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Old 08-21-2009, 07:13 AM
 
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Default McLean or Vienna?

My wife, young sons and I are planning to move out of DC in the near future and are looking in McLean and Vienna. Although we’ve enjoyed many years in DC, we’re ready for a change in pace and need a yard, good public schools and all of the other benefits of suburbia. We like McLean a bit more than Vienna and the commute to downtown DC seems like it will be better, but if we choose Vienna, we can likely get a newer, larger house (we’re not looking for a McMansion, but need at least 4 bedrooms). The schools and lot sizes seem comparable (or at least close enough for us) in both areas.

Our questions are:

What is the true difference in commute? We’re open to either driving or taking Metro but are terrified of the 66 nightmare.

Are there any major benefits of the neighborhoods in McLean vs. Vienna?
[SIZE=2] [/SIZE]
McLean seems “nicer” but maybe we just haven’t seen enough of Vienna yet, are there some sections of Vienna that are comparable in feel to McLean ?

We realize that the commute will be much worse than what we currently have in DC and know that N. Arlington is a closer easier commute, but we have considered both areas quite a bit and have decided against both DC (schools and quality of life) and N. Arlington (lot sizes too small and homes either smaller and older or too expensive), so we’d really appreciate any information you can offer on McLean and Vienna.
[SIZE=2] [/SIZE]
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Old 08-21-2009, 07:46 AM
 
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Originally Posted by dcresident33 View Post
My wife, young sons and I are planning to move out of DC in the near future and are looking in McLean and Vienna. Although we’ve enjoyed many years in DC, we’re ready for a change in pace and need a yard, good public schools and all of the other benefits of suburbia. We like McLean a bit more than Vienna and the commute to downtown DC seems like it will be better, but if we choose Vienna, we can likely get a newer, larger house (we’re not looking for a McMansion, but need at least 4 bedrooms). The schools and lot sizes seem comparable (or at least close enough for us) in both areas.

Our questions are:

What is the true difference in commute? We’re open to either driving or taking Metro but are terrified of the 66 nightmare.



Are there any major benefits of the neighborhoods in McLean vs. Vienna?
[SIZE=2] [/SIZE]
McLean seems “nicer” but maybe we just haven’t seen enough of Vienna yet, are there some sections of Vienna that are comparable in feel to McLean ?

We realize that the commute will be much worse than what we currently have in DC and know that N. Arlington is a closer easier commute, but we have considered both areas quite a bit and have decided against both DC (schools and quality of life) and N. Arlington (lot sizes too small and homes either smaller and older or too expensive), so we’d really appreciate any information you can offer on McLean and Vienna.
[SIZE=2] [/SIZE]
Both McLean and Vienna include many different types of neighborhoods. You can find new properties in McLean on larger lots and older properties on smaller lots in Vienna, but in general the housing in Vienna (particularly in the neighborhoods in the county outside the Town of Vienna) will be newer and the lots will be larger. The schools in both McLean and Vienna are very good, though most would give the McLean schools a slight edge.

In my mind, the two main considerations are commuting time and how family-friendly an area you are seeking. McLean is definitely an easier commute to DC (about 10-15 minutes shorter, depending on where you are in McLean), and Vienna is a more family-friendly area (there are just more stores and activities geared toward kids there than in McLean). McLean also has a somewhat busier pace, as more of its residents are dual-income couples who work in DC, whereas Vienna has more residents who work in the Tysons/Dulles corredor.

If you have specific questions, I'd be happy to try and respond as objectively as I can. In particular, if you want to know particular neighborhoods in Vienna that are similar in feel to a neighborhood in McLean, or vice versa, I probably know.

