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Choosing New Ground in the Nation’s Capital City: Here Are the Best Neighborhoods in D.C. for Families

Washington DC

by Matt Lyons Posted on January 22, 2024

The United States capital of Washington, D.C., may pride itself on being the center of all the government action, but this one-of-a-kind city is also a great place to settle down — as you’ll soon see with some of the best neighborhoods in D.C. for families that we’ll get into shortly. Going into government is an obvious job option, but living in D.C. means you can also find opportunities in industries such as education, tech, hospitality, and healthcare. That, along with all the greenery and excellent school options, makes the U.S. capital a great place to consider planting those family roots.

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You’ll never run out of things to do in D.C. either. From the White House to the Smithsonian Museums, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to become a history buff. The area was also touted as having the best big city park system in America in 2022, as greenspace and parkland make up a large part of D.C.’s total area (in fact, most residents are never more than a 10-minute walk from the nearest park). And along with plenty of live music and theater, D.C. boasts a plethora of world-class restaurants and eateries. 

D.C. at a Glance

Q: Is Washington, D.C., a good place to raise a family?
A:
With so many job opportunities, strong public schools, and things to do, Washington, D.C., is a fantastic place to raise a family in 2024.

Best Neighborhoods in D.C. for Families

Washington, D.C., is divided into eight wards, each with their own vibrant energy, rich history, great public schools, and diverse population that add to the character of the city as a whole. To help you navigate the area’s extensive housing market, here’s a snapshot of some of the top family-friendly and safe neighborhoods in D.C.

A two-story brick home in Washington D.C.’s Barnaby Woods neighborhood

(Source: Expedia.com)
A two-story brick home in Washington D.C.’s Barnaby Woods neighborhood

1. Barnaby Woods

Barnaby Woods — situated in Northwest Washington, D.C. — is considered a part of Chevy Chase, which is known for its variety of great restaurants, stores, and entertainment. Those who choose to buy a home in Barnaby Woods often do so because of its serene and tree-lined atmosphere, along with the fact that it’s considered the best D.C. neighborhood to raise a family, according to Niche

This neighborhood is bordered by Rock Creek Park, which offers various trails for local residents to enjoy. There’s also a nature center and planetarium, and horse lovers living in the area can enjoy the park's equestrian center. Another family perk? Niche gives Barnaby Woods an A rating for safety!

2. Wesley Heights

Wesley Heights is a lovely and peaceful neighborhood situated northwest of downtown Washington, D.C., which offers a variety of upscale homes and a thriving community.

One of the best places to enjoy the outdoors in the area is at Glover Archbold Park, located on the eastern part of Wesley Heights. This park features over 180 acres of woodland and streams, and it's a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown. Families can also try out different activities in nearby Georgetown, whether it’s listening to live music or just enjoying the fun atmosphere, in general. 

Q: What is the nicest part of D.C.?
A:
Because of its quiet residential streets and beautiful historic architecture, the area surrounding Georgetown, including Wesley Heights, is one of the nicest parts of D.C.

3. Mount Pleasant

Located in Northwest D.C., Mount Pleasant is an active community that's full of character. The area's historical connection to the District of Columbia has made it quite the diverse community, as well. 

Lined with historic row-houses and apartments, Mount Pleasant prides itself on its small-town feel. The area's main strip, Mt. Pleasant St., features numerous local restaurants and shops, along with mom-and-pop establishments like the popular Frugalista.

The Mount Pleasant Farmers’ Market at Lamont Park is held every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and features local food and produce, as well as live music.

A wall of murals in Washington D.C.’s Tenleytown neighborhood

(Source: Washington Post)
A wall of murals in Washington D.C.’s Tenleytown neighborhood

4. Tenleytown

The Tenleytown neighborhood is a family-friendly community that's located in Northwest D.C. near American University. Fort Reno Park is a major highlight in the area, as it’s a popular place for concerts and outdoor activities.

Besides visiting nearby neighborhoods like Friendship Heights, which is known for its high-end shopping, residents living in Tenleytown can easily travel to the downtown D.C. area and check out all the fascinating monuments and museums. 

5. Cleveland Park

The neighborhood of Cleveland Park was first established in the 1800s and is currently considered one of the nicest neighborhoods in D.C., according to Niche. This area has a laid-back vibe that’s ideal for families, and it’s known for its Art Deco- and Victorian-style homes.

There are plenty of restaurants in Cleveland Park that offer a diverse variety of cuisine, such as Byblos Deli and Spices Asian Restaurant and Sushi Bar. The area also has several entertainment venues, such as the BloomBars and Black Cat, for fantastic live music that make it one of the best D.C. neighborhoods for young families. And nearby, residents can enjoy the natural beauty of Rock Creek Park.

6. Friendship Heights

The Friendship Heights neighborhood is located on the Maryland/Virginia border, and it's only around six miles away from the White House and other major attractions in Washington, D.C.

One of the main draws of this area is its shopping and food. Clyde's, which offers a diverse menu of seafood, sandwiches, steaks, and more, is one of the most popular places to eat in this neighborhood. (It even has a unique train decor to enjoy while you dine!) And residents can head to Wisconsin Avenue for some shopping, along with the Chevy Chase Pavilion and Mazza Gallerie nearby.

An oak-lined street and two-story colonial home in Hawthorne, Washington, D.C.

(Source: Washington Post)
An oak-lined street and two-story colonial home in Hawthorne, Washington, D.C.

