Those of us who have been here forever — or what seems like forever — know that Richmond is a great place to live. Unfortunately, we tend to keep some of the best things about our city to ourselves, and for newcomers, the learning curve can be steep. We took an informal poll and asked some new residents (and new fans) of RVA what they wish someone had told them when they'd first arrived. Here are a few tips that might help you warm up to Richmond more quickly.
1) Traffic? What Traffic?
Everyone who moved to Richmond from a metropolitan area agreed — this isn't traffic. Yes, if you're going to Short Pump on a Saturday, or leaving downtown at rush hour, you're going to have company on your journey. Compared to other cities our size or larger, though, Richmond's highways are smooth sailing. New residents note that even at peak travel times, they get errands and business taken care of in a fraction of the time it used to take them in Atlanta, Northern Virginia and other former locales. We'll make a deal with you — enjoy the extra minutes as our gift to you, and when we complain about the terrible gridlock, try not to roll your eyes.
2) Richmond Is for Dog Lovers.
Unfortunately, though, we don't have a Canine Chamber of Commerce, so you might not find out how welcome your pooch is right away. We do, however, have several local dog parks — Barker Field in Byrd Park, Phideaux Field on Forest Hill Avenue, Ruff House in Chesterfield, and the Hanover and Church Hill dog parks (whose founders apparently stayed home on Pun Day). You're also welcome to bring furry friends shopping with you at Stony Point Fashion Park — buy them a treat at Three Dog Bakery while you're there, or just take advantage of the free water stations around the mall.
3) You'll Go Wild for Our Wildlife.
Between our city, county, state and national parks, you'll have plenty of green space to explore and enjoy if you're the outdoorsy type. New Richmonders noted the James River Park system as a favorite, adding that Texas Beach was the secret spot it took them the longest to discover. We also have a sublime pair of former estates turned showcases for local flora and fauna — Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and Maymont. For campers, Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield offers cabins, trails and an aquatic center, as well as summer camps for kids and live music events.
4) We've Got Personality.
Homogenous we're not. Every neighborhood, shopping district and county has its own flavor, style and vibe, so get to know us before you plunk down just anywhere. We heard regrets from transplants who settled in before exploring their options and found themselves in neighborhoods that just weren't the right fit for their needs. If you're buying, make sure your real estate agent knows what's important to you — walkability, proximity to food and shopping, and evening quiet are all easy to find in some spots, not so much in others. Some of the less discussed neighborhoods are the ones new residents wish they'd heard more about — Randolph/Maymont, Rosedale and Reedy Creek were all mentioned as "wish we'd known" neighborhoods.
5) There's a Lot More to Our History than the Civil War.
Of course it's the first thing you think of when you hear "Richmond history," but it's definitely not the only page in our book. Take a trip down the road to Henricus Historical Park and discover our Colonial past, or go back even further by exploring our American Indian history at a powwow (see virginiapowwow.com for a schedule of events). Artifacts and photos from throughout RVA's rich history are available for viewing at the Valentine Richmond History Center, the soon-to-be-expanded Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, and the Beth Ahabah Museum and Archives, devoted to preserving Richmond's Jewish history and heritage. You can also put together your own tour of lesser-known historical sites by using the wealth of local history books available at the Virginia Shop in the Library of Virginia (including several by our own Harry Kollatz. Jr.).
In addition to writing her monthly Parental Rites column, Anne Soffee is a Realtor at Small & Associates.