Author Topic: A trip into the "big city" (D.C.), might stay longer in the future, why not?  (Read 4478 times)

infromsea

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Wife and I went into DC to see the lights/enjoy the holiday "scene".

We stayed at an Air-bnb next to the zoo (free to get in... yeah!) and got to experience the "city life" for several days.

This wasn't designed to be a frugal trip but a chance for us to see the city, let our hair down and relax.

We both really enjoyed the trip, parking was allowed behind the building so we parked at the rented condo and didn't drive again. We walked all over the city (as long/far as the wife's bum knee allowed), took a few rides using lyft and generally had a good time.

We liked not driving all over the place, being able to walk just a bit and grab some joe, eat a meal, see some lights etc, it was really pleasant.

In addition, being able to go down to the basement to use the gym or upstairs to the rooftop deck/patio were real wins. The weather really cooperated (snow moving in this wed...) and being close enough to any kind of food/drinks/culture you can imagine was another plus. We also enjoyed being able to "find a crowd" when we wanted to (watching a fun NFL game with a crowd was a blast, something that we almost can't "find" here...).

The negatives, being awakened by upstairs neighbors when trying to sleep in (something we'd get used to?) and hauling all the stuff from the vehicle up to the room (I can see grocery days being rough) and the higher cost of most items.

We enjoyed the trip so much we are considering looking for a place for a month, giving us more time to explore the city/sights and enjoy another "dose" of the town. On a long enough timeline we think we'd enjoy the city life (I work remotely from anywhere with a good internet connection and the wife has a very portable medical job) BUT I wanted to ask what we might be overlooking? We know cost of living will be higher but we are able to make the most of situations and reduce costs so not too worried there, any other negatives to the "big city life?

Thanks!

Bramjam

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Glad you had such a great trip!

I've lived in DC for about 10 years now. Agree with all of the plusses you mentioned--on the whole, I've loved living here ever since I moved here after grad school to start my career.

The biggest disadvantages for me personally are:
  • Housing costs are awful, but if you can find a reasonably priced AirBnB for a month, then that might not apply for you.
  • Urban grocery stores kind of suck compared to suburban ones--they are cramped, crowded, and the selection is often smaller. Whenever I'm out of town and go shopping at suburban stores it makes me so jealous.
  • Crowds, generally. Sometimes the crush of people in grocery stores, popular restaurants, etc. is exhausting--but if you're just here visiting and can go to places during off-peak times, then this should be fine, too.
  • Air quality. Sometimes all the air pollution from cars downtown really bums me out; I walk to work and can't avoid it. Post FIRE I'm excited to live somewhere with fewer people and fresher air.

Definitely think you could have a blast visiting here for a longer time! Enjoy.

infromsea

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Thank you for sharing Bramjam.

I was hoping someone with "boots on the ground" would respond and help me see the other aspects of the idea.

Wife and I are in a unique position in that we've reached FI, I've retired once already and will take long breaks in the future, and the kids are gone so we can "go against the crowd" here and consider moving INTO the city VS moving out to a place with lower COL, better schools etc and prioritize quality of life/enjoyment VS frugality (though that's still something we consider of course).

The air quality is something I'm going to have to pay attention to. I love to walk (hence the craving for a very walk-able area/city) and I love nature but living in a bigger city could meet that need via parks etc, especially a place with as many/size as DC BUT, if one is walking through smog to get to the park, I've have to consider that...

We are going to continue to explore other options but we know we want something with "big city" like qualities and lots of walk-ability, which almost always means populations of a certain size. If nothing else, the journey is proving to be fun, finding that "sweet spot".


Gin1984

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I live in Baltimore and think it is great.  There is so much to see, it is a great center point for east coast travel as well.  As soon as my younger kid no longer needs diapers we plan to bus it up to NYC for less than $50. 

EndlessJourney

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For us, we tend to avoid big cities mainly because of the traffic and congestion.

We have a saying back where we used to live:

Everything in Toronto is only an hour away from Toronto.

