Moving to Washington DC

Parent Q&A

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Where to live in DC, similar to Alameda

Oct 2014

My family will be moving to the Washington DC area over Christmas break and I would love any advice or suggestions about best places to live around there. We currently live in Alameda and are looking for something fairly similar. We have two school age children so of course the schools are important as well as the community. Ideally we are looking to settle down in a town with some diversity. My husband is going to be working in Washington DC and I assume I will as well therefore we need to settle somewhere that is a metro ride away from DC. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Laura

I spent some of formative years as young child in Washington, D.C. due to my father's job and then returned as a college student since I had family and a built-in network there, so I hope that I am qualified to answer your question.

Your cost of living may not drop too much and you'll have to invest in some nice winter clothes, but the Washington, DC metro area is a great place to live.

You did not explicitly mention whether you intended to send your children to public or private schools, but Washington, D.C. itself does not have a strong public school system. Like many areas in the East Bay, some of the elementary schools are fine but parents pull their children out for middle and high school and go the private route. NW DC (Spring Valley near American University/Embassy Row), Van Ness and Woodley Park along the Metro's red line are gorgeous tree-lined neighborhoods but the kids often go to Sidwell Friends, Georgetown Day, and the Cathedral School.

If you're looking for a strong public school system, I'd highly recommend Arlington, Virginia which is on the Metro's blue line and has a great, diverse public school system. Many people also like Fairfax, VA which is next door (though a smidgen less preferred). Both cities feed into Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, one of the most well- regarded magnet schools in the country.

Prince George's county in Maryland also has some very nice neighborhoods (e.g., Bethesda, Rockville) and Potomac, MD in Montgomery County is very affluent and has great schools as well. They are just further from downtown Washington, D.C.

You should be aware that during the week there are usually good options (at least during commuting hours) for buses to get to the Metro or to dt Washington, but many don't run on weekends. I'm guessing you have a car living in Alameda, but you should think about your transport needs as well when you consider neighborhoods and how far from certain amenities you choose to live.

Good luck with your move! miss dc like crazy but love the bay area

Falls Church, Virginia! Two Metro stops, each within walking or short bus distance. Ride into town likely to require standing on most days, but it's not a long one. Excellent schools (indeed, folks are a little smug--- but not unpleasantly so---about the quality of schools, quality of life and such). Home prices a little lower than SF Bay Area, but not by much. Lots of nice neighborhoods. Virginia is a purple state, if that matters, but Northern Virginia is going to feel a lot bluer than the rest of the state. It is a very well-run state administratively. Weather? Well, it's the mid-Atlantic. About seven days in the fall and seven in the spring, and that's about it. Otherwise, hot or cold and always humid, but that's why you have A/C and good screens on your window. Fifteen years there, and we were happy to return to the Bay Area, but it's still a good place to live. Don T.

Woohoo. I love DC - lived there for 8 years before moving to Alameda years ago. I didn't have kids while living in DC but for neighborhoods similar to Alameda that are on the Metro line, I'd suggest Alexandria, Fairfax or Bethesda. Chevy Chase/Friendship heights is also great but probably pricier. The further out you go, the cheaper it all gets. Luckily the Metro is so much faster & better than BART and the traffic isn't as bad there as here. Good luck! debbie

It has been a long time since I live there, but I would look into Tacoma Park, MD, (but not sure about schools) - more funky and offbeat. Bethesda and Chevy Chase are both lovely communities right on the red line. They are diverse; people all over the world come to live in DC, but those two communities will be very upscale. The schools will be very good.

Unfortunately, I'd stay out of DC proper....all these charter schools....lack of public space for kids....avoid. - Former District Resident

Not sure there is anywhere to live like Alameda and work in D.C. We have friends whom moved from here (with children) to Falls Church and have stayed. Have visited them and can say it is quite nice. --- Andrew

Leaving Bay Area for DC

Sept 2006

Hi all, Can anyone recommend interesting/creative/exciting companies in the DC area (lg or sm) for someone in a creative field to target in the job search process?? Other than Arnold Ad Agency, Discovery Communications and AOL, we are in the dark. Is it all government, as it seems to be? Ad agencies, brand consultancies or cool companies in general would be so useful as all my contacts are in biotech, education, law and medicine. My hubby is in the creative field of Advertising/Branding. He has worked on the ad agency side as an Art Director (a ''Creative'' vs. a ''Suit''), but he has also worked as Brand Consultant. I'm in Market Research, which is more flexible.

