Moving to Richmond, VA? Here’s What You Need to Know Before You Go.
Richmond is one of the most preferred relocation destinations in Virginia because of its seamless blend of rich heritage and modern affluence. Whether you’re moving to this city to start a new job, open a business, enjoy your retirement, or experience a change of scenery, you’ll be able to find everything you need for a happy and fulfilling life. Start your new life in Richmond on the right foot by reading this comprehensive guide.
Overview of Richmond
Richmond is the capital of Virginia and the core of the Richmond Metropolitan Area. With a population of about 227,000, it’s the fourth-largest city in the state. It has a diverse population that comprises African Americans (46.8 percent), Caucasian Americans (40.5 percent), Hispanic Americans (6.5 percent), Asian Americans (2.2 percent), Native Americans (0.3 percent), and other races (3.7 percent). Females make up 52.4 percent of the population.
As one of the oldest major cities in the United States, Richmond was the site of many important events that shaped the history of the nation. Some of the buildings and structures from its storied past have survived to the present time, and they now co-exist seamlessly with modern buildings to create a unique architectural landscape. It’s a city of many firsts, including the first successful electric trolley system, first African-American governor, first female bank president in the United States, and the first triple railroad crossing in the world.
Richmond has a strong economy that makes it an ideal destination for job seekers and entrepreneurs. Many large companies have set up their headquarters there, providing plenty of job opportunities for the locals. The city also has a rapidly growing tourism industry because of its interesting historic sites and museums, abundance of outdoor activities, and vibrant food scene. The Greater Richmond Area draws more than 7 million tourists each year.
History of Richmond
Prior to European colonization, Virginia is estimated to have been occupied by indigenous people for over 12,000 years. The Cherokee, Iroquois, Manahoac, Meherrin, Monacan, Nottaway, Occaneechi, Saponi, and Shawnee tribes lived in the state. The Pamunkey and Mattaponi reservations are among the oldest in the nation and are both within a hour’s drive of Richmond.
The area around Richmond has a long post-colonialism history that dates back to 1607, when a group of Englishmen from Jamestown, Virginia, established a settlement at the Falls of the James. After years of territorial conflicts with Native Americans, the early settlers gained possession of the land beneath the Falls of the James in 1646. In 1737, Major William Mayo laid out the original town grid and named the settlement Richmond after the town of Richmond in England, which is now part of London. The settlement became an incorporated town in 1742.
In 1775, Patrick Henry gave his legendary “Give me liberty or give me death” speech in Richmond. This event played an important role in setting the course for Virginia’s participation in the American Revolutionary War. In 1780, Richmond replaced Williamsburg as the state capital because of its more centralized location. The following year, British troops led by Benedict Arnold invaded and burned the town, causing then-Gov. Thomas Jefferson to flee.
Richmond recovered quickly from the American Revolutionary War and soon became a thriving community again. It was incorporated as a city in 1782. With the construction of the James River-Kanawha Canal and access to hydropower from the falls, the town attracted many manufacturing companies, resulting in the construction of some of the largest manufacturing plants in the country. By the mid-19th century, Richmond was connected by two railroads: the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad and the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad.
Shortly after the Confederate Army attacked Fort Sumter in 1861, the Virginia Legislature voted to join the Confederate States of America. The Confederacy decided to relocate its national capital from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond. As a result, Richmond became the Union Army’s main target throughout the American Civil War. In June 1862, Union troops led by General-in-Chief George B. McClellan attempted to take the city but failed. However, when nearby Petersburg was overtaken in April 1865, Confederate President Jefferson Davis abandoned Richmond and fled to Charlotte, North Carolina.
At the turn of the 20th century, Richmond had a population of 85,050 and a total area of 5 square miles. Freed slaves and their descendants formed a thriving African-American business community. The city’s historic Jackson Ward district was nicknamed the Wall Street of Black America. St. Luke Penny Savings Bank was chartered and renamed Consolidated Bank and Trust Company, which is now the nation’s oldest surviving African-American bank. After years of decline, the downtown area experienced a boom from 1963 to 1965, which resulted in the construction of over 700 new buildings.
