What's it like to live in Washington, DC?

Profile written by local expert:

Miriam Weiner

To the rest of the country, Washington, D.C., is the nation's capital – and that's it. It's where lawmakers sit high and mighty, and it's the scapegoat for every unpopular political decision. But those who live in the district are quick to point out that there's much more to their area than government.

The Washington, D.C., metro area has the perks of a large urban area. It's serviced by an extensive public transit system and is home to plenty of restaurants, performance venues, museums, public parks and other cultural sites. Meanwhile, each neighborhood in the district and its surrounding towns has its own atmosphere. Residents gather for block parties, mingle at dog parks and converse at coffee shops, creating an ambiance similar to that of a much smaller community. 


U.S. News analyzed 150 metro areas in the United States to find the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market in each metro area, as well as the value of living there and people's desire to live there.

Washington, District of Columbia is ranked:

#30 in Best Places to Live

#45 in Best Places to Retire




Best Places to Live

  • Desirability
  • Value
  • Job Market
  • Quality of Life
  • Net Migration

Read how we rank places

Washington, DC Quick Stats

  • 6,138,382

    Metro Population

  • $70,980

    Average Annual Salary

  • 66.7° / 49.5°

    Avg High/Low Temps

  • 36.8

    Median Age

  • $392,308

    Median Home Price

  • 39.7 inches

    AVG Annual Rainfall

  • 3.1%

    Unemployment Rate

  • $1,653

    Median Monthly Rent

  • 34.8 minutes

    Avg Commute Time

What is there to do in Washington, DC?

D.C. metro area residents don't want for things to do. The district is home to numerous cultural attractions, including several Smithsonian museums, theaters and year-round markets. The area also encompasses a blossoming restaurant scene that will please any foodie, and plenty of nightlife venues, from the trendy bars along the U Street Corridor to concerts at The Anthem on the wharf and the famous 9:30 Club.

District residents are also big sports fans with some championship-winning teams. They come together to cheer on the Washington Mystics (WNBA), D.C. United (soccer), the Spirit (women's soccer), the Wizards (basketball), the Capitals (hockey), the Nationals (baseball) and the football team.

Outside the immediate metro area, residents can take advantage of hiking, camping and boating opportunities in Shenandoah National Park, Great Falls State Park and other outdoor spaces. Both southern Maryland and northern Virginia also feature numerous wineries and orchards.

Find out more about what there is to see and do in Washington, DC.

What's the cost of living in Washington, DC?

Living in the district is expensive. The median home sale price is significantly higher than the national median. Your cost of living also depends on where in the metro area's four quadrants you choose to live. 

Looking for financial advice? Find a local financial advisor in Washington, District Of Columbia.

Value Index

Index Score: 6.5 /10

How we calculate this.

Washington offers a better value than similarly sized metro areas when you compare housing costs to median household income.

Housing Costs 2019



Housing Costs Over Time

Data sourced from Zillow median home sale price data series. Additional data provided by the Austin Board of Realtors, Houston Association of Realtors, Intermountain MLS, Omaha Area Board of Realtors, San Antonio Board of Realtors, and the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

Buying or selling a home? Find top real estate agents in Washington, DC.

What's the weather like in Washington, DC?

Summer in the district takes some getting used to because of the high levels of humidity. But the warmer temperatures usually linger into the beginning of fall, easing Washingtonians into colder weather. Winter brings some snow that can result in a public transit shut-down and road closures. Springtime is pleasant, and the blooming of the cherry blossom trees in March brings many tourists to the area to see the white and pink flowers along the Tidal Basin.

Seasonal Temperature (Avgs)









Seasonal Rainfall (Avgs)

3.1 in


4.0 in


3.8 in


3.7 in


Monthly High and Low Temperatures (°F)

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center.

What's the best way to get around Washington, DC?

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority operates an extensive public transit system with trains and buses servicing the district and the suburbs in Maryland and Virginia. In addition to WMATA's services, Maryland and Virginia communities bordering the district offer their own bus routes.

Many people who live in Maryland and Virginia suburbs choose to drive, which often results in heavy traffic – especially during the morning and evening rush hours.

Biking is also a popular mode of transportation. The Capital Bikeshare program allows people to rent bikes from one of hundreds of pickup and drop-off stations in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. 

Commuting in Washington, DC

Means of Transportation
Below national average

Equal to national average

Equal to national average

Public Transit
Above national average
Average Commute Time

34.8 minutes

8.2 minutes more than national average

Average Commute Times by Zip Code

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Who lives in Washington, DC?

The D.C. metro area's population is fairly young, thanks in large part to its numerous universities and ample job opportunities. The area's strong job market attracts people from around the world. Cultural variation can be seen throughout the metro area, from the colorful Chinatown archway to the Ethiopian and Latin American restaurants lining Adams Morgan neighborhood's streets.

Age Distribution

Marital Status Breakdown

About the same number of single people in Washington as national average

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.