20 Things to Know Before Moving To Richmond

Richmond is a city with storied history, outdoor activities, music, food, and a lot in between.

We’ve topped more than enough superlative lists as of late, and for those of you considering a move to our fair city, we’ve got a few things you should keep in mind:

1. We have four amazing seasons

Virginia is one of those states that’s just far enough south to have 98 degree summers, but just far enough north to get one foot of snow. For those of you who enjoy a full closet of possible seasonal outfits, you won’t be disappointed.

2. Richmond is for food lovers.

We’re fortunate to have some of the best chefs and restaurants in the nation. Part of the charm is fallout from our 10% meals tax (yes, on all prepared food) but it’s resulted in having most chain restaurants move out of the city. This leaves adorable corner diners and world-class independent restaurants hidden among the row houses. There is even GWARbar, serving up gourmet junk food that is out of this world. As you can see, there really is something for everyone.

GWARbar is proof that Richmond has a restaurant for every taste bud.
GWARbar is proof that Richmond has a restaurant for every taste bud.

3. If it ain’t from around here…

Richmond prides itself on local culture, and I’m not just talking about food. We’ve got a ton of local boutiques selling regionally made goods as well as hip thrift and vintage options. Richmond was an early adopter of the buy local movement, and it is still holding strong.

4. The great donut war

Part of our great food culture is the hilarious level of competition that breeds even better dining options. This has led to Richmond having four different LOCAL donut options, not to mention plenty of Krispy Kreme locations. From light and fluffy to dense and cakey, if you’re a fan of donuts Richmond is the place for you.

 The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is one of the largest art museums in the country.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is one of the largest art museums in the country.

5. One of the best free art museums in the country

One of the world’s best art museums, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) is smack-dab in the middle of town. With more than 10 regular galleries, always free and open 365 days a year, the VMFA is a place you could spend days at and not see the same thing twice. They’ve also got a number of galleries for touring art as well, but those cost money (and are worth every penny).

6. Not enough art? Wait, there’s more

The monthly First Friday Art Walk event turns Broad St. into an art-fan’s paradise with art from the local college (Virginia Commonwealth University) and a number of smaller touring galleries as well. You’ll get traditional stuff as well as a taste of the weird and wild, but it’s about 90% family friendly.

7. Pick a scene, any scene

With enough venues to count on two hands, there is no shortage of live music in RVA. We’ve got jazz clubs, bluegrass brunches, heavy metal hole-in-the-walls, and hip hop stages packed to the brim. And after you’ve lived here for a few months you’re bound to know someone in a band or be in a band yourself. There’s tons of stuff to chose from (as mentioned above) just make sure you show up on time and catch the openers.

The Robert E. Lee monument is one of several tributes to Civil War figures to be found around town.
The Robert E. Lee monument is one of several tributes to Civil War figures to be found around town.

8. Just can’t let it go

Richmond was the Capital of the Confederacy and it’s kind of hard to forget it. With famous Confederate Generals statues lining one of the city’s biggest road ways, and places like the Valentine Museum, you’re never far from some reminder of the city’s Civil War history. The topic itself isn’t one I’d bring up at a bar unless you’re buying a bourbon or two for the folks you’re about to get into a fight with.

9. Yes, we really call it RVA

The city coopted the branding a few years back and man has it stuck. RVA – Richmond, VA – has a life all its own and now adorns most vehicles and anywhere else you can slap a bumper sticker. Just remember the airport code is still RIC.

10. Share the road

Share the road when you move to town because there will probably be a cyclist or three on either side of you once you get into the city limits. The presence of bike lanes is another matter all together.

11. $2 movies, chandelier included

The world famous Byrd Theatre is one of the last movie palaces of its kind. It even has its own Wurlitzer Organ that is played before Saturday movies. It’s a great spot to catch second run films—even if they’re bad, you only paid $2 so you can leave feeling you’ve supported a good cause.

The Byrd Theatre has been showing films in style since 1928.
The Byrd Theatre has been showing films in style since 1928.

12. We keep it analog

Break into your parent’s storage and pull out the old turntable cause you’ll find plenty of chances to scoop records old and new. There’s even a few spots that offer repairs and fresh needles – it’s all part of the analog life.

13. We make our own beer

You can’t throw a stone and not hit a brewing vat in this town, from Legend Brewery to Hardywood Park. If you don’t like craft beer, you drink PBR (People’s Beer of Richmond) or Black Label, but that choice is determined for you by the length of your beard. Richmond is also the first city where beer cans were sold!

Richmond's Hardwood Park Craft Brewery churns out new tasty brews all year round.
Richmond’s Hardwood Park Craft Brewery churns out new tasty brews all year round.

14. The play’s the thing

We are an artistic town, and that drama often comes out on stage – sometimes literally (I’m looking at you, Richmond Triangle Players). From locally-produced shows at the Firehouse Theatre (yes, it is a converted firehouse) to touring shows at the Richmond CenterStage, there is no shortage of high quality stagecraft here.

15. People from the West End come here to run

About one Saturday a month from April-September most of town shuts down because someone is throwing a 10K or some kind of race. This leaves city folks essentially trapped in their houses or at their local watering hole. Personally, I see that as a win-win.

16. Most of the streets are one-way

It can be a bit hard to get used to, but at some point some city planner said “let’s confuse the hell out of county folk.”

17. Know your ‘hood.

Jackson Ward (The Ward), Carver, The Fan, the Near West End, the Museum District, Texas Beach, Church Hill, Manchester, Scotts Addition… and all of these are in walking distance of each other. Learn them quick otherwise you’ll end up at the wrong brunch spot.

18. I don’t wanna grow up

VCU has a massive art school – this fills RVA with new artists every fall, many of which never leave. This helps create the great culture we have, but can also lead to a lot of grey-beards in skinny jeans. Don’t stare, just cross your arms and bob your head.

One of several of Richmond's outdoor murals, this one by artist Greg Mike.
One of several of Richmond’s outdoor murals, this one by artist Greg Mike.

19. The Richmond Mural Project

Every summer, when it’s as hot as it can possibly be, RVA welcomes a dozen or so world-renowned muralists to town and gives them each free reign over a number of walls. After three years of this we’ve got some of the most beautiful murals this side of the Sistine Chapel.

20. Bring your mountain bike

Many of the city’s parks have incredibly well maintained bike trails, and miles of ’em. If you’re into tough rides, you’ll find more than enough challenges without having to drive anywhere with a bike rack to get there.

About the author: Brad Kutner is Editor of RVAMag.com and the Editor-In-Chief of GayRVA

Photo credits: GWARbar Facebook / Byrd Theatre Facebook / Hardywood Park Craft Brewery Facebook

Brad Kutner