Virginia’s capital city charms tourists and residents alike—including families, young professionals, and families relocating to Richmond. If you’re considering living in the Capital of the South, here are a few pros and cons to consider before moving to Richmond!
Pros of Living in Richmond
Historic architecture, beautiful weather, tranquil green spaces, and a vibrant cultural scene make living in Richmond enjoyable. But residents especially appreciate its affordable cost of living, robust job market, and convenient geographic location. Check out these pros to moving to Richmond!
Pro: Thriving Job Market
Richmond is a hub for a diverse set of industry clusters, including finance, healthcare, biotechnology, manufacturing, advertising, and more. Richmond’s best hospital, VCU Medical Center, is also the city’s largest employer, with around 13,500 employees. Eight Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in Virginia’s capital, including Markel, Dominion Energy, CarMax, and Genworth Financial. Additionally, new employers are moving to Richmond or expanding their presence. Though unemployment rose during the pandemic, Richmond’s unemployment rate is trending downward, thanks in part to an increase of jobs in hospitality, education, warehousing, and more.
Pro: Near Major Metros
If you want the charm of a mid-sized city with access to big-city amenities, you’ll love Richmond’s geographic location. Just a few hours’ drive to the north, you’ll have access to major nearby metro areas like Washington, DC and Baltimore. A fantastic option for a day trip or weekend getaway is Virginia Beach, which is also less than two hours southeast along I-64. North Carolina’s capital city of Raleigh is only 2.5 hours to the south, and if you’re up for a slightly longer drive, you can experience the majesty of the Appalachian mountains with a road trip west. Plus, with Richmond International Airport, your variety of travel options is that much wider!
Pro: Fantastic Colleges
If you’re looking to advance your education or move up in your career, enroll in one of the many top-ranking colleges in Richmond. Earn your degree in one of more than 200 programs, including graphic design, finance, dental hygiene, mass communication, and urban affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University, the city’s largest public college. Study business management, biology, accounting, computer science, and more at the University of Richmond, one of the country’s best liberal arts colleges. Graduate with a degree in hospitality management, marketing, criminology, religious studies, social work, or another field from Virginia Union University, which ranks 39th among the nation’s HBCUs.
Pro: Troves of American History
Given that it was incorporated back in 1742 when the colonies were still under British rule, it’s no mystery why history-lovers flock to the many historic sites in Richmond. Visit St. John’s Episcopal Church, the famous site where Patrick Henry declared, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” in his iconic 1775 speech. Tour the Old Senate Chamber located in the Virginia State Capitol, which was home to the U.S. Senate in 1819 until it was given over to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1860. Explore original artifacts, art, performances, and films that reflect on one of our nation’s most pivotal historic periods at the American Civil War Museum. Take a self-guided walking tour through American history along the Richmond Slave Trail to honor and gain insight to the experiences and journeys of enslaved African people. Or get a glimpse into the life and mind of one of America’s iconic writers, Edgar Allan Poe, at the The Poe Museum.
Pro: Amazing Arts & Culture Scene
Thanks in part to the efforts of the Richmond Mural Project, it won’t take you long to discover that creativity runs in RVA’s bones. Around 150 murals painted by local and international artists can be found throughout downtown alone! Grab a few friends for an art walk through Richmond’s Arts District to peruse galleries, shops, restaurants, and bars on First Fridays. Soak in multicultural exhibits featuring the works of talented photographers, painters, and more at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Experience live music, demonstrations, art exhibits, and food that showcase the richly diverse cultures that call Richmond home during the Richmond Folk Festival, which draws thousands of people annually. Get tickets to see live performances from big names like Chaka Khan, Wale, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and others at the Richmond Jazz and Music Festival. Catch live music performances, independent films from international moviemakers, and engaging discussions with panelists at the Richmond International Film Festival.
Pro: Indoor & Outdoor Entertainment
Whether you like staying inside or exploring the great outdoors, there are plenty of fun things to do in Richmond. Check out the mini golf course, bowling alley, bars, and restaurants at the food and entertainment hall, The Park. Bring the whole family out for a day of interactive arts and crafts, carousel rides, hands-on learning exhibits like Hospital & Ambulance or Eyeplay, and more at the Children’s Museum of Richmond. Catch seasonal movies like Hocus Pocus and Practical Magic, reserve a theater for your own private movie party, or attend events like the Richmond International Film Festival or Environmental Film Festival at historic Byrd Theatre—which has been in near-continuous operation since 1928. Broaden your mind while exploring exhibits like Speed and Wild Kratts: Creature Power!, or catch a jaw-dropping science film or astronomy show on the 76-foot screen found in The Dome at the Science Museum of Virginia. Find outdoor fun at the James River—an important part of RVA’s landscape that also provides opportunities to go canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and more. Take a scenic hike or bike over 50 miles along the Virginia Capital Trail. Explore natural scenery along the hiking trails, go tubing with friends, swim in the quarry, or catch some rays while sunbathing on Belle Isle in the James River. Or go for a calming stroll through tree-lined trails and the azalea garden, set up a picnic, or play a tennis match with your friends at Huguenot Park.
