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Old 10-11-2009, 06:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My family and I will likely be moving to the DC area. Where, within commuting distance of DC, are the good places to live for a family with young kids? Our priorities are to:

1. be in a good school district,
2. be near a co-op or year-round farmer's market,
3. have access to raw milk, and
4. be somewhere that keeps dh's commute to an hour or less, each way

Those of you who live near DC, can you tell me, is there such a place? I would settle for somewhere that meets 3 of those criteria.

Thank you, thank you, in advance, for any help! I'm California born and bred, currently living in Utah. I'm totally intimidated by the population density and apparent complexity of the DC area.
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Old 10-11-2009, 06:40 PM
 
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lol, you omitted your budget in your questions/planning, and whether you want to buy or rent. Betting you might like Takoma (everyone seems to like Takoma!!) but it isn't cheap. Do you want to be near a Metro? Or less urban, more rural?

If you search the archives of this forum you will find multiple threads on this topic, and may get some ideas.

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Old 10-11-2009, 10:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks, I will look at Tacoma! If it turns out to be too expensive, at least I'll know we checked. We will be renting at first, but then hopefully saving up for a down payment and looking to buy within a year. Near a metro would be nice, but as long as dh's commute was under an hour, it doesn't matter to either of us whether he takes the metro or drives. Ideally we'd eventually have a yard for the kids to play in, and for a garden, so maybe that means we can't be near a Metro? Straight-up city dwelling is not our preference...honking, yelling people, sirens...not a fan. So we'd try to avoid anyplace too urban.

I will search the archives of this forum. Thanks for your help mojumi!!
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Old 10-11-2009, 10:16 PM
 
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My friend lived in Alexandria, it was really nice, im not sure how child friendly it was. They just had a kid and moved to Virginia beach.

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Old 10-12-2009, 10:08 AM
 
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Takoma Park has all of those! Great year round farmer's market, food co-op, dairy and other farm food pick up sites. You can choose between Takoma Park, MD, Prince George's County, and DC (it straddles the different lines)- and there is a difference in housing price and neighborhood flavor depending on what you're looking for.

ETA: and most areas are within walking distance of the metro, or bus/bike ride of it.
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Old 10-12-2009, 10:37 AM
 
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Silver Spring might work also. I would suggest a Metro commute rather than driving - basically insane traffic and not that many parking spaces downtown.

For raw milk, you may need to drive to PA - where it is legal. About 2 hours each way from Silver Spring.

Northern VA (Alexandria) has a reputation for being more conservative. Great Falls is the "good" school neighborhood in VA. Stick with MD if you like to be around liberals, Democrats, etc. Montgomery County schools are MUCH better than Prince Georges Co.
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Old 10-12-2009, 10:57 AM
 
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Another vote for Takoma Park!

To give you a sense of the area...We live on a road that has a country-ish vibe. Very slow-paced, our backyard is *literally* the woods. We live next to a Waldorf-inspired homeschooling family (and we do Waldorf-inspired homeschooling with my youngest). There are two elementary schools within walking distance (one is for younger elementary, the other is grade 3 and up, though the younger elementary is under recontruction this year). I have heard, though do not know from personal experience, that the schools are quite good in Montgomery County.

We have chickens, as do 3 other families on our street! We frequently see deer, foxes, owls and other woodland animals outside our house. We have a garden (about 10x25ft). Our house is a 2br single-family home that I found on Craigslist for $1900. It's possible to get places for less if you have the time to look and wait for the right place. Our backyard is HUGE. We live near two sets of hiking/biking trails, each accessed a block away from our house. There is also a creek a block away and we frequently go and sit on the rocks in the middle of it or on the banks for an afternoon.

The neighborhood definitely feels like a community. We take care of each other's pets, share bikes, drop off baked goods for each other, watch each other's children, have neighborhood potlucks. It's a place about connecting with other families and I've found it easier to make friends here than anywhere else I've ever lived.

We can walk to the co-op in about 10-15 minutes and there is a Whole Foods a 5 minute drive away. There is a year-round farmer's market in Old Takoma, about a 20-25 minute walk/5 min. drive. There is a raw milk/grassfed meat drop, several CSA drop options, and some cool shops. We have access to two library systems (Takoma - which is independent, and Montgomery County). There are lots of natural healing centers nearby too.

DH and I sometimes comment that we have easier access to nature than when we lived in Montana or Oregon! We spend quite a bit of our lives in nature now!

