DMV Neighborhoods with Family-Friendly Perks

There’s no denying that between Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC, there are some pretty amazing communities in our part of the US. We’ve sifted through suburban sprawl and urban charm to find these stand-out neighborhoods that are PACKED with family-friendly perks. Whether you are new to the area, looking to relocate within the DMV or just interested in a new neighborhood to explore on a weekend, this guide is for you.


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In the District

Mount Pleasant, Washington DC

Wikipedia

Located in the Northwest quadrant of Washington, DC,  Mount Pleasant is a culturally diverse, community-driven, kid-friendly neighborhood with a quiet suburban character. They have their own main street (Mt. Pleasant St.), historic row-houses, tree lined streets and a charming park. Chain stores won’t be found here. There are no single family homes. The average townhouse between November 2021 and April 2022 costs $1,341,854. Condos and flats average $585,242. Apartments buildings are also available within the community. The walk score in Mount Pleasant is an impressive 97. Three quarters of the neighborhood’s residents don’t even need a car to get to work. The green and yellow Metro lines run through the Columbia Heights metro stop in the community. 

Neighborhood Perks: If you live in Mount Pleasant some of your favorite neighbors will be those that live in the National Zoo. Admission to the zoo is free and the tree lined sidewalks make this a perfect escape, even in the DC summer heat. All the cool kids dine at Elle, the local hybrid cafe-bakery-restaurant, that offers an impressive selection of pastries, fancy coffees and a respectable breakfast and lunch menu. Haydee’s Restaurant is also a must try for authentic El Salvadorian dishes. Rock Creek Park is a boundary to Mount Pleasant on the north and west. If you have a National Parks Passport, get your stamps at the Nature Center. You can also pick up a booklet with activities that when completed can earn you a Junior Ranger badge. Enroll in Tinkergarten for fun, outdoor, activity-based classes for toddlers, preschoolers and young kids (designed for kids ages 1-8). The focus is purposeful outdoor play (we wish they offered adult classes!). Every Saturday morning Lamont Park hosts a farmer’s market featuring fresh local meat, produce and live music. The farmers market is open 9 a.m.-1 p.m. from Apr. 1st to Dec. 23rd. 

 

Anacostia, Washington DC

Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum

Once known as Uniontown, Anacostia is one of DC’s oldest suburbs, catering originally to Navy Yard employees. One of Anacostia’s most famous residents was Frederick Douglass. His home, Cedar Hill, is now a historic site run by the National Park Service. There are 500 homes that comprise the Anacostia historic district. Many constructed in the early to mid 1900s and feature 2 story cottages, Italianate-style architecture and Queen Anne-style homes. Single family homes sold between November 2021 and April 2022 averaged $608,857. Federal style townhouses from the same era are also available and average $468,156. A small number of condos are in Anacostia and average $325,950. Getting in and out of this family-friendly neighborhood is convenient, but during rush hour you’ll spend a little more time getting from place to place on I-695, I-295, Pennsylvania Ave. and Suitland Pkwy. The Green Line services the Anacostia Metro and there are multiple transit bus stops throughout the community.

Neighborhood Perks: The Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, dedicated to shining a light on everything from local culture and history to the challenges and struggles facing contemporary urban communities. The museum is always free (there is also free, onsite parking) and offers free community events like a 6-week hands-on gardening course or a live in-person lecture.  If you are looking for places to walk, run and bike, Anacostia has you covered. Connecting the east and west sides of the Anacostia river at the 11th Street bridge and South Capital Bridge is the Anacostia River Walk Trail. You can access the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and enjoy thousands of water plants in bloom from May to early fall. Kids and kids at heart love the (free) roller skate rental at Anacostia Park. This park also houses an impressive pirate ship playground. Check out the local establishment, Open Crumb, a Black-owned scratch kitchen bringing a taste of West Africa to Washington. DC. Fried chicken, Cajun shrimp, roasted salmon, mac and cheese and a rotating selection of homemade desserts grace the menu daily (get a few orders of the House Buns, you can thank us later). 

 

Chevy Chase, Washington DC

Avalon Theatre

Not to be confused with Chevy Chase, MD, the DC neighborhood, Chevy Chase, offers residents a quiet break from the city, which is located just next door. Officially opened in 1907, Chevy Chase was developed as one of the City’s first street car suburbs that allowed Federal workers the option to toll into work and then return home to greener, calmer streets. Mostly all single-family, the houses are large (especially for DC standards) and the styles reflect the year built. You’ll find colonials, bungalows, Tudors and an occasional Victorian. The average sales price of these homes from November 2021 to April 2022 is $1,588,181. Townhomes average $1,010,557 and condos $689,968. There are numerous playgrounds and green spaces for kids to run and play. Commuting into the city is easy with a straight shot down Connecticut Avenue if you prefer to drive, or the closest Metro station is in Friendship Heights on the Red Line, with Metro Center a fifteen-minute ride away. Transit buses run through the area as well.

