25 Pros and Cons of Living in Virginia

A photo of a man holding a piece of paper with the words -Job Offer- towards the camera

Are you thinking about moving to Virginia? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Moving to a new state is a significant life-changing decision. You want to be sure you know the facts before embarking on this new chapter in your life, and we’re here to help. 

Whether you’re on the fence or firmly leaning in one direction, we’re here to help you out by giving you a detailed overview of life in the Old Dominion state. In this article, we’re going to tell you all of the pros and cons of living in Virginia so you can make an informed decision.

1. The Job Market

Although the government and government contractors are some of the biggest employers in Virginia, the state has a lot to offer those seeking employment outside these areas. Virginia’s job market slowed in 2020 due to the pandemic, but it’s on track to gain momentum in 2021 and beyond.  

The unemployment rate in Virginia consistently falls below the national average. If you want to work for the government, there are 27 military bases with various contract jobs available. With 21 Fortune 500 companies with offices in Virginia, many private-sector jobs are available in the state. 

If you don’t move to Virginia with a job offer in hand, you’ll likely find a decent-paying job pretty quickly. 

2. Strong Economy

While the COVID pandemic delivered a severe blow to Virginia’s economic growth, the state remains one of the nation’s strongest economies, ranking 15th out of 50 states, with a per capita GDP of $64,852. 

Virginia has a history of creating wealth. The British founded the colony exclusively to increase the wealth and power of Great Britain. The state tends to bounce back more quickly than the rest of the country from economic downturns. The most recent example was the economic downturn in 2008. Virginia recovered at a faster pace than other parts of the US. 

If you’re looking for a state with a stable and growing economy, you don’t need to look much further than Virginia. 

3. World-Class Medical Facilities 

You’ll pay a little more for healthcare in Virginia than in other parts of the country, but you’ll also have access to some of the best medical facilities in the US. Eighteen of Virginia’s more than one hundred hospitals meet US News’ highest standards, with The University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville ranking as the state’s best hospital. 

Other outstanding hospitals in Virginia include Inova Fairfax in Falls Church, Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, and Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. With so many world-class medical facilities to choose from, you’ll be in good hands wherever you choose to live in the state. 

If you’re a senior citizen, have a preexisting condition, or have children, Virginia’s medical system definitely stands out as a positive among the pros and cons of living in Virginia. 

4. Outstanding Educational System 

Whether you’re considering higher education or looking for a state with a great educational system for your kids, Virginia should be high on your list. Virginia has one of the highest-ranking public school systems in the country, thanks to ample educational funding. It also has one of the highest graduation rates in the US. 

For those who want to continue their studies post-high school, Virginia has two highly ranked public schools to choose from—the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech. Best of all, as an in-state resident, you’ll get to attend these two prestigious universities at a discounted rate. 

The state also boasts several excellent private universities. Education comes at a reasonable price in Virginia because of the outstanding public school system. 

5. Low Crime Rate

Virginia is one of the safest states in the nation, ranking 6th out of 50 states with the lowest statewide crime rate. Although the state’s violent crime rate increased by 5% this year, Virginia has the lowest violent crime rate out of all states in the Southern Atlantic region at 2.1 incidents per 1,000 people compared with a 3.7 per 1000 average nationally. 

Virginia also ranks lower than the rest of the nation when it comes to property crime, with 16.4 incidents per 1000 people compared to 21 incidents per 1000 people nationally. This places Virginia in the number 2 spot behind West Virginia for the lowest property crime rates in the Southern Atlantic region. 

6. Geographic Diversity (beaches and mountains) 

An image of Shenandoah National park in Virginia. It shows a huge expanse of rolling hills with thousands of trees with green, orange, and yellow leaves. A long mountain range is seen in the distance

From beaches to mountains, there’s a lot of geographic diversity to enjoy in Virginia. In the winter, you can head to Virginia’s mountains for some skiing. The state boasts 27 kilometers of slopes with 20 ski lifts at its different resorts. Virginia’s Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains are home to four ski resorts offering skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and cross-country trails. 

