Best Places to Live If You Have a Family

Here are four great neighborhoods—from a small-town feel to city lifestyle and where development is headed.
Capitol Hill has been called a "mecca" for young families. Photograph by Erik Uecke
Capitol Hill has been called a "mecca" for young families. Photograph by Erik Uecke

Are Looking for a Small-town Feel

Falls Church

The City of Falls Church in Northern Virginia has its own
mayor, police department, and school system. “You have a community center,
new restaurants, unique shops, and a farmers market,” says real-estate
agent Colin Storm. “That’s what a lot of America is losing—that
mom-and-pop feel.”

While single-family homes abound—largely ramblers and Cape Cods
built in the mid-1900s—new developments offer condos as well. Over the
past few years, prices in the 22046 Zip code have held relatively steady,
hovering in the low $500,000s. In February, traditionally a slow month for
real estate, more than half of the homes that closed in Falls Church City
went under contract in less than 30 days.

One of the most popular areas for families is Broadmont, where
tree-lined roads wind past brick Colonials and ramblers on deep lots. In
the neighborhoods surrounding Thomas Jefferson and Mount Daniel elementary
schools, sidewalks are often filled with kids on bikes.

Pete Davis, 22, grew up in Falls Church City and says he dreams
of raising his own children there. He and his childhood friends refer to
themselves as “lifers.” They went to school together from kindergarten
through high school and know one another’s parents. “It’s like having
aunts all over the place,” Davis says. “There’s a lot of parent
involvement.”

Annette Hennessey, a 49-year-old mother of two, moved to Falls
Church from Arlington in 1998 to get a larger house for her family. She
experienced the small-town feel almost immediately when she called city
hall about a parking permit: “They transferred me to someone who knew
exactly which house was mine.”

Don’t Want to Give up the City Lifestyle

Capitol Hill

Real-estate agent Roby Thompson calls Capitol Hill a “mecca”
for young families. On weekends, the neighborhood’s half dozen parks fill
with moms and dads pushing strollers. Parents say play groups and
activities are easy to find—the newly renovated Hill Center at the Old
Naval Hospital offers moms’ groups, children’s music classes, and summer
camps.

Robin Leon, 35, a stay-at-home mother, says she and her
18-month-old spend most of their days outside: “It’s so great to be able
to walk everywhere. We have a teeny back yard, but we’ll be outside all
day long.”

Leon often meets other moms for coffee and attends children’s
concerts at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street, Northeast. The
community comes together for annual events such as the neighborhood’s
Fourth of July parade and “Hilloween,” featuring hayrides and games at
Eastern Market.

Jon Penndorf, a 34-year-old architect, says his four-year-old
daughter loves stopping for a cupcake at Hello Cupcake or the Sweet Lobby.
One of their favorite restaurants, Lavagna, lets her grind her own
Parmesan cheese.

The neighborhood’s popularity has pushed prices up; the median
home price in the 20003 Zip code was $565,000 in 2011, an increase of
almost 11 percent over the previous year and of 16.5 percent over the past
three.

Families often gravitate to the neighborhood’s Victorian and
Federal-style rowhouses, many of which were built in the early 1900s.
Recently renovated homes tend to be the most expensive; updated rowhouses
with two or more bedrooms typically start around $600,000. And homes tend
to sell quickly: In 2011, they sat on the market an average of 50 days—28
days fewer than the Washington-area average.

Want to be Where Development is headed

Herndon

Over the past three years, median prices in Herndon’s 20170 Zip
code have risen by 39 percent—more than in any other Zip code in
Washington—from $240,000 in 2008 to $333,500 in 2011. Prices in Herndon’s
other Zip code, 20171, have also spiked—from $426,950 in 2008 to $485,000
in 2011.

Long & Foster agent Brad Rozansky attributes the area’s
growth to Metro’s new Silver Line, which will pass through Herndon as it
runs from Falls Church to Dulles. Rozansky says the grueling commute along
I-66 and the Dulles Toll Road scared off would-be homebuyers in the past,
but “all that is going to change with the Silver Line going
in.”

Families can find large Colonials with big back yards as well
as townhouses and condos. One of the most popular neighborhoods for
families, Old Dranesville Hunt Club, off Dranesville Road, hosts a Fourth
of July parade. Resident Hallie Giuliano, 37, was drawn to the
neighborhood for the communal pool and tennis courts as well as proximity
to running trails and a nearby stream. She also liked the area’s
affordability, which enabled her to become a stay-at-home mom while still
living in a four-bedroom home on a half acre of land.

Family music nights on Herndon’s town green in summer, a dozen
local playgrounds, and the Washington & Old Dominion bike trail add to
the family appeal. “As busy as we all are,” says town mayor Steve
DeBenedittis, “people still get to know each other.”

Want a Big Back Yard

Potomac

For families looking for a lot of space, Potomac, just outside
the Beltway in Montgomery County, may be the answer. While houses are
expensive—the median price for the 20854 Zip code was $825,000 in
2011—prices have softened over the last several years, declining by 4.6
percent from $865,000 in 2008. And with homes sitting on the market an
average of 93 days in 2011, more sellers may be willing to
bargain.

“Some of the best deals we’re seeing now are in the farther-out
suburbs like Potomac,” says Jason Mandel of Washington Fine Properties.
“If you want a big house and a big lot, the opportunities are out
there.”

Malusa Rios Powell, a 37-year-old mother of two who recently
moved to Potomac from Rockville, says she was able to get more for her
money there than in closer-in Bethesda. “We were able to have that back
yard,” she says.

Another draw for Powell was excellent schools. In 2011,
U.S. News included the area’s two high schools, Churchill and
Wootton, among the top 100 in the country for math and
science.

Powell often takes her daughters, ages two and four, to
Hadley’s Playground, which has a play castle and pirate ship, and to
ballet classes at the community center off of Falls Road. “We wanted our
kids in the best school system; we wanted a great back yard and a great
community,” she says. “Potomac has all of that.”

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