Living in Richmond, Virginia – A complete guide to RVA.
Do you or someone you know want to learn what it’s like living in Richmond, VA? Or RVA as it is affectionately known? Make sure to read this article first! You want to be prepared right? You want to know what to expect. Will RVA be a good fit for you? I will do my best to keep my excitement for RVA from brimming over and try to stick to the facts. However, the fact is, you will love it! One of the best things about RVA is its affordability of homes. Be sure to check out Richmond Homes for Sale to see just how affordable many of them are. Of most major cities, especially on the East Coast you will find that Richmond homes are quite affordable.
Moving to Richmond? Well unless you have spent a lot of time here, you may not even know just how awesome and fun RVA really is. You are really in for a treat! RVA is a vibrant and growing city, with a culture of creativity. It’s got beautiful views of the James River. It’s home to several universities. Best of all, it’s a great town to eat and drink your way through. RVA is home to at least 27 craft breweries and that number is growing. There are also numerous wineries and cideries to check out as well. I have lived in Virginia most of my life, and in RVA for almost half of it. I have traveled around the world and gotten to see many different cities and have found that Richmond is special. It’s people, the parties and festivals, the art and culture and the friendliness just make it a great place to live and it keeps getting better. I know I’m not going anywhere! I am sure you will love it too!
RVA: Just the facts Jack!
- Population, Richmond City: 227,032 (July, 2017)
- Population, RVA Metro: 1.28 Million (July, 2017)
- Unemployment Rate: 3.0% (Q3, 2018)
- Median Home Sales Price: $240,000 (Q4 2018)
- Median Income: $62,929 (2018)
- Average Commute Time: 24 Minutes
1. The “Rivah”!!
The James River
Located on the banks of the James River, Richmond has beautiful views. It’s actually where the city got it’s name. If you stand on the edge of Church Hill, in Libby Park, the view of the James from there looked similar to the view of the river in Richmond, England. That is where Richmond, VA got it’s name. Libby Hill park not only has a great view of the river, but of downtown RVA as well. It’s a great place to watch the fireworks for the 4th as well as the lighting of the RVA Skyline for the Holidays.
You don’t have to live on the river to see and appreciate these views either. You can soak them in while rafting down the river with Riverside Outfitters, or see them from Belle Isle or Browns Island or even the Canal Walk. If you love spending time outdoors then the James River is a beautiful place to do it.The James River is actually quite deep and navigable up to the rapids around Browns Island making it great for boating. That is why Richmond is located where it is. That is as far up river as ships could travel when coming from England in Virginia’s early days. RVA still has an operational Port of Richmond even today, located on the south bank of the James.
Neighborhoods that view the James
As I mentioned before, Richmond’s first settlers decided to name Richmond, while they were standing on the edge of Church Hill. The views from the beautiful historic homes here are wonderful! This is also the home to Historic St Johns Church, where Patrick Henry gave his famous “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” Speech. Church Hill and RVA are steeped in History.
If you are thinking of living in Richmond and want a home with river views, Rocketts Landing, on the bank of the James has Condo as well as Townhouse options, many with River and City views. It also has several restaurants and soon will have additional shops and eateries as they expand. It’s also located along the Capital Trail, which is a bike route that goes all the way to Jamestown (more about that later).
Shockoe Bottom and Shockoe Slip
Located right downtown, you have access to some great restaurants. You also are right next to the canal as well as the beginning of the Virginia Capital Trail for biking and walking. You also have the 17th Street market and Main Street Station. Here you can catch the train or catch a great event in the spectacularly renovated space known as The Shed. All glass and steel and design appeal, its home to events such as the Virginia Wine Exp0 and Craft + Design from the Visual Art Center.
Oregon Hill has a combination of new construction as well as historic homes, some of which have great views of the river as well as Belle Isle. The Overlook Townhouses still have a few new construction opportunities if that suits your fancy.
A brand new location with spectacular views of the River as well as the City is 7 West. This development has new construction townhomes on the south bank of the James close to the Manchester Bridge. If you like a modern flair and the views to match this is well worth checking out.
If you want to get in on a neighborhood that is renewing itself, then Manchester is a great place to do it. There is tons of new development going on here! You should see the new apartments and townhomes that are going up with fantastic views of the city and the James. You also have easy access to the flood wall walk, rock climbing, and mountain biking on Belle Isle. You can also use the new pedestrian bridge that crosses the river to get you right downtown!