We are making this move after much stress and discussion in order to be with family and in hopes of ''upgrading'' our lives in general - it's not easy to leave the Bay Area, our home for 15 years!!! I've read the posts about moving to the area and its neighborhoods and have found them somewhat helpful, but definitely outdated. Can anyone offer anything new? We are looking into Bethesda/Chevy Chase area that's ''close-in.'' I have heard good things about some VA subs (McLean, Reston 4 ex.), but prefer to live in MD, closer to my brothers and my sister....I am open though! We will rent there until we figure out our ideal situation. We currently live in Alameda and love it. Thanks so much

If you're looking for neighborhoods with some character in MD, check out Cabin John or Takoma Park. Both a little funkier, more diverse, and a little less ''burbsy'' than Chevy Chase. Both are really convenient to the city (Cabin John's on the Georgetown side of the city and Takoma Park is on the downtown side). Takoma Park is very convenient to the metro. They will be much less of a culture shock to you than the places you mention in your post DC Ex-Pat in East Bay

Walkable Neighborhoods in DC like Rockridge?

April 2005

I'm going to be moving to D.C. with a newborn and almost 2 year old. I am interested in finding a neighborhood where I don't have to get in the car to go to a good grocery store (like berkeley bowl), the Y (like berkeley Y), parks (like totland), outdoor places to walk (like lake merritt). I am also interested in finding a great dual-immersion (spanish/english) pre-school and/or elementary school. I have read the archives and am interested in getting any updated suggestions. We currently live near lake merritt and would love to find a quieter neighborhood like rockridge... thanks, amie

Here's the totally biased opinion of one D.C. native:

There are very few locations that meet all of your criteria and are that are affordable, especially in the city itself. The city has some great neighborhoods, but they can be exorbitant. I think a great compromise is Arlington, VA. It's a diverse suburban city, with a strong Hispanic presence there. I am not sure about school immersion programs, but it's worth checking out.

The Clarendon/Court House neighborhood in Arlington is subway accessible, has a walking/shopping district, great restaurants, a Whole Foods (sorry, no Berkeley Bowl), and lots of biking/walking trails. There a many condos, townhouses and some smaller single family homes that are still affordable (at least this was the case when I lived there four years ago).

Other places to investigate, but that are a bit edgier include: Takoma Park (The Berkeley of D.C. in MD) Columbia Heights & Capitol Hill in the city. These places are less gentrified, but people who live there love it and hope others won't encroach and ruin it for them. I can't comment on the schools, but D.C. public schools don't have a stellar reputation.

Some other great neighborhoods, but are significantly more expensive & a bit more Botox-y: Bethesda,MD, Kalorama, Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Mclean, VA.

I would also suggest avoiding the farther outlying suburbs. The traffic is worse than the Bay Area, and gets increasingly more horrific the farther outside of the Beltway that one travels.

Good luck, and enjoy D.C. in the springtime! es

We live in Glover Park, DC, with a 2-year-old and another baby due. The neighborhood is teeming with young children, and Stoddert Primary School has a strong reputation as a neighborhood school. There is a playground at Stoddert as well as a ''Tot Lot'' for the little ones as well and a field for soccer and softballsthere is a very active adult softball league. The current Stoddert rec center is tiny (it houses a Co-Op Preschool, part of the DC system) but plans are being approved for a larger one that will also serve the school. We walk to Whole Foods, on Wisconsin near Calvert, as well as to restaurants, CVS drugstore, Blockbuster, a small bookstore, and a new arrival, a very welcome hardware store! Right by Whole Foods is Guy Mason Rec Center (at Calvert and Wisconsin Streets), with a large playground, baseball diamond, and a building for classes, many for adults but also Music Together for small kids. Glover Park is bordered by parkland on two sides, so it's very easy to walk over for a walk in the woods, and the parks are also barriers so traffic is relatively light. We enjoy living in the city but being able to see (and visit) green space.

