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Washington D.C.
  • $900   =  non-traditional average 1
  • $1531   =  average 2BR ÷ 2, or traditional roommate rent 2
  • $2278   =  average 1BR, rented solo 3
  • (traditional vs. non-traditional roommates)
  • (the rest of the  northeast US)

99% live within a 10-minute walk of a park. 4
Most errands do not require a car. 5
distracted drivers
history is everywhere, yes, but especially HERE 6

SO, roomiematch.com's D.C. roommate rundown:

Do we even need to list cool stuff in America's capital? The whole world is already familiar with D.C.'s most famous. You can't even talk to your neighbor without mentioning anything iconic. Even if you're not a political junkie, there's so much official history all over the city, you're probably sitting on some right now.

Or within earshot of its historical tour.

You might have to become an American history buff just to keep up with conversation! (But we'll put stuff here that's practically roommate-relevant.)

Locals say D.C. or "the District." They say "Washington" too, but that tends to mean "our national government and the entire political circus surrounding it," more often than the literal geographic radius around the capital.

The city's entire sprawling skyline is low to the ground, due to the Height of Buildings Act, limiting building height to the width of the street plus 20 feet. This means urban canyons are non-existent, and many balconies have great views, especially of the National Mall. Critics say height restrictions have also limited affordable housing while increasing traffic.

One of D.C.'s prominent nicknames remains "Chocolate City," as it was the first black-majority city in the country. It remains black majority today, but now less than 40% of D.C. residents were born here. D.C. natives tend to make less money, but form deeper roots in local community.

The majority are now transplants and immigrants. The capital's pull is truly international, and immigrant culture extends through the city. D.C.'s transplants tend to be younger, more educated, and planning a career in government or politics.

There's controversy that wealthier but more transient professionals are displacing long-term residents. While not to discount these social issues, sometimes the severe diversity of this city just works anyway. The neighborhoods or social scenes that successfully involve everyone mentioned above are always the best.

About a quarter of residents are employed by the federal government. It might seem like more site-seeing all that's federally funded.

Tourism is clearly the number two industry. And D.C.'s multiple walkable neighborhoods involve both.

If your feet are going to pound local pavement, know there's a lot of concrete around most of the monuments, which will murder your feet if you're not wearing good walking shoes. In warmer weather you may want to stick with air-conditioned museums in the middle of the day, reserving monuments and everything else outdoors for morning and evening.

For bike enthusiasts: We'd recommend walking whenever you can especially in the center of town, then biking anywhere with a lot less traffic. There are fantastic biking trails in the greater D.C. area, and dedicated bike lanes on many avenues, but drivers tend to be distracted and accident-prone. Helmets for city biking are not legally required when you're over 16, but are strongly recommended.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority operates extensive public transit with subways, trains, and buses. Mostly labeled "Metro (fill-in-the-blank)," and you can get a discount by purchasing and reloading their proprietary debit card, either live or via the mobile app. You can also prepay for Metrorail parking lots.

The District hates bad manners on their Metro. If you are carrying food or drink, keep it covered, preferably stashed in a bag. Stand on the right on escalators, leaving the left free for passing. Keep your belongings off the seats as much as you can - when your car is full of passengers, consider putting your bag on your lap instead of taking another needed seat or cluttering the floor. Don't block the doors - let other passengers leave unobstructed.

Metro's underground stations are known for their brutalist architecture and lengthy escalators. The longest is 230 feet, dizzying for some. Extra especially avoid passing on the right on that one.

If you can make it work, just avoid driving in D.C. entirely. It's almost always easier to take transit than drive in terrible traffic. Then pay too much for parking. Even folks that do drive D.C. agree everyone should stop! Or that it's just too hectic with too much going on.

Along with too much traffic, there are additional stressors like traffic circles and street directional changes. Driving D.C. is like a video game set a level too high for most to play comfortably. Everyone seems slightly accident prone. And parking is complicated on weekdays too - mostly limited to two hours during the day. Other than during any major event, parking in public garages won't be hard to find. However, it'll be about 25 bucks per day. Some garages allow prepaid days at a discount.

D.C. gets a reputation for higher homicide rates periodically, but it's mostly gang-related or situations in which everyone involved already knew each other, nothing was random. It's also mostly in areas of town away from tourism and college students. Especially near anything of federal importance, police and security presence will be heavy. No one's randomly getting assaulted and mugged right in front of the feds!

Petty theft and snatch-and-grab of mobile phones is unfortunately more common in neighborhoods where nightlife is the main point. Mostly late at night, targeting intoxicated patrons leaving bars. If you go clubbing or barhopping: stay in well-lit areas, with friend(s) who'll keep an eye out, and sober enough to remain aware of your surroundings.

Another District tip, the size of the crowd for almost everything will depend on whether Congress is in session. Anything still happening after they're gone will be cheaper and less crowded.