CowboyAndIndian

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If you pick East coast cities to live in, I would give DC very high marks.  Lots of restaurants, walkable and free museums/zoo etc.

NYC is too expensive. Boston is too cold. Philly in center-city is great. Baltimore's inner harbor is nice but quickly becomes scary.

Consider your tax implications if you want to live in any of the cities. There might be a city tax in DC like NYC>

I'm also planning to move to a place where I do not have to take out the car to get groceries or go to restaurants. I've picked St. Pete FL and plan to move there when DW joins me in retirement.

infromsea

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I live in Baltimore and think it is great.  There is so much to see, it is a great center point for east coast travel as well.  As soon as my younger kid no longer needs diapers we plan to bus it up to NYC for less than $50.
We LOVED lots of areas in Baltimore, especially out near Fort McHenry, some great neighborhoods over there. It's not completely out of the running for us but as CowboyAndIndian said, Baltimore can get scary FAST. We actually stayed in a place a block from one of the "scary zones" and were ok walking through the rough spots in broad daylight BUT would not want to live in the middle of all that. Getting out of the area seems to be a hassle as well. Just like here in Hampton Roads, there's no "good way" to get out of the city quickly and easily, especially if the timing is off.

For us, we tend to avoid big cities mainly because of the traffic and congestion.

I understand that! The nice thing about FI/working from home with a super flex schedule is that one can go places/do things at "off-peak" times (Home depot at 1 PM on a saturday, not a chance in hell!) and skip a lot of that congestion and, if the city is walk-able enough, keep the vehicle at home anyway! Of course the trade off is taxes, COL, etc.

If you pick East coast cities to live in, I would give DC very high marks.  Lots of restaurants, walkable and free museums/zoo etc.

NYC is too expensive. Boston is too cold. Philly in center-city is great. Baltimore's inner harbor is nice but quickly becomes scary.

Consider your tax implications if you want to live in any of the cities. There might be a city tax in DC like NYC>

I'm also planning to move to a place where I do not have to take out the car to get groceries or go to restaurants. I've picked St. Pete FL and plan to move there when DW joins me in retirement.

I agree with all of your assessments, NYC  is also too cold for us. Boston is such a great city, so walk-able, so much history, BUT, like you said, too cold, too much snow, also not cheap and I don't think it's tax friendly either. Philly is nice but also one of the areas we felt folks were less helpful/friendly (it is Philly after all) than other large cities. We might need to give it another look considering most say you can get 100% of the NYC "vibe" in Philly for 50% of the cost.

Thanks for the inputs everyone!

Gin1984

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I agree that there are many scary areas. We normally stay in the suburbs. I'm sorry I was not clear. I was talking about DC/Baltimore as having great location. We go to DC quite often.

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infromsea

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I agree that there are many scary areas. We normally stay in the suburbs. I'm sorry I was not clear. I was talking about DC/Baltimore as having great location. We go to DC quite often.

No apology needed! I understood what you meant, all good :)

Even here in Hampton Roads there are plenty of places to stay away from, I suspect that's true of all cities over a certain size. They exist in the small towns as well but are usually only a building or two, maybe a street etc.

Cranky

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Dh and I just spent a long weekend in DC, and found it to be very, very pleasant! I was really surprised at how much less crowded and congested it was compared to NYC or even Chicago. I suspect December is a very good time to visit, but nothing seemed crowded, even on the weekend.

I was interested to see that wine at the liquor store was very much cheaper than in Ohio, which may explain a few things. ;-)

I noticed that there arenít too many grocery stores, in contrast to BYC which seems to have some tiny market on every block. If I was staying for a month, Iíd make a big trip to Aldi first!

infromsea

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Dh and I just spent a long weekend in DC, and found it to be very, very pleasant! I was really surprised at how much less crowded and congested it was compared to NYC or even Chicago. I suspect December is a very good time to visit, but nothing seemed crowded, even on the weekend.