Possible drawbacks to Glover Park: the row houses are small, so many families move to the suburbs not long after their second children are born. They're also no bargain (currently listing at $700,000) though that's a more general DC problem. We have no easy metro stop, but the D2 busline goes right through Glover Park to Dupont Circle (a 15-20 minute trip), and another goes to Union Station.

DC as a whole has its troubles, too. Local income tax is much higher than DC or Maryland, and yet many residents don't feel comfortable sending children to public school past elementary school. General advice we've heard: ''Stay in the city as long as possible!'' (The assumption, of course, is that most people will head to the suburbs eventually.)

Do check out DC Urban Moms (, the closest thing to the BPN. still enjoying the city

We moved to the DC area from Berkeley almost three years ago. After renting for a year and looking around, we bought a house in ''close-in'' Silver Spring (close-in means very near the DC border). I spent many months looking at public (and some private) schools in Takoma Park, Silver Spring, Kensington, Bethesda, and a bit in DC. Takoma Park is kind of a sleepy Berkeley minus a university. It has some very charming neighborhoods, but so does close-in Silver Spring, right next door, which is not as overpriced. While the schools in the west part of the county (Bethesda, Potomac) have higher test scores than those in east county (Takoma Park and Silver Spring), east county schools are diverse economically and culturally, and offer great magnet programs--my first grade twins are in a full- day French immersion public school program down the street from us. There are also two Spanish immersion programs. You get into these language programs by lottery typically, and the competition varies. My older son is in a communications magnet (journalism, TV and radio, art and music). We can walk to the metro and be in downtown DC in 20 minutes, and walk to Whole Foods and stores and restaurants in Silver Spring in ten minutes. I didn't see your original posting, so feel free to e- mail me off line if you have any specific questions. It was a hard adjustment at first (strip malls, junk food, weather) but the cultural offerings are amazing, there are lots of interesting folks here, and now that we have found our tribe we like it. Melissa

Progressive neighborhood and good public schools

July 2004

My partner and I are considering relocating our family to the Washington D.C. area in about a year. We'd like to move to a neighborhood or surrounding community that has excellent public schools and a progressive social/political climate (e.g. one with other lesbian-headed families). We'll probably be able to buy a house in the $400,000 - $700,000 range. Any thoughts you have would be much appreciated!

My comments about the District are in the archives. There are lots of neighborhoods in which lesbian headed families will feel comfortable! In fact, there are too many to list! Takoma Park DC and MD are sort of the Berkeley of DC. Do you want to be in the burbs or in the city? You don't mention the ages of your children and public schools are very hit and miss so you may find a neighborhood with an excellent middle school but lousy high school. I think that you won't have any trouble finding a place compatible with your social and political beliefs. The more likely issue is that DC is part southern and part rush rush northeast so the culture is very different than here. e_r

Check out Takoma Park, Maryland. Takoma Park is split into two different counties, at least as of a few years ago, the part in Montgomery County was considered to have better schools than that in Prince George's county. Maybe Arlington virginia as well. Both are very close to the District, on Metro. Lori

Neighborhoods around Washington

April 2004

We are currently considering a move from Berkeley to the DC area for job opportunities and to be closer to family on the east coast. I am pretty unfamiliar with the area and would love any input on DC or the close suburbs of VA or MD. I have seen the postings on the archive site but many are dated and I know how much things have changed out here the past few years! I am hoping for insight and advice into where to live, what the neighborhoods and communities are like, what we need to think about school-wise (we still have a few years before that is an issue). Should we rent initially (and where?) while we look? Are housing prices as crazy as here? Are there funky suburban communities outside the district? Are there good schools inside the district? Are we crazy to contemplate leaving the bay area?!? I'd love to hear from both bay area transplants living in the DC area as well as DC transplants living out here! Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks :) nervous about leaving the bay area

I grew up outside of DC in Kensington, MD in Montgomery County. Montgomery county is a fantastic county. I also went to college in DC and spent a few years post-collegiate there- so I lived in the area for 24 years. I can only speak to Montgomery county & DC- but I know the VA suburbs are very nice as well. I moved to the bay area in 1997.

The Montgomery County public schools are excellent. I went all through public schools, grad high school in 1990. A few months back US News had a ''best high schools'' issue, and many of the DC area high schools were included (Walter Johnson, Richard Montgomery and one or two others were the ones included. I went to WJ.)