DH's commute to downtown DC is about 25 minute walk to the Metro (there are lots of neighborhoods closer than our house), and a 20 min. Metro ride. He'll sometimes take the bus, which shaves off 15+ minutes off of that. And sometimes I'll drive the 5 minutes to drop him off if we're going to be in the car already. We originally didn't consider living out here because of the commute, but now are so happy we did!

Also, there are lots of neighborhoods in Silver Spring that would fit the bill. We're on the border ourselves, so even a few blocks over it would likely be the same as what I described above.

Feel free to ask me any questions! Wishing you an easy transition!
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Old 10-13-2009, 02:37 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Okay, I'm falling in love with Takoma Park and I haven't even been there yet! It sounds like the Davis, or Santa Cruz of DC. (Has anyone been to Davis or Santa Cruz, CA who can verify this?) Silver Spring is going to be my second choice...it being close enough to Takoma Park to take advantage of what's there, hopefully. I am so encouraged by this. Thank you so much for all of your help. Mariposita, your neighborhood sounds wonderful. If we found a place like that, we would be perfectly content.

If we were within walking/biking distance of a Metro, we could avoid purchasing a second car - something that would be really good for myriad reasons, to keep our driving minimal.

Now, DH and I are looking at this map, and it looks like part of Takoma Park is in this Prince George's County that I've heard has, well, less than ideal schools. What is/are the good school district(s) in or around Takoma Park?

I'm starting to get really excited that this move will be a positive experience for us!
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Old 10-13-2009, 09:22 AM
 
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We love Takoma Park. :-)

There is actually no longer a part of the incorporated City of Takoma Park that is located in Prince George's County -- in 1996 the city was unified in Montgomery County. I wouldn't recommend living in Prince George's County if you plan to send your kids to public school.

Regarding raw milk, it is possible to get it in Maryland through a co-op arrangement delivered from Pennsylvania, but since it's not legal for human consumption in this state, it's not entirely straightforward. Once you're actually here, feel free to PM me and I'll find out the contact information for you.

I totally agree that your husband does not want to commute into DC by car. Most people use the Metro if they work downtown.

Sonja , 40, married to DH (42) since 5-29-93, DD born 11-3-2004, DS born 1-18-2007.
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Old 10-13-2009, 10:33 AM
 
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Okay, I'm falling in love with Takoma Park and I haven't even been there yet! It sounds like the Davis, or Santa Cruz of DC. (Has anyone been to Davis or Santa Cruz, CA who can verify this?)
Oh, hahahaha, the vibe is very different. No naked running of the banana slugs! But I'd guess Takoma would be a comfortable crunchy place for a Santa Cruz ex-pat. Just my impressions, I have only been a visitor in both places.

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Old 10-13-2009, 10:34 AM
 
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Okay, I'm falling in love with Takoma Park and I haven't even been there yet! It sounds like the Davis, or Santa Cruz of DC. (Has anyone been to Davis or Santa Cruz, CA who can verify this?) Silver Spring is going to be my second choice...it being close enough to Takoma Park to take advantage of what's there, hopefully. I am so encouraged by this. Thank you so much for all of your help. Mariposita, your neighborhood sounds wonderful. If we found a place like that, we would be perfectly content.

If we were within walking/biking distance of a Metro, we could avoid purchasing a second car - something that would be really good for myriad reasons, to keep our driving minimal.
It is definitely a nice place to live. When we originally moved here (to DC proper), I had gotten a PM from someone who told me that TP was not all it was cracked up to be - no grocery stores/other retail stores, not many restaurants, overpriced. We actually took stock in her advice and decided to move into the city, which drove us crazy for all the reasons about urban living you posted above. While her feedback was *somewhat* true - there aren't a lot of businesses - we find that we rarely have to leave the area (SS and TP).

In fact, we went carless our first 8 months and we don't even live near the Metro. So yes, it's absolutely possible to not have a second car since we didn't even have one! lol Barring scheduling conflicts of course.

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Regarding raw milk, it is possible to get it in Maryland through a co-op arrangement delivered from Pennsylvania, but since it's not legal for human consumption in this state, it's not entirely straightforward.
Actually, from my understanding of it (one of my closest friends is the one who started the group, and the drop site is the family I nanny for), it's legal to buy and sell, it's just not legal to transport across state lines. So we have no problem buying it and the farmer does not have any problem selling it (though they are often challenged), but the risk is mostly for those who actually drive the products from PA to MD and other states.
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Old 10-13-2009, 11:04 AM
 
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The neighborhood definitely feels like a community. We take care of each other's pets, share bikes, drop off baked goods for each other, watch each other's children, have neighborhood potlucks. It's a place about connecting with other families and I've found it easier to make friends here than anywhere else I've ever lived.
Ditto! I think the community is the best and most important thing. Very easy to make like-minded friends!