The Southside has many neighborhoods that on the banks of the James, these include Woodland Heights, Forest Hill, Westover Hills, Stratford Hills and Hugenot, to name a few. Many of these may not have as much of a view of the river itself, but they do have great river access. They also have quite a few great parks over there including Pony Pasture, Belle Isle, and Canoe Run Park.
2. RVA is the City that Brews
If you like beer then you are going to love moving to Richmond! RVA is now home to 32 different breweries in the region and that number is growing. It has made RVA the #1 beer destination in the country and the world according to VinePair for 2018. Let me try to break down some the different parts of town with Breweries for you. You can find a downloadable map to the Richmond Beer Trail here.
A great place to start your tasting tour! It’s home to several of RVAs best craft breweries, all within walking distance. Check out Ardent Craft Ales, which even has gluten free options (Thanks Lincoln!), Veil Brewing, Hardywood Brewing. This last brewery does some phenomenal beer dinners on location in Maymont‘s gardens in conjunction with guest chefs from around RVA. Just be sure to take a Lyft, because you will be drinking a lot of great beer! Check out their site for info along with other fun events! If you like Cider (which I LOVE) be sure to check out Blue Bee Cidery. They have a great space you can use for small gatherings too!
Stone Brewing is located in Fulton Bottom on Route 5, close to Rocketts Landing and the top of the Capital Trail. They are expanding and plan on building a Bistro and Beer Garden on the river soon. Triple Crossing Brewery is another great option with two locations downtown, with it’s name a nod to the famous Triple Crossing Railroad Trestle in Shockoe Bottom. This is the only place in the country where 3 tracks cross at the same place. Don’t forget the brewery that has been there from the beginning or this burgeoning brew scene, Legend Brewing Co. Located on the southern side of the James in Historic, up and coming Manchester, they have a great outdoor space that has wonderful views of the city and the river.
Another unique beer and brewery option for you is The Answer Brewpub. This started off as a great Vietnamese restaurant with an owner who REALLY likes beer. It went from a restaurant with an unbelievable beer list, to one that now also brews its own beer and has a Brewpub in the back, because, well, Beer is The Answer. These are just a few of the great beer options open you.
3. Jobs, Jobs and More Jobs!
According to GlassDoor, there are currently over 26,000 available jobs in the Richmond Area. If you take a look in downtown RVA, you can see all kinds of new buildings going up, and revitalization of older ones (Thank you Historic Tax Credits and Abatement). From Short Pump to Midlothian to Mechanicsville to Glen Allen and Goochland, RVA is a great place to find a job. Because Richmond has a branch of the Federal Reserve, we have a lot of offices for large and medium size banks here including Capital One, Bank Of America, Wells Fargo, and Suntrust Bank. We also have over 200 branch offices of different Fortune 500 Companies. We also have the main office for CarMax. Costar, a large real estate data company recently opened a large satellite office here. Another new and exciting development is that Facebook is building a large data center that has already been expanded in scope to include 5 buildings in White Oak Technology Park in RVAs East Side. This represents over $1 Billion in investment in RVAs East Side that should be completed by the end 2020.
4. Location! Location! Location!
Located in the middle of the State of Virginia, moving to Richmond puts you where Interstate 95 and Interstate 64 meet. This means you are 2 hours from the Blue Ridge Mountains and even less to Wine country in Charlottesville which is a gorgeous drive. It’s also 2 hours from Virginia Beach and the Chesapeake Bay as well 2 hours (without DC traffic – yikes) to Washington, DC. Full disclosure, I grew up outside of Washington, DC in Northern Virginia and still have family there. This makes me an expert in getting to, from and around the DC area. I know how crazy the traffic is there and how long it takes to get anywhere. Virginia Beach has similar challenges, I used to have to go there often for work to catch a ship (That’s another story for another time. Ask me about what it’s like to drive container ships LOL). This is why I live in RVA with my family. Traffic is just so much more reasonable. With an average commute of 24 minutes, it certainly is easier on the nerves and on your car. You can actually have time for hobbies that are across town and you can actually get there. Do you like to golf after work? You can make it. Do you like horseback riding? You can get there. Easy peasy. Me? I’m a quilter/crafter so I have no trouble getting around town to my favorite fabric stores. Estrogen Alert!!!