I was interested to see that wine at the liquor store was very much cheaper than in Ohio, which may explain a few things. ;-)

I noticed that there arenít too many grocery stores, in contrast to BYC which seems to have some tiny market on every block. If I was staying for a month, Iíd make a big trip to Aldi first!

Good INTEL Cranky, thanks!

Wife and I eat keto and do a lot of daily fasting (don't eat until about 1300 or later and often only eat one big meal) so we find it easier to shop than some. Eggs, bacon, some lunch meats, some nuts and we can literally eat for days. Our last trip into DC we took a cooler full of the foods above and a couple of bags of dry "goods" like pork rinds, canned olives etc. and we ate like a king and queen! This way of eating is both cheap and makes it easy to shop at just about any location.

Ricochet

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Dh and I just spent a long weekend in DC, and found it to be very, very pleasant! I was really surprised at how much less crowded and congested it was compared to NYC or even Chicago. I suspect December is a very good time to visit, but nothing seemed crowded, even on the weekend.

I was interested to see that wine at the liquor store was very much cheaper than in Ohio, which may explain a few things. ;-)

I noticed that there arenít too many grocery stores, in contrast to BYC which seems to have some tiny market on every block. If I was staying for a month, Iíd make a big trip to Aldi first!

We have an Aldi in DC. There are a lot of semi-full sized grocery stores like Harris Teeter, Whole Paycheck, Safeway, Giant, Trader Hoes.... you just have to look for them, since some are in the lower level of a mega condo with hidden underground parking lots.
True, you can find some good bargains / sales on booze in this town :) 
DC is less crowded and the vibe is generally more positive and friendly compared to NYC. I'm not sure about Chicago, but DC is more compact and walk-able than both of those cities.

FatFI2025

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I lived in DC for years and loved it -- would go back in a heartbeat. So much to do for free, interesting people from all over the world, multitudes of clubs and activities, and it's a beautiful place.

After living in the burbs for a year, I picked Capitol Hill, Eastern Market to Potomac Ave area. It's relatively (gulp) affordable, walkable, with multiple grocery stores, and not crazy crowded like U/16th area and Dupont. Take a stroll down East Capitol from the Capitol Building to Lincoln Park, then down to Eastern Market.

CapLimited

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I have lived in DC almost twelve years, and I have feasted upon the beauty and rich culture of this area.  It has been an absolute delight to live easy walking distance from the National Gallery and Library of Congress.  My husband and I live quite comfortably in a one-bedroom condo, and we haven't owned a car for the entire time we have lived here.  We haven't missed it, either.  Metro, Uber/Lyft, and Zipcar are fine for our local transportation needs, and it's a too-short 3 1/2 hour Amtrak trip to NYC.  I can't complain about my three-block commute to work, either.  Overall, I don't regret moving into the city.

As I get older and less nimble, however, I'm starting to feel more vulnerable.  Unfortunately, there are too many guns in this town, and too many economically disadvantaged youths anxious to stir things up.  I don't fear any adults in DC, but teenagers in groups frankly terrify me much more than they ever used to.  It's generally the teenagers in my neighborhood responsible for the shootings and muggings and random attacks.  We had planned to stay and be retired here, but now we are planning to move to a medium-sized city in Europe, instead.  Still walkable and beautiful, but much calmer and safer.  Added bonus -- no more sweltering, sticky, bug-infested DC summers.

If we were to stay in the area, I might be more inclined to move out of DC to a close-in suburb like Bethesda or Rosslyn.


infromsea

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Thank you for the feedback and INTEL!

Moving into the burbs, doesn't that increase cost/transportation challenges etc?

FatFI2025

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Thank you for the feedback and INTEL!

Moving into the burbs, doesn't that increase cost/transportation challenges etc?

@CapLimited cited Rosslyn which is just across the river with a major metro station and bus hub, so no transit problems. But it is expensive, although probably comparable with most nice neighborhoods in DC proper.

