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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Reston, an internationally-known planned community, seen from the Dulles Toll Road.

Northern Virginia (colloquially referred to as "NOVA") consists of several counties and independent cities in the U.S. state of Virginia in a widespread region generally radiating southerly and westward from Washington, D.C. It is the most populous region of both Virginia and the Washington metropolitan area.[1][2]

Communities in the region form the Virginia portion of the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV MSA and the larger Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia DC-MD-VA-WV CSA. Northern Virginia is the most diverse (in terms of both the number of ethnic groups and nationalities represented) and highest-income region of Virginia, having six of the twenty highest-income counties in the nation, including the two highest as of 2007.[3]

Northern Virginia's transportation infrastructure includes major airports Washington National and Dulles International, several lines of the Washington Metro subway system, the Virginia Railway Express suburban commuter rail system, transit bus services, and an extensive network of Interstate highways and expressways.

Notable features of the region include the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency, and the many companies which serve them and the federal government. The area's attractions include various monuments and Colonial and Civil War-era sites such as Mount Vernon and Arlington National Cemetery. It is the most affluent region in the nation.[4]



Source of the name

The name "Northern Virginia" does not seem to have been used in the early history of the area.[5] According to Johnston, some early documents and land grants refer to the "Northern Neck of Virginia", and they describe an area which began on the east at the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay and includes a territory that extended west, including all the land between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers, with a western boundary called the Fairfax line.[5] The Fairfax line, surveyed in 1746, ran from the first spring of the Potomac (still marked today by the Fairfax Stone) to the first spring of the Rappahannock, at the head of the Conway River.[5] The Northern Neck was composed of 5,282,000 acres, and was larger in area than five of the modern U.S. states.[5]

This monument, at the headspring of the Potomac River, markes one of the historic spots of America. Its name is derived from Thomas Lord Fairfax who owned all the land lying between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers. The first Fairfax Stone, marked "FX", was set in 1746 by Thomas Lewis, a surveyor employed by Lord Fairfax. This is the base point for the western dividing line between Maryland and West Virginia.

Fairfax Stone inscription[5]

Early development of the northern portion of Virginia was in the easternmost area of that early land grant, which encompasses the modern counties of Lancaster, Northumberland, Richmond, and Westmoreland. At some point, these eastern counties came to be called separately simply "the Northern Neck", and, for the remaining area west of them, the term was no longer used. (By some definitions, King George County is also included in the Northern Neck, which is now considered a separate region from Northern Virginia[6]).

One of the most prominent early mentions of "Northern Virginia" (sans the word Neck) as a title was the naming of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War (1861–1865).

Colonial period

Historically, in the British Colony of Virginia first permanently settled at Jamestown in 1607, the area now generally regarded as "Northern Virginia" was within a larger area defined by a land grant from King Charles II of England on September 18, 1649, while the monarch was in exile in France during the English Civil War. Eight of his loyal supporters were named, among them Thomas Culpeper.[7]

On February 25, 1673, a new charter was given to Thomas Lord Culpeper and Henry Earl of Arlington. Lord Culpeper was named the Royal Governor of Virginia from 1677–1683. (Culpeper County was later named for him when it was formed in 1749; however, history does not seem to record him as one of the better of Virginia's colonial governors). Although he became governor of Virginia in July 1677,[8] he did not come to Virginia until 1679, and even then seemed more interested in maintaining his land in the "Northern Neck of Virginia" than governing. He soon returned to England.[9] In 1682, rioting in the colony forced him to return, but by the time he arrived, the riots were already quelled. After apparently misappropriating £9,500 from the treasury of the colony, he returned to England and the King was forced to dismiss him. During this tumultuous time, Culpeper's erratic behavior meant that he had to rely increasingly on his cousin and Virginia agent, Col. Nicholas Spencer.[10][11] Spencer succeeded Culpepper as acting Governor upon Lord Culpeper's departure from the colony. For many years, Lord Culpeper's descendants allowed men in Virginia (primarily Robert "King" Carter) to manage the properties.[12]

Final legal claim to the land was finally established by Lord Culpeper's grandson, Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, who became well-known in the colony as "Lord Fairfax", in a survey authorized by Governor William Gooch in 1736. The lands of Lord Fairfax (and Northern Virginia) were defined as that between the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers, and were officially called the "Northern Neck".[13] In 1746, a back line was surveyed and established between the headwaters of the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers, defining the west end of the grants. According to documents held by the Handley Regional Library of the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society, the grants contained 5,282,000 acres. They included the 22 modern counties of Northumberland, Lancaster, Westmoreland, Stafford, King George, Prince William, Fairfax, Loudoun, Fauquier, Rappahannock, Culpeper, Madison, Clarke, Warren, Page, Shenandoah, and Frederick Counties in Virginia, and Hardy, Hampshire, Morgan, Berkeley, and Jefferson Counties in West Virginia.[14]

Lord Fairfax was a life-long bachelor, and became one of the more well-known persons of the late colonial era. In 1742, the new county formed from Prince William County was named Fairfax County in his honor, one of numerous place names in Northern Virginia and West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle which were named after him.[15] Lord Fairfax established his residence first at his brother's home at "Belvoir" (now on the grounds of Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County).[12]

Not long thereafter, he built a hunting lodge near the Blue Ridge Mountains he named "Greenway Court",[7] which was located near White Post in Clarke County, and moved there. Around 1748, Lord Fairfax met a youth of 16 named George Washington, and, impressed with his energy and talents, employed him to survey his lands lying west of the Blue Ridge.[7]

Lord Fairfax stayed neutral during the American Revolutionary War. Just a few weeks after the surrender of British troops under General Cornwallis at Yorktown, he died at his home at Greenway Court on December 9, 1781 at the age of 90. He was entombed on the east side of Christ Church in Winchester.[12] While his plans for a large house at Greenway Court never materialized, and his stone lodge is now gone, a small limestone structure he had built still exists on the site.[7]

Statehood, Civil War

Mount Vernon, the plantation home of George Washington.