No issue with having a garden or yard near the metro. Of course they vary in size but we, along with most people in our neighborhood (4 blks from metro) have yards and plenty of room for vegetable gardens!
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Old 10-13-2009, 02:48 PM
 
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Actually, from my understanding of it (one of my closest friends is the one who started the group, and the drop site is the family I nanny for), it's legal to buy and sell, it's just not legal to transport across state lines. So we have no problem buying it and the farmer does not have any problem selling it (though they are often challenged), but the risk is mostly for those who actually drive the products from PA to MD and other states.
Ah, thanks! I know at least two people who are customers, but hadn't grilled them in detail about it. I'm happy with the (pasteurized) milk South Mountain Creamery delivers to my house every week.

Sonja , 40, married to DH (42) since 5-29-93, DD born 11-3-2004, DS born 1-18-2007.
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Old 10-14-2009, 07:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This is so great. It does make me a little nervous that the raw milk across state borders is illegal...but once we're out there, I'll definitely be looking into it more carefully...if it's only as illegal as, say, jaywalking, then I'll feel better about it. Has anyone ever gotten in trouble, of those who are doing the transporting across state lines?

I really appreciate everyone's help on this. I feel really encouraged that there are options in good neighborhoods that will meet our criteria, and be affordable. This company will probably start dh in the upper 60s or low 70s for an annual salary, which sounds like TONS of money to me, but I know out there it won't go nearly as far as it would here in Utah.

Thanks again!! You guys are the greatest. I seriously wouldn't have had a clue where to go to get this detailed and helpful of info.
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Old 10-15-2009, 12:23 AM
 
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I'm curious - what exactly makes you nervous? Is it that you are uncomfortable with putting the drivers at risk? Or that you are worried about your own family in some way?

As you probably know, many states do not allow raw dairy for human consumption or to transport human consumption dairy across state lines. All the states around here fall into that category, unfortunately. Our farmers have acquired a pet food license and all products are labeled "pet food". This ensures that they are not at as much risk. It is up to you as a consumer to use it in any way you see fit. To date, there have been no serious issues for either the drivers or the farmers. And keep in mind that there are over 1,000 members in DC, MD and VA in this group with weekly drops. Hope that provides you with more info!

The friend of mine who runs the group was over at my house today. I can ask her any questions you might have if you'd like.
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Old 10-15-2009, 12:31 PM
 
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Oh, hahahaha, the vibe is very different. No naked running of the banana slugs!
Here on the East Coast, we have to settle for just crunchy, with no nakedness.
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Old 10-15-2009, 12:35 PM
 
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This company will probably start dh in the upper 60s or low 70s for an annual salary...
Plan on renting. No private schools. Metro commute is important to avoid the 2nd car purchase. You may find food prices higher here (Same store chain has Nutella priced over a dollar higher in MD than PA.)
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Old 10-15-2009, 01:55 PM
 
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This company will probably start dh in the upper 60s or low 70s for an annual salary, which sounds like TONS of money to me, but I know out there it won't go nearly as far as it would here in Utah.
When I stopped working to stay home when our first child was born five years ago, it cut our income to the mid 70's. Finances were very tight, though part of that was due to our decisions about saving -- if we didn't save as much for retirement, college, etc. we would have more money on a monthly basis, but we consider saving for the future non-negotiable.

We had purchased our home seven years earlier, when prices were much lower than they are today, with the idea in mind that we needed to be able to afford to live on one salary.

Prices today have come down considerably from their peak. It's actually possible to find single family homes here for under $400,000 right now, though most are more expensive. One thing to watch out for if you take a look on realtor.com is that many of the less-expensive houses listed for zip code 20912 are not within the Takoma Park city limits. That's not so important if the house is in Montgomery County (it may even be an advantage, in that you'll pay lower property taxes), but most people consider the schools in Prince George's County undesirable. You might also take a look at zip code 20910, as part of that zip code is quite close to Takoma Park. There is a vibrant homeschooling community here, in case that interests you, in which case exactly where you live is less important!

In terms of renting, craigslist is probably the most popular way to find a rental. You can expect to pay $1800-$2000 a month for a single family home, less for an apartment.