The DC area has a lot of cultural activities as well. The Smithsonian museums are free admission, there are several other great art galleries (Phillips etc.) that are private. The is a great resource - I still read it every day. They used to have a section called something like ''you haven't lived here until you've...'' which listed a lot of neat insider activities.

As for neighborhoods in DC:
Dupont Circle - the ''gay'' neighborhood and filled with lots of young 20 somethings (of all persuasions).
Then the further north you go up Connecticut Ave, the ''older'' the neighborhood gets.
Woodley Park & Cleveland Park - young married couples (I really liked these areas) with wonderful old homes. Beautiful tree- lined streets.
Friendship Heights - Same as above but with married with young kids

As for Maryland neighborhoods: Tacoma Park (actually, the only town that the boundaries are in 3 counties, Montgomery, Prince Georges & DC) is a funky area. A lot of Oakland reminds me of it. Bethesda & Rockville are big - Rockville more chain-store, strip mall. Bethesda is trying to have the neighborhood feel - you can still walk around to all the different stores etc. But Bethesda has grown by leaps and bounds since I moved away. Potomac is ritzy, Kensington quiet and some areas are historic (I grew up there.). The northern reaches of Montgomery County (Gaithersburg and north) I don't know much about - but they have grown a lot since I left. Those areas are VERY suburban.

The traffic from MD into DC (and VA) has gotten horrendous but the public transportation is great. The metro is clean and really reaches all sections of DC and the suburbs. DC has a good bus system as well.

All in all, it's a great area: more affordable, fantastic schools (in Mont Co.) and good cultural activities. My life, family and friends are here now, but I do miss the DC area a lot. A DC transplant (and slightly homesick)

Below is my take on DC (I'm a bit homesick for the place these days). However, if you like, I would be happy to put you in contact with my friends with kids in the area for a better take on living there. I have friends with kids in the city and in the surrounding areas, many who have purchased homes within the last five years or less. They could give you the lowdown.

I lived in DC for 8 years before moving to the Bay Area and still have many friends there. I think it's a good move. Hard to believe, but compared to the Bay Area, DC seems cheap housing- wise. I think the DC area is a great place to raise kids, at the very least, for the free museums. Kids have access to things that just don't exist west of the Rockies. And, it's diverse, educated...all those things Bay Area fanatics like to boast as unique to this area. I only lived in DC proper but while there dwelled in NE near Catholic University (cheap rent but not so great a neighborhood crime-wise...although, quite beautiful in spite of that), rented an apartment in Dupont Circle (fun if you're single...too pricey if you're with family), rented a house in Tenleytown (GREAT neighorhood but pricey to buy in...but on a BART line, good schools), lived in Adams Morgan and Mt Pleasant before I moved in 1996. Now, that was a while ago but as I said, I visit quite often and my friends are still around the area.

For funky neighborhoods in DC, Adams Morgan and Mt. Pleasant are very cool neighborhoods, and somewhat cheaper than the rest of DC. There's also a lot of gentrification in the DC neighborhoods near the Maryland border. However, all my friends had kids and skipped town for the greener, funky pastures of Arlington. I gasp in jealousy at the price of housing (that they complain as so high). Arlington has developed into the 30-something paradise for former hipsters now breeding. And, the schools are supposed to be decent but since I left DC a single no kids person, I don't know much about that. I do know that all my girlfriends in DC were able to quit their jobs to raise their kids while none of my girlfriends (as well as myself) in the Bay Area have been able to do so.

I also have friends who live in Silver Spring which is also a nice area, but not as funky as Arlington. For Maryland funky, Takoma Park is pretty cool, but some parts might not be too safe so you should look carefully.

Renting to start out would be a good idea. There are even houses for rent in Arlington for reasonable rates that might give you a better idea of where you want to go. It can take you a while to get aclimated to the area. Personally, if you can do it, I'd opt for living in the District. It's a beautiful city and the metro (subway and buses) make it easy to not have to rely on a car. Plus, with children, the zoo is free and always a nice thing to do with kids. I loved being to go to the zoo any time I needed to relax.

Good luck. The one thing I don't miss are cold winters. But, contrary to most people, I miss hot summers (as long as I have air conditioning).

