See a slide show of all our Best Cities for Young Singles.
D.C. is a place of contradictions. Historic buildings abut new high-rise condos, button-down lobbyists share the subway with green-mohawked artists, and traffic slows to a crawl during rush hour on scenic roads winding through the woods. In Adams Morgan, the strip of bars is broken up by hole-in-the-wall places selling pizza and falafel. On U Street, trendy shops and eateries coexist with pungent Ethiopian restaurants. Even entertainment mixes it up, from ballet and the symphony at the Kennedy Center to punk rock at the 9:30 Club.
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D.C., which is home to Kiplinger's, has a distinct arts-and-design theme. But that's not the main strength of its creative economy, says Steven Pedigo, director of research for the Greater Washington Initiative, an economic-development organization. The metro area is a technology center and professional-services mecca. Tech is hot in nearby Tysons Corner, Va., where firms such as Northrop Grumman and SAIC have hubs. Biotech companies United Therapeutics and MedImmune are headquartered in Montgomery County, Md.
Professional services in D.C. trend toward public relations and consulting. Young workers are the backbone of large consulting firms such as Accenture and Deloitte. Half the staff at Corporate Executive Board, a D.C.-based consulting firm, are between the ages of 25 and 35. This isn't a fluke, it's a trend. In the average city, 20% of people are between 20 and 34, but in D.C. proper and Arlington, Va., more than one-fourth of the population is in that age group, according to the U.S. Census.
Job growth in the nation's capital is steady, and the unemployment rate, at 3%, is one of the lowest in the country. Pedigo cites the D.C. area as highly successful at attracting and retaining young workers -- 60% better, in fact, than the national average. There's a large draw from all over the country, but many of D.C.'s best and brightest come from among 50 area colleges and universities.
Rashmi Bhalla is among the local grads. Originally from Los Angeles, she now works for Jane's Strategic Advisory Services doing analysis and market assessment for commercial aerospace and defense companies such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing. One of her favorite things about D.C., she says, is that "there are so many ways to participate. You can find an outlet for your interests, and it doesn't have to be expensive." With its free museums, downtown bar scene and leafy Rock Creek Park, Bhalla says D.C. offers a perfect blend of urban and suburban amenities.
The suburbs around D.C. are growing more like the city. Just across the Potomac River from D.C., Arlington is creating "urban villages" that are drawing young singles to the area.
One problem Arlington and the rest of the metro area face is the high cost of living. Other major metro areas, such as New York City and San Francisco, are still pricier, but the cost of living in D.C. runs 42% above the national average. Housing costs play a large role, and according to real estate agent Melissa Chen, would-be buyers priced out of the housing market have driven up demand -- and prices -- for rental units. Recent listings show one-bedroom apartments in the popular neighborhoods of U Street and Cleveland Park at about $2,000 a month. -- Jessica Anderson
What you'll love about Washington, D.C.
Try the "Cowgirl," one of 50 specialty sandwiches at Lost Dog Cafe, in Arlington, Va., where the menu boasts more than 200 beers from 18 countries.
Vaguely reminiscent of your favorite college frat party, Chief Ike's Mambo Room, in Adams Morgan, turns down the lights, turns up the music and keeps the drinks flowing.
Busboys and Poets, at 14th and U streets, is part coffeehouse, part bookstore and lots of lounge. This eclectic eatery features comfy couches and funky artwork -- all done by the employees.
End your day with drinks on the patio at Sequoia. Lit by a thousand tiny lights in the trees overhead with the Potomac River as a backdrop, itUs the Georgetown waterfront without the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds.
The Lexington area has exactly what youUd expect to find in Kentucky: beautiful horse farms, bourbon distilleries and crazed University of Kentucky basketball fans.
But it also has a lot you wouldn't expect in the middle of Bluegrass Country: a thriving underground art and music scene, an eccentric annual masquerade ball held in offbeat locales, a large gay community and a popular nude art show.
Surprised? Although the six-county Lexington metro area is on the small side (population about 411,000), it's not provincial. The horse industry draws people from around the world, and the area's 15 colleges and universities attract enlightened minds, making the population younger than the national average and among the most educated in the nation. Grads from those schools tend to stick around because of the range of job opportunities, from major employers, such as Toyota and printer maker Lexmark International, to small arts groups and nonprofit organizations.
For young singles, rental housing is relatively inexpensive. You can find a two-bedroom apartment in a stately house downtown for $650, or a one-bedroom for less than $500. Unfortunately, many of the urban lofts being developed in former tobacco-processing plants are pricey. Expect to pay up to $210,000 for one of these 1,200-square-foot condo units. -- Cameron Huddleston