Sonja , 40, married to DH (42) since 5-29-93, DD born 11-3-2004, DS born 1-18-2007.
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Old 10-23-2009, 10:49 PM
 
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MoCo gets all the reputation for the crunchiness, but if you come out to Reston in Fairfax Co, you'll find that we're full of hippies too. Reston is a strange mix of "old Reston" types who are counter culture, appreciate the coops and the 3+ farmer's markets around here (as well as the ample parks and the fantastic public schools), and take advantage of living in the first planned community in the US. I'd encourage you to take a look at Reston and all of our paths, parkland, and amenities as well. If you're looking for a more urban way of life, well, Takoma or SS will be more your style.
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Old 10-26-2009, 11:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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No nakedness on the east coast? Bummer! Just kidding, if people want to get dressed, that's cool by me.

We'll definitely start out renting, but we're pretty tired of renting, so our plan is to save for a down payment and buy ASAP. Thanks for the zip codes! Craigslist rocks, I've bookmarked all the Tacoma Park rentals on there that are under $1500/mo. Yeah, we totally can't be in Prince George's County, better schools are a priority for us. Homeschooling is awesome, but I can't swing it at present.

I've gotta check out Reston now!
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Old 10-27-2009, 11:45 AM
 
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Where is your DH's job? If you want his commute to be under an hour (consistently...as in even when it rains, like today) you need to consider location carefully and preferably have options in case of accidents.

Since public schools are important to you, you need to consider location very carefully.

We live in Fairfax County in VA and my older DD is now a third grader in FCPS. School programs vary dramatically from one school to another, although I truly think that all FCPS schools do an adequate job with the basics. There are LARGE budget cuts on the horizon for FCPS for next year. They are facing a second year of huge budget shortfalls due to the collapse of real estate prices and loss of state funding.

MCPS schools are also very good BUT I hear that many, many schools are over crowded.

Also, in VA, Loudon County schools are also supposed to be good, but that would be very bad commute for your DH if he works in DC. Arlington County schools are considered very good, but is in general more expensive than Fairfax County because it is closer in. Alexandria City schools are considered OK, but not quite as good as FCPS or ACS, however individual schools vary widely, so it is worth rsearching. Depending on where he works, Alexandria could be a good choice commute-wise.

New WOHM to DD8 and DD3
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Old 10-27-2009, 04:29 PM
 
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Regarding Reston -- it's a nice place, and there are a lot of jobs in that area, in case future job changes are a possibility. However, its character is TOTALLY different from Takoma Park. For one thing, it's 75 years younger, which gives a place a completely different feel. It also has 3x the population, which means that you're less likely to feel like you know everyone you happen to bump into on a day-to-day basis.

Reston is a great place to live if you like a typical modern suburban environment. If you want to be a little further away from the city, and don't mind living somewhere where entire neighborhoods were constructed at the same time using a limited number of building plans. If it's a plus for you that the median family income was $94,061 in 2000, as compared to $63,434 for Takoma Park. If you'd rather live somewhere with a 74% white population, as compared to 49% in Takoma Park. If you'd prefer a place where only 4.5% of the population lives below the poverty level, as compared to 10.3% in Takoma Park. If you'd rather live somewhere with more people who owned their homes as opposed to renting (66% in Reston, 45% in Takoma Park).

Reston is wealthier, better educated, and less diverse than Takoma Park. It's a lot further from the city, with a correspondingly longer and more expensive commute. It's pretty. It has lots of walking and biking paths. It probably has a lower crime rate than Takoma Park. As these kinds of post-WWII planned communities go, it has a lot to recommend it.

It's also totally not my cup of tea, but that doesn't mean it won't be yours!

(Incidentally, census.gov's "American Factfinder" is great for these kinds of statistics.)

Sonja , 40, married to DH (42) since 5-29-93, DD born 11-3-2004, DS born 1-18-2007.
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Old 10-27-2009, 06:19 PM
 
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We moved here just over a year ago - to Silver Spring. I love love love our neighborhood. You can PM me if you'd like the name/location of the specific neighborhood. Commutes to the northern side of DC are easy. You haven't said specifically what part of the city your Dh will be working, so that may make a big difference in terms of commute.

Both Takoma Park and Silver Spring have farmer's markets. I think the Takoma Park one is year round. There are lots of great CSAs to choose from too. Not sure about the dairy - we don't do raw, but we have a nonraw dairy delivery come each week to our house with local organic milk and yogurt and such.

Mongomery country schools vary. The schools around Kensington are reported to be good.