Last edited by JEB77; 08-21-2009 at 08:37 AM..
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Old 08-21-2009, 07:02 PM
 
Location: Chapel Hill, NC (formerly Vienna, VA)
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McLean is wealthier. The housing is more expensive. And the schools generally have higher test scores. Having said that I picked Vienna over McLean, not only because it is more affordable, but also because I thought Vienna would be a less pretentious area. I'm not into keeping up with the Joneses, and I didn't want my children being the only ones at school not going to Europe or the Carribbean over Christmas break. Now I'm not sure that McLean is really that way or if it's just the way I perceived it. But it is a more affluent area than Vienna, so I do think it's more likely. Most people I meet in Vienna are down-to-earth, and it's very family friendly. Both communities have a neighborhood community center and a community library. I don't think you can go wrong either place; you just need to figure out where you fit in better. Go to the stores, supermarkets, and other public areas. Look at the people and see how they dress, and how friendly they are. Drive through the neighborhoods. Check out the playgrounds. I think you'll get a better feel for each place.
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Old 08-21-2009, 07:57 PM
 
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There are far more similarities than differences between McLean and Vienna. But you will get more house for your money in Vienna (all other things being equal), and most likely a shorter commute to downtown DC in McLean. Both communities are family-friendly places with excellent schools and well-educated, successful, and achievement-oriented parents. The advice to check out neighborhoods, stores, etc is a good one. When we were house-hunting, my husband got up early and tried out the commute from specific neighborhoods we had considered, which helped us rule out some parts of Vienna and Great Falls.
And, FWIW, my kids were NEVER the only ones in McLean not going to Europe or the Caribbean over Christmas break.
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Old 08-21-2009, 08:20 PM
 
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Originally Posted by claremarie View Post
There are far more similarities than differences between McLean and Vienna. But you will get more house for your money in Vienna (all other things being equal), and most likely a shorter commute to downtown DC in McLean. Both communities are family-friendly places with excellent schools and well-educated, successful, and achievement-oriented parents. The advice to check out neighborhoods, stores, etc is a good one. When we were house-hunting, my husband got up early and tried out the commute from specific neighborhoods we had considered, which helped us rule out some parts of Vienna and Great Falls.
And, FWIW, my kids were NEVER the only ones in McLean not going to Europe or the Caribbean over Christmas break.
I agree. Anyone making assumptions about McLean because it's wealthier is doing just that. Making assumptions.

McLean has much better access to the major highways than Vienna and it's definitely easier to get into DC from McLean. I66 is the only major highway that will get you close to Vienna and it is very very congested during rush hour.

Because Vienna has a dense population and most of the feeder routes are not via a major highway or parkway, traffic can be really bad. Check out Maple Ave during rush hour. There are even neighborhood roads in Vienna that restrict people from making left turns even if you live in that neighborhood.

The elementary schools between McLean and Vienna are comparable, but a slight edge is given to McLean for its middle school and a bigger edge is given to McLean for the high schools (McLean & Langley vs. Madison & Marshall & Oakton & South Lakes) for the majority of the population.
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Old 08-22-2009, 07:40 AM
 
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Originally Posted by claremarie View Post
There are far more similarities than differences between McLean and Vienna. But you will get more house for your money in Vienna (all other things being equal), and most likely a shorter commute to downtown DC in McLean. Both communities are family-friendly places with excellent schools and well-educated, successful, and achievement-oriented parents. The advice to check out neighborhoods, stores, etc is a good one. When we were house-hunting, my husband got up early and tried out the commute from specific neighborhoods we had considered, which helped us rule out some parts of Vienna and Great Falls.
And, FWIW, my kids were NEVER the only ones in McLean not going to Europe or the Caribbean over Christmas break.
Good post. It's also the case that there are distinctions in neighborhoods and levels of affluence in both Vienna and McLean. For example, the housing in parts of the Town of Vienna (primarily in the south side) and in the Kent Gardens area of McLean is basic, suburban housing from the 1950s and 1960s. There is nothing fancy about these neighborhoods, but they are still considered desirable due to their proximity to Metro or DC, the good reputations of the schools, and their relative walkability. The same is true for some of the neighboring Falls Church neighborhoods where students attend schools in the McLean HS pyramid. In comparison, there are parts of Vienna out toward Wolf Trap that are quite similar to Great Falls, with larger homes on sizable lots, and areas of McLean that are off-the-charts affluent (for example, Ballantrae Farms or some of the the neighborhoods off Old Dominion or Georgetown Pike near the Beltway).

The highest levels of affluence in the entire NoVa region seem to be in some of the neighborhoods in McLean in 22102 or adjoining Great Falls that feed into Langley High. Langley is a top school, but there are quite a few parents who, like michgc, worry that sending their kids to schools where virtually all the students are uber-privileged will contribute to their childrens' sense of entitlement and make a conscious decision to pick other schools districts. It's all part of the process of finding one's comfort level with a particular area.

