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Old 09-12-2009, 11:01 PM
 
128 posts, read 388,526 times
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Hello,

I grew up in the DC metro area in the 1970s/1980s. Reston, VA, to be exact (ScranBarre—I totally get where you’re coming from, “Mauve, Taupe, HOAs, and SUVs, Oh My!”…haha…although, Reston in the ‘70s was a far different place from now!) My parents moved to Reston from Johnstown, PA for the schools, and I must say I did get a wonderful education and a pretty ideal childhood. But, like any teenager, I was desperate to leave my bland suburban life for the big city as soon as possible. That came at the age of 17, when I moved to NYC and vowed to never return to the suburbs . I lived in the East Village (1990-1998)...then, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (1998-2000). In 2000, I moved to New Orleans, met my husband, and stayed until Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Now, my husband and I are in Chicago. It is the city we chose to live in out of necessity (going back to New Orleans was not an option and NYC was too expensive and impossible after the financial impact of Katrina). Now, we are considering a move to the DC metro area. Chicago is perfectly fine...a pretty wonderful big, but affordable city, but we are left feeling 'blah' and COLD here. Plus, my whole family is still in NoVA, a lot of my friends are in NYC (4 hours away), I miss the East Coast, we want great public schools for our future child/ren, the weather is better, and the job market seems to be even better. But, after living in such inspiring, diverse, and culturally-rich cities, will we be satisfied in the DC ‘burbs? Now if money and public schools were no object, we would live in the District in a second. Alas, we are not so fortunate. So, I am thinking; if we can’t live in the CITY, would the country or a small historical town be less “soulless” than the suburbs. By country /small town, I mean; Leesburg, Middleburg, Purcellville, Winchester, or even Harpers Ferry, WV…or Frederick, MD (all of which I know little to nothing about). I’ve been to Leesburg and Middleburg, and I like both towns. They seem charming, yet close enough. I have only been to Harpers Ferry as a child and a tourist, but I like the historical town feel, and that there is a MARC and an Amtrak train station in town. I have never been to Frederick, MD or Winchester, VA, but again they look like historical towns with real town centers.

A bit more about us; we’re in our 30s, I worked in film, he is a musician (jazz, et al.), he has a Master’s degree, I’m working on my Master’s towards a CPA (don’t ask), and we both work from home for a company based in NYC. We have always been surrounded by musicians, filmmakers, photographers, writers, and the like. Suburban sprawl, subdivisions, bland culture, a lack of a creative class…is that how you would truly describe the DC metro area? Maybe we could enjoy it for a time, and for the positive trade-offs? Great schools and the opportunities that they bring for our future children are very important to us, but I also want them to have a diverse, creative, and full life.


I would love to hear anyone’s feedback on the smaller towns I mentioned…or, other suggestions. And, I’d love a true sense of how many creative-types are in the area.

Funny, my parents who now live in Ashburn, VA LOVE their surroundings. They like clean, safe, NEW…no surprises. Maybe it’s generational. Maybe it’s different strokes for different folks. My mother keeps trying to convince me that Reston Town Center is a mini-Manhattan .

cm143
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Old 09-12-2009, 11:24 PM
 
128 posts, read 388,526 times
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Interesting article about Frederick, MD http://travel.nytimes.com/2008/11/23/travel/23hourfrom.html?8dpc
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Old 09-13-2009, 12:04 PM
 
Location: outside Washington, DC
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I have lived in the DC metro area on both sides of the river for most of my life. Although I went to Montgomery County public schools myself (in Maryland) I would never even contemplate sending my kids to our local ones here in Bethesda because of all the negatives (mostly overcrowding and underfunding) and the fact that my kids will not get what they need there (ADHD, mild learning disabilities). And yet, those Bethesda schools are still very "good" public schools in the general sense (as well as the public school system in many parts of Fairfax County). If good public schools are important to you, I guess you will be "stuck" in either Montgomery or Fairfax counties for close in suburbs to DC, or you could look in Ellicott City, which is an historic old town that is within commuting distance of DC but located in Howard County, which also has good public schools. I have no idea about the public schools in the other small towns that you have listed. I do know that you want to avoid commuting from any of them into DC via car---therefore, you should only consider the towns on your list where you can commute by train and where there are good public schools...not sure such a place exists! Good Luck.
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Old 09-13-2009, 12:12 PM
 