When the weather warms and the ice melts in the spring, it’s time to enjoy Virginia’s beaches. If you love living near water, consider taking a trip to Virginia beach or making it your new home. The coastal community has outstanding local restaurants and shopping for you to enjoy. 

Living in Virginia also means you can explore the coasts along Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Norfolk. Each of these communities has annual festivals, making the state a great place to enjoy festivities along the coast. 

Related: Living in Tennessee

7. Strong Military Presence 

We’ve already mentioned how safe it is to live in Virginia. An added bonus is the state’s vast military presence. The state has 27 military bases, and all branches of the US military operate within the state’s borders. Each branch operates at least one base in the state. 

Given the state’s extensive military presence, it’s unsurprising that Virginia has a large veteran population. The 60,000 veteran’s living in Virginia Beach make up 10% of the city’s 500,0000 population. There’s a strong military culture in Virginia. 

If you’re worried about an alien invasion, zombie apocalypse, or foreign invasion, Virginia is probably one of the best states to call home. 

8. Southern Hospitality 

If you’ve never lived in a southern state, you’re in for a treat when you move to Virginia. Outside of Northern Virginia,  it’s not unusual for people to get you when they pass you on the street, acquaintances and strangers alike. You’ll get a lot of friendly smiles as you go about your day, and people freely open their doors to their neighbors.  

People are exceptionally polite and still greet their elders using sir/ma’am. You may experience a bit of culture shock after moving to Virginia if you’re coming from the Northern US or a less friendly part of the country. Don’t worry; you’ll most likely grow to love Virginia’s southern hospitality. 

9. Low Cost of Living

Although Virginia’s cost of living is higher than much of the United States, the state’s higher salaries more than compensate for the increased costs. Compared to East Coast cities such as New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, you’ll find your paycheck goes much further in Virginia than in costlier parts of the country. 

You can use the money you save living in Virginia to spend on some of the state’s culinary delights. Virginia is famous for its seafood, with oysters and cab being at the top of the list. The state is also known for its apples and peanuts. If you enjoy fried chicken, you’ll find some of the best in the nation in Virginia. The state also boasts excellent farmer’s markets, with fresh produce available year-round. 

10. Steeped in History 

A picture of an old grist mill in Virginia, USA. It shows a old two storey timber building built into a rocky wall alongside a stream. A wheel is situated in the stream bed

Steeped in American history, the first British colony was established in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. Virginia is arguably one of the best US states to explore American history and a dream for history buffs. You can tour the homes of US presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Mondore, John Tyler, Woodrow Wilson, and William Harrison. 

The state is home to several Civil War National Battlefield Parks, including Appomattox Court House and National Historical Park, where Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865. Travel to Williamsburg to experience historical reenactments throughout the year.  Living in Virginia allows you to experience the nation’s history firsthand.

11. Politically Moderate

Whatever your political leanings, you’ll feel at home in politically moderate Virginia. Northern Virginia tends to lean liberal, while southern parts of the state tend to lean conservative. Being a swing state, Virginia is more purple than red or blue. 

Since it’s a swing state, Republican and Democratic candidates make Virginia a priority campaign stop, creating a lively political culture. You never know which way the vote will swing in any given political election. 

You’ll find a lot of enthusiasm for politics in Virginia with hotly contested down-ballot elections. Virginia’s mix of politically diverse ideologies has created a centrist atmosphere. You’ll likely encounter people who don’t share your political beliefs, giving you an opportunity to engage in an exchange of ideas. 

12. Enjoy All Four Seasons 

From hot balmy summers to beautiful autumn colors, winter frost, and warm springs, you’ll enjoy all four seasons if you decide to make Virginia home. Virginia has milder winters than its neighbors to the north. Although Virginia gets hot and muggy, it’s no comparison to the brutal summers in the deep south or Southwestern US. 