WDC -- what a great place!! I'm from DC and was also recently considering a move back. I hadn't lived there in 5 years (sans children) and went back for a week last August to take a new look through the eyes of a parent. Here's what I found in my limited search... please note that I can only comment on the NW quadrant of the city:

1/ As with many urban areas, the public schools aren't great. There are a few decent elementary and middle schools (?) in upper NW, but the high schools are pretty bleak. Woodrow Wilson HS has AP classes and I've heard (from my young cousin who graduated last year) that the AP teachers are very good. It is possible to get an inter-district transfer, the way it is here. Private schools are plentiful. Montgomery County (Maryland) and Fairfax County (Virginia) both have better public school systems.

2/ Housing prices are comprable to the Bay Area, but you get a lot more for your money. We looked at few 3-4 bedroom places, w/ basement, attic and yard, in nice neighborhoods that were going for about $500,000!! My understanding is that there isn't radical overbidding, but things do go fast.

3/ One area in DC that I was intrigued with was Glover Park, north of Georgetown off of Wisconsin Ave. It's a pretty hip, urban area, within walking distance to shops, etc. The houses -- attached row houses -- were ''affordable'' and the public elementary school (Stoddard, I think) had decent scores. Seemed like there were lots of young families living there.

4/ I was also interested in Takoma Park, Maryland, which is just outside the DC line. It's very funky, and about as close as you'll come to finding Berkeley in DC. (I do believe it's a nuclear-free zone!) It has a nice little ''downtown'', weekend farmer's market, etc. and is easly accessable to DC via the metro. You should definitely check it out! I believe that there are cool little enclaves scattered around Arlington, VA that may be worth checking out too.

5/ Finally, in talking to my friends there, I got the impression that DC is on the way back up!! Lots of renovation/recontruction happening downtown, lots of people wanting to move back in to town (hence the housing scramble).

Good luck to you!! DC on my mind

I lived in DC for 12 years before moving here in 2000. When we moved, housing was significantly less expensive there however, my friends living there now tell me that real estate has gone through the roof.

If you're looking for a neighborhood that's similar to Berkeley/Oakland - about the closest you will come is Takoma Park.

You might want to rent before you buy...just so you can get a good sense of what neighborhood makes the most sense for you in terms of your commute, schools, etc.

If you'd like to talk about this further, send me an email with your phone number and I'll give you a call. Also, I have friends with a house in a great neighborhood walking distance from a great school in Arlington. It's a 3 bedroom house with great kid space. They're moving to NY for work and want to keep their home in VA - and will be renting it this June. LEt me know if you're interested and I''ll hook you up.

DC is a fabulous city for families. I lived there for 8 years as a single, but my sister has lived there for about 10 years -- six of them with children. I would choose DC over the Bay Area for a lot of reasons -- more international, better cultural institutions, people are more polite except when behind the wheel of a car. I would choose the Bay Area for the food, beer, weather and beauty. People are people. You can find who you are looking for anywhere.

Housing is expensive (you may save a couple of bucks on your mortgatge each month over what you would pay in the bay Area, but I doubt it)and very tough to get into if you want to live in the District (taxes in the District are about the same as the Bay Area). I lived in Cleveland Park while I was there -- two blocks walk to Metro, the shops, the zoo, access to Rock Creek Park etc. Single family homes there start in the high $700s. A good family neighborhood in the District is Chevy Chase DC (not to be confused with Chevy Chase MD). My sister is raising her three wee ones there. She has put them all in the neighborhood Catholic school ($5,000/year - most private shcools start at about $12,000/year), but there are very good public elementary schools in the neighborhood, too. Homes start in the $600,000 range. Capitol Hill is a fun neighborhood, too, but homes are generally cozy row houses and start in the $600,000s.

I don't know much about the MD neighborhoods. I lived in Virginia for a year. It has changed a lot, for the better (there are plenty of places to eat, shop, etc now). I would suggest looking near the Clarendon Metro in the Lyon Park or Lyon Village neighborhoods. Though, homes there start in the $800's. You may want to look as far out as Ballston, but you won't find housing much cheaper there. the farther out you go down route 66, the cheaper it will be. Ditto for 395.