5. RVA Arts and Entertainment
Moving to Richmond brings with it lots of great activities and culture because of the vibrant city that it is. We have numerous theaters, big and small. We have the Carpenter Theater, home to the Richmond Ballet, and the Virginia Opera to name a few, and the Altria Theater, which brings Broadway shows and other great productions like Harry Potter with the Richmond Symphony. Both of these theaters were recently renovated so they are fabulous venues. A fun side note about the Richmond Ballet, your children can actually take dance lessons there. They might even end up performing in one of the Ballet’s productions like the Nutcracker. How cool is that?
We also have a vibrant art community here in RVA. This is primarily because VCU is a preeminent Art College. This has allowed RVA to cultivate a culture of creativity all around the city. You can see some of this in RVA’s Art District on First Fridays, where different galleries around the district open their doors to celebrate artistic culture. You can also see it on virtually every street corner in RVA with the numerous murals and other street art, even some of our storm drains!
Living in RVA means you are close to several colleges and universities, including University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University/Medical College of Virginia(VCU/MCV), Virginia Union University, Randolf-Macon College, as well as J Sargeant Reynolds Community College. Keep in mind that the Fan District in Richmond is a sought after both because of it’s numerous local shops and restaurants, but also because of it’s close proximity to VCU. Many parents purchase houses here for their college kids to live in while they attend school. It can often be easier than renting.
RVA is home to several sports teams. If you like soccer we have the Richmond Kickers, part of USL. We also have the Richmond Flying Squirrels, our AA Affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. Many of our players have gone on to be World Series winners with the Giants, and we got to see them up close and personal right here at the Diamond! You might even get an autograph! Squirrels games are great fun for the whole family. My daughter practiced going up and down the stairs at the Diamond when she was 2 and she, along with virtually every other kid I know loves Nutzy and Nutasha. The kids get to run the bases after weekend games, which is always a hit. They also have great fireworks, especially on the Forth of July! Make sure to check out the Squirrel Tails Kids Club for kids 14 and under. Kids get free general admission tickets on Sunday Home Games.
RVA is now the home for the Washington Redskins Training Camp. Skins fans descend on RVA in August to watch them practice and join in the enthusiasm for a new season of NFL Football. The camp is Downtown close to the Diamond.
We have four seasons! This is one of my personal favorite aspects of living in RVA. I love that we actually have a winter, even with a bit of snow, but it doesn’t last forever. Spring begins and things start to warm up around RVA in March. That brings with it all the flowers and lots of fun events too. The summers here are hot and humid, which is nice weather for hanging out at the pool or on the water. The river is perfect for water sports and outdoor sports in general. It’s also great long season for outdoor entertaining. It generally starts to cool off a bit in October but we don’t really see much cold weather until November. Even then, we tend to have fairly mild winters, and get infrequent snow in December, January and February. It has been known to hit 80 in February too. This is confusing for the frogs that live in my backyard pond I can tell you!
9. Fun for the Family
Richmond has plenty of fun and affordable things to do with the family. We have lots of parks and playgrounds around town that are free. The Children’s Museum of Richmond (CMOR)is a big hit with the younger kids and has multiple locations in and around RVA. The Science Museum of Virginia is a big hit with the older kids. It’s housed in the Broad Street Station They are right next door to each other on Broad St. close to Boulevard. The Virginia Museum of Fine Art (VMFA) is also a wonderful place to visit. They have art classes for adults and children, as well as a preschool now. What a great way to get more exposure to art!
Louis Ginter Botanical Garden is fabulous family fun all year round. Don’t miss the Festival of Lights during the Holidays. In warmer seasons they have Butterflies Live and the Children’s Garden with a splash park and tree house. Groovin in the Garden during the summer months is not to be missed with musical ensembles on the hill overlooking the lake and gardens!
is another garden spot that is fun for families. They have a nature center, petting zoo along with the elaborate and decorative Italian and Japanese Gardens next to the manor house.
We have 3 amusement parks nearby, Kings Dominion, Busch Gardens and Great Wolf Lodge. Additional outdoor activities include mountain biking around Belle Isle, rafting and tubing down the James River, or enjoying a walk out on our new pedestrian bridge from Tredegar Iron works over to the flood wall. This is just the tip of the iceberg! If you want to advantage of our outdoor fun in RVA be sure to check out Riverside Outfitters! They have a great summer camp too. The kids raft, hike, tree climb, swim, you name it!