Following the American Revolutionary War, when the Thirteen Colonies formed the United States of America, war hero and Virginian George Washington was the choice to become its first president. Washington had been a surveyor and developer of canals for transportation earlier in the 18th century. He was also a great proponent of the bustling port city of Alexandria, which was located on the Potomac River below the fall line, not far from his plantation at Mount Vernon in Fairfax County.

With his guidance, a new federal city (now known as the District of Columbia) was laid out straddling the Potomac River upon a square of territory which was ceded to the federal government by the new states of Maryland and Virginia. Alexandria was located at the eastern edge south of the river. On the outskirts on the northern side of the river, another port city, Georgetown, was located.

However, as the federal city grew, land in the portion contributed by Maryland proved best suited and adequate for early development and the impracticality of being on both sides of the Potomac River became clearer. Not really part of the functioning federal city, many citizens of Alexandria were frustrated by the laws of the District government and lack of voting input. Slavery also arose as an issue. To mitigate these issues, and as part of a "deal" regarding abolishment of slave trading in the District, in 1846, the U.S. Congress passed a bill retro-ceding to Virginia the area south of the Potomac River, which was known as Alexandria County. That area now forms all of Arlington County (which was renamed from Alexandria County in 1922) and a portion of the independent city of Alexandria.

Slavery, states rights, and economic issues increasingly divided the northern and southern states during the first half of the 19th century, eventually leading to the American Civil War from 1861–1865. Although Maryland was a slave state, it remained with the Union, while Virginia seceded and joined the newly formed Confederate States of America, with its new capital established at Richmond, Virginia.

The Supreme Court of the United States has never issued a firm opinion on whether the retrocession of the Virginia portion of the District of Columbia was constitutional. In the 1875 case of Phillips v. Payne, the Supreme Court held that Virginia had de facto jurisdiction over the area returned by Congress in 1847, and dismissed the tax case brought by the plaintiff. The court, however, did not rule on the core constitutional matter of the retrocession. Writing the majority opinion, Justice Noah Swayne stated only that:

The plaintiff in error is estopped from raising the point which he seeks to have decided. He cannot, under the circumstances, vicariously raise a question, nor force upon the parties to the compact an issue which neither of them desires to make.[16]

With barely 100 miles separating the two capital cities, Northern Virginia found itself in the center of much of the conflict. The area was the site of many battles and saw great destruction and bloodshed. The Army of Northern Virginia was the primary army for the Confederate States of America in the east. Owing to the region's proximity to Washington, D.C. and the Potomac River, the armies of both sides frequently occupied and traversed Northern Virginia. As a result, several battles were fought in the area.

In addition, Northern Virginia was the operating area of the famed Confederate partisan, John Singleton Mosby, and several small skirmishes were fought throughout the region between his Rangers and Federal forces occupying Northern Virginia.

Arlington House, a mansion commissioned by a step-grandson of George Washington, last used as a home by Robert E. Lee.

Well after the war, the Lost Cause remained popular among the regions residents and many area schools, roads, and parks were named for Confederate generals and statesmen, including:

In addition, several schools are named for Civil War battles, including Bull Run Middle School and Antietam Elementary School in Prince William County.

Virginia literally split apart during the American Civil War. The population of fifty counties in the western, mountainous portion of the state, did not agree with the others (and were also extremely isolated from eastern authorities). Rather than support the Confederacy, they split from the rest of Virginia and eventually joined the Union as a new state, West Virginia, in 1863. During this process, a provisional government of Virginia was headquartered in Alexandria, which was under Union control during the war.

As a result of the formation of West Virginia, part of Lord Fairfax's colonial land grant which defined Northern Virginia, was ceded in the establishment of that state in 1863. Now known as the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, the area includes Berkeley County, West Virginia and Jefferson County, West Virginia.

20th century and beyond

The Pentagon, headquarters of the Department of Defense.

The Department of Defense's increasing reliance on information technology companies during the Cold War started the modern Northern Virginia economy and spurred urban development throughout the region.[17] After the Cold War, prosperity continued to come as the region positioned itself as the 'Silicon Valley' of the Eastern United States. Symbolic history was made in early 2001 when local Internet company America Online bought Time Warner, the world's largest traditional media company, near the end of the dot-com bubble days. After the bubble burst, Northern Virginia office vacancy rates went from 2% in 2000 to 20% in 2002.[17]

After 2002, vacancy rates fell below 10% due to increased defense spending as the War on Terrorism began and the government's continued and increasing reliance on private defense contractors.[17]

Defining "Northern Virginia"

"Northern Virginia" is more of a functional name than a rigidly defined area. Much like Virginia's second largest region, Hampton Roads, there is no single entity which clearly defines the boundaries of the region for all purposes in a manner such as the legal boundaries of states, counties, cities and towns.

For statistical purposes, the federal government defines certain portions of the area in its definition of a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Presently included jurisdiction are Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Stafford and Prince William counties, and the independent cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax, Manassas, and Manassas Park.