Fall is probably the best time of year in Virginia. You’ll see the state covered in fall colors as you drive along the highways. Be sure to visit Shenandoah National Park to experience all of Virginia’s fall beauty for a special treat. 

Depending on where you live, you’ll only be a few hours drive from the beach in the summer and the mountains in the winter. Virginia is a great place to enjoy all seasons of the year. 

13. Outstanding Public Transportation 

If you live in Northern Virginia or one of the state’s bigger cities, you’ll be able to leave your car at home and take advantage of the state’s excellent public transportation system. Virginia’s public transportation doesn’t compare to the intricate networks you’ll find further north, but it gets the job done. 

What’s more, private and public transportation costs are a bit lower in Virginia than in other parts of the US. If you live in Northern Virginia, you may want to use public transit to avoid traffic congestion. Your options include: 

  • Virginia Railway Express 
  • Arlington Transit
  • Loudon County Transit 
  • Fairfax Connector
  • Alexandria Transit Company Dash 

14. One of the Happiest States 

A photo of a group of friends holding hands and jumping into the air on a beach in Virginia, USA

If happiness is high on your list of priorities, Virginia is worth considering. According to Gallup’s well-being ranking, Virginia places 11th in the country. Virginia residents feel better about their community than residents in most other states. Virginia outranks most of the country in the following categories: 

  • Physical 
  • Community 
  • Purpose
  • Social
  • Financial
  • Healthcare access
  • Food access
  • Resource access
  • Economic security
  • Housing and transportation

Virginia’s high incomes, community safety, outstanding healthcare facilities are some of the factors contributing to the high degree of happiness among residents of Virginia. You’ll likely be happy with your decision if you move to this happy state. Out of the pros and cons of living in Virginia, maximizing happiness is a positive. 

15. Beautiful Scenery 

From Shenandoah National Park to the Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia is home to breathtaking natural beauty. While you can enjoy thousands of miles of coast in Virginia, you can also enjoy the four major rivers that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. If mountains are more your speed, you have 217 miles of the rolling green Blue Ridge Mountains to explore in the state. 

There’s so much beauty in the state it’s not easy to make a list of must-see sights. However, here are a few to get you started: 

  • Natural Bridge, Rockbridge County
  • Luray Caverns, Luray
  • Natural Tunnel, Duffield
  • Crabtree Falls, Montebello
  • Break Interstate Park, Breaks
  • Great Falls at Great Falls National Park, McLean

16. Lots of Places to Visit

Whether you’re a retiree, single, or have a family. There’s so much to do and see in Virginia. There are 39 state parks in Virginia with a variety of landscapes to explore. Enjoy the iconic views at Virginia Beach or explore Assateague National Park; whatever your tastes, you’ll find something to enjoy in Old Dominion. 

Many family-friendly activities await you in Virginia, including Busch Gardens, one of the state’s most popular attractions. Shenandoah Caverns and the Virginia Aquarium are also atop the family-friendly list. 

There’s a lot of historical sites to visit in Virginia, including: 

  • Mount Vernon
  • Jamestown
  • Iwo Jima 
  • Arlington National Cemetery
  • Virginia War Museums  

Cons of Living in Virginia

Virginia is a great state to call home, but no state is perfect. Here are some of the cons of living in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

1. Traffic 

A blurry photo of a crowded highway at night which shows dozens of cars in gridlock traffic

There’s no way of putting this nicely—traffic is a nightmare in Virginia. You’ll find the worst traffic in Northern Virginia and the Richmond metropolitan area. There are 5.9 million drivers and 7.5 million registered vehicles in Virginia. With so many cars on the road, commutes are often unpredictable. 

Virginia’s average commute time is 28 minutes, but your commute will likely be much longer if you live in Northern Virginia or another highly-populated area. If you live anywhere near Washington, DC, it’s better to commute using public transportation. Always check traffic updates before leaving home. 

