Study: Best Cities to Live in Virginia

Virginia is not just for lovers; it's also a great place to raise a family, build a career, or enjoy the golden years. Consistently ranked as one of the best states in terms of education, Virginia is a leader when it comes to business and industry. A wealth of opportunities can be found for job seekers who are interested in working for the federal government. Tourism is also a major boon, with cities like Virginia Beach and Washington D.C. seeing millions of visitors each year.

For newcomers and current residents who are looking for a change of scenery, the question of where to live can be tough to answer. There are the beaches on the coast, the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east, and plenty of sleepy little towns and bustling suburbs in-between. When making your choice, it helps to have some background information to act as a guide. Fortunately, the CreditDonkey team has done the research for you. We've compiled a list of the cities we believe are the best places to live in the Old Dominion state.

Study Methodology

Our rankings are based on five key considerations:

  1. Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime
  2. Commute Time
  3. Income
  4. Residents Who Attended Some College
  5. Restaurants Per Capita

When you're moving somewhere new, it's important to feel safe wherever you hang your hat. In determining which cities in Virginia are the safest, we looked at the crime rate as measured by the odds of becoming a victim in violent crime.

With certain exceptions, Virginia is largely rural. In some areas, the nearest grocery store is miles away. Depending on where you live, the drive to work could be even longer. Since no one likes a lengthy commute, we've only included cities on our list with an average commute of under 30 minutes.

Income and educational attainment tend to go hand in hand. When a larger percentage of a city's residents have attended some college, average incomes tend to be higher. We looked at how the two correspond for each of the cities on our list.

On those days when you just can't deal with dinner, dining out may be your best option. We evaluated the cities in our rankings based on how many restaurants per capita each one offers.

10 Best Cities to Live in Virginia

10. Martinsville

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 352
  • Commute Time: 16.6 minutes
  • Income: $28,840
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 22.7%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 17.9%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 286 inhabitants

Known for being home to NASCAR's oldest and shortest racetrack, Martinsville is a small town with deep roots. Built on the textile and furniture industries, today Martinsville is a mecca for manufacturing. Earlier this year, British-based Kilgour Industries Ltd. announced that it would construct a $27 million facility in Martinsville, bring hundreds of new jobs to the area. The short commute makes Martinsville a great choice for those seeking a slower pace.

Did You Know: One of Martinsville's quirkier attractions includes The Big Chair, a 20-foot tall, 5,000-pound chair carved from solid ash. The chair, built by Basset Furniture, is meant to symbolize the town's furniture legacy.

9. Herndon

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 856
  • Commute Time: 28.4 minutes
  • Income: $90,661
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 16.3%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 45.4%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 209 inhabitants

Located in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, Herndon is just a 35-minute drive from the nation's capital. Commute times here are longer, largely due to the heavier traffic flowing in to the D.C. area, but the drive is worth it if you're looking to live in a safer area. Average incomes here hover near the six-figure mark, and you'll find a wide array of restaurants to choose from when cooking isn't on the menu.

Did You Know: Until the 1960s, Herndon was largely rural, playing a central role in Virginia's dairy farming industry.

8. Virginia Beach

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 591
  • Commute Time: 22.7 minutes
  • Income: $65,980
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 27.4%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 32.3%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 448 inhabitants

Virginia Beach, part of the Tidewater region, is considered one of the state's top tourist destinations. Home to just under half a million people, Virginia Beach is the largest city on our list but it's also one of the safest with the odds of being a victim of violent crime nearly 1 in 600. Restaurants here are plentiful and there are hundreds of attractions to choose from, including the Virginia Aquarium, the Maritime Museum, and the always-open boardwalk.

Did You Know: One of the area's biggest draws is Mount Trashmore, a 165-acre park built on the remains of an abandoned landfill.

7. Vienna

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 2,690
  • Commute Time: 28.5 minutes
  • Income: $119,951
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 10.3%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 64.6%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 182 inhabitants

If you're a looking for a quiet community where crime is almost nonexistent and incomes are among the highest, look no further than Vienna. A suburb of Washington D.C., Vienna combines a small-town appeal with convenient access to all the metro area has to offer. Restaurants are plentiful and while the commute is slightly longer compared to other cities on our list, it's a small trade-off for living in such a highly rated community.