Businesses, governments and non-profit agencies may define the area considered "Northern Virginia" differently for various purposes. Beyond the areas closest to Washington, D.C., many communities also have close economic ties, as well as important functional ones regarding transportation issues such as roads, railroads, and airports.

Under broad and varying criteria, additional jurisdictions which may be considered part of Northern Virginia (which are outside the MSA-defined area) include Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Frederick, Madison, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah, Spotsylvania, and Warren counties, as well as the independent cities of Fredericksburg and Winchester.

Regional organizations

Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments

Northern Virginia constitutes a considerable portion of the population and number of jurisdictions that comprise the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG). Founded in 1957, MWCOG is a regional organization of 21 Washington-area local governments, as well as area members of the Maryland and Virginia state legislatures, the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives. MWCOG provides a forum for discussion and the development of regional responses to issues regarding the environment, transportation, public safety, homeland security, affordable housing, community planning, and economic development.[18]

The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, a component of MWCOG, is the federally-designated metropolitan planning organization for the metropolitan Washington area, including Northern Virginia.[19]


As of 2006, the United States Census estimates that there are 2,432,823[20] people in Northern Virginia, around 32% of the state's population. This figure includes the exurban Clarke, Fauquier, Spotsylvania, Stafford, and Warren counties, as well as the independent city of Fredericksburg. Together, these jurisdictions account for 377,809 residents. The combined population of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties and the independent cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax, Manassas, and Manassas Park is 2,055,014, which is 26.89% of Virginia's estimated population in 2006.

Virginia's 8th congressional district, representing 643,503 people in Northern Virginia, has the highest life expectancy rate in the nation.[21]


Demographics in Northern Virginia's five largest jurisdictions[2]
Household income NOVA U.S.
($200k+) 13.6% 3.7%
$100k+ 46.1% 19.0%
$75k-100k 15.1% 12.1%
$50k-75k 16.3% 18.8%
$25k-50k 14.2% 25.6%
$25k or less 8.4% 24.5%
Race NOVA U.S.
White 67.2% 74.1%
Black or African American 11.6% 12.4%
Asian 12.5% 4.3%
(Hispanic or Latino) 13.9% N/A
Some other race N/A 6.2%
Two or more races 2.4% 2.1%
Educational attainment NOVA U.S.
(Graduate/professional) 25.2% 9.9%
Bachelor's or higher 55.5% 27.0%
Associate's 5.7% 7.4%
Some college 14.8% 19.5%
High school/equivalent 15.8% 30.2%
Less than high school 8.1% 15.9%

Northern Virginia is home to people from diverse backgrounds, with significant numbers of Arab Americans, Afghan Americans, Korean Americans, Indian Americans, Iranian Americans, American Jews, Pakistani Americans, and Vietnamese Americans, along with other Americans of Asian descent especially a growing Chinese American and Filipino American population. Annandale, Chantilly, and Fairfax County have large Korean American communities. Falls Church has a large Vietnamese American community. Northern Virginia is also home to a small Tibetan American community as well.

There is a sizable Hispanic American population, primarily consisting of Salvadoran Americans, Peruvian Americans, Dominican Americans, Bolivian Americans, Mexican Americans, and Colombian Americans. Arlington is the center of the largest Bolivian American community in North America (mostly immigrants from Cochabamba). Many of these immigrants work in transportation-related fields, small businesses, hospitality/restaurants, vending, gardening, construction, and cleaning.

Of those born in the U.S. and living in Northern Virginia's four largest counties, their place of birth by Census region is 60.5% from the South, 21.0% from the Northeast, 11.5% from the Midwest, and 7.0% from the West. 33.7% were born in Virginia, which is categorized as part of the Southern United States along with neighboring Maryland and Washington, D.C. by the Census Bureau.[22][23][24][25]

Educational attainment

The core Northern Virginia jurisdictions of Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William comprising a total population of 1,973,513 is highly educated, with 55.5% of its population 25 years or older holding a bachelor's degree or higher. This is comparable to Seattle, the most educated large city in the U.S., with 53.4% of residents having at least a bachelor's degree.[26 ][27] The number of graduate/professional degree holders in Arlington is relatively high at 34.3%, nearly quadruple the rate of the U.S. population as a whole.[28]


The region is known in Virginia and the Washington, D.C. area for its relative affluence. Of the large cities or counties in the nation that have a median household income in excess of $100,000, the top two are in Northern Virginia, and these counties have over half of the region's population.[29]

In 1988, the Tysons Galleria mall opened across Virginia Route 123 from Tysons Corner Center with high-end department stores Neiman Marcus and Saks 5th Avenue, hoping to become the Washington area's upscale shopping destination. The mall had trouble with sales and attracting high-end boutiques well into the 1990s, and faced competition from Fairfax Square, which opened nearby in 1990 with the largest Tiffany & Co. boutique outside of New York City.[30] The Galleria was able to attract high-end stores after a 1997 renovation, and in 2002 National Geographic described it as "the Rodeo Drive of the East Coast".[31] In 2008, luxury home service Sotheby's International Realty – which had three offices in Virginia serving the rest of the state, and two in Washington, D.C. serving the Washington metropolitan area – opened a new office in McLean to sell more high end real estate in Northern Virginia.[32]


A 2009 report by the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force suggests that anti-gang measures and crackdowns on illegal immigrants by local jurisdictions are driving gang members out of Northern Virginia and into more immigrant-friendly locales in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and the rest of Virginia.[33] The violent crime rate in Northern Virginia fell 17% from 2003 to 2008.[33] Fairfax County has the lowest crime rate in the Washington metropolitan area, and the lowest crime rate amongst the 50 largest jurisdictions of the United States.[34][35][36]


Rosslyn is home to the tallest high rises in the Washington, D.C. area, some of which rank among the tallest in the state.[37][38]

The federal government is a major employer in Northern Virginia, which is home to numerous government agencies; these include the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters and the Pentagon (headquarters of the Department of Defense), as well as Fort Myer, Fort Belvoir, Marine Corps Base Quantico, the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and the United States Geological Survey.

