Moving to Virginia

Virginia, “the Old Dominion State”, is a southeastern state that stretches from the Chesapeake Bay to the Appalachian Mountains, with a long Atlantic Ocean coastline. It’s the oldest of the 13 original colonies, with many historic landmarks including Monticello, Founding Father Thomas Jefferson’s iconic Charlottesville plantation. The Jamestown Settlement and Colonial Williamsburg are living-history museums reenacting Colonial and Revolutionary-era life. Its capital, Richmond, is among the country’s oldest cities.

Virginia’s culture was popularized and spread across America and the South by figures such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Robert E. Lee. Their homes in Virginia represent the birthplace of America and the South. Besides the general cuisine of the Southern United States, Virginia maintains its own particular traditions. Virginia wine is made in many parts of the state. Smithfield ham, sometimes called “Virginia ham”, is a type of country ham which is protected by state law, and can only be produced in the town of Smithfield. Virginia furniture and architecture are typical of American colonial architecture. Thomas Jefferson and many of the state’s early leaders favored the Neoclassical architecture style, leading to its use for important state buildings. The Pennsylvania Dutch and their style can also be found in parts of the state.

The weather in Virginia is impacted by the mountains in the west and the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean in the east. The mountains direct the effects of storms and weather fronts, and the lakes and shoreline prevent extreme temperatures. Winter is usually mild in northern and eastern regions, but there is the potential for more snow and cold in the mountains to the west. If you are moving to Virginia from the north, don’t get rid of your winter gear. Sometimes stretches of cold temperatures sink in, but spring usually arrives by the end of March.

The cost of living in Northern Virginia is higher than in many other parts of the country, but salaries are often higher as well. Other parts of the state are less expensive, but those areas aren’t necessarily where the jobs are.

Although the recent housing crises caused home prices to drop, they remain higher in Virginia than in other cities and states where unemployment levels are higher. The cost of living in Virginia for either buying or renting a home or apartment varies by neighborhood. Homes or apartment buildings that are within walking distance of a metro stop are more expensive than those that are less accessible to the metro.

Virginia is an employment-at-will state; its economy has diverse sources of income, including local and federal government, military, farming and business. Virginia has 4.1 million civilian workers, and one-third of the jobs are in the service sector.

Moving to Virginia gives you many options for public transportation. If you are moving to Virginia and work in or near Washington, D.C., you’ll want to get to know the metro system, which is how many people get to and from work. If you will be working in D.C., consider buying a house that is relatively accessible to a metro station. Keep in mind that each metro line has a color. Virginia has Amtrak passenger rail service along several corridors, and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) maintains two commuter lines into Washington, D.C. from Fredericksburg and Manassas. VRE is one of the nation’s fastest growing commuter rail services, handling nearly 20,000 passengers a day. The blue, orange and yellow lines access D.C. from Virginia. If your job is near a stop on the blue and orange line (they partly overlap), choose a neighborhood that is on one of those lines so that you won’t have to change trains as part of your daily commute.

The Virginia Department of Education provides a detailed website where interested parents can see statistics about the performance of schools throughout the state. Virginia’s educational system consistently ranks in the top ten states on the U.S. Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, with Virginia students outperforming the average in all subject areas and grade levels tested.  You should be aware that the state opted to not participate in No Child Left Behind federal funding (which regulates employment of teachers, by requiring that all teachers are “highly qualified” and was designed to hold schools accountable for students’ proficiency, as determined by testing procedures) and instead has a statewide system of support and accountability for its public schools. These standards hold the state accountable for rigorous academic standards, called the Standards of Learning (SOL). Success is measured through annual SOL testing and also through alternative testing. As of 2010, there are 167 colleges and universities in the state. Virginia law requires each public college or university to publish the amount of its fees separate from its tuition, Virginia’s two land grant universities Virginia Tech and Virginia State University receive federal funding to perform agricultural research and to conduct cooperative extension services.