Today, Richmond is a modern city with advanced infrastructure and amenities, world-class hotels and restaurants, a dynamic cultural scene, and an abundance of recreational and entertainment opportunities. It also continues to preserve and celebrate its rich historical heritage.
Geography of Richmond
Richmond is about 100 miles east of Lynchburg, Virginia, and 90 miles south of Washington, D.C. It covers a total area of 62.7 square miles, of which 60 square miles are land and 2.7 miles are water. The city is situated at James River’s highest navigable point in the Piedmont Region of Virginia. Characterized by low, rolling hills, the Piedmont Region lies between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the low, flat Tidewater region. The main water bodies in the region are the James River, the Appomattox River, and the Chickahominy River.
Climate in Richmond
Average temperatures in Richmond vary dramatically over the course of a year. The city experiences very hot summers and extremely cold winters but feels pleasant at other times of the year. The warmest time of the year is usually mid-July, when highs are often around 93 degrees Fahrenheit, and temperatures rarely fall below 69 degrees at night. Late January is typically the coldest time, with temperatures dipping to lows of about 3 degrees below zero. The best time for outdoor activities in Richmond is from early April to mid-June, when average temperatures range from the low 60s to the mid-70s.
In Richmond, September is the month with the lowest chance of precipitation, followed by November and February. For instance, there are usually no days of precipitation in the third week of September. By contrast, the highest chance of precipitation occurs from early to mid-March, with about three days of significant precipitation on the week of Mar. 12. Typically, the city gets the largest amount of snowfall from early January to late February.
Richmond has a number of slightly muggy months and experiences moderate humidity for the remainder of the year. The most humid month is September (62.1 percent), while the least humid is February (44.2 percent). The city is usually calm. March is the windiest month, with an average wind speed of about 7.4 knots, which is regarded as a gentle breeze.
Living in Richmond
Although the median age of its residents is 33.4 years old, Richmond has an energetic vibe. This is especially so from September to May, when the city is filled with college students. Over a third of the residents in Richmond who are 25 or older have at least a bachelor’s degree. Regardless of their backgrounds, the locals are generally welcoming to new residents, so you can expect to have an easy time settling down. Southern hospitality still exists in Richmond, especially among the older residents.
Additionally, Richmond provides the ideal environment for healthy living. It has many advanced medical facilities, specialist hospitals and clinics, and assisted living communities to meet the health care needs of people of all ages. Also, it’s home to many parks, trails, and natural spots, which offer virtually endless opportunities for physical activities. About 78 percent of adult residents participate in physical activities in their leisure time, 70 percent have a healthy weight, and 76 percent are nonsmokers. The city also promotes healthy eating with its wide availability of health-food stores and locally sourced restaurants.
In addition, Richmond is a great place to raise a family. With numerous public and private schools to choose from, you’ll have no trouble finding a school that perfectly suits your children’s needs and preferences. In addition, the city has a wide array of family-friendly attractions to provide entertainment and education for your family, from museums to amusement parks. The vibrant art scene and numerous cultural events can contribute to your children’s creative development.
Transportation in Richmond
Getting around Richmond is a breeze, thanks to its excellent public transportation system. For travel within the city and its surrounding area, you can use the local transit bus service provided by the Greater Richmond Transit Company. This bus company operates an extensive network of routes in Richmond and the suburban counties of Henrico and Chesterfield.
Richmond is also a major hub for Greyhound Lines. From its terminal on North Boulevard, the intercity bus company conducts multiple runs per day to Washington, D.C., Raleigh, New York City, and elsewhere. A direct trip to New York City takes about 7.5 hours. Discount carrier Megabus offers curbside service just outside Main Street Station. It has direct bus services to Washington, D.C., Charlotte, Hampton Roads, Raleigh, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.
If you’re planning to drive your own vehicle, you’ll be glad to know that Richmond is one of the least congested major cities in the country. The average one-way commute in the city takes 21.9 minutes, which is significantly lower than the national average of 26.4 minutes. Richmond also benefits from its excellent position within Virginia’s transportation network. It lies at the intersection between the north-south Interstate 95 and the east-west Interstate 64. Interstate 95 runs northward from the Virginia-North Carolina border to Washington, D.C., while Interstate 64 travels westward from Chesapeake, Virginia, to Wentzville, Montana.