Government contracting is an important part of the region's economy. Arlington alone is home to over 600 federal contractors, and has the highest weekly wages of any major jurisdiction in the Washington metropolitan area.[39][40]

As of 2007, the Northern Virginia office submarkets contain 172 million square feet of office space, 33% more than those in Washington and 55% more than those in its Maryland suburbs. 8 million square feet of office space is under construction in Northern Virginia. 60% of the construction is occurring in the Dulles Corridor submarket.[41]

Northern Virginia's data centers currently carry more than 50% of the nation's Internet traffic, and by 2012 Dominion Power expects that 10% of all electricity it sends to Northern Virginia will be used by the region's data centers alone.[42]

In September 2008 the unemployment rate in Northern Virginia was 3.2%, the lowest of any metropolitan area if ranked.[43][44] The national unemployment rate in September 2008 was 6.2%. While the U.S. as a whole had negative job growth from September 2007 to September 2008, Northern Virginia gained 12,800 jobs, most of which were in the professional and business services sector, and represented half of Virginia's new jobs.[45] After months of increases, the unemployment rate of Northern Virginia held steady at 5.2% in March 2008.[46]

Notable companies

Gannett Company headquarters in Tysons Corner.

The following Northern Virginia companies appear in the Fortune 1000 list:[47]

Additionally, ExxonMobil's downstream division is based in the region. Companies formerly headquartered in the region include Mobil, and Nextel/Sprint Nextel, PSINet, MCI Communications, and UUNET.


The region's large shopping malls, such as Potomac Mills and Tysons Corner Center, attract many visitors, as well as its Civil War battlefields. Old Town Alexandria is known for its historic churches, townhouses, restaurants, gift shops, artist studios, and cruise boats. The waterfront and outdoor recreational amenities such as biking and running trails (the Washington and Old Dominion Rail Trail is the longest paved path in the U.S.; the Mount Vernon Trail, and trails along various stream beds are also popular), whitewater and sea kayaking, and rock climbing areas are focused along the Potomac River, but are also found at other locations in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area. Scenic Great Falls Park and historic Mount Vernon (which opened a new visitor center in 2006) are especially noteworthy. Woodbridge is home to two minor-league sports franchises, the Northern Virginia Royals soccer team and the Potomac Nationals baseball team.



From the mid-1880s until the mid-1960s, Virginia politics were dominated by Conservative Democrats. After World War I, under the leadership of Harry Flood Byrd, who became Governor of Virginia and later a U.S. Senator, this group became known as the Byrd Organization. With a power base in a network of the constitutional officers of most of Virginia's counties, they controlled Virginia's state government. The Byrd Organization largely followed conservative and anti-debt principles espoused by Byrd, who had grown up in a rural setting during the fiscally-stressed era following Reconstruction. Although a member if the Democratic Party and an initial supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Senator Byrd became a bitter opponent of the New Deal and related national policies, particularly those involving fiscal and social issues. He became Virginia's senior senator after the death of Senator Carter Glass of Lynchburg in 1946.

The period following World War II saw substantial growth of Virginia's suburban areas, notably in the regions of Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Hampton Roads. The population became more diverse. People of the emerging middle class were increasingly less willing to accept the rural focus of the General Assembly, nor Byrd's extreme positions on public debt and social issues. The latter was nowhere more graphically illustrated than with Byrd's violent opposition to racial integration of the state's public schools. His leadership in the failed policy of Massive Resistance to racial desegregation of the public schools and efforts to circumvent related rulings of the United States Supreme Court ultimately caused closure of some public schools in the state and alienated many middle class voters. The Byrd Organization had never been strong in Virginia's independent cities, and beginning in the 1960s, city and suburban factions increasingly supported efforts to make broad changes in Virginia. In this climate, the Republican Party of Virginia began making inroads.

Rulings by both state and federal courts that "Massive Resistance" was unconstitutional and a move to compliance with the court orders in early 1959 by Governor James Lindsay Almond, Jr. and the General Assembly could be described as marking the Byrd Organization's "last stand," although the remnants of the Organization continued to wield power for a few years longer.[48]

When Senator Byrd resigned in 1965, he was replaced by his son Harry F. Byrd, Jr. in the U.S. Senate. However, the heyday of the Byrd Organization was clearly in the past, ending 80 years of domination of Virginia politics by the Conservative Democrats with the election of a Republican governor, Linwood Holton, in 1969 for the first time in the 20th century, succeeding a longtime member of the Byrd Organization, Democrat Mills E. Godwin. To the amazement of many observers, Godwin changed parties and was elected again as governor in 1974, but as a Republican.

During the last quarter of the 20th century, Virginia's Republicans gained ground against the Democrats. Republican John Warner from Northern Virginia gained one of the seats in the U.S. Senate in 1978. After longtime state senator L. Douglas Wilder became Governor in 1989, the first African American to become a Governor in the United States, Republicans subsequently gained control of both houses of the General Assembly and the Governor's mansion beginning in 1993.

