.com called Alexandria the #1 city in Virginia (and #3 nationwide) for millennials, the up coming generation born in the 1980’s through 2000. With Alexandria’s vibrant urban setting and proximity to D.C., it’s easy to see why it wins top honors. Virginia Beach was also recognized by USA Today as a top spot for the college-aged millennial crowd – beautiful beaches and tons of activities make it an obvious choice. Virginia Beach was given the top spot for Virginia and a #8 ranking nationwide.
8. Best Place to Retire – Blacksburg
In 2014, Forbes named Blacksburg the #1 place in the nation to retire. This quaint mountain town is home to Virginia Tech University and offers a cost of living 7% below the national average, plenty of activities and groups, affordable housing and low crime rates.
9. Safest Place to Live – Broadway
The website Safewise.com uses FBI crime report data to determine safety in a community. The town of Broadway in the Shenandoah Valley came in as the #1 Safest Place in Virginia. According to Safewise statistics, you’ll have a less than 1 in 1,000 chance of being a victim of violent crime or property crime.
10. Most Affordable Small Town – Ferrum
Business Insider provides rankings for the most affordable towns in every state – and Ferrum won top honors for Virginia. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ferrum is home to Ferrum College and offers a 94.2% affordability score for homes.
11. Best Downtown – Alexandria
When it comes to urban activities, few places can compete with Alexandria. Loaded with history, but balanced with modern fun, Alexandria was named one of Livability.com’s top 10 choices for best downtowns around the country. Located on the Potomac, just 6 miles from Washington, D.C., Alexandria offer a beautiful historic district, museums, theaters and shopping. It was also named one of Livability.com’s Best Cities for Foodies in 2013.
12. Coolest Small Town – Chincoteague
Few people who live or visit Chincoteague will argue with this one. In a recent CNN report, BudgetTravel named Chincoteague as the #2 Coolest Small Town in America. Famous for their wild ponies, Chincoteague also offers pristine beaches, amazing seafood, boat tours, home tours and an all-around chilled out beach town experience.
13. Best Small Town/Village – Middleburg
There are towns and then there are small towns. While Charlottesville got top billing for a town, Middleburg in Loudoun County was listed at the top of Frommer’s Best Small Towns in Virginia. Although it only takes up 6 blocks, this town is packed with history and surrounded by some of the most beautiful horse country anywhere in the nation.
14. Most Beautiful Town – Staunton
Staunton is no stranger to praise. Already called one of the best small towns in America by Smithsonian Magazine, TheCultureTrip.com recently named it the most beautiful small town in Virginia, as well. Founded in 1732, this lovely little town in the Shenandoah Valley offers historic architecture, eclectic culture and a friendly down home atmosphere that makes its place in the rankings well-deserved.
15. Best Overall Quality of Life – Chesapeake
Nerdwallet.com uses stress factors like income, affordability, health benefits, local economy and work-life balance in their measurements to determine the cities with the highest quality of life. Chesapeake earned Virginia’s top spot and made the Top 20 Best Cities for Quality of Life nationwide. With its perfect blend of urban amenities and acres of protected coastline, forest and wetlands, Chesapeake provides an ideal balance for work and play.
Of course, we’re all a little biased. Just because these 15 places have been determined to be “the best” doesn’t mean that your hometown isn’t! Take a minute to tell us why where you live is the best place to be. We look forward to reading your comments below!