I would suggest living along a subway line and I would suggest living as close to DC as possible. Traffic is insane. People actually commute into DC from West Virginia. DC Fan

We moved to the DC area almost two years ago after 17 years in Berkeley and Albany. We rented for a year in order to get to know the area. With three kids, we were looking for a good school district, a Berkeley-like community, easy access to DC, and an easy commute to College Park where my husband works. We did look in DC, but for what we could afford, places we saw were too small compared with Montgomery County. We rented for a year, and looked thoroughly at the schools and communities of Bethesda, Kensington, Garrett Park, Silver Spring, and Takoma Park. We finally settled on ''close-in'' Silver Spring for various reasons: diversity, progressive neighborhood generally, affordability, close to downtown Takoma Park (without the high cost of housing and taxes there), gentle hills and diverse architecture, walking distance to Metro, downtown Silver Spring, new AFI movie house (a film archive), and Sligo Creek and parks. I researched schools thoroughly as well, and would be happy to talk further if you would like. It has taken some adjustment, but this is a great area in many ways: lots of great cultural offerings, money for the schools, lots of greenery, tons of interesting stuff for adults and kids going on, lots of educated and interesting folks. Feel free to e-mail me. Melissa

2003 & Earlier

Living within D.C. with a 3-year-old

June 2003

Advice About Relocating to Washington, D.C. with 3 YO: I'm moving back to Washington, DC with my three year old and plan to live within the district. I'm interested in any thoughts that people have about good neighborhoods (I'm thinking about Woodley Park and Capitol Hill), good pre-schools in those neighborhoods, or anything else that people might want to point out to someone in my situation (besides asking me why on earth I would leave Berkeley). By the way, I have already looked at the parents' network archives on this subject. Thanks! noah

This is just one person's opinion, but I would be VERY careful about where you live in DC... Most of the population lives in the NW quadrant, and even parts of that can be sketchy. The rest of the city is pretty much people living at or below poverty level. It's shameful that much of our nation's capital is like a third world country. I lived there for about 18 months near Capitol Hill and Eastern Market. (I moved there after 10 years in Chicago, so it's not like I was a country- bumpkin!) While there were things that I did like about the neighborhood there were things that I hated. Like the racist/sexist things that would be yelled at me as I walked past a housing project to get to the supermarket. And, being mugged at knifepoint in broad daylight was not alot of fun either. I would recommend taking a look at Arlington and Bethesda when you're considering areas to live. -- not a fan of DC

We are also moving to DC and the DC Urban Moms List seems to be a useful resource for questions like yours. Here's the link with information:

I wrote back directly to the poster who asked about DC with some ideas but I have to reply to the person who hated it so much and defend my husband's hometown. We just moved back from there and yes, it has its crime and problems (some areas around Eastern Market being sketchy, sorry you got mugged and assaulted) as any major metropolitan area does but the City is not quite how you describe it. The NW quadrant is, in fact, more than half of the City and has lots of incredibly fancy, middle class, and working class neighborhoods. The other quadrants have some nice neighborhoods too, except for Southeast that is mostly ghetto. The fact is that most people in DC live untouched by the extreme poverty that exists in part of the town, just as most of us East Bayers do not deal with the poverty in parts of Oakland and Richmond. I agree that the City has many ''third world'' elements, including an inept local government but you also get free museums, beautiful tree-lines streets, great public transportation that ALL classes use, grand architecture, a TRULY diverse population (not a theoretically diverse one like my neighborhood), a huge Black elite and middle class, etc, etc. So DON'T MOVE TO BETHESDA!!!! :) Elizabeth

I didn't see your original post, but we moved to the DC area last summer after many years in Berkeley/Albany. We just bought a house in ''close-in'' Silver Spring, after looking throughout the ''close-in'' (to DC) areas of Montgomery County including Bethesda, Garrett Park, Kensington, Silver Spring, and Takoma Park, and weighing quality of schools, quality of life (we like walking distance to things other than malls), and diversity of the population. We also looked a bit in NW D.C., which to my mind has many lovely parts. I have researched the Montgomery County school system pretty thoroughly, and looked at a bunch of elementary schools. If any of this sounds useful to you, feel free to e-mail me. Melissa

Washington, DC can be a wonderful place for a family to live, but it takes a while to get used to if you move there from Berkeley. We moved to DC (we lived in a large, funky row house on a very busy street, in the third alphbet, upper NW)when our children were five and almost-three and lived there for seven years. Our youngest child was born there, and we moved back when he was five.