Last edited by JEB77; 08-22-2009 at 08:49 AM..
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Old 08-22-2009, 09:01 AM
 
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Originally Posted by JEB77 View Post
Good post. It's also the case that there are distinctions in neighborhoods and levels of affluence in both Vienna and McLean. For example, the housing in parts of the Town of Vienna (primarily in the south side) and in the Kent Gardens area of McLean is basic, suburban housing from the 1950s and 1960s. There is nothing fancy about these neighborhoods, but they are still considered desirable due to their proximity to Metro or DC, the good reputations of the schools, and their relative walkability. The same is true for some of the neighboring Falls Church neighborhoods where students attend schools in the McLean HS pyramid. In comparison, there are parts of Vienna out toward Wolf Trap that are quite similar to Great Falls, with larger homes on sizable lots, and areas of McLean that are off-the-charts affluent (for example, Ballantrae Farms or some of the the neighborhoods off Old Dominion or Georgetown Pike near the Beltway).

The highest levels of affluence in the entire NoVa region seem to be in some of the neighborhoods in McLean in 22102 or adjoining Great Falls that feed into Langley High. Langley is a top school, but there are quite a few parents who, like michgc, worry that sending their kids to schools where virtually all the children are uber-privileged will contribute to a sense of entitlement and make a conscious decision to select other schools districts.
That reason is probably why McLean HS is a bit more ideal compared to Langley. High achieving, but with a more healthy balance of race, class, etc., relatively speaking.

At McLean HS, about 6% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Not poor, but at Langley, it's <1%.

I personally would not compare the Wolftrap area in Vienna to Great Falls. That area of Wolftrap has decent sized homes on decent lots, but many are also very 1970's to 1980's dated.

Older suburban homes aren't just characteristic of Kent Gardens or the Town of Vienna. You can find many basic suburban homes everywhere including the Chesterbrook, Franklin Sherman, McLean Hamlet, Haycock, Louise Archer, Flint Hill, Wolf Trap, Westbriar, etc.

Overall, the older areas are still desirable to a point where people are willing to tear up old homes and build new ones...infills.

If you want to see less basic and more large cookie cutter homes, venture out to Centreville, Fair Lakes, Fairfax, Rockville, Gaithersburg, Germantown, etc. That is where you will find huge cookie cutter communities. You won't find them for the most part inside the beltway.
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Old 08-22-2009, 09:23 AM
 
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Originally Posted by live_strong28 View Post
That reason is probably why McLean HS is a bit more ideal compared to Langley. High achieving, but with a more healthy balance of race, class, etc., relatively speaking.

At McLean HS, about 6% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Not poor, but at Langley, it's <1%.
I'm a fan of McLean HS, but again it's a matter of choice. "Ideal" means different things to different people. As you know, there are also parents who only want Langley for their children and don't want to be in the McLean district, where the test scores are a bit lower and one of the feeder elementary schools has a majority of students receiving subsidized meals. The overall percentage of McLean students receiving free or reduced lunches is more like 8%, rather than 6%.

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Originally Posted by live_strong28 View Post
I personally would not compare the Wolftrap area in Vienna to Great Falls. That area of Wolftrap has decent sized homes on decent lots, but many are also very 1970's to 1980's dated.
Then don't. That part of Vienna has many larger homes on acre lots (comparable in size to houses in parts of Great Falls, with larger lots than is typical in the 22180 area of Vienna or the 22101 area of McLean) built in the 1990s or later, and some of the Great Falls neighborhoods on the other side of Route 7 are comprised largely of homes built in the 1970s and 1980s. I did not have in mind the areas of Great Falls further to the north or west where many of the homes are on four or five-acre lots, on private septic systems, and priced well over $2 million. You are not going to find that anywhere in Vienna, with the possible exception of a few locations out toward Oakton.


Quote:
Originally Posted by live_strong28 View Post
Older suburban homes aren't just characteristic of Kent Gardens or the Town of Vienna. You can find many basic suburban homes everywhere including the Chesterbrook, Franklin Sherman, McLean Hamlet, Haycock, Louise Archer, Flint Hill, Wolf Trap, Westbriar, etc.