For a number of years, the recurring Republican theme was to reduce waste in state government and taxes. However, this seemed to reach a peak during the administration of Jim Gilmore, with a move to repeal an unpopular car tax accompanied by a failure to provide promised replacement funds to the counties, cities and towns. Subsequently, two Democrats were elected consecutively as Governor, and control in the General Assembly shifted back to a more bipartisan balance of power. As governor, both Mark Warner and Tim Kaine were confronted with stabilizing state economics and dealing with a deteriorating transportation funding situation partially caused by the state's failure to index state fuel taxes to inflation, with a "cents per gallon" tax rate unchanged since the administration of Democratic Governor Gerald Baliles in 1986.

21st century politics

In the 21st century, Northern Virginia is becoming increasingly known for favoring candidates of the Democratic Party at both the state and national level. Fairfax County supported John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election, the first time the county supported the Democratic candidate since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. The area also voted for Democrats Jim Webb in 2006 for U.S. Senate, Tim Kaine in 2005 for governor, and Mark Warner in 2001 for governor. In these three races for statewide office, the margins tallied in Northern Virginia provided the Democratic candidate with a winning margin of victory.

Senior Senator from Virginia Jim Webb.

Democrat Jim Webb defeated incumbent Senator George Allen by the slim margin of 49.6% to 49.2% in 2006.[49] However, that margin increased to 58.1% to 40.7% in favor of the Democratic challenger in the counties and cities of Northern Virginia, whereas Webb ran behind Allen somewhat, 46.1% to 52.7%, in the remainder of the Commonwealth. Webb carried Fairfax County, Prince William County, and Loudoun County, as well as the more urban areas of Arlington, Alexandria, and Falls Church. Allen's sole wins in Northern Virginia were the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, winning the latter two only by the narrow margins of 3.54% and 2.38%, respectively.

In the 2004 presidential election, 53% of Northern Virginia voters voted for John Kerry, the Democratic candidate, and 46% voted for George W. Bush, the Republican candidate. This contrasted with the rest of Virginia, which gave 43% to Kerry and 56% to Bush. Kerry also carried Fairfax County, the most populous county in Virginia, and Fairfax City, the first time those jurisdictions had voted Democratic since Johnson's national landslide in 1964. The strongest support in the area for the Democrats lies inside the Beltway, in Arlington, Alexandria, and parts of Fairfax County. The more distant areas (i.e., Loudoun County and Prince William County) are generally more conservative though as they have increased in population they have also become more liberal. Both Mark Warner in 2001, and John Kerry in 2004, lost Loudoun and Prince William. Tim Kaine won both counties in 2005. And in 2006, despite not polling as strongly as Mark Warner statewide, Democratic senate candidate Jim Webb won both Loudoun and Prince William. In 2005, 65% of the voters of Northern Virginia voted for Democrat Tim Kaine for governor over Jerry Kilgore, who received only 32% of the vote, easily 14 points lower than George W. Bush's showing only a year earlier.

The 8th, the 10th, and the 11th congressional districts lie within Northern Virginia. The current congressman from the 8th district is Jim Moran (D), the current congressman from the 10th district is Frank Wolf (R), and the current congressman from the 11th district is Gerry Connolly (D). All three districts voted for Jim Webb in the 2006 Senate election.

In the 2005 gubernatorial election, the entire region continued to move away from the Republicans. Fairfax County, Arlington County, the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax City, and Falls Church, and for the first time, Loudoun County and Prince William County, went to Tim Kaine, the Democratic candidate. The area continued to be more Democratic the closer it was to Washington, D.C., but Richmond resident Kaine was able to accomplish what Northern Virginian Mark Warner had been unable to do just four years earlier in 2001: carry Loudoun County and Prince William County (as well as win over 60% of the vote in Fairfax County).

In 2006, Democrat Mark Herring swept every precinct in the 33rd state Senate District on January 31, en route to beating Republican Loudoun County Supervisor Mick Staton by a margin of 62 to 38 percent, providing evidence for the claim that Loudoun is transforming into a liberal county. The district sits primarily in Loudoun County but also includes nine precincts in western Fairfax County: Floris, Fox Mill, Frying Pan, McNair, Franklin, Kinross, Navy, Lees Corner East, and Lees Corner West.

In 2008, economist Nancy Pfotenhauer, a spokesperson and adviser for the John McCain presidential campaign, created controversy by referring to the areas of Virginia not included in Northern Virginia as "real Virginia", picking up on a Republican talking point that Sarah Palin promoted; namely that red states are the "real America" and more "pro-America".[50] Joe McCain, brother of John McCain, also called Arlington and Alexandria in Northern Virginia "communist country".[51]

In the 2008 presidential election, the majority of Northern Virginia voters voted for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Over 70% of registered voters in Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church voted for Obama.[52] Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Manassas and Prince William County also went to Obama with Obama receiving 60% of the vote in Fairfax County compared to Republican candidate John McCain’s 39%.[53] Obama’s win in Fairfax County, the most populous county in the state, marks the second time a Democrat has carried that county since the 1964 breakdown of Democratic predominance in the South (the other being the 2004 presidential elections when the county went to John Kerry). Obama's victory in Northern Virginia continues the trend of Northern Virginia favoring Democrats over Republicans.