I always tell people that living in the District is the only way to live there: the suburban sprawl in Washington beats any I've seen anywhere. (True even for close in suburbs like Bethesda and Arlington. The school districts are county-wide, and the counties offer incredibly rich recreational programs, so, if you live in Montgomery or Fairfax counties, your childrens' schools, soccer leagues, ballet classes, etc. will most likely be VERY far from your home.)

Here's what I came to love about the district: it's a capital city, so very international, even for those of us whose lives were completely unrelated to any government function. We met, through our childrens' public school, people from all over the world. Also, people overall seemed very informed: we had great political discussions (and met Republicans, for diversity). There was a strong sense of traditional civic responsibility, so there were baby sitting coops and block clean-ups, etc. I missed that there seemed to be relatively few artists and (non jounalist) writers. But then, I met people who served in the military or who worked for NGO's in Bangladesh or whose parents and grandparents had worked for the federal government (at the lowest levels) but who considered that work a privilege and responsibility.

There was LOTS to do for a family with young children. We went to the museums almost weekly. They are free so you can go for an hour, then leave without feeling guilty. There are lots of great historic activities: period farms a favorite of my kids, many re-enactments (so we could direct the boys' great interest in weapons to the Civil War), and US history sites. The zoo was nearby (also free), and I spent many, many afternoons there with my toddler.

What else? People dress up more. My boys had jackets and ties and white button down shirts and loafers (really) which they never wore again once we moved back here. We left our car unlocked and kids seemed to move around the neighborhood (and, as they got older, the city) pretty freely. There was only one neighborhood in Washingon that I wouldn't go to: otherwise, we explored widely and safely and our experiences were rich.

Love Berkeley, but fond of DC

A positive review of our nation's capitol:

I lived in Washington DC for nine years, and after having been away for the past 5 years I too am (happily) moving back this summer!

Like you, I've have a little guy and am trying to figure out where in the district to live. I'm looking at neighborhoods west of the park primarily because of the public schools -- Woodley Park, Cleveland Park, Tenley Town, Glover Park (someplace near public transport or a major artery into town). I'm also considering my old haunts -- Mt. Pleasant, Adam's Morgan, or Dupont. While the schools there aren't great, I've just learned from a friend in DC that there is a whole new crop of charter/magnet schools around, so maybe location isn't an issue. I have friends who live on Capitol Hill (near the station) and love it! They're squashed in a two bedroom rowhouse but can't bring themselves to leave their funky neighborhood and great school.

The only recommendation I have for pre-school is a wonderful little one in an old row house in Adam's Morgan called ''Amazing Life Games''.

Be sure to get on the on-line parents network (similar to this one) for all the happenings. I'm sorry that I don't have the address, but I'm sure you can find it. It's called either ''DCurbanmoms'' or just ''urbanmoms'' or something close.

It sounds like you've lived there before, so you know all about the city and really, how great it is -- diverse, lots going on, etc. You probably also know about the crime, but frankly, it's not much different than any other major urban setting. Between the two of us, my husband or I have been mugged all over the world, including good ol' Berkeley!

All the best to you!! Chirstine

I grew up in the 'burbs outsite of D.C. and would *heartily* agree with the previous recommendation to look on the other side of the river -- with the Metro (safe, clean, easy to use) you can easily zip in and out of the city from Arlington, where you could get a nice house with a yard and all the trimmings. Areas like Adams Morgan in D.C. are cool and multi-cultural but I had similar experiences with violence and racism there (I think I moved there to be closer to my favorite restaurants -- it wasn't worth it!). There are plenty of decent places across the river in Virginia or outside of D.C. in Maryland proper if you don't mind being in the 'burbs.


Affordable places near College Park

May 2002

We are a family considering a move to the Washington DC area. We would really appreciate any ideas about 1) affordable places to live within a reasonable commuting distance of College Park, MD, and with good public schools and lively community and cultural offerings; 2) places with excellent public schools; 3) coop or developmental preschools in the College Park, Takoma Park, Greenbelt,Silver Springs or other nearby area. Also, are there towns north of DC in or towards Howard County that have cultural offerings where we might get a big backyard and a decent sized house? And does anyone have specific knowledge of the Takoma Park public elementary schools? Many thanks!