Additionally, the Richmond area has two railroad stations offering regular Amtrak passenger-train services to Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia. The suburban Staples Mill Road Station is the busiest railroad station around Richmond. Situated on a major freight line, it provides train services to many destinations south of the city, including Raleigh, Durham, Savannah, Williamsburg, and Florida. The historic Main Street Station is the only railway station located within city limits. Besides Amtrak services, it only has trains to Newport News and Williamsburg.
The Richmond International Airport is the main airport serving the Greater Richmond area. Located about 7 miles southeast of Richmond in Sandston, it’s the third-busiest airport in Virginia, with a yearly passenger volume of about 4 million. A variety of airlines offer primarily domestic flights to destinations in the South, Midwest, and Northeast, as well as connecting flights to major airports for international travel. Top airlines at this airport include Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines, and JetBlue Airlines.
Education in Richmond
The public school district in Richmond operates 38 elementary schools and eight high schools. Some of the highly rated public schools in the city include Open High School, Richmond Community High School, J.E.B Stuart Elementary School, Mary Munford Elementary School, and George W. Carver Elementary School. The city is also home to the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies, which was voted one of the best high schools in the country. In addition, 36 private schools serve the city of Richmond.
The area around Richmond also has many institutions of higher learning, including Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Richmond, Virginia College, Virginia Union University, and South University, Richmond. Additionally, you’ll find a number of community colleges, technical schools, and vocational colleges in the city.
Dining in Richmond
In recent years, Richmond has established itself as one of the top foodie destinations in Virginia. It has numerous restaurants offering a wide array of culinary options, from authentic Southern comfort food to creative fusion fare. The following is a list of the top restaurants in Richmond:
The Roosevelt is one of the best places to experience local cuisine in Richmond. Run by three-time James Beard award nominee Chef Lee Gregory, this restaurant serves delectable Southern dishes with a creative twist and great attention to detail. Some of the dishes you should try include the chicken-liver toast, braised pork cheeks with cheese grits, Brussels sprouts with red wine jus, and crudo with chorizo vinaigrette, puffed rice, and pickled jalapenos. For brunch, order the omelet with bacon hollandaise. Set in a historic building, this restaurant offers a memorable dining experience with its charming atmosphere and antique furnishings.
Saison features a unique combination of Central American flavors and Southern influences. It’s a place where oxtail sopes co-exist harmoniously with cast-iron cornbread. On the menu, you’ll find seasonally inspired dishes such as red lentil hummus, chicken liver mousse, scallop crudo, autumn olive pork, smoked polyface chicken, and coconut rice congee. Saison also has an interesting selection of cocktails. If you’re there in spring or summer, try the Oaxacan old fashioned, which consists of tequila, mescal, maple syrup, and orange bitters.
If you’re in an adventurous mood, head to Lehja for an exotic dining experience. This restaurant gives you the rare opportunity to discover the culinary riches of different regions of India. For an ideal meal, order the coconut curry scallops, garlic naan, Lahori lamb shank, and duck Pondicherry. If you’re there for brunch, you can enjoy a good-value three-course meal that features a witty take on chicken and waffles. Additionally, Lehja is one of the few places in the country that offers wines from India.
Located right in the middle of bustling Carytown, you’ll find a tranquil oasis where you can indulge in a healthy, refreshing meal. Sen Organic serves innovative Franco-Indochinese dishes in an airy, relaxing setting. It features a menu that adapts to different appetites and allergies without compromising art, flavor, or texture. Go there with a group of friends and order a variety of dishes, such as mushroom trigon, salted duck egg, Buddha bowl salad, calamari saute, beet quail pot, and gluten-free pho. Make sure you try the natural ca phe sua da phin Vietnam, a slow-motion pour-over coffee that’s simply delectable.
Southbound on Stony Point Road is a family-friendly restaurant that offers creative Southern cuisine, distinctive wines, delicious cocktails, and friendly service. Helmed by Chef Lee Gregory and Chef Joe Sparatta, Southbound focuses on using locally sourced ingredients to create healthy, flavorful dishes. Some of the recommended items on the menu include the smoked chicken wings, house-made basket, orecchiette with butter-poached shrimps and preserved lemon, and candy-bar dessert. Also, don’t miss the restaurant’s famous soft pretzels and sticky buns.