Owing to its status as a suburb of Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia is considered to be more cosmopolitan in its culture than the rest of Virginia. This can be attributed to the movement of people from the rest of the country to the area and its location near Washington D.C, as well as the fact that more urban areas in Virginia tend to have more frequent migration and mixing of cultures.

Northern Virginia's population is ethnically diverse, with significant numbers of immigrants. There are large numbers of restaurants, and international food of nearly any type is easy to find. Immigrants have established many shops and many in ethnic centers, such as the Eden Center. Some are highly-educated doctors, engineers, diplomats, and other professionals, while others work in construction, landscaping, airport services, restaurants and convenience stores, vendors, taxi drivers, custodial services, and parking garages.

Due to the proximity to the capital, many Northern Virginians go to Washington D.C. for cultural outings and nightlife. The Kennedy Center is a popular place for performances as is Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts near Vienna. Nissan Pavilion (near Manassas), the Patriot Center at George Mason University in Fairfax, and the Verizon Center in Washington serve as popular concert venues, and the Verizon Center also serves as the home of sporting events. Smithsonian museums also serve as local cultural institutions with easy proximity to Northern Virginia, and the new Udvar-Hazy center of the National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly is popular as well.

Journalists Memorial at Freedom Park, with the former Newseum behind it.

Tysons Corner Center ("Tysons I") is one of the largest malls in the country and is a hub for shopping in area. Tysons Galleria ("Tysons II"), its counterpart across Route 123, carries more high-end stores. Tysons Corner itself is the 12th largest business district in the United States. Other malls include Springfield Mall, Fair Oaks Mall, Manassas Mall, and The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City. Dulles Town Center is the region's newest mall, serving the eastern Loudoun County area. Reston Town Center is a high-density mixed-use retail, commercial, and residential development located just off the 267 Toll Road in Reston. Potomac Mills, located in Prince William County, is the largest outlet mall in the region. The town of Leesburg in Loudoun County contains the Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets outlet mall.

Since the mid-1990s, Loudoun County has been known as America's fastest-growing county, having grown by almost 50% from 2000 though 2005. Since the 2000 census, both Loudoun and Fairfax counties are the top large U.S. counties by median household income. Loudoun County has branches of at least five higher education institutions.


Due to the political and economic differences between Northern Virginia and the rest of the commonwealth, some secessionist sentiments have emerged, with those persons wishing that the area could become the separate state of "North Virginia". Former Republican delegate Jeannemarie Devolites Davis expressed a common sentiment when she said "The formula for funding school construction in Northern Virginia requires that we pay 500 percent more than the actual cost of a project. We have to pay 500 percent because we give 400 percent away to the rest of the state." The state government's funding level for transportation projects in Northern Virginia is a perennial issue that often causes consternation from the region's politicians and citizens.[54]

Secession would require consent from the Virginia General Assembly and the admission of a new state by the U.S. Congress, neither of which is considered a practical possibility at present. Many peopleconsider the idea a rhetorical one used to express frustration with the treatment of Northern Virginia by the state government as well as the occasional opposing political sentiments between it and the rest of Virginia. Critics of this movement often point out that many supporters of secession fail to realize that all U.S. states include regions of varying income, political, and cultural discrepancies within their borders.[55]

Conversely, some citizens in the rest of Virginia would like to separate from Northern Virginia, arguing that it is culturally and linguistically unconnected to the remainder of the commonwealth[56].


The area has two major airports, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport. While flights from the older National Airport (a focus city for US Airways) are restricted for distance, frequency, and flight paths due to the proximity to federal facilities, Dulles is the region's busiest airport[57] in both passenger loadings and aircraft movements, and the sixteenth-busiest airport[58] in the United States by takeoffs and landings in 2007. Dulles is the region's primary international gateway, serves as a hub for United Airlines, and has recently improved its low-cost carrier offerings with the addition of multiple flights by Southwest and jetBlue.

Commuters are served by the Washington Metro subway and the Virginia Railway Express, a commuter railroad. Metro is the second-busiest subway system in the nation; only New York City's subway system carries more passengers.[59] A planned expansion project will extend the system past Dulles Airport into Loudoun County. VRE service is significantly more limited, but nevertheless saw over a year of continuous ridership increase from 2007 into 2008.[60] Bus service is provided by WMATA's Metrobus and several local jurisdictions.

Northern Virginia, along with the rest of the region, suffers from severe road congestion, usually ranking within the top five most congested areas in the nation. To alleviate gridlock, local governments encourage using Metrorail, HOV, carpooling, slugging, and other forms of mass transportation. In 2002, voters rejected a referendum to raise the Virginia sales tax within the region to pay for transportation improvements;[61] several PPTA proposals to increase Beltway and Interstate 95 capacity via toll-funded construction are under consideration by VDOT. Major limited- or partially limited-access highways include Interstates 495 (the Capital Beltway), 95, 395, and 66, the Fairfax County Parkway and adjoining Franconia-Springfield Parkway, the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and the Dulles Toll Road. High-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes are used for commuters and buses on I-66, I-95/395, and the Dulles Toll Road.

Two major regional bottlenecks, the Springfield Interchange and Woodrow Wilson Bridge, were massively reconstructed with completion in 2007 and 2008. Generally, Potomac River crossings remain major choke points; proposals to add crossings (such as near Leesburg or Quantico as part of a long-proposed Outer Beltway) are opposed by Virginia communities near the suggested bridge sites, and by Marylanders who fear that new bridges would bring new housing development to green space in that state. Because of Northern Virginia's high housing costs, tens of thousands of employees there choose more affordable housing far away in outer Virginia exurban counties, or in Prince Georges County and Southern Maryland, thus creating tremendous traffic congestion on the Potomac bridges. This situation is much like metropolitan areas of California. Furthermore, localities such as Great Falls, Dranesville, and Clifton impose low-density, large-acreage residential zoning, which forces developers to leapfrog into Loudoun and Prince William Counties to build housing, thus increasing commuters' driving distances.