Did You Know: Vienna ranked number three on Money magazine's list of the best small towns in America for 2013.

6. Falls Church

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 1172
  • Commute Time: 26.9 minutes
  • Income: $122,844
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 10.5%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 72.8%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 135 inhabitants

Just a hop, skip and jump from Vienna, Falls Church is another prime spot to call home if you're interested in staying close to the D.C. metro area. Falls Church tops our list for highest income, with the average salary topping $120,000 and extremely low crime rates. History buffs will appreciate the numerous attractions in the area, including the Arlington National Cemetery and George Washington's Mount Vernon estate.

Did You Know: Falls Church was first established as a colonial settlement in the 1600s. The town takes its name from The Falls Church, an Episcopal church founded nearby in 1734.

5. Poquoson

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 1,213
  • Commute Time: 21.9 minutes
  • Income: $85,033
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 24.1%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 35.1%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 637 inhabitants

With a population of just over 12,000, Poquoson earns the distinction of being the smallest town in our rankings, but it still packs a big punch. Just east of Newport News, Poquoson is part of the Hampton Roads area, which also encompasses Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk. Crime rates here are low and incomes fall at the higher end of the scale. There aren't as many local restaurants compared to other towns on our list, but you're just a short drive from the hundreds of dining choices in the metro area.

Did You Know: Poquoson is the oldest continuously named city in Virginia.

4. Williamsburg

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 730
  • Commute Time: 19.3 minutes
  • Income: $50,865
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 17.4%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 49.5%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 172 inhabitants

Living in Williamsburg can be a little like taking a trip back in time. The town's 301-acre historic district provides education and entertainment to visitors and residents alike through reenactments, tours, and other special events. If you're looking for fast-paced thrills, Busch Gardens amusement park is a short trip down the road. You're close to both the Hampton Roads and Tidewater areas, with commute times averaging just under 20 minutes.

Did You Know: From 1699 to 1780, Williamsburg served as the official capital of the Virginia colony.

3. Colonial Heights

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 441
  • Commute Time: 21.8 minutes
  • Income: $51,612
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 24.3%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 19.2%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 221 inhabitants

Head south out of Richmond and you'll soon arrive in the city of Colonial Heights, one of the earliest English settlements in Virginia. The area is increasingly popular among professionals and families, accounting for nearly a third of the town's more than 17,000 residents. The average commute is just over 21 minutes, which makes Colonial Heights an ideal location if you'll be working in or around the metro area.

Did You Know: The world's largest Arby's restaurant is located in Colonial Heights.

2. Christiansburg

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 709
  • Commute Time: 19.1 minutes
  • Income: $50,276
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 23.2%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 33.6%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 316 inhabitants

Christiansburg sits just off I-81, centrally located between Blacksburg, Radford, and Roanoke. The city of just over 20,000 is convenient to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Jefferson National Forest as well as two major universities (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Radford University). The atmosphere of Christiansburg is best summed up by its motto, "Progressive Small Town Living at its Best," which reflects the town's low-key feel.

Did You Know: Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett both spent time in Christiansburg in the late 1700s. According to town records, an outstanding warrant still exists for Mr. Boone's arrest after he failed to repay a loan extended to him by the townspeople.

1. Salem

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 3,155
  • Commute Time: 17.3 minutes
  • Income: $47,776
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 20.4%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 30%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 329 inhabitants

Salem is bordered by the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains, offering spectacular views for those who call it home. If crime is a concern, you won't find a safer city on our list, and the average commute time here is among the shortest. Residents can take in the area's natural beauty at local attractions like Natural Bridge, Dixie Caverns, and Smith Mountain Lake.

Did You Know: Salem is nicknamed "Virginia's Championship City" in honor of its strong athletic presence, which includes the Class-A Salem Red Sox baseball team and the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, an NCAA Division III Football championship event.

Trying to pinpoint the ideal place to call home is never easy, but doing your homework can make the process easier. Using our rankings as a starting point is a good first step on the path to choosing the best place to settle down.

Data Sources:

  • U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates
  • FBI, Uniform Crime Reports
  • U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey
  • U.S. Census Bureau, Economic Census

Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Rebecca Lake at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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