Top Attractions in Richmond
As one of the top tourist destinations in Virginia, Richmond offers a wide array of attractions for people of all ages. Whether you’re interested in history, art, outdoor adventure, or family activities, you won’t run out of things to do in this city. Check out the most popular attractions in Richmond.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Located on North Boulevard, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is home to one of the most impressive art collections in the United States. It features many galleries showcasing a wide selection of artwork from all over the world and hosts many temporary exhibitions during the year.
In the gallery of early-20th-century European art, you’ll find the works of famous French artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Georges Braque. The museum also has notable collections of French Impressionist works, German Expressionism art, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, modern and contemporary American art, African and South Asian art, and Himalayan art. You’ll also find extensive collections of English silver and Faberge jeweled works.
Built in the late 1890s, Maymont served as the residence of James and Sallie Dooley. Today, it’s open to the public for tours, giving visitors an opportunity to discover the life of a prominent family in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The estate comprises a mansion with opulent furnishings and decorations, a 100-acre park, an arboretum, several gardens, a children’s petting farm, and a collection of carriages. The mansion also features interesting objects the Dooleys collected during their travels around the world. It stands as a great example of the lavish mansions of the Gilded Age.
Church Hill Historic District
If you want to know what Richmond was like in the years preceding the American Civil War, take a stroll on the streets east of the Virginia State Capitol. Known as Church Hill Historic District, this area is home to the oldest church in the city, St. John’s Church. Built in 1741, the church is the place where Patrick Henry delivered his inspiring “Give me liberty or give me death” speech during the Second Virginia Convention.
Another noteworthy building in the district is the Old Stone House, the oldest building in Richmond. Constructed in 1737, it now serves as the Edgar Allen Poe Museum, which contains the poet’s original manuscripts and personal belongings. Other interesting sites you should visit include Adams Double House, Elmira Shelton House, Woodward House, Chimborazo Park, and Libby Hill Park.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden was voted the fourth-best public garden in the country by USA Today. Encompassing 50 acres of a historic property, this garden consists of over a dozen themed gardens, including the Rose Garden, Cherry Tree Walk, Asian Valley, and the Children’s Garden. The Rose Garden features over 70 different varieties of roses, while the Children’s Garden offers activities such as digging, climbing, and water play. Additionally, a 63-foot-high conservatory houses a wide variety of plants, such as palms, cacti, and orchids, as well as seasonal exhibits such as butterfly exhibitions, model train displays, and holiday lights.
In the late 18th century, George Washington urged the Virginia General Assembly to construct the James River-Kanawha Canal to connect harbors on the East Coast to markets in the Mid-Atlantic. Along the canal, you’ll find a 1.25-mile paved promenade called Canal Walk, which features historic sites, statues, and markers relating Richmond’s four-century story. You can also tour the American Civil War Center, take a 40-minute historical cruise, or catch an outdoor concert on Brown’s Island.
Annual Events in Richmond
Every year, Richmond hosts a wide range of events to celebrate its rich and diverse cultural heritage. Besides putting you in a festive mood, these events also provide excellent socializing, entertainment, and shopping opportunities. Make sure you attend the following events when you’re in Richmond.
Richmond Folk Festival
Richmond Folk Festival is one of the largest and most anticipated annual events in Virginia. It’s also the largest folk festival in the country. Held in October on Brown’s Island, this event attracts more than 200,000 people to downtown Richmond for three days of fun and entertainment. It celebrates the richness and diversity of American culture through music and dance performances, storytelling, traditional crafts, and food.
Musicians from near and far will perform over 30 different genres of music on seven stages. In addition, you can shop for handcrafted items at the marketplace, try food from around the world, and watch a movie or documentary at the film festival. Children can enjoy crafts and games at Camp Folk Fest!, earn a Richmond Folk Festival Junior Ranger patch, and print their own national park passes.