2. High Taxes 

Taxes are one of the biggest downsides of living in Virginia. While the average salary is higher than in many parts of the US, you’ll pay a bigger chunk of your income in taxes living in Virginia. Virginia’s individual income tax rate is 5.75%. The state and local tax burden is 9.3%. At .80% of assessed value, property taxes are the only tax deal you’ll get in this state. 

In most parts of the state, the sales tax is 4.3%, but cities have the option of raising it to 5.3%. You’ll also pay a tax of 21 cents per gallon every time you pump gas. Be sure to calculate taxes when planning out your budget before moving to the state. 

3.  Strange Laws  

Until July 1, 2020, swearing in public was illegal and punishable with a $250. While the swearing law has finally been repealed, there are other strange laws you’ll want to know about before moving to Virginia. 

  • Operating a motor vehicle without shoes is illegal 
  • Radar detectors are illegal 
  • You must honk your horn before overtaking a vehicle 
  • Driving by the same area twice in 30 minutes is illegal on Virginia’s Atlantic Ave. 
  • It’s unlawful to hunt animals, except raccoons, on Sundays 
  • In Richmond, it’s illegal to decide who pays for coffee by flipping a coin 

5. Nuclear Facilities

An image of two nuclear plant cooling towers taken at dusk. It shows two huge concrete towers with steam billowing out the top

Virginia is home to four nuclear power plants. You’ll find two of them about 40 miles northwest of Richmond and another two about 17 miles from Newport News near Virginia’s Atlantic coast. The largest naval facilities in the world with nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines are also located in Virginia. 

While nuclear power plants don’t release greenhouse gases, they do pose a threat in the case of a nuclear disaster. They also contribute to Virginia’s pollution. Depending on your tolerance level, you may or may not want to choose a city away from Virginia’s nuclear power plants. 

7. Noise from Military Jets

Depending on where you live, you’ll have to get used to overhead noise from military jets. There are 165 take-offs daily from Naval Air Station Oceana, which equals 60,000 take-offs a year. You’ll see a lot of jets flying overhead daily because the military conducts extensive training operations there. 

Virginia beach is a beautiful place to call home but be prepared for the extraordinary noise from low flying aircraft in the area. Having double-paned windows helps, but blocking out all of the jet noise is an impossible task. Given the number of flights per day, it’s difficult to get a break from the noise pollution. You have two choices—get used to it or leave. 

8. Weather Is Unpredictable

While we love Virginia’s four seasons, there’s no denying that Virginia’s weather is often unpredictable. Don’t be surprised if you experience a change in temperature of more than 30°F in a single day. Virginia’s winters tend to be mild without much snow outside of the upper elevations in the mountains. 

The weather gets hot and sticky in the summer but is more tolerable near the coast. If you move to Virginia, be prepared for weather that may change dramatically from one moment to the next. 

9. Public Transportation Outside Big Cities 

One of the best things about living in one of Virginia’s big cities is the accessibility of public transportation. However, as soon as you step outside of Virginia’s most populated areas, public transit becomes almost non-existent. You’ll want to invest in a car before moving to Virginia. 

10. Lots of Tourists 

Given all there is to see around Virginia, it’s unsurprising that the state gets many tourists. How much tourists affect your daily life will depend on where you live. During peak summer months, Virginia’s Hampton Roads become tourist towns. Virginia Beach, the Outer Banks, and other small towns in the area all see high numbers of tourists. 

All of the tourism adds to Virginia’s already congested traffic. On a bright note, if you live in Virginia, you’ll get to enjoy some of the best beach weather in September after the tourists have left. 

Final Thoughts 

Virginia’s rich history, diverse landscapes, stable economy, and more make it a great place to live. Virginia has a lot to offer, from the Busch Gardens amusement park to the natural beauty of Shenandoah National Park. There’s a lot to see and do, but you’ll have to fight traffic to get where you want to go. 

No state is perfect, and that’s why we’ve listed the pros and cons of living in Virginia, so you can decide whether the state is right for you. If you do move to Virginia, you’ll join more than 8 million people in calling the Old Dominion state home.