Neighborhood Perks: Despite the close proximity, you don’t need to head downtown if you don’t want to. Located along Connecticut Ave, just south of Chevy Chase Circle is a 3 block stretch of restaurants, cafes, locally owned businesses, a Safeway and the Avalon Theatre. Don’t miss Politics and Prose, an independent bookstore store and cafe that has been around for almost 40 years. They offer author talks, writing classes and readings throughout the year (even ones designed for young readers and writers). These establishments are within walking distance to many homes. The Friendship Heights shopping district is home to the area’s higher-end luxuries like Tiffany and Saks Fifth Avenue. You’ll also find a Whole Foods and family-friendly restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory and Maggiano’s Little Italy. Interested in community involvement? The Chevy Chase Citizens Association was founded in 1909 by residents with a mission to “foster community and improve the quality of life in both our neighborhood and our city”. They host events throughout the year that include Chevy Chase DC Day, Spooktacular in Oct. and Public Safety Family Fun Days in the summer. Worth the mention is the access to Rock Creek Park is a huge plus for residents. You’ll never tire of a visit to this respite that allows you to recharge and unwind underneath majestic trees and on the 32 miles of winding trails. 

 

Virginia

Kingstowne, Alexandria

Robert H. via Yelp

Location, location, location is top of the list of perks for this Alexandria, VA planned community located just 12 miles from Washington DC. Despite your close proximity to the city, two metro stops (Franconia-Springfield and Van Dorn Street) and the Capital Beltway, the 1,200 acres of green space and tree lined streets make you feel like you’re miles away from the hustle and bustle. With 5,300+ residences there is a home for everyone’s taste. Single family homes, traditional colonials and some contemporary styles built between the late 80s and early 2000s had an average sales price from November 2021 to April 2022 of $896,139. Townhouses, making up the majority of the housing in Kingstowne, averaged $613,314 and a handful of condo sales made their average sales price $375,800. You can also find apartments and houses to rent within the community. Residents enjoy several miles of walking trails, two outdoor swimming pools, tennis and volleyball courts, numerous tot lots, an aerobics studio and two fitness centers. The Kingstowne Towne Center is home to all your shopping, dining and leisure needs (there’s even a post office). You’ll enjoy 3 grocery stores, multiple restaurants including Bone Fish Grill, Noodles & Company and Firehouse Subs, dry cleaners, hair and nail salons and a World Market to name just a few. 

Neighborhood Perks: Kid-friendly amenities abound in Kingstowne. Living here means your family is just a short 3.5+ miles away from Lee District Park. Operated by Fairfax County, this public park is unlike any other. You’ll find year-round activities that include a playground, tree house, paved interactive trail, carousel and sprayground for cooling off in the summer. Bonus, all activities are accessible for all kids. A covered picnic area and bathrooms mean you can play for hours. Stop by Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery off Mt. Vernon Ave. for a well deserved treat after a trip to the park. Living in Kingstowne means weekend visits to Nalls Produce who has been a staple of the community for over 60 years. In addition to a wide selection of produce and landscape plants, check out their monthly meal kits and “Nalls Kids Club” that hosts in-person kids crafting events with Ms. Laura like their make a thumbprint-painted terra cotta pot in May. 

Cascades, Sterling

P. Olechnovich

Located on 2,500 acres along the Potomac River north of Rt. 7 in Loudoun County is the master-planned community of Cascades. Developed mostly in the 1990s (you will find some homes built in the 2000s), Cascades offers a variety of housing options (6,500 residences in total), recreation and close proximity to shopping and dining. Single family homes are predominately 3 stories in a traditional center hall colonial design, with an average home price between November 2021 and April 2022 of $851,695. Townhouses with an average sales price of $593,660 and condos averaging $413,776 are scattered throughout the development. Falcon’s Landing, a Military Retirement Community, and Cascades Overlook Apartments round out the housing options. Residents have endless opportunities to enjoy time outside with an impressive trail system that connects the community, 5 swimming pools, 14 tennis courts, 25 tot lots, 10 multi-purpose courts and a soccer field. Two elementary schools, Horizon Elementary and Potowmack Elementary, are located within Cascades. 