Pro: Tasty Local Dining Options
As a southern city near the coast, you’ll find great local restaurants in Richmond that range from good old-fashioned comfort food to delicious, fresh seafood and everything in between. Stop in for a Southern-style brunch or lunch of the Chicken & Waffles, Cast Iron Seared Salmon, or Burnt Ends Brisket Bowl at LUNCH.SUPPER! Savor home-cooked flavors like the Grilled Eggplant & Brie Sandwich, Devil’s Shrimp & Grits, or Scrambled Eggs & Lobster at Millie’s Diner. For a heavy metal dining experience like nothing you’ve ever encountered, try the Death to Disco Fries, The Baconecutioner Burger, or the GWARBQ Dog at GWARbar. Get a taste of classic Texas barbecue with a Southern flair when you try the Chopped Brisket Sandwich, Smoked Seitan, or the Jalapeño Mac & Cheese from ZZQ Texas Craft Barbecue. Sample authentic Greek comfort foods like the Artichoke Moussaka, Souvlaki, or Pastichiatho at Stella’s. Or enjoy rustic Italian-American pasta and seafood dishes like Puttanesca with Anchovy, Shrimp Fra Diavolo, or Squid Genovese at Edo’s Squid.
Pro: Craft Beer in Richmond
With over 40 breweries in Richmond, RVA is no stranger to craft beers! The beating heart of Richmond’s brewery scene is Scott’s Addition, a district spanning only a few blocks but containing eight breweries on its own. In your journey along the Richmond Beer Trail, be sure to stop for an English Pub Ale, Cosmic Pale Ale, or an Ardent Pilsner at Ardent Craft Ales. Embrace your inner beer connoisseur as you sample the 7 Melons, Czech Pilsner, or Reckless Good Hazy IPA from Isley Brewing Company. Sample rare and curious brews like the Helles Frozen Over Munich Helles Lager, Lamplighter American Amber Ale, or the KRUSH Blueberry Spiked Seltzer from Strangeways Brewing. Indulge in craft beer series like the Virginia Roots, Gingerbread Stout, Fightin’ Hokies, and Suncrush from Hardywood Park Craft Brewery.
Pro: Fun Nightlife Scene
Looking for a fun night out on the town? Richmond’s nightlife provides plenty of spots to try! Get a breathtaking view of RVA’s cityscape over upscale food and drinks at the Kabana Rooftop lounge. Play more than 80 classic arcade games like DigDug, Galaga, Ms. Pac-Man, and pinball while enjoying a rotating selection of local and national wines, craft beers, and ciders at The Circuit Arcade Bar. Catch live performances from musicians, comedians, and podcasters like Switchfoot, Todrick Hall, Pauley Shore, and the cast of Welcome to Night Vale at historic concert venue The National. See a stunning drag performance or dance the night away to a DJ-curated club mix at Godfreys, home of the famous Drag Brunch in RVA! Enjoy classic pub fare with a Southern twist on the patio, belt out your favorite songs for karaoke, or strut your stuff while line dancing at Babes of Carytown. Or hang out with friends to enjoy drinks and live metal and punk bands amid kitschy horror decor found at Wonderland.
Cons of Living in Richmond
If you’re relocating to Richmond, you should be aware of some important things. Here are five cons to living in Richmond.
Con: Car Access Needed
Navigating the city is easiest by car. Many roadways are in need of maintenance, and though the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) does provide public transportation to residents, its service area isn’t as wide as a larger city’s transit system, and the schedules can be irregular. The good news is that most of the things to do in Richmond are located within a 20- to 30-minute drive! Just be aware of the toll roads and bridges, especially those along the James River.
Con: Expensive Local Higher Education
Though there are plenty of quality schools in Richmond, tuition rates are above the national average. This is in part due to the prevalence of private colleges in Richmond, including the University of Richmond and Virginia Union University. However, bear in mind that financial aid is available to students in order to help offset the cost of tuition, and that the high-quality programs offered at these institutions have earned them a spot among the best colleges in Richmond!
Con: Frequent Seasonal Swings
Summer and winter temperatures in Richmond can get intense for those who are used to milder seasons. Summers are typically humid, and temps can reach above 90°F, while winters can get below freezing with an annual average of 11 inches of snow. Keep in mind, however, that Richmond is sunnier than the nation at large, with an average of 210 sunny days. On the other hand, spring and fall can see lots of rain, which helps to keep the city lush and green. Despite the extremes of hot and cold, Richmond’s weather definitely lets you feel all four seasons, with plenty of activities to do in each one!
Con: Intense Allergy Season
Of course, seasonal allergies are a common experience, but with the city’s seasonal swings and its proximity to the Chesapeake Bay combined with increasingly warm temperatures, trees and flowers bloom earlier and earlier in Richmond. Though this does help make spring a beautiful time to be outdoors, early blooms contribute to increased pollen count and extended allergy seasons. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) calls Richmond one of the country’s top “Allergy Capitals”, ranking it among the most challenging places to live with allergies. Luckily, Richmond also has an above-average number of allergy and immunology specialists, with 24 allergists in RVA alone!
Con: Nuclear Power Plants Near Residents
Close proximity to nuclear power plants give some people pause, with concerns they may be unsafe during a natural disaster or that living near these plants can have long-term effects due to exposure to low levels of radiation. But no need to worry! Nuclear power is generally considered safe and clean, and heavy regulation means the risk of accidents is extremely low. The two power plants located in the Louisa and Surry counties have safely provided the bulk of electrical power to Richmond and Northern Virginia for 40 years, as well as providing many nuclear jobs in Richmond.
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This post was originally published on 06/15/2020, and last revised on 10/23/2023 with updated information.