Fairfax County's public school system includes the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, an award-winning magnet school. 19 of the region's schools appear in the top 200 of Newsweek's America's Top Public High Schools, which excludes schools such as Thomas Jefferson for having selective admissions.[62] In comparison, Washington, Maryland, and the rest of Virginia have 10 schools between them in the top 200.[62]

Although Northern Virginia contains a large portion of the Commonwealth's population, there are only a handful of colleges and universities in the region. The largest and most well-known is George Mason University in Fairfax, the largest university in Virginia.

Other higher education institutions include Northern Virginia Community College (colloquially known as NOVA) in Annandale (with several branch campuses throughout Northern Virginia), and Marymount University in north Arlington. A relatively new addition to the roster of colleges and universities in the region is the University of Northern Virginia in Manassas, established in 1988. In addition, the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech maintain a Center in Falls Church, and George Washington University has a campus in Loudoun County. Virginia Commonwealth University Health Systems has a satellite campus in Fairfax at the INOVA healthcare system.


Northern Virginia is home to many activities for families and individuals, including biking/walking trails, sports leagues, recreation facilities, museums, historic homes, and parks.

It is home to the Northern Virginia Swim League, which comprises 102 community pools and NVSL-Dive, which is composed of 47 teams in Fairfax and Arlington counties. The swim and dive competes compete of the course of 5–6 weeks from the end of June through the first weekend in August.

See also


  1. ^ Demographics & Workforce Data and Research for Virginia
  2. ^ a b American FactFinder
  3. ^ Matt Woolsey, America's Richest Counties,, 01.22.08, 6:00 PM ET Web site. Retrieved on 2008-02-08.
  4. ^ Will Northern Virginia Become the 51st State?
  5. ^ a b c d e Johnston, Wilbur S. (2006), The Northern Neck in Colonial Context, Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society, Winchester Printers, Inc.  
  6. ^ The Official Guide of Virginia's Northern Neck (2007), Northern Neck Tourism Council
  7. ^ a b c d
  8. ^ Grant of the Office of Lieutenant and Governor-General, June21, 1675, Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, Great Britain Public Record Office, Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1896
  9. ^ Letter from Nicholas Spencer to Secretary Thomas Coventry, August 20, 1680, reporting news of Culpeper's departure from Virginia, Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, Great Britain Public Record Office, Whitehall, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1890
  10. ^ History of the Colony and Ancient Dominion of Virginia, Charles Campbell, J. P. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia, 1860
  11. ^ Letters of William Fitzhugh, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. II, The Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, 1895
  12. ^ a b c
  13. ^ Grymes, Charles A.. "The Fairfax Grant". Retrieved 2008-09-07.  
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Phillips v. Payne, 92 U.S. 130". FindLaw. 1875. Retrieved 2008-12-28.  
  17. ^ a b c War on Terror a Boon For Virginia
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ No. Virginia Tops In Life Expectancy
  22. ^ Fairfax County, Virginia detailed profile - houses, real estate, agriculture, wages, work, ancestries, and more
  23. ^ Prince William County, Virginia detailed profile - houses, real estate, agriculture, wages, work, ancestries, and more
  24. ^ Loudoun County, Virginia detailed profile - houses, real estate, agriculture, wages, work, ancestries, and more
  25. ^ Arlington County, Virginia detailed profile - houses, real estate, agriculture, wages, work, ancestries, and more
  26. ^ "ACS: Ranking Table -- Percent of People 25 Years and Over Who Have Completed a Bachelor's Degree". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-08-27.  
  27. ^ [1]
  28. ^ [2]
  29. ^ Income, Earnings, and Poverty Data From the 2007 American Community Survey
  30. ^ Potts, M. (1989) "The Swanky Side of Fairfax Square" The Washington Post
  31. ^ Tysons Galleria
  32. ^ Sotheby’s International Realty opens shop in Northern Virginia
  33. ^ a b Gangs flee N.Va.for havens in Md., D.C., report says
  34. ^ Crime Drops for Fourth Straight Year in Fairfax County
  35. ^ 2 Counties: A Dangerous Difference; While Montgomery's Crime Rate Has Risen, Fairfax's Is Down Series: VULNERABLE SUBURBS: THE GROWTH OF VIOLENT CRIME Series Number: 2/2
  36. ^ Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Election
  37. ^ High-Rises Approved That Would Dwarf D.C.
  38. ^ List of tallest buildings in DC, MD, VA, WV
  39. ^ Best East Coast Cities for Defense Jobs
  40. ^ Industry dynamics in the Washington, DC, area: has a second job core emerged?
  41. ^ The CoStar Office Market Watch
  42. ^ Garber, Kent (March 24, 2009). "The Internet's Hidden Energy Hogs: Data Servers". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 2007-03-25.  
  43. ^ Unemployment state by state
  44. ^ Clabaugh, Jeff (October 26, 2008). "Northern Virginia still creating jobs". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved 2008-11-14.  
  45. ^ McCaffrey, Scott (October 26, 2008). "Arlington Jobs Picture Still Best in Virginia". Sun Gazette Newspapers. Retrieved 2008-11-14.  
  46. ^ March unemployment rate in Virginia holds steady
  47. ^ Fortune 1000 2008: Virginia
  48. ^ Glasrud, Bruce (May 1977). "The Crisis of Conservative Virginia: The Byrd Organization and the Politics of Massive Resistance (book review)". The Journal of Southern History 43 (2): 324–325. doi:10.2307/2207385.  
  49. ^ General Election- November 7, 2006
  50. ^ Tapper, Jake (2008-10-18), McCain Adviser Says Northern Virginia Not "Real" Virginia,, retrieved 2008-10-28  
  51. ^ Tapper, Jake (2008-10-05), Joe McCain Makes Bad Joke,, retrieved 2008-12-06  
  52. ^ [3].
  53. ^ [4]
  54. ^
  55. ^ Secession - In Their Own Words - News - Fairfax Station-Clifton - Connection Newspapers
  56. ^ Johnson, Donnie. "A solution to Northern Virginia's many problems: Forced secession" 3/3/02
  57. ^
  58. ^
  59. ^ Dawson, Christie (2008-12-04). "Heavy Rail Rapid Transit Ridership Report, Third Quarter 2008". American Public Transportation Association. Retrieved 2009-01-27.  
  60. ^
  61. ^ Voters Reject Roads Tax (
  62. ^ a b America's Top Public High Schools

