One of my northern Virginia neighbors asked me if I would omit this region -- so you won't come here and add to our already horrific traffic. His request was in jest, but our clogged highways are anything but a joke. Officially, we have the nation's worst congestion after Los Angeles and San Francisco, and we're near the top of the road-rage list, too. It's the result of tremendous growth in the Washington, D.C., metro area over the past decade, much of it on the Virginia side of the Potomac River.

Alexandria, Arlington, and other nearby northern Virginia municipalities are no longer primarily bedroom communities for D.C. workers. Thanks to burgeoning high-tech businesses and the outsourcing of government work, we are today an economic dynamo in our own right. Things have slowed a bit, but we continue to grow even in the teeth of today's Great Recession.

Fairfax County, which wraps around Arlington and Alexandria, has more than one million residents, making it the most populous jurisdiction in Virginia. That's twice the population of the District of Columbia. Tysons Corner, a shopping and office complex at the junction of I-495 and Va. 7, has more office space than downtown Denver, and the strip running west from there through Reston and Herndon to Washington Dulles International Airport is one of the nation's major high-tech corridors. Our metropolitan sprawl has extended its tentacles even into the bucolic Hunt Country beyond Dulles airport, where Loudoun is one of the nation's fastest-growing counties.

All that having been said, please don't let our traffic rants discourage you from coming, for it will be well worth your time. If you avoid our rush hours, you can easily get to pockets of historical charm that will take you back hundreds of years.

In Alexandria, the cobblestone streets of the 18th-century Old Town still ring with the footsteps of George Washington, James Monroe, and Robert E. Lee. Virginia's Colonial plantations begin on the Potomac south of Old Town with George Washington's Mount Vernon, one of our nation's most visited homes.

Out in the western part of Loudoun County and in most of Fauquier County, our crowded highways give way to the winding country roads, rolling hills, and picturesque horse farms and villages that make the Hunt Country a special place.