There are a lot of reasons why you might choose to move to the East Coast — to be closer to family, to take a great job opportunity, or just to enjoy the lifestyle living there affords. Maryland and Washington, DC are both attractive for a number of reasons — the culture, the scenery, and the East Coast energy. But if you’re in a position to choose between them, which is the better choice? What are the differences between the two?
As with so many things, that depends on what you’re after. Both areas have a great deal of history to them — Maryland was home to many famous “firsts” in history; the first railroad station, first telegraph, first dental school, and more.
Of course, it’s pretty impossible to beat Washington, DC in terms of history. There’s the US Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, the Library of Congress, Georgetown, Ford’s Theater, Capitol Hill, Union Station, and countless other monuments and historic sites to visit. It’s said that Washington, DC has more history per square mile than anywhere else in the United States, and that’s tough to dispute.
Both places have a lot to offer in terms of scenery. 41% of Maryland is covered in trees, and the Chesapeake Bay is full of beaches, islands, coves, and creeks — not to mention the gorgeous mountain ranges of the Appalachians. One of the most famous locations in Maryland is the island of Assateague, where wild ponies run free.
Washington, DC, on the other hand, is one of the greenest areas in the nation. DC has a climate that offers all four seasons, without as much snow as New England. And its city park system has been rated as #1 in the country.
In short, both cities have plenty to offer in terms of history, scenery, culture, and things to do — but how do some of the other factors add up? Let’s take a look.
Real Estate and Rent
In terms of real estate, both areas command high prices, although DC’s tend to be higher and increase more frequently. A one-bedroom condo in DC might cost $400,000 or more, and single-family homes range into $1 or $2 million. In Maryland, how much you’ll be paying for a home depends on how close you are to the city. Condos near the city start at about $300,000 and go down the further out you get — it might take you an hour out of the city to find a home for less than $500,000.
Rent is a similar situation as well — one-bedroom DC apartments will go for about $2k a month, with two-bedrooms going for upwards of $4k. Maryland prices are a bit lower, about 20-30%, depending on the location.
Traffic and Walkability
Both Maryland and Washington, DC have high walkability scores. Some of the best neighborhoods for walking in Baltimore include Hampden, Mount Vernon, Fell’s Point, Canton, and Federal Hill. The most walkable neighborhoods in DC include Dupont Circle, Mount Vernon Square, Downtown, Columbia Heights, and Logan Circle.
When it comes to traffic, you might think DC would obviously have worse traffic than Maryland, being that it’s all city. But studies have shown Maryland has some of the worst traffic in the country, especially factoring in the commute from Maryland to DC. In fact, Maryland’s traffic is bad enough that some recommend moving to Virginia if you plan on commuting to DC regularly.
However, the increased risk factors of driving in DC do have a greater impact on insurance rates. In Washington DC, the average yearly rate for car insurance is $1,696, whereas Maryland car insurance is much closer to the national average of $1,318.
Lifestyle and Culture
As with history, Washington DC is difficult to top in terms of culture. The many museums of the Smithsonian alone could take a lifetime to explore in full, as could the Library of Congress and the National Archives. Some of the most famous monuments in the world are in Washington DC, attracting millions of tourists every year, not to mention the city’s prestigious culture of music and the performing arts.
Maryland, on the other hand, has reacted to the issues of urban sprawl and decay with strong policies dedicated to fighting runaway commercial development. The state has passed “smart growth” laws that have slowed the conversion of farmland and forests, and tried to concentrate development into unused urban and suburban areas, rather than further shrinking the state’s natural beauty.
In addition, Maryland has plenty of long-standing traditions of its own, perhaps quieter and more laid back than those of DC. Jousting is the state’s official sport, and events like the Grand National and Maryland Hunt Cup horse races are a mainstay of the state’s lifestyle. There are also numerous tiny islands on the Chesapeake Bay where the communities have retained both their isolation and their unique, traditional way of life.
So which is the right place to move? That all depends on your needs. If you want the energy of a big city with a rich culture, DC is likely the choice for you — whereas Maryland will offer a more relaxed lifestyle.