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The Great Outdoors

Richmond isn’t called the River City for nothing. The James River was the centerpiece of Virginia’s capital as a shipping and transportation hub, but today it lies at the heart of Richmond’s vibrant outdoor culture. Kayakers and other thrill-seekers flock to the river to take advantage of its Class IV whitewater rapids, with excitement peaking at the boatercross and freestyle competitions of Dominion Riverrock, an annual festival celebrating Richmond’s wide array of outdoor recreation. It’s no wonder Outside magazine named Richmond as its 2012 “Best River Town.”

Beyond the riverbanks, climbers can enjoy scaling the walls that surround the old quarry pond on Belle Isle, while hiking enthusiasts can hit the dirt of the Buttermilk and North Bank trails, which provide surprising oases of unspoiled nature in the middle of the city. Maymont and Byrd parks offer acres of outside space for reading, pick-up games, and concerts, while tiny pocket parks dot the medians and alleys of the Fan. Those willing to stray further afield can take advantage of the close proximity of Shenandoah National Park only an hour away, and the even-closer Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield County.

Cycling has something of a cult following in Richmond, particularly as the city gears up to host the elite UCI World Road Cycling Championships in 2015. And the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K, held every spring on the city’s most historic road, attracts more than 36,000 participants. In 2014, organizers partnered with the new Collegiate Running Association to provide a competition space for collegiate runners, whether or not they’re affiliated with a university team.

Richmonders are enthusiastic supporters of their hometown teams. The minor league Flying Squirrels, a member of the Eastern League, have enjoyed record crowds for the past four years. The Richmond Kickers Soccer Club, an affiliate of DC United, has a steadily growing following for their games at City Stadium. And in 2013, the Washington Redskins started coming two hours south for their training camp.