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5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Richmond, Virginia

By Tom Nicholas

June 3, 2014

When I travel the country to recruit students, I’m always intrigued to hear how people think of our home city of Richmond. Some know nothing about it; others think of it for its history; most know it’s the capital of Virginia. But more and more each year, I’m hearing people refer to it with words like “cool,” “up-and-coming,” “hip,” and “fun.”

These days, Richmond is somewhat of a hidden gem – a place full of surprises for those unfamiliar. It’s a city rich in history, but a haven for hipsters. It’s got vibrant neighborhoods and a killer restaurant scene right alongside pristine, rugged outdoors. It’s got the warmth of its southern heritage but increasingly marks the gateway between the Mid-Atlantic and the South, a center for business and innovation with a diverse populace and a strong creative class. It’s a city that’s small enough to know but big enough to matter. Here are just five reasons Richmond is an awesome place to go to college:

1. Richmond is the only city in the U.S. with Class IV rapids inside city limits.

The fall line of the James River passes right through downtown Richmond, making it the only urban setting for Class III and IV rapids in the United States. Richmond tends to attract large numbers of outdoors enthusiasts (our location halfway between Virginia Beach and the Blue Ridge Mountains doesn’t hurt, either). Each year we host one of the largest outdoor sports festivals in the U.S. and the fourth-largest 10k in the country; next year, the top cyclists in the world will come to Richmond for the 2015 Road World Championships. Plus, where else can you go rock climbing on the pylon of an antebellum railroad bridge?

2. Richmond’s history didn’t begin with the Civil War.

When most people think of Richmond’s history, they jump immediately to its tenure as capital of the Confederate States of America from 1861-1865. And Civil War history buffs can certainly get their fill here, especially right now as we observe the sesquicentennial (150-year anniversary) of the war and emancipation.

But Richmond’s history is much, much broader than that five-year span. Patrick Henry gave his “Liberty or Death” speech at St. John’s Church; Governor Thomas Jefferson designed the Virginia State Capitol; Chief Justice John Marshall weighed Marbury vs. Madison from his home on 9th Street; Edgar Allan Poe grew up, married, and first gained a national literary reputation here; and two U.S. presidents (Monroe and Taylor) are buried in Hollywood Cemetery. If history is your thing, Richmond’s breadth and depth will not disappoint.

3. Richmond is home to the largest Folk Festival in the nation.

The Richmond Folk Festival, held every October, is a celebration of global folk traditions. More than 200,000 people converge on Richmond to see musicians and artists from across the U.S. and more than 30 countries.

But you don’t have to wait for the autumn to get your culture fix; there’s always the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (one of the top five comprehensive art museums in the country), monthly First Fridays art walks in the downtown gallery district, a vibrant performing arts scene, and a myriad of other cultural festivals (like the RVA Street Art Festival and the largest French Film Festival this side of the Atlantic) held throughout the year.

4. All those Geico commercials you laugh at? They were created in Richmond.

The Martin Agency, a marketing firm whose clients also include Hanes, FreeCreditReport.com, and Oreo, is headquartered here and has been dreaming up Geico’s commercials since the caveman days. Moreover, Richmond serves as headquarters to six Fortune 500 companies, six Fortune 1000 companies, and one of the nation’s twelve Federal Reserve Banks. Throw in the seat of government for the 12th-most-populous U.S. state and one of the largest legal sectors in the Mid-Atlantic, and you’ve got a dynamic center of business, government, and law with a breadth of employment options. Internships, anybody?

5. Richmond was named one of Frommers’ Top Destinations for 2014 – in the world.

The city’s historical significance, architecture, and dining scene helped earn Richmond its place on the list, right alongside Berlin, Rio, and the entirety of Scotland. Indeed, Richmond’s restaurant scene has moved increasingly into the national spotlight in recent years; from farm-to-table to food trucks, from classic southern comfort cooking to some of the best Vietnamese food in the country, you’ll never get tired of eating in Richmond.

And Frommers’ closing sentiment is perhaps the most apt description of today’s Richmond, Virginia, you’ll find anywhere: “While you weren’t looking, Richmond got cool.”

Tags: Richmond - the City Why Richmond?

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Tom NicholasTom Nicholas
Senior Assistant Director of Admission 


A Richmond alumnus (Class of 2007), Tom has been working and blogging for the Office of Admission since he graduated. He loves his alma mater and the city that shares its name.

Learn more about Tom


Beth Anne SpachtBeth Anne Spacht
Assistant Director of Admission


Beth Anne was a double major at Richmond (English and Latin American & Iberian Studies) and now enjoys helping prospective students discover the best of her alma mater.

Learn more about Beth Anne

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