7. Hawthorne

Hawthorne is situated in Northwest Washington, near the Chevy Chase and Palisades communities. It is characterized by its quiet suburban feel, and it’s bordered by Oregon Avenue NW and Beach Dr NW. It’s also near Connecticut Avenue NW.

This tranquil neighborhood is ideal for families who love to stay active outdoors at places like the Rock Creek Park. In fact, there is plenty of green space and mature trees in the area, and the majority of it is residential. You can also always head to the Chevy Chase Village nearby for dining and shopping purposes at hotspots like The Shops at Wisconsin Place

8. Palisades

Also located in Northwest Washington, D.C., the Palisades neighborhood sits along the Potomac River. One of the neighborhood's most popular local events is held annually on the Fourth of July, where families come together and enjoy the district's longest continually running parade.

There are plenty of great restaurants in the area — whether you’re in the mood for upscale dining or a craft beer near the water, you’ll be able to find what you’re craving. Bistro Aracosia is a local favorite that serves up Afghan dishes like aushak and kabobs.  You can also get a taste of French-Belgian cuisine or try one of the many Belgian beers at Et Voila.

One of the most popular places to shop is Capital Antiques, located along the thriving MacArthur Boulevard. This business sells a wide variety of art, furniture, and decorations from all around the world. And Cady's Alley is an outdoor mall with a huge selection of high-end jewelry, home furnishings, and clothing.

Q: Is Palisades, D.C., a good place to live?
A:
With fun local events and plenty of places to eat and shop nearby, it’s clear why Palisades is ranked as one of the best neighborhoods to raise a family in Washington, D.C., according to Niche. It’s also in the top 50 best neighborhoods for young professionals, as well as the best neighborhoods to live in D.C. overall.

Best Suburbs of D.C. for Families

Looking to live more of a suburban lifestyle but still be close to all the hustle and bustle? Here are some family-friendly suburbs near Washington, D.C., that are worth checking out, as well.

1. South Kensington, MD

South Kensington is the best place to raise a family in Maryland, according to Niche. It offers residents a variety of activities and shopping opportunities, along with plenty of parks to explore, including Ken-Gar Palisades Local Park and Clum-Kennedy Garden.

The local public school system also offers a wide range of educational opportunities for children, and it currently has an A+ ranking on Niche. And the close proximity of this suburb to major cities such as Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Annapolis provides residents with numerous job opportunities in fields like technology, healthcare, and engineering. 

2. Bluemont, VA

Located directly across the Potomac in Virginia, the suburban community of Bluemont is bordered by Wilson Boulevard, which extends across Arlington County. Situated right between East Falls Church and Virginia Square, this area is a great place for families with kids, as there are plenty of attractions and great places to eat together. 

You’ll be able to enjoy plenty of different cuisines with restaurants like Istanbul Grill, King of Koshary, Pupatella, and Layalina Restaurant and Lounge close by. And along the western side of the community, you’ll be able to take advantage of Bon Air Park, which features a rose garden with over 120 varieties of roses.

Three two-story homes in the Washington D.C. neighborhood, Chevy Chase

Source: (Washington Post)
Three two-story homes in the Washington D.C. neighborhood, Chevy Chase

3. Chevy Chase, MD

Located in Maryland's Montgomery County, Chevy Chase is a safe, friendly community that's easy to get around. And just seven miles from Washington, D.C., the area has plenty of things to do and experience for families, in particular. In fact, it’s ranked third on Niche’s list for “Best Places to Raise a Family in Maryland.”

The Chevy Chase area is close to Friendship Heights, so residents have easy access to shopping. And the National 4-H Conference Center, featuring over 40,000 square feet of space, is only two miles away. Fun fact: The center hosts the National Science Bowl every spring.

4. South Riding, VA

South Riding is a flourishing community situated in Loudoun County, VA, that offers the perfect blend of modern amenities and rural charm for families of all walks of life.

The suburb has top-rated educational institutions, and the local school district is regarded as one of the best in the state, with an A+ ranking on Niche. Commuters in this area also have easy access to Route 50 and Dulles Toll Road.

South Riding also has over 700 acres of parkland, including the South Riding Golf Club, along with miles of trails and various recreational facilities and pools for families to remain active.

5. Potomac, MD

Located northwest of Washington, D.C., the Potomac community is a suburban area known for its large houses and expansive lawns. Residents have easy access to various outdoor activities, such as the Billy Goat Trail, which is located near the Great Falls of Maryland. This eight-mile trail features different sections and is popular with both experienced and novice hikers.

There are plenty of dining and shopping options in Potomac. And one of the most popular places that residents frequent is the Potomac Place Shopping Center, a large outdoor mall. 

Q: What is the nicest suburb of Washington, D.C.?
A:
Because of its beautiful outdoor atmosphere and large homes, Potomac is considered one of the nicest suburbs in Washington D.C. It’s also ranked second on Niche’s list for “Suburbs With the Best Public Schools in Maryland.”

A man and woman loading up a PODS moving and storage container for their move to D.C.

PODS Can Help You Move to a Family-Friendly Area of D.C.

When you’ve found a neighborhood or suburb that’s right for you and your family in D.C., let PODS assist you with the move there. You can have a portable moving and storage container delivered right to your doorstep, and once you’re ready to move, they will take it to your new residence. Or you can take advantage of PODS City Service — the perfect solution for big-city moves. Regardless, you’ll enjoy the best part of working with PODS: total flexibility.

Editor’s note: For ease of reading, monthly rental prices were rounded to the nearest $25 and home values were rounded to the nearest $100.

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