I envy you. I would love to move back to the DC area. I was born and raised here but lived there for 6 years and moved here in 1999 to go to UCBerkeley. The area you are looking to move appears to be in Prince Georges COunty. I have a home there that I miss tremendously especially when I think about the cost and quality of life here in the Bay Area. In Prince Georges County their are many affordable communities. One in particlar that hase the best public schools is in Bowie. I was in fact a public school teacher in Bowie. Bowie, is very affordable coming from this area however, it may seem relatively expensive to the native PG county resident. I would say the median price for a home (2000-3000 sq ft) is about $250-300,000 Bowie is about a 15 minute drive down Greenbelt road to college park. My home is in Lanham-Seabrook and is about a 5-10 minute drive to COllege park.

There are many truly wonderful communities in Howard county. Columbia is one, In fact when I first moved to the DC area I was told that Columbia was planned specifically to promote cultural diversity. (I dont have any info on that thought-- its just something I was told) BTW I always check to get an idea of the real estate market in that and other areas. I could really go on, because I do love that area tremendously... the people, the weather ( not to much snow!!!) the diversity, etc. etc. Missing DC

Fredrick, MD is a wonderful small college town, if the working parent doesn't mind a bit of a drive. annon

Life in DC with a 3-year-old

Summer 2001

Any information on moving to Washington D.C. with a 3 year old would be very appreciated. I'm hoping for things along the lines of pre-schools, internet groups like this one...or anything else that would help make the transition easier. Thanks. Kean

It's been many years since I grew up in the Washington area, but I can still recommend a small neighborhood in Bethesda called Bannockburn. It's a community in a sea of suburbia. There is a clubhouse with a nursery school, 2 community owned swimming pools, a great elementary school and not too far from the metro. Good Luck Dibsy

Hi, we moved last year to DC from Berkeley with a 3 year old (and a 2 week old baby). It is nice, kid things just depend on where you live. You can email me with any questions and I'll be glad to answer them if I can. Anneke

I moved to DC two years ago and have a three year old. The person wanting information should email me directly, and I will be happy to share the info I have gleaned. Ann

I have no recent recommendations for Washington, but just want to say that I spent the first 20 years of my life there and think it was a fabulous place to grow up! (That's almost 30 years ago that I left though). We lived in NW. There were endless things to do. The Smithsonian Museums, the National Art Gallery, the National Zoo were all free at that time (don't know if they still are). The area for hundreds of miles in any direction is rich with historical destinations. Cultural opportunities are plentiful. There are endless beautiful natural destinations (including Rock Creek Park in the city itself, which had riding stables and miles and miles of trails for riding and hiking). Our neighbors knew each other up and down the block and around the corners. You could smell the Potomac River from miles away (that was awful), but I understand that they've cleaned it up. The cherry blossoms in the spring are spectacular! The things I remember my parents complaining about a lot were the oppressively hot summers and snowy winters. But as kids we paid no attention to the heat or found creative ways to deal with it - sprinklers, etc.- and the snow was great! So, I didn't answer any of your questions and have no current info, but just wanted to give you my positive perspective on growing up in Washington.

It's been some years since I lived in the D.C. area, but while there I lived in a number of neighborhoods in Maryland and D.C. proper. I'd recommend checking out Takoma Park, Maryland. It has a slower pace than other spots, a lovely little downtown with all a family would need, and very pretty tree-lined streets with some lovely apartments and houses. Lots of families. Good luck. Lynn

Family-friendly neighborhoods in DC area

May 2000

My family is moving to Washington DC in a few months and I am seeking information about parent resources (we have an infant), family-friendly neighborhoods in NW DC or Maryland suburbs, tips on finding and renting a house (any realtor suggestions?), and any other info anyone might have that could help us with this transition. Thanks! Amy

Two neighborhood tips from someone who used to live there: if you end up living on Capitol Hill, the neighborhood has a long-standing Babysitting Co-op with more than 100 families (I could get you contact info if you email me directly). If you want to live in Maryland, Takoma Park, MD, is just north of the city and adjacent to Silver Spring. Takoma Park has lots of trees and old houses, lots of families with young kids, and is known as the Berkeley of the East and the People's Republic of Takoma Park. Elisa