Are you thinking about moving to Washington DC?
My brother has been living in Washington DC for the past eight years so I decided to connect with him and discuss the honest pros and cons of living in Washington DC for anyone considering moving there.
Home to 700,000 residents, Washington DC is best known for being home to the nation’s capital and there’s no denying it’s a beautiful city to call home.
From numerous free activities to great job opportunities and walking the very streets of history, there’s a lot to love about living in Washington DC.
But is this city right for you?
Read on to learn about the honest pros and cons of living in Washington DC from a local’s perspective.
Hopefully the list below answers some of your questions, if not, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d love to help!
As you read this, keep in mind that these pros and cons are based on my brother’s personal experience, not everyone feels the same way. With that said, let’s jump right in!
Pros & Cons of Living in Washington DC
P.S. If you plan on visiting the city to decide if moving to Washington D.C. is right for you, here’s a roundup of some great hotels to choose from.
First, the pros of living in Washington DC
#1. The history and culture is second to none
When living in Washington DC you quickly learn that you are literally walking the streets of history, which is my favorite part about calling DC home.
You’ll be living in one of the most culturally rich cities in the world and passing the White House never gets old, contrary to popular belief.
Washington D.C. is home to 160 monuments and memorials and 70+ museums. There’s definitely no shortage of educational activities for history buffs and art lovers alike.
There’s always something to see or do while living in Washington DC and seldom a reason to stay home and/or be bored.
#2. Washington D.C. is a great city for millennials
Washington D.C. is considered the third best city for millennials in the country.
Between ample job opportunities and plethora of free activities and events, it’s not hard to see why so many millennials are moving to Washington D.C.
Millennials make up 23% of Washington DC’s population and since the number is rising annually, business are catching on. You can easily find cute cafes and local shops that cater to things millennials enjoy.
#3. Efficient public transportation
Washington DC’s public transportation is often ranked as the best in the nation, no easy feat considering the average weekday ridership is 800,000+ people, making it home to one of the busiest metros in the country, second only to New York City.
Residents like using it because it’s efficient and gets you where you need to go quickly. In fact, Washington DC has the second fastest commute time in the country.
So yes, efficient public transportation is a huge perk of living in Washington DC.
#4. Washington DC is a bike friendly city
If you want to move to Washington D.C. without your car, you’re in luck because it’s the third most bike friendly city in the country.
I highly recommend taking a spin on the city bikes, they’re fun and easy to use and it’s not uncommon to see folks using them to commute to work.
Hop on one during your next visit and you’ll see why they’re so loved for yourself!
#5. the city is diverse
The city streets are full of eager Georgetown students, notable politicians, bankers, business people, contractors — you’ll see it all while living in Washington DC.
The city is rich in diversity, 49% of residents identify as black and 44% identifying as white, 4% identifying as Latino and 3% identifying as Asian.
In addition to ethnic diversity, Washington DC is also one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in America.
#6. Living in Washington D.C. gives you access to free museums on a daily basis
There’s no denying that one of the biggest perks of living in Washington DC is having free access to world-class museums every day of the week.
How many other cities can claim that?
With more than 70 museums to choose from, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. This handy guide ranks the top 10 museums in Washington DC you can’t afford to miss.
#7. Stable job market
It probably comes as no surprise that the national’s capitol is chock-full of stable government jobs. In fact, an estimated 40% of the population is employed by a government agency.
So if you’re interested in working in politics or merely contributing to the city or state you live in, Washington DC has ample job opportunities for you.
The job market is dynamic and with an average household income of $85,200, the pay is competitive.
Cons of Moving to Washington DC
#1. The high cost of living
Time and time again, this pretty city is listed as having one of the highest cost of living of any US city, which means living in Washington DC won’t come cheap.
High cost of housing means most folks end up renting while living in Washington D.C. because purchasing a home feels unattainable.
An average one-bedroom apartment will run you $2,100 and if you’re planning to buy a home after moving to Washington DC, you can expect to start your search around $600,000.
Although housing is admittedly high, the median household income of $85,200 makes living here reasonable.
#2. Humid summers + harsh winters
Washington DC’s summer weather is notorious for being hot and muggy. Temperatures exceed 90°F about 12-14 days a summer and that sneaky humidity really gets you!
So you’ll definitely need this bad boy while living in Washington DC, make no mistake about it.
Allergies are rampant during the hot and muggy summer months and bugs making it nearly impossible to enjoy the outdoors for long periods of time while living in Washington DC.
You’ll definitely want to add summer heat, humidity and allergies to your list of considerations before moving to Washington DC.