Overall, the older areas are still desirable to a point where people are willing to tear up old homes and build new ones...infills.
Kent Gardens and the Town of Vienna are comparatively older areas than the neighborhoods that feed into, say, Spring Hill in McLean, or Flint Hill, Wolf Trap or Westbriar in Vienna, and the homes in these areas are more modest in scale than those in the older McLean neighborhoods that feed into schools like Sherman or Chesterbrook. As a result, the appeal of these neighborhoods is based less on the condition of the homes themselves than on their location, the local schools and, in the case of the Town of Vienna homes in particular, the walkability of the neighborhood and its access to family-friendly shops and amenities.

Last edited by JEB77; 08-22-2009 at 10:07 AM..
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Old 08-22-2009, 09:30 AM
 
Location: Chapel Hill, NC (formerly Vienna, VA)
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Originally Posted by claremarie View Post
And, FWIW, my kids were NEVER the only ones in McLean not going to Europe or the Caribbean over Christmas break.
Okay, I was exaggerating a bit. I know not everyone in McLean travels to Europe and the Caribbean. I was just trying to avoid neighborhoods where the families were more privileged economically than ourselves. It would have been a stretch for us to afford to buy a house there anyway, so it worked out for the best.
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Old 08-22-2009, 10:32 AM
 
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Originally Posted by JEB77 View Post
I'm a fan of McLean HS, but again it's a matter of choice. "Ideal" means different things to different people. As you know, there are also parents who only want Langley for their children and don't want to be in the McLean district, where the test scores are a bit lower and one of the feeder elementary schools has a majority of students receiving subsidized meals. The overall percentage of McLean students receiving free or reduced lunches is more like 8%, rather than 6%.
It's obvious that McLean test scores are a bit lower than Langley because the reduced lunches are at 6% vice Langley's at <1%. People can obsess over small percentage points in scores, but that doesn't mean that the quality of McLean HS is any less than Langley HS. It's just the students that are different.

Parents who qualify for free lunches may be less likely to be able to afford an extra tutor and/or won't have as much time or ability to help their kids with their AP classes. That's the biggest difference....the kids, not the quality of the school for the McLean area.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JEB77 View Post
Then don't. That part of Vienna has many larger homes on acre lots (comparable in size to houses in parts of Great Falls, with larger lots than is typical in the 22180 area of Vienna or the 22101 area of McLean) built in the 1990s or later, and some of the Great Falls neighborhoods on the other side of Route 7 are comprised largely of homes built in the 1970s and 1980s. I did not have in mind the areas of Great Falls further to the north or west where many of the homes are on four or five-acre lots, on private septic systems, and priced well over $2 million. You are not going to find that anywhere in Vienna, with the possible exception of a few locations out toward Oakton.
Every area has larger homes on larger lots. What may be comparable is in size, but not value. An identical home in Great Falls would be worth al ot more, especially since it feeds into Langley (Great Falls) vice Marshall (Vienna). A lot of the larger homes on larger lots in Vienna are less desirable because parents don't want their kids to attend Marshall HS no matter how the scores are trending.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JEB77 View Post
Kent Gardens and the Town of Vienna are comparatively older areas than the neighborhoods that feed into, say, Spring Hill in McLean, or Flint Hill, Wolf Trap or Westbriar in Vienna, and the homes in these areas are more modest in scale than those in the older McLean neighborhoods that feed into schools like Sherman or Chesterbrook. As a result, the appeal of these neighborhoods is based less on the condition of the homes themselves than on their location, the local schools and, in the case of the Town of Vienna homes in particular, the walkability of the neighborhood and its access to family-friendly shops and amenities.
Doesn't matter if those areas as a whole are older. The point is that there are many small and older homes similiar to KG and TOV in Spring Hill, Flint HIll, Wolftrap, Chesterbrook, Haycock, Louise Archer, and the Westbriar area.

There isn't a real area that close to the beltway that has all those cookie cutter style homes except in Vienna in that Madrillion area, but since it feeds into Marshall, homes there take a lot longer to sell and are less desirable.
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