PCSing to the Washington DC area can be one of the most intimidating places to go. There are so many bases your husband can be attached to and there are so many different cities and neighborhoods surrounding the DC Area. A popular area to live is in the Northern Virginia (NoVa) area and two popular cities are Burke, Va and Alexandria, VA. This post will help clarify some of the pros and cons of living in Burke vs. Alexandria, Virginia.
2 things to consider with Burke vs Alexandria, Virginia
Depends on Lifestyle: Charm and walkability (more cost) or space and functionality for a better price!
Depends on Schools: Let the school district decide. Remember that even if you don't have school aged children, sometimes military homes in a good school district have good resale or a better chance of being a good rental in the future.
(Important Note: this post was written in August 2013. School district lines may have changed since this post was written.)
Alexandria vs City of Alexandria
Some parts of Alexandria come highly recommended from other military spouses (zip 22308) and others, not so much. For many, it ultimately comes down to schools and housing options.
The City of Alexandria has great walkability to shops (Old Town), but it's more crowded and expensive. This area is north of the 495 Beltway and is run by Alexandria City Public schools which can be spotty, so do your homework.
Then there is part of Alexandria (located outside the 495 Beltway called non-Alexandria / Lower Alexandria / or South Alexandria) which is run by Fairfax County and is aligned to Fairfax County Public Schools. Schools is the biggest difference and traffic. Since this part of Alexandria is run by Fairfax County Schools, the schools are fabulous. If you have had friends PCS to the DC area and are looking at living in Northern Virginia Area (NoVa), then I'm sure you have heard them rave about Fairfax County Schools. The area is small enough to get around without much traffic, it's close to Mt. Vernon, Ft. Belvoir for the commissary and healthcare, and it's close enough to Old Town to drive to shops and wonderful restaurants. It's close to metro, freeways, and GW Parkway (which you can take all the way to the Pentagon). If looking in this area, read about 5 amazing neighborhoods, recommended by other military families.
Burke vs Springfield/Burke Area
Burke gives you more for your money in a great school district. Burke has Burke Lake Park and a ridiculous amount of parks and trails. Read the Buzz about Burke for more info.
Springfield/Burke is more spread out and feels more like suburbia, so you need to drive, but it's all easily accessible and the Fairfax County Parkway runs throughout. The City of Fairfax is nearby and there are great shops/restaurants there as well.
When it comes to schools, Burke and Springfield are both aligned to the Fairfax County Public School System, which is one of the best schools systems in Northern Virginia (NoVa)!
Remember, it really comes down to your lifestyle and schools! Hope this helps!