Neighborhood Perks: Located within Cascades is the Cascades Marketplace Shopping Center filled with shopping, dining and a public library. Sundays in Apr. through Dec. you can support your local farmers by shopping the Cascades Farmers’ Market and year round take the kids to SkyZone to get out all their energy on the trampolines, obstacle courses and giant slides. One of Cascade’s resident’s best kept secrets is access to Algonkian Regional Park. This 883 acre NOVA Regional Park managed facility offers everything from Potomac River access to hiking trails to playgrounds to an 18-hole golf course to Volcano Island, an impressive water park open seasonally. This oasis is often overlooked by other Loudoun residents and crowds are especially low on weekdays. Wildlife viewing is almost guaranteed in the early morning and as the sun begins to set. You can even rent a cabin on the river for a peaceful getaway that allows you private access “after hours” to the entire park. For a family night out grab dinner at Chuy’s Tex Mex followed by a treat at Abbott’s Frozen Custard, both located at the Cascades Overlook Shopping Center. 

 

 

Reston

E. Olechnovich

Housing options in Reston are predominantly townhouses (average sales price from Nov. 2021 to Apr. 2022 is $577,068). Single families average $926,875 and condos $379,806. Building started in 1964 and continues now (mostly condos near the 2 metro stops, one open at Wiehle Ave. and one at the Reston Town Center slated for opening in 2022). Many addresses in Reston belong to the Reston Association, this is a large HOA that has a set of covenants, architectural guidelines and provides amenities such as pools (14 total), tennis courts, tot lots, basketball courts and walking paths to Residents. Members pay around $700/ year on top of their cluster HOA fees for the Reston Association amenities. The Reston Association also hosts dozens of community events each year, such as Community Yard Sales, a Spring Festival, Summer Movies and an annual favorite of kids of all ages, Totally Trucks, where you can see all the trucks that keep Reston beautiful.

Neighborhood Perks: Live, Work, Play! This was Robert E. Simon’s, the Founder of Reston’s (his initials of RES + ton, the English abbreviation for Town, make up the name) vision for his revolutionary planned community that is recognized as the most successful in the US. Reston is not incorporated and it isn’t classified as a town, city or even a county… it is a community. With a population of about 70,000 people there is a small town feel to the place built to accommodate those that loved the country and those that loved the city. All of Reston is connected by an intricate trail system that winds through golf courses, under roads and mostly under trees. Simon did not want to see houses and shopping centers when you drove along the road, so towering oak trees give way to residential streets throughout the community. Man-made lakes were created for storm water management and recreation (no swimming, but pontoon and paddle boats and kayaks allowed). The most famous being Lake Anne, the home to the last original shopping plaza remaining in Reston, is found around this lake. The mid century modern vibe mixes with a European flair, and a statue of Mr. Simon sits on a bench (feel free to take a selfie). Housing, 4 restaurants, a coffee shop and the Reston museum are housed at Lake Anne Plaza. The Reston Town Center is the impressive modern shopping and dining destination for Reston residents. You’ll find gourmet dining at Barcelona Wine Bar, North Italia and PassionFish Restaurant. Casual dining options include Pot Belly, Sweetgreen and La Madeleine. Don’t miss a chance for a treat at Pitango Gelato.  Anthropologie, Apple, Athleta…that’s just getting you through the first part of the “A”s in the shopping directory, the list of well known brands goes on and on. Free concerts are held at the Town Center in the summer and the holiday parade featuring NYC style floats, soars down the TC’s main drag every Dec. Dance around the fountain across from the seasonal ice skating rink and spot Hermes with his winged feet balanced at the very top. 

 

Maryland

 

Kentlands, Gaithersburg

Sweet Water Horse Camp

Looking for a Maryland Community that meets multigenerational needs, is walkable to schools and shopping and encourages neighbors to be friends? You’ll find all this and more in the Kentlands Development in Gaithersburg, MD. Development began in 1988 and today you’ll find an established community that many never want to leave. Streets were designed in a neo-traditional style with houses pushed close to the road and alleyways behind the homes. Single family homes, on small lots, sold for an average of $1,097,429 between November 2021 and April 2022. Townhouses average $692,200 and condos $409,838. Multiple apartment buildings and Kentlands Manor, an age restricted housing development, are also available within the neighborhood. Walkability is key for people who choose to reside in Kentlands. Without ever getting in your car you can access tot lots, swimming pools, jogging trails and the Kentland Market Square, an open-air shopping destination with a pet store to a ramen restaurant and everything in between. When you need to leave you’ll find multiple transit options such as the Shady Grove Metro stop within a 15 minute drive (metro buses available from the neighborhood) and the MARC train at Washington Grove, a 10-17 minute drive depending on time of day. 