10. Great Eats
Richmond is a great city to eat your way through! We have lots of delicious options to tempt your palate, many with James Beard Award Semifinalist Chefs and Bakers. Sally Bell is a James Beard
Award winner with their classic box lunches that have been a staple since 1924. Don’t miss dinner at The Roosevelt in Church Hill, creative cocktails at Maple and Pine in the Quirk Hotel, or a delectable dessert at Shyndigz in the Fan. Alton Brown of Good Eats fame said that Pumpkin Pie from Proper Pie was the best he’s ever had!
You will find numerous, fabulous bakeries around town too. Croissants from Whisk are a must! They even have frozen ones you can take home and bake. Bread from Sub Rosa (A James Beard Semifinalist) can be found at restaurant tables around RVA. Early Bird Biscuit Co is a great stop for biscuits and crazy for breakfast
Scott’s Addition is a great place to walk around and check out the breweries along with the various food trucks that park at each one. Be sure to check out The Circuit if you want to play games along with your adult beverages. Pinball anyone??
11. Easy to Travel to and From
Easy to get to, by plane, train or automobile and even Megabus! Located on the 95 corridor, it’s easy to get in and out of RVA. We have the Richmond International Airport only 10 minutes from Downtown, along with several regional airports as well. I can’t tell you how many jets I see flying in and out of Hanover Airport! Amtrak comes up the East Coast from Florida and heads all the way to New England. Getting to New York or DC on the train is a breeze. There is also a Megabus that travels from Downtown RVA to points north that is reasonably priced. It’s a way to get to DC with out having to drive through the traffic yourself.
If golf is your game, then you have many places to go play when you’re living in RVA! Richmond has many golf courses, both public and private.
Country clubs abound around Richmond. The Country Club of Virginia has 2 locations, one next to the University of Richmond, and the other down on the James River in RVA’s Far West End. Not only do they have golf but also indoor tennis courts, as well as an extensive clubhouse for events. Willow Oaks has a beautiful location right on the south bank of the James. Jeffereson Lakeside Country Club is a family friendly, hidden gem, located right next to Louis Ginter Botanical Garden. It’s one of Richmond’s oldest golf courses, it was designed by Donald Ross.
The Dominion Club can be found in the popular master planned community of Wyndham. The Foundry is an exclusive golf club out in Powhatan. You will always have a tee time here as a member. The Hermitage Country Club has 36 holes for your golfing enjoyment in Goochland County, west of Richmond.
#ShopLocalRVA is our mantra around town. You have so many great places to do it too! Carytown is a great place to start. Be sure to check out One Eyed Jacques for games and puzzles, BBGB for the best in kids books and For the Love of Chocolate to get your sugar fix!
The Shops at Libbie and Grove are another great place to #ShopLocal with all of it’s boutiques and specialty stores. Don’t miss Pearl’s Cupcakes or Le Grande Dame for Women’s fashions. Peter Blair is perfect for Mens accessories. This is just a start!
Don’t foget to check out the many farmers markets like South of the James that pop up around town with not just fresh produce, but also crafts from local artisans!
You will find that living in Richmond will bring with it lots of fun! This includes many fun festivals throughout the year. Here is a list of a few!
- Don’t miss the Irish Festival in Church Hill the weekend after St. Patricks Day
- The Easter Parade along Monument Avenue on Easter Sunday
- Arts in the Park the first weekend in May in Dogwood Dell
- Broadappetit in June, a great fundraiser for Feedmore in RVA
- The Watermelon Festival in Carytown in August
- Hogtoberfest in Church Hill in October
- The Richmond Folk Festival in October
15. RVA a City that Bikes
In 2015 Richmond was home to the UCI Road World Championships, an international bike rice. The race route took participants and onlookers all over RVA, and the region, even including Kings Dominion! The highlight of the race were the brutal hill climbs on cobble stones in Church Hill’s Libby Park. Check out this video for highlights, it really showcases the city at its best.
Since this race, RVA has been becoming more and more bike friendly. Many streets now have small rotaries instead of stop signs so bikers don’t have to stop at each corner. You can also rent bikes at various spots around town just for day use.
Recently, the Virginia Capital Trail was completed. This trail goes from Richmond to Yorktown and is 52 miles of beautiful trail, paralleling historic Route 5. It passes plantations, vinyards, and lots of historic markers along the way.