Ricochet

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We had planned to stay and be retired here, but now we are planning to move to a medium-sized city in Europe, instead.  Still walkable and beautiful, but much calmer and safer.  Added bonus -- no more sweltering, sticky, bug-infested DC summers.

If we were to stay in the area, I might be more inclined to move out of DC to a close-in suburb like Bethesda or Rosslyn.

I'm interested in knowing what mid-sized European cities are on your radar, and how can you live there permanently, assuming you are a US citizen?  I'm considering using my condo in Rosslyn, which I rent out now, as a home base, and do the 2-3 months away, 2-3 months at home base, type of living, post FIRE.

CapLimited

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I'm interested in knowing what mid-sized European cities are on your radar, and how can you live there permanently, assuming you are a US citizen?  I'm considering using my condo in Rosslyn, which I rent out now, as a home base, and do the 2-3 months away, 2-3 months at home base, type of living, post FIRE.

Several EU countries allow you to get a non-working visa if you can demonstrate that you have the funds to support yourself.  The amount varies from country to country but is quite reasonable, typically the minimum wage for the country.  Auto-entrepreneur status is a little harder, but can be done if you have a location-independent business.  Everybody seems to be flocking to Portugal these days (check out "Our Rich Journey" on YouTube), and Spain has long been popular and affordable.  For us, it's France.  We are looking at smaller university towns in France such as Angers, La Rochelle, Le Mans, Metz, Nancy, Dijon, and Limoges, with easy train access to Paris. 

TheLocal.fr is a good resource for news and advice for France, and there are TheLocal editions for other countries as well.  If you want to get an idea of real estate prices in France, SeLoger.com is a good site (use Google Chrome for a translated version if you don't speak French.)

jeroly

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I have lived in DC almost twelve years, and I have feasted upon the beauty and rich culture of this area.  It has been an absolute delight to live easy walking distance from the National Gallery and Library of Congress.  My husband and I live quite comfortably in a one-bedroom condo, and we haven't owned a car for the entire time we have lived here.  We haven't missed it, either.  Metro, Uber/Lyft, and Zipcar are fine for our local transportation needs, and it's a too-short 3 1/2 hour Amtrak trip to NYC.  I can't complain about my three-block commute to work, either.  Overall, I don't regret moving into the city.

As I get older and less nimble, however, I'm starting to feel more vulnerable.  Unfortunately, there are too many guns in this town, and too many economically disadvantaged youths anxious to stir things up.  I don't fear any adults in DC, but teenagers in groups frankly terrify me much more than they ever used to.  It's generally the teenagers in my neighborhood responsible for the shootings and muggings and random attacks.  We had planned to stay and be retired here, but now we are planning to move to a medium-sized city in Europe, instead.  Still walkable and beautiful, but much calmer and safer.  Added bonus -- no more sweltering, sticky, bug-infested DC summers.

If we were to stay in the area, I might be more inclined to move out of DC to a close-in suburb like Bethesda or Rosslyn.
Another DC resident here...
Some additional thoughts...

Nowhere is safe, and guns are everywhere.  Not just DC.  If you stick to the Northwest quadrant of the city you have fairly safe neighborhoods...some like Palisades feel downright suburban.

There are some large supermarkets to be found, some of which are even open 24 hours a day.  If you decide to keep a car youíll find itís really easy to pop over to Virginia or Maryland as well which vastly expands your shopping and dining options, especially for great cheap ethnic food (e.g. awesome Vietnamese at Eden Center in Falls Church VA, Chinese in Rockville MD, Korean in Annandale VA).

The bus routes are often overlooked, and being willing to use them expands your housing options.  The Metro is somewhat limited in routes and hours (closes before midnight most nights) but is great to have near your home.

There are areas that are very liveable in Northern Virginia but I wouldnít vote for Rosslyn as one of them.  Itís virtually completely dead after business hours, kind of like New Yorkís financial district used to be. One to three Metro stops further into VA would be a better bet (courthouse or Virginia square or ballston).