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I worked up in the area and found that Leesburg is a great town, Middleburg is nice but out in the country if you like that lifestyle. Manassas is really nice, but a little far out. I would look at Leesburg if I was going to that area or Ashburn, real up and coming area.
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Old 09-14-2009, 05:30 AM
 
Location: Land of the Free
5,452 posts, read 5,244,940 times
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The problem with the outer quaint towns (Leesburg, Annapolis, Frederick, Fredericksburg, etc) is that the charming areas go for about 3 blocks, after that it's a lot of the same sprawl you see in Ashburn or Gaithersburg. You probably need to be in the city or Arlington/Bethesda close-in for what you're looking for, but I'd visit these places before you decide.

One place that might fit, especially if you're concerned about schools immediately, is Falls Church City. It's got its own locally owned stores like the older towns, but isn't 60 miles away from DC surrounded by subdivisions.
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Old 09-14-2009, 09:03 PM
 
128 posts, read 388,526 times
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Thanks! I have put Falls Church City on my list.
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Old 09-15-2009, 08:29 AM
 
Location: Northern Virginia
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While you're touring Loudoun County, you might want to check out Waterford (The Village of Waterford, Virginia - A National Historic Landmark (http://www.waterfordva-wca.org/index.shtml - broken link)), though it might be too small. And I also think Ellicott City, MD, might be worth a visit. It's been a while since I've been there, but it always seemed to have a thriving "creative community", or at least a bunch of aging hippies.
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Old 09-17-2009, 11:10 AM
 
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It often does not get mentioned because it is considered to be in the orbit of Baltimore, but Anne Arundel County (as in south of U.S. 50) could be worthy of consideration.

The public schools are good and the homes are reasonably priced (by D.C. area standards) and it's not a terrible commute to some parts of D.C.

It is close to the Chesapeake Bay.

Annapolis is quaint, but VERY expensive if you are in the quaint part.

But there are places like Edgewater, Davidsonville, Mayo, Shadyside, Churchton, Deale, and Lothian that you might consider. Some of these are less suburban and more rural in nature.
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Old 09-19-2009, 07:00 AM
 
Location: Silver Spring, MD/Washington DC
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I don't think you'll find 100% of what you are looking for in any of the nice towns (i.e. non-surburban sprawl towns) outside the Beltway in the DC area, but among those towns I'd recommend Leesburg first and probably Frederick and Fredericksburg. I really like all of those towns, though there is crazy sprawl at the edges or just outside of all of them, especially Frederick. Annapolis would also be a solid choice (but on the "wrong" side of DC relative to your family). Harpers Ferry, while nice, is probably too small for your tastes. Winchester, which I think is a very nice-looking town, is probably too conservative for your tastes (and a little too far from DC too).

Have you considered Baltimore? I suspect the public schools would be a real issue, but neighborhoods like Mount Vernon, Fells Point, and Canton would have what you are looking for. Mount Vernon in particular would be a good fit because it is close to Baltimore Penn Station, making it easy to get to New York and Washington via train (and now BoltBus in New York's case).
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Old 09-19-2009, 04:11 PM
 
Location: outside Washington, DC
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It occurs to me that since your children are only theoretical at this point, you probably have at least 5 years in which to live somewhere that does not require good public schools. Why throw that potential obstacle into your path if you don't have to yet? You can definitely find creative types and neat small towns all over the DC metro area or within commuting distance of DC, and while you remain childless, you have more freedom to rent and experiment with different areas. Of course, if your whole purpose is to find a place to settle down and have children right away, then things like safety, solid real estate, and good public schools suddenly become more of a priority and the other things might have to take a back seat for a while... welcome to the wonderful world of parenting.
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