Moving to Washington, D.C. can be daunting yet thrilling at the same. After all, the country’s government is conducted there, so the eyes of the nation and the world are focused on D.C. every day.
The founding documents of our democracy are housed there, as are the nation’s treasures. The Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Museums immediately come to mind.
As you zero in on where your dream D.C. Metro home will be, what else is there to know besides neighborhood, cost and commute?
We asked two locals what living in D.C. is really like.
“D.C. is a good place to live,” said India, a native Washingtonian. “It’s fun, we have good food, and for shopping you can go to Georgetown.”
What D.C. Neighborhood Should I Live In?
So many disparate factors go into making that decision, but cost and commute are two of the biggest considerations. Even without having visited in person, you may have heard of these neighborhoods from film and television:
Capitol Hill may be your first choice if politics is your thing. Capitol Hill allows you to walk to work and stop off at the Eastside Market for groceries on your way home whenever you skip happy hour with your co-workers.
For avid Major League Baseball fans, living near Nationals Stadium might be a dream come true. The ballpark is in the Navy Yard area, which longtime resident Fatina Abdeen knows well since a Public Storage facility stands across from the stadium.
“It may be the oldest building left in the neighborhood,” said Abdeen, a district manager for Public Storage. The storage facility is one of the few structures not torn down to make way for the baseball venue.
If money were no object perhaps Adams Morgan is the place for you because of its international flavors—that’s where all the embassies and consulates are located.
International students as well as diplomats seek out D.C. posts, and Adams Morgan is a hub. Head over to this eclectic neighborhood to check out the nightlife, recommends Moore.
And that’s a great point. Live where you can afford, and hang out where you’d love to live.
How Can I Navigate the High Cost of Living in Washington, D.C.?
D.C.’s highly coveted neighborhoods are indeed expensive.
But moving to any city that appears on bucket lists of places to visit once in a lifetime is going to come with sticker shock. And Washington, D.C. isn’t even the most expensive in the U.S.
New York City is the most expensive followed by San Francisco, Honolulu and Boston, in that order, according to Investopedia.
To decide on where to live in any great metropolis, you have to weigh several things at once.
It may be that a tiny-but-expensive studio apartment in Capitol Hill is worth it to be able to walk or bike to work.
You’d have no commuting expenses. And on foot, your commute time is immune from D.C.’s notoriously bad traffic jams. And chances are if you are in politics, you are working every waking minute so time takes on a monetary value.
Another option is to choose an up-and-coming neighborhood in the District for a lower rent. For instance, settle near the U.S. National Arboretum, which is a selfie-taking paradise, where two other D.C. Public Storage facilities are located not far from Gallaudet University.
Just remember that with lower rent comes less walkability to things you want to do or places to meet up with friends.
Does Washington, D.C. Have Good Public Transportation?
Washington, D.C.’s Metro is fantastic, said Abdeen.
“Metro will take you anywhere you want to go,” she added. “All of Virginia and Maryland too.”
So if you need more living space for less money, or really want a single-family home, settle into the surrounding states as near to a Metro station or bus line to work or school as you can afford.
What Is There To Do in Washington, D.C.?
There is so much to do and see in Washington, D.C., which is a great part of its allure. Even better, considering how expensive it is to live there, so much of what D.C. has to offer costs absolutely nothing.
Not only are all the Smithsonian Museums free, but the National Gallery of Art, the Library of Congress and National Archives are, too. The buildings themselves are wonders to behold, but they also contain such documents as the Bill of Rights and artifacts from space travel.
Outdoor concerts on the National Mall are free all summer, Abdeen adds. There are wonderful parks throughout the District, such as Rock Creek, and fireworks displays over the Potomac River.
Everywhere you go there is history, and at the same time there is always something new happening.
D.C. has undergone immense change while still preserving treasured enterprises that date back to the early 19th century.
Abdeen recommends checking out District Wharf, which has given a whole new life to the Potomac River waterfront near the National Mall. The revamping centered on preserving the Fish Market, which has been operating in that location since 1805.
In addition to the Fish Market, the Wharf has commercial, transit and recreational piers; a fire pit; an ice rink in winter; a music venue, shops and restaurants. The luxury condos there may be out of your budget, but renting a kayak for a paddle by the National Mall likely isn’t.
If you’re looking for some nightlife check out U Street, added India, a property manager at one of Public Storage’s locations in the District.
U Street is home to the Lincoln Theatre, where jazz legends such as Duke Ellington once performed. Today, the neighborhood is a hub for live music, lounges and rooftop bars.
Abdeen says her favorite thing about living in the Metro area is the annual blossoming of the cherry trees.
You might expect the allure to fade after you’ve lived in the nation’s capital for a while. But the blooming of the Yoshino cherry trees, which were a gift from Japan to the United States in 1912, never gets old for Abdeen, who serves as Public Storage district manager for D.C. and Virginia.
To time a trip to D.C. to see the trees in peak bloom at the Tidal Basin and National Mall is extremely difficult. Predictions usually begin in early March, and are based on winter temperatures, how the trees look and weather forecasts. But if you live in the D.C. Metro area, it’s simple. Like checking the weather.
Read on for more on how to choose a neighborhood to call home, whether it ends up being inside the District itself or within the greater metropolitan area that includes Virginia and Maryland.
What are the Cons to Moving to Washington, D.C.?
Now for some warnings from the opposite end of the spectrum: taxes and lack of representation.
There are special taxes in D.C. that are unlike any other place and are a definite factor in the high cost of living. They affect purchases at bars, restaurants and hotels.
Meanwhile, residents of D.C. do not live in any of the 50 states. So if you move there, you will pay federal taxes but you will have no representation in Congress. No representative in the House or in the Senate.
Just another of the many considerations you’ll need to juggle when considering a move to Washington, D.C.
Is It Worth Moving to Washington, D.C.?
Abdeen answers that question with an emphatic yes.
She is quick to add that her second favorite thing about living in the capital after seeing the cherry trees in bloom is the view from the top of the Washington Monument.
If you’d like a sneak peek for yourself, there is a monument cam streaming 24 hours a day. The live stream is a partnership with Trust for the National Mall, the National Park Service and EarthCam.
Can you imagine the view when the cherry trees are in bloom? Just keep checking the monument cam from late March through early April.
Abdeen also treasures D.C. monuments and memorials honoring presidents, war heroes and Civil Rights champions. She looks forward to out-of-town guests arriving so she can revisit her favorites.
To discover what your favorite thing about moving to Washington, D.C. will be, you’re going to have to take the plunge.
“The most fun part about D.C. is you get to make it your own,” says India.
For more scoop on moving to the nation’s capital, read about Public Storage’s recent growth in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore region.
Or check out this story on moving to San Francisco and the Bay Area, an even more expensive place than Washington, D.C. For a preview on dealing with the high cost of living there, recommendations include: 1, leave the car behind and 2, get a housemate.
And don’t forget these steps steps for moving out of a rental which will come in handy, especially if you’ll be renting your new place in Washington, D.C.