I have lived in both NYC and DC and I was someone who never thought they would ever leave New York. If I did leave Manhattan, it would be for Brooklyn.
Well, life had other plans in store and I can honestly say after living in Washington DC for the last 6 years, and having lived in NYC for 10 years before that, I would never move back to New York.
The District Of Columbia is not only great for cultural experiences since you are in the nation’s capital, it is overall a great city to live in. Both major cities have their pros and cons. Let’s take a look at the NYC vs DC debate.
DC Vs NYC: Cost Of Living
My NYC Cost Of Living:
As an educated professional living in Manhattan, I could only afford an apartment that was 374 square feet. Yes, this apartment was in a prime location in a high rise with a tiny basement gym, but this was not a luxury building. At the time I paid around $3100 a month for my tiny studio apartment.
I was single in my mid 30s and at times felt like I should be able to afford more but I was still in mountains of debt from educational loans so this was at the upper limit of what I could afford. Affordable housing in NYC is much harder to find when compared to Washington DC.
I could have chosen to live in a different part of Manhattan or move down to Brooklyn but I had two different part time jobs that were at opposite ends of the city. One was on lower east side and one was on the upper west side. I lived just a few blocks from Grand Central Station so I could easily take the subway to both jobs. Moving may have saved me some money but it would have made my commute very difficult.
Having your own vehicle in NYC is something that I did for a year and I would never do it again. Finding street parking is not easy for long periods of time and garage parking can be anywhere from $300 a month to $600 a month.
My Washington DC Cost Of Living:
Let’s compare this with my first rental in DC, which I shared with my boyfriend (now husband) at the time. We paid $900 more (around $4000) for a 1100 square foot 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment in a true luxury building. This building had an amazing gym that took up the entire second floor and lots of green spaces.
There was also parking included in our rent and the parking garage was below the building. The building also had a rooftop pool, more green spaces and a party room that you could rent out for events if you wanted. We were walking distance from several great restaurants including adjacent to two very trending dining spots.
Washington DC also has many affordable suburbs with great schools. Many people hear about the high end areas of McLean Virginia or Potomac Maryland and falsely think that the DC suburbs are unaffordable.
While these specific areas are priced high, there are many towns very close by like Rockville and Fairfax that are more affordable and also have great schools and vibrant communities.
I do love that NYC and DC are so close that within a few hours either driving on on the train, I can be back in Manhattan for a dose of fast paced life. Now, when I go back to visit, it feels truly exciting. After two nights in NYC, I am ready to make my way back to life in DC.
DC Vs NYC: Airports
While NYC airports are about 30 to 45 minutes away depending on where you are coming from, typically international flights are cheaper flying out of NYC. There are also more direct flights to different destinations out of NYC when compared to DC, but overall DC still has many non stop options between the 3 airports.
DC Vs NYC: Pace Of Life
I moved to DC after I met my husband and when I first got here, things were slower paced than I was used to. As a former “New Yorker” I found this a little frustrating.
If you are someone who likes the hustle bustle of the city, DC will take some time to adjust to. It’s hard to describe what this means but generally everyone in NYC had a sense of urgency. I think I use to thrive on that, and this was a little bit of a culture shock for me. But, eventually I got used to slowing down and it’s probably not the worst thing in the world.
DC Vs NYC: Dating
I don’t know much about dating in DC personally because I came here for my husband, but I can say that the NYC dating scene is exhausting. Too many options for both men and women and you could go out on a date if you wanted 7 nights a week. It felt overwhelming.
One benefit to DC is that many people move here for politically related jobs and there is an opportunity to meet different people from different parts of the country and the world. Everyone has to make their own opinion on what city might be right for them when it comes to the dating scene.
DC Vs NYC: Jobs
The Covid 19 pandemic changed a lot in terms of job flexibility. Jobs that were traditionally only available to New Yorkers are now able to be done remotely. Additionally, there are several government opportunities available in DC that have long term benefits and job stability.
The only industry that is not truly thriving in DC is finance. If you are banker or trader working for a major firm, living in DC may not be possible.