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Northern Virginia is highly populated. Though much of it is considered a suburb of metropolitan Washington, D.C., there is a lot of civil war history throughout all of Virginia.


Northern Virginia has always been closely tied with the nation's capital. This part of the state benefits from the history and the cultural aspects of Washington D.C., featuring famous museums, cemeteries, and the home of the first president of the United States.

Much of the north-eastern corner of Virginia was farmland until the period immediately following World War II, when government employment increased and the population around Washington D.C. began to grow. The area experienced another explosion in growth due to tech industry jobs in the early 90s. Today it remains one of the fastest growing areas of the country.

While Northern Virginia continues to expand, the region ranges from crowded planned cities with excellent shopping to soccer-mom suburbia, from ethnic neighborhoods full of authentic restaurants to the upper-crust style of the Hunt Country.

Get in

By plane

  • Washington Dulles International Airport
  • Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
  • Leesburg Municipal Airport (charter and private planes only, no commercial service)
  • Baltimore/Washingtonal International Airport

By car

  • Route 81
  • Route 95 to Route 495 (the beltway) toward Tysons Corner/Falls Church

By Boat

By train

Amtrak provides train service on a regular schedule between points north and Washington, DC's Union Station. Washington DC's mass transit (WMATA) provides service to Northern Virginia on the Blue, Yellow, and Orange lines.

From the south, Amtrak provides twice daily service from Newport News, Virginia with a last stop in Alexandria prior to arrival at Union Station.

  • Taking Metrorail might be your best option - there are many stations within the Beltway (near Washington, DC, in other words), including one that emerges right outside the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City. It is also the easiest way to enter Washington, DC.
  • Driving can be convenient, unless you wish to enter Washington, DC, or cross the Beltway in either direction. The highways (I-395, I-95, I-495, and I-66) are extremely backed up during rush hour. The "Mixing Bowl" (the intersection of I-395, I-95, and I-495 south of Washington, DC) is especially notorious. Attempting to travel by road between 2:00 PM and 6:00 PM on any weekday (and, for that matter, on a weekend) is strongly discouraged.
  • Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. Just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C., adjacent to the Pentagon. Closes at dusk. This national military cemetery includes John F. Kennedy's tomb and the house of General Robert E. Lee. Visitors can watch the changing of the guard ceremony in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. [1]
  • Old Town Alexandria, Alexandria, Virginia. This highly walkable Old Town at the edge of the Potomac River features historic buildings, churches, museums and art galleries, a farmers market, and a variety of places to eat and shop.
  • Mount Vernon in Mount Vernon, Virginia. George Washington lived in this country estate which overlooks the Potomac River. [2]
  • National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia. Newly revamped museum displaying the history of the Marine Corps and their actions around the world. Features several aircraft, weapons, and interactive displays. [3]
  • National Rifle Association Museum and Headquarters in Fairfax.
  • Pentagon. Just across the Potomac River from downtown DC. While lingering is not recommended for security reasons, you should know it is the largest office building in the world, and covers 4 zip codes. (Army, Navy, Air Force and Department of Defense.)
  • Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center - National Air and Space Museum, 14390 Air & Space Museum Pkwy., Chantilly, ph: (202) 357-2200. Located near Dulles International Airport, this museum houses many air/spacecraft, including the SR-71 "Blackbird" spy plane, the Concorde supersonic jet and the space shuttle "Enterprise". Parking is available for $12/vehicle. Additionally, a shuttle is available from the Air and Space Museum downtown. Prices range from $5 to $7 depending on number of tickets bought. [4]
  • Great Falls Park, in McLean. Gorgeous national park with waterfalls and hiking trails, minutes from the beltway. Kayaking and rock climbing. Going to the park after a large rain storm provides different views as the water levels can change drastically.
  • Fashion Centre at Pentagon City: A large shopping center with 170 different stores and restaurants. The basement contains a food court that has many different restaurants (including Panda Express, Villa Pizza, and Au Bon Pain). It is located near the Pentagon.
  • Old Dominion Brewery [5]
  • Tarara Winery [6]
  • Tiffany Tavern, 1116 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. Great little pub, with live bluegrass and roots music 6 nights out of the week.  edit
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