We moved here from TX. I am not a TX native. I have to say that I love it here so much. I told my husband I will not move again. Our neighborhood is so awesome. Tons of kids, friendly liberal people, great sense of community, pretty centrally located.
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Old 10-27-2009, 06:59 PM
 
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This suggestion would depend on exactly where in DC your hubby will be working, but another area to look at is Frederick, MD. It has a fabulous co-op called the Common Market plus a MOM's store and a farmer's market. My kids aren't in school, but my impression is that the schools are good. It's right on rt 270 to get down to DC plus the commuter rail runs down from there.

At that salary finding a single family home to buy might be difficult, but with prices coming down so much it's hard to tell these days.

Frederick has a very nice downtown with lots of different shops and restaurants. There are several MDC mamas who live around the area too.
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Old 10-27-2009, 07:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So I had a "look" at Reston, and Takoma Park is probably much more our style. I want to be able to dress my family in thrift shop clothes and to be able to go out without putting on mascara and not feel like a weirdo or feel "poor". I think Reston might be a little ritzy for us. Of course, it's impossible to really tell about a place by just looking online. Unfortunately for me, that's probably all I'll get to do at first, my DH will probably fly out and start his job and find us an apartment, and the kids and I will fly out months later. But he knows what we want, so I trust him.

Can I just say that fresh organic milk delivered to the doorstep sounds so quaint and fun. I would just love that.

We might have to find a foreclosure to buy. We're determined to own our own place. It's okay with us if it's small and humble - just something that's ours in an area that feels cozy where people are friendly and kind.

Now to check out Frederick!
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Old 10-27-2009, 08:35 PM
 
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So I had a "look" at Reston, and Takoma Park is probably much more our style. I want to be able to dress my family in thrift shop clothes and to be able to go out without putting on mascara and not feel like a weirdo or feel "poor".
Your average person in Takoma Park considers thrift store shopping to be an environmentally responsible alternative to buying new clothes. I was at a party on Saturday where, when I complimented the hostess on her dress, she revealed that it was a thrift store find and that she'd worn it to her brother's wedding.

As for mascara, no one would consider it the slightest bit odd if you weren't wearing makeup here. While there certainly are people who do, it's not the norm, especially in the daytime.

Regarding Frederick, someone I used to do a bunch of volunteer work with moved out that way, and I've heard good things about it. It might be the way to go if you were interested in living out in the country more, but it definitely does not meet your 1-hour commute timeframe. Just the commuter train alone takes an hour and a half from Frederick to Union Station, plus there's the time getting to the station and the time getting from Union Station to wherever his job is in the city.

Sonja , 40, married to DH (42) since 5-29-93, DD born 11-3-2004, DS born 1-18-2007.
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Old 10-27-2009, 09:58 PM
 
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While Takoma Park is a wonderful place, please be aware that the COL there is higher than many communities in the area. Plus there is a lot of property crime and it is actually on the increase. The schools have been stellar in the past, but are now becoming more and more overwhelmed with immigrants. Also, the farmer's market and the co-op are quite pricey! Much more expensive than other areas. Have a look at crimereports.com. Call and ask the Takoma Park police about crime and if it is ok to walk alone in the local parks (many friends in TP say no!).

I went to Takoma Park Elementary for 1-3 grade and loved it. I recently looked at the area to buy a house and decided against it!

Best of luck to you!

I am astoundingly lucky! Mother to my beloved child since 01/06/07. Fighting cancer since 09/06/07.
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Old 10-28-2009, 12:36 AM
 
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Originally Posted by skueppers View Post

Regarding Frederick, someone I used to do a bunch of volunteer work with moved out that way, and I've heard good things about it. It might be the way to go if you were interested in living out in the country more, but it definitely does not meet your 1-hour commute timeframe. Just the commuter train alone takes an hour and a half from Frederick to Union Station, plus there's the time getting to the station and the time getting from Union Station to wherever his job is in the city.

This is why the job location within DC is important. Driving from Frederick to the National Zoo in DC is right at an hour for me. Driving to other parts of DC would be longer. An alternative commuter choice is to drive to Shady Grove and hop on the Metro. Other than big city though you can get a variety of areas to live in Frederick - small city neighborhoods, suburbs, or rural areas are all available. The South Mountain Creamery that someone else mentioned is only about 10 minutes outside of town too.
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Old 10-28-2009, 11:41 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Yeah, Frederick is too far.

Sugarlumpkin, what would be the best alternative to Takoma Park, in your opinion?
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Old 10-28-2009, 12:38 PM
 
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I know you asked Sugarlumpkin, but I thought I'd jump in anyway.

You might take a look at Forest Glen.

Sonja , 40, married to DH (42) since 5-29-93, DD born 11-3-2004, DS born 1-18-2007.
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