#3. Income inequality
Income inequality is easily noticeable when you live in Washington DC, so much so that it’s considered the second worst city in the US in terms of income inequality.
The city is starkly mixed between high-profile politicians and business people and folks scraping by working two minimum wage jobs. With a poverty rate of 16.8%, which means that practically a fourth of residents live below the poverty line.
#4. Poor public schools
If you’re moving to Washington DC with the hopes of starting a family, you’ll want to do some strong research on the school districts or be prepared to shell out for private schools.
The reason? Only 68.5% of high school students living in Washington DC end up in graduation gowns.
In fact, Washington DC has the lowest graduation rate in the nation, which speaks to the poor state of public schools.
It’s not uncommon for folks to move out of Washington DC to find better schools for their children.
#5. The traffic is a nightmare
Washington DC consistently ranks in the top 5 cities with worst traffic in the country.
In fact, people that live in Washington DC spend an average of 124 hours a year commuting to work.
The one piece of advice I often give friends thinking about moving to Washington DC is to live within the city limits or choose a neighborhood close to work because traffic will take up too much time otherwise.
Give yourself plenty of time to get from Point A to Point B because the constant traffic (which is not just confined to weekdays) is one of the biggest cons of living in Washington DC.
Oh, and don’t even get me started on the uptick in traffic during tourist season and the horror that is on-street parking.
#6. Moving to Washington DC? Brace for the bugs
Believe it or not, but Washington DC is considered the 7th worst city in the country for bugs. We’re talking ticks, mosquitos, cockroaches, fleas, etc.
The sheer quantity of bugs is a major drawback of living in Washington DC because you can’t enjoy the outdoors too long during the summer months without getting savaged by bug bites.
In fact, I didn’t realize that folks in other parts of the country could keep windows open without screens! If you’re moving to Washington DC you can say goodbye to that luxury.
#7. It’s hard to avoid becoming a workaholic
Washington DC is full of ambitious people. You’ll notice a lot of folks burning the midnight oil while living in Washington DC — this is clearly a city of determined doers and they’re willing to put in the work!
Chances are good that when you move to Washington DC you will find it easy to fall into the trance of working hard to the point of becoming a workaholic.
Personal relationships will be put at risk because working until late into the evening is part of the culture of Washington DC.
In turn, making friends while living in Washington DC may prove challenging because folks are working so much.
But honestly, if you’re willing to put yourself out there by joining group activities (such as book clubs, running groups, etc.), you’ll quickly find that there’s a vast diversity of folks to befriend in the city because you’ll have access to different economic statuses, religions, education and ethnic backgrounds.
#8. The food scene is lacking
I should probably brace for the push-back I’ll get on this con, but in my experience the food scene in Washington DC leaves much to be desired, especially compared to other large metro regions in America.
Don’t get me wrong, you can definitely find a variety of cuisines while living in Washington DC, but I’ve very rarely been blown away by food the way I was when we lived in New York City.
I mean, there’s a reason Washington DC doesn’t make the list of top foodies cities in the US, right?
Pros & Cons of Living in Washington D.C. (Post Summary)
In sum, these are the HONEST pros & cons of living in Washington DC
- The history and culture
- City for millennials
- Efficient public transportation
- Bike friendly
- Washington DC is diverse
- Access to free museums
- Stable job market
- High cost of living
- Humid summers + harsh winters
- Wealth inequality
- Poor public schools
- Traffic is a nightmare
- The bugs
- Lacking food scene
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Thank you for pointing out the poor food scene. People think because a place looks expensive, the food is great. I have yet to have any good food in 18 months living here. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, have traveled all over the country, and the world; the food in DC may have historical value (Like Ben’s Chili Bowl) but it lacks flavor.
Well I’m new here so there have been many culture shocking things that have happened. I am trying to make the best of it and build, network and connect to as many resources as possible. If not I will be moving back towards the south .
As someone who hates DC yet has been pulled back here for the past 15 years, I’d say this list is mostly accurate except: the weather is pretty nice, compared to other cities (as the years go by, DC winters are increasingly temperate / manageable, and the summers are hot just like anywhere else); and as someone who loves to bike, I wouldn’t say DC is a good city to actually commute by bike. There are some great bike trails but when I used to commute for work it was painful aside from certain areas.
Antonina Pattiz says
Thanks for sharing your two cents, Lyla!
I’ve lived in DC for nearly 20 years, and some things I can agree with. However, if you think DC is lacking on the food front, then you simply don’t know where to look.
I grew up in this city and I think it’s worth talking about the crime. And I think you’re wrong about that food scene. Restaurants like Bens chilli bowl and stuff like that are amazing here.