Richmond Jazz Festival
If you like jazz music, you shouldn’t miss the Richmond Jazz Festival. This event takes place at Maymont in August and attracts more than 10,000 attendees every year. It’s renowned for its vibrant atmosphere and amazing lineup of accomplished jazz, blues, and funk musicians. You can expect to see some of the most iconic and talented artists in action. In its previous editions, the festival featured famous musicians such as Gladys Knight, The O’Jays, Brian McKnight, Maze, and Warren G. In conjunction with the main event, several venues in the city will be holding smaller versions of the festival.
Held on Broad Street in June, Broad Appetit gives you an opportunity to try dishes from Richmond’s best restaurants and eateries at affordable prices. More than 60 restaurants, including fine dining, trendy, and family-friendly establishments, offer small plates of their signature dishes at $3 per sample. Vendors sell fresh local produce, meats, cheeses, artisan breads, confections, and herbs. Besides great food, you can also enjoy products from some of the state’s finest wineries and breweries, as well as culinary theatrics and live music performances.
Richmond Greek Festival
Started in 1975, the Richmond Greek Festival is one of the oldest outdoor cultural festivals in Richmond. This event takes place at the Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in late May or early June. There are plenty of things to do at this festival, including trying delicious Greek specialties, enjoying music from different parts of Greece, watching talented dance troupes perform, touring the beautiful sanctuary in the church, and shopping for jewelry, art works, and other items at the international bazaar. You can learn a lot about Greek culture by attending this festival.
The Grand Illumination is the event that kicks off the holiday season in Richmond. Held in late November, it begins with a countdown at 5:59 p.m. and transforms the downtown area into a spectacle of lights at exactly 6 p.m. Other than white lights lining the skyscrapers, you’ll also see a brightly decorated giant tree and dozens of light-adorned reindeer at James Center. The lights look amazing from across the river, so make sure you check out the view from the south side of the city. Witnessing the Grand Illumination is a surefire way to get into the holiday spirit.
Best Neighborhoods in Richmond
Your experience of Richmond may vary depending on your choice of neighborhood. The city has many neighborhoods that may differ significantly in terms of housing options, amenities, recreation and entertainment, and vibe. The following areas are widely regarded as some of the best neighborhoods in Richmond.
Also known as the Wall Street of Black America, Jackson Ward was a thriving African-American community after the Civil War and welcomed many famous personalities in the entertainment industry, including Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and Lena Horne. After undergoing extensive development in recent years, this area is emerging as one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Richmond. It’s located within walking distance to Broad Street, where you’ll find many art galleries, shops, coffee shops, and fantastic restaurants. In addition, it offers excellent schools and easy access to public transportation.
Westover Hills is one of the older residential areas in Richmond. Most of its homes were constructed before the 1940s, and they feature a variety of architectural styles. Despite its proximity to the downtown area, this neighborhood seems somewhat suburban because it has larger lots and more green spaces. There are many housing options for you to choose from, including single-family homes, condominiums, and converted apartments. Residents of Westover Hills get the best of both worlds: spacious homes and a thriving business district.
Three Corners was named after its triangular shape, which is defined by Broad Street, Boulevard, and Hermitage Road. It’s home to the Science Museum of Virginia and the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Rams football team. Recently, the area has been seeing a lot of new construction, including shops, restaurants, and entertainment spots, as well as the conversion of old warehouses and storefronts into lofts. Its residents have a wide range of amenities at their disposal and convenient access to public transportation.
Overlooking James River and Bell Isle, Oregon Hill is a great neighborhood for young families, single adults, and students, partly because of its historically low home prices and rental rates. It offers its residents an urban feel and easy access to stores, coffee shops, restaurants, and parks. There are many housing options in this neighborhood, from single-family homes and townhouses to condominiums and lofts.
Woodland Heights is one of the oldest residential areas along the trolley line. It’s known for its varied architectural styles, ranging from Queen Anne to American Four Squares. It’s a vibrant neighborhood that features a perfect blend of urban and suburban. You can get everything you need along the bustling Semmes Avenue and enjoy some quiet moments in tranquil parks and winding roads a few blocks away.
With its stable economy, advanced amenities, an abundance of attractions and activities, and friendly locals, Richmond is one of the best places to live in Virginia. If you’re looking for a reliable mover to help you transport your belongings to Richmond, don’t hesitate to get a free quote from us.