No, it's not that senators keep bumming all the tables at Korean Karaoke BBQ. It's that during recess, there are fewer people overall, via a long list of cascading causes. Since many local businesses serve Congress different downstream ways, their absence is a great time for some employees to take off too, either more time needed chilling at home or elsewhere for variety . . .

. . . thus allowing you and your roommates to joyride a now depopulated D.C.

With less traffic on the highways and Metro, and less demand for most attractions, you can zoom around the city faster than usual however you'd like, then right up to the front of whatever. No lines or long waits for you!

And in spring, don't forget to joyride through the cherry blossoms.

The rest of the D.C. roommate lowdown:

  • nation's capital, along the Potomac River, inland from Chesapeake Bay, between southern Maryland and northern Virginia
  • about 700,000 residents in town
  • only 35 miles from Baltimore, 125 to Philadelphia
  • summers are hot, humid and stormy, winters are relatively cold with occasional snow, spring in D.C. is moderate temperature, cool breezes, lush green everything, and cherry blossoms
  • D.C. hosts the Washington Commanders (NFL), Washington Wizards (NBA), Washington Nationals (MLB), Washington Capitals (NHL), D.C. United (MLS), Washington Mystics (WNBA) and the Washington Spirit (NWSL)
  • hosts a large swing dancing community
  • Falls Church is home to the largest Vietnamese community on the East Coast.
  • The District hosts the largest concentration of embassies and diplomatic missions in the world.
  • over 70 museums to choose from, most offering free or reduced cost admission
  • D.C. hosts an exciting range of culinary options, both internationally, and from affordable to high end. Locally popular dishes include: pupusa (Salvoadoran stuffed corn tortilla, often topped with slaw and tomato sauce), Ethiopian injera with stew, ramen, Korean BBQ (often with karaoke), half-smokes (half beef, half pork, all smoked sausages), steamed crabs (particularly Maryland blues), which could also end up in crab cakes or crab bisque.
  • D.C. has the highest proportion of parents doing all or most of their childcare at home. Nannies and au pairs are always in demand.
  • home to Columbia Union College, Corcoran School of Art, Shepherd College, Bowie State University, Capitol College, Defense Intelligence College, Hood College, Mary Washington College, Marymount University, Mount Saint Mary's College, Mount Vernon College, Southeastern University, Trinity College, University of Maryland, University of the District of Columbia, American University, Catholic University of America, Gallaudet University, George Mason University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, Howard University, and the University of Maryland - College Park



After you're settled down, you and your roommates should experience D.C.'s:

  • National Mall: 25 million visitors per year. Monuments, memorials, and museums galore.
  • Rock Creek Park: 1700 acre national park. Hike, bike, run, or walk on a paved path near many deer. Or kayak.
  • Great Falls Park: 800 acres that's 14 miles away, but there's a waterfall.
  • Washington National Cathedral: Neo-gothic magnificence.
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM): One of the world's largest collections focusing on art made in the United States from the colonial period to now. "Explore the sweep of four centuries of the American imagination."
  • Politics & Prose: Independent bookstore since 1984, known for their public discussions and author events.


Here's America's official .gov, and it's a lot. But that link is new resident resources, not stuff for the rest of the nation.





Notes

1.   The non-traditional roommate rent average for this city we've experienced over the last 3 years. We can't predict future rental availability, because we're neither in control of any rental market nor psychic, sorry!

But in most cities most of the time, the recent and relatively recent past are the best predictors.


2.   This idea came from smartasset.com's ranking of what a roommate saves you in 50 cities. They ranked where roommates will save you the most money, based on the average cost of a 1BR as opposed to a 2BR ÷ 2. Unsurprisingly, the more expensive the city, the more you can save, but the savings are significant in all larger metros. So we got the data for the rest of our cities from Zumper too.

This is really the minimum you could save, as you could live with more than one roommate, split more services, share food or other supplies, etc. More sharing tends to lead to more savings too, as per our roommate roadmap.

As per the rest of the description at the top of this page, we're calling this "traditional" roommate rent.


3.   From zumper.com.


4.   Directly quoted from the Trust for Public Land's parkland rating system.

"The ParkScore index awards each city up to 100 points for acreage based on the average of two equally weighted measures: median park size and parkland as a percentage of city area. Factoring park acreage into each city’s ParkScore rating helps account for the importance of larger “destination parks” that serve many users who live farther than ten minutes’ walking distance."

While each city's rundown already includes their individual ParkScore, nature lovers might like to see all roommate cities ranked for parkland.


5.   Directly quoted from Walk Score's Cities and Neighborhoods Ranking. They've ranked "more than 2,800 cities and over 10,000 neighborhoods so you can find a walkable home or apartment."

While each city's rundown already includes their individual Walk Score, dedicated pedestrians might like to see all roommate cities ranked for walkability.


6.   From various lists here on our own best roommate cities.