It's one of the smaller NoVa communities and it has a coherent downtown. For me it has a useful frame shop, tennis club, dentist, a Western Union branch, Giant (easy in and out), and it has one of the best public libraries around, all within walking distance on a single strip and one side road. Natasha gets her massage there. There are plenty of small shops, ethnic and otherwise. It has the best food of any single locale in the D.C. area, including a Korean porridge shop, Korean barbecue, gloopy, disgusting Korean noodles, Korean fried chicken, a Korean tofu restaurant, a Korean bakery (the best hangout around, period, plus the best bakery around), a Korean restaurant specializing in pumpkin dishes, non-disgusting noodle houses, a Korean crab and fish and chips place (with kimchee too), at least two restaurants with "Korean-Chinese" food, and a bunch of 24-7 Korean restaurants, with varying emphases but with Yechon as having the best late night or early morning crowd. Many of the other places stay open until 2 or 3 a.m. (you'll find many reviewed here). The town has over 900 small businesses run by Koreans and catering mostly to Koreans.
On the strip is also the area's best Afghan restaurant, a good Peruvian chicken place, and just off the strip is an excellent Manchurian restaurant, A&J. There is a decent community of antique shops, including a place with some good Afghan textiles. South of 236 you can find a colony of contemporary homes, rare in most parts of Fairfax County. Annandale has the central branch of a 60,000 student community college. The traffic is bearable for the most part, the rents are reasonable by NoVa standards, and you have easy access to the major arteries of 495 and 395. The schools are well above the national average.
Exxon/Mobile has a base on the edge of town. The first (third, according to some sources) toll road in America, ever, ran through Annandale. Mark Hamill once lived there. It has a lovely Civil War church and a rustic barn. Its history dates back to 1685 and it is named after a Scottish village. Many of the people in Annandale are very physically attractive.
What's not to like?
West Annandale is more of a cultural desert than is East Annandale, though it has some Korean cafes and billiard shops. All of Annandale is ugly, with a vague hint of unjustified pastel in the central downtown area. The Into the Wild guy grew up there. They did fight on the wrong side in the Civil War but that has little relevance to the current town. The used CD shop has closed up.
The pluses outweight the minuses. You get all that — and more — for only 50,000 people or so. Boo to Annandale naysayers. Hail Annandale.
From the comments:
I was thinking about the interesting contrast between Annandale which is ugly but is very livable and has wonderful services, vs. some small towns abroad I've visited which had a beautiful town square but limited and overpriced services and few really good or interesting restaurants, with everything being very expensive. Undoubtedly, some tourist visiting the latter towns and spending "summer money" in the busy clubs and cafes would feel the latter superior, and might think Annandale a wasteland. But they may not want to live in said quaint town, especially if salaries were below Virginia standard.