Neighborhood Perks: The City of Gaithersburg and the Kentlands Citizens Assembly organize multiple community events each year. There are Fourth of July festivities, Memorial Day Barbeque, Oktoberfest and an annual 5K race. Have a horse lover in your family? Head towards Poolesville and you’ll find multiple options for horse riding lessons and boarding. The Potomac Horse Center (PHC) is a public facility leased from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Their focus is on extensive teaching programs.  They have “Mini Mites” classes for 5-8 year olds up to adult lessons. Horse boarding is also available. You’ll also have easy access to Seneca Creek State Park when you can enjoy picnicking, boat rentals, hiking trails, horseback riding and biking trails and a tire playground. Dinner at Dog Haus Kentlands Biergarten is a must. Kids will be happy with their kids meals options (corn dogs, hot dogs, chicken tenders) and parents will enjoy trying their extensive gourmet hot dog options with unique toping such as basil aioli, picked jalapeños and smoked bacon.

Riverdale Park, Riverdale

Juliet A. via Yelp

If being near a college campus is your vibe, check out Riverdale Park, located near the University of Maryland College Park Campus, which mixes older homes with newer condos, all the amenities on your must-have list and some bonus perks too. Modest sized homes, built from the early 1900s to the 1980s, mostly ranch style and cape cod, dominate the single family market in Riverdale Park. The average single family from November 2021 to Apr. 2022 will run you $427,140. If you prefer a lower maintenance option, townhouse style condos built by Stanley Martin Homes were constructed in the past 5 years. The average price is $582,475, over $100,000 more than the average single family, but offers more square footage in comparison. Apartments are plentiful due to the close proximity to the college campus. A MARC train stop and four Metro stops (Greenbelt, College Park-U of Maryland and West Hyattsville) are located within close proximity. Community involvement is highly encouraged with Community Walks (meet-ups with Town Council members, town staff and neighbors for discussing ideas and concerns and performing micro-cleanups of public space),Holiday Market and Festival of Lights in Dec. and participation in the National Night Out each Aug. 

Neighborhood Perks: The Station is the most recent addition to historic Riverdale Park. Bear Square, with the impressive blue sparkly bear, sets the tone for the art-inspired space. A mix of commercial and residential with a high-end hotel and anchored by Whole Foods Market, The Station is fulfilling its promise of being a walkable, family-friendly community destination with ample green space. There’s a playground onsite to wear out the littles before you hit the grocery store. For an escape from urban life, check out Watkins Regional Park. The State park offers paved and natural trails, the Old Maryland Farm, a tennis bubble, nature center, antique carousel, mini golf and a train. 

Downtown Frederick

Visit Frederick

Big city with a small town feel is what locals say living in Downtown Frederick is like. Lovingly maintained 18th and 19th century architecture line the streets and take you back in time. Friendly shopkeepers get lost in conversation with you. There are almost no chains, mom and pop stores abound. You aren’t stuck in a time capsule, though. Downtown Frederick is hip and cool and historic and fresh, as are the historic housing options. Row Houses built in the late 1800s and early 1900s with an average sales price from Nov. 2021 to Apr. 2022 of $423,791 are the most prevalent housing option. Some single family homes exist and their average price is $410,050. Residential and commercial are intertwined in the downtown district. 

Neighborhood Perks: Residents love strolling through Carroll Creek Park with its water lily filled canal in the summer and the Sailing through the Winter Solstice lighted sailboat display from Nov. through Mar. There is always something happening downtown to draw you in, from Bluegrass concerts to art shows. Families love grabbing a bite at Pistarro’s where you can see the pizza being made and kids get a ball of dough to keep them busy while they wait. Dancing Bear Toys and Gifts sells battery-free toys and visiting the quirky gift store, Retro Metro, never gets old. A visit to the Roads and Rails Museum never gets old. Each visit you’ll find something in the miniature train world that you missed before. There are lots of pop culture references like the Simpson’s family and a famous scene from the movie Twister (admission is $10 for adults. $5 for kids over 3).  Residents don’t spend all their time shopping and eating downtown. There are multiple options for enjoying nature right within town limits. Baker Park, located on the western edge of Downtown, is a 44 acre recreational space with playgrounds, tennis courts, athletic fields, a lake, public pool and more. Mullinix Park and East Third Street Park have playgrounds. A short drive away is South Mountain Creamery, a working dairy farm where you can take a self guided tour, feed calves, watch the milking operation and try Frederick’s own ice cream flavor, Monocacy Mud, at Karen’s Country Store. Cunningham Falls State Park offers an easy waterfall hike and lake for seasonal swimming and Catoctin Wildlife Preserve lets you observe exotic animals from the comforts of a safari bus. 

 

—Elissa Olechnovich

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