DC Vs NYC: Commuting & Public Transportation
DC has a great local rail system and metro system. Many DC neighborhoods have their own microcosm of bars and restaurants so you don’t need to go far to have weekday dinner out. Ride shares are readily available as well and if you do want to have your car, there is residential permit parking on opposite sides of the street.
Also, it is not uncommon for DC rentals to have parking spaces included. Many people also get around using the Capital Bike Share and electric scooters. There’s also a water taxi at the Wharf that will take you to National Harbor and the Georgetown Waterfront
DC Vs NYC: Restaurants, Nightlife, & Lifestyle
NYC wins this category hands down. There is no question. If you love going out to new places and dining out, there is no place like NYC in the entire world. But, DC is not a bad second option.
The nearby areas of Alexandria and Bethesda also have tons of options when it comes to restaurants. Whether you are looking to dine on a rooftop or find a great happy hour deal, these areas are also very popular.
But, if you want to go out on a Monday in DC, you won’t have a lot of luck. On the other hand, you can find plenty of things to do on a Monday in New York City.
Traveling From DC To NYC: Bus, Train, Or Car
The good news is that when you are craving that NYC energy, there are many transportation options between DC to NYC. The options include driving, flying, taking the bus, or the train.
The Amtrak from Union Station can get you to NYC’s Penn Station in just about 3 hours (round trip ahead of time can be as low as $80). If you are looking for a more affordable option, bus tickets from DC to Port Authority can be as cheap at $20 when bought ahead of time.
Train is the best option when purchased ahead of time especially for business travelers who want to ensure an on time arrival and not be subject to traffic. If you have several items you need to bring with you, you can also do a one way car rental. Rental cars can be found at several establishments in NYC and are usually returned in DC near Union Station.
DC Vs NYC: Cultural Experiences & Outdoor Activities
The District of Columbia has a rich history and it is one of the best cities when it comes to culture experiences and outdoor activities. There are so many museums and historical sites in Downtown DC and the surrounding areas.
DC Vs NYC: Raising Kids
DC wins in this category. Raising children in Washington DC is so much easier than NYC! This is not only from a cost perspective but from also an ease perspective. There’s also so much for kids to do here year round.
DC is just easier to manage with children. The vast majority of Washington DC restaurants, even the trendy ones, are able to accommodate children. The city is easy to drive around and parking is affordable. So you can pack your minivan up and explore the city without having to drag a stroller onto the metro.
As expected, it’s also much cheaper. You can get a bigger home to accommodate your growing family. You can also find great public schools in the suburbs surrounding DC.
There’s also many kid-friendly activities in the DC, Maryland, Virginia (DMV). Whether you have toddlers or young adults, there are so many things to do with your kids in Washington DC. From free museums to end of year holiday events, there’s a lot of entertainment options.
DC Vs NYC: Which One Wins?
DC is better overall. NYC has more nightlife and restaurants but DC’s nightlife and dining scene has become more and more vibrant over the last decade.
Also there is a variety of culture experiences and history. There are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy in both cities and if you are ever craving the hustle of NYC, a 3 hour train ride will get you there. Certain jobs in politics, government, and non profits have better opportunities in DC, while financial jobs in banking or trading have more opportunities in NYC.
The crime rate in Washington, DC has fluctuated over the years, with some years seeing an increase and others seeing a decline. According to the Metropolitan Police Department’s 2020 Annual Report, overall crime in the city decreased by 5.8% in 2020 compared to the previous year. This includes decreases in violent crime (-4.1%) and property crime (-6.1%).
Cost of living is significantly more affordable in DC. The average price of a studio apartment in Washington, DC is around $1,500 to $2,000 per month, where as in Manhattan an average studio is between $2500 and $3000 a month and typically smaller in square footage than those in DC. The majority of DC’s museums are free and the cost of living in DC is much cheaper than NYC. It is also easier to keep a car in DC when compared to NYC where parking garages can be very expensive.
The most important thing when choosing which major cities are best to live in is to look at what your personal and professional needs are. This may change when you are in your early 20s to when you are in your mid 30s.
Washington DC and the surrounding suburbs are a great place to settle down. Areas like Potomac and McClean are great for families and are within 20 minutes of all the restaurants and shopping in DC. Strongly consider moving to DC if you want a big city feel with the perks of more space, lower prices when compared to NYC, and lots of culture.