Besides the undying love of Civil War history and the military, Virginia also seems to be obsessed with having fun. Have you seen all their hiking trails, zoos, amusement parks, festivals, and amazing food? You can’t get better ham anyplace else in the nation, either. But where in this fascinating state can you find the most excitement?
That’s what the Movoto Real Estate Blog decided to find out. We crunched some numbers, looked at some pictures, reminisced about festivals and favorite restaurants, and came down to a top 10 list that’s sure to knock your socks off. That thrilling list is:
1. City of Charlottesville
2. City of Alexandria
3. Arlington CDP
4. Sterling CDP
5. City of Richmond
6. City of Fairfax
7. City of Fredericksburg
8. City of Harrisonburg
9. City of Norfolk
10. City of Winchester
Surprised? We sure were. Besides this writer’s temporary hometown of Lynchburg not making the list, we would never have expected Charlottesville to sit pretty at No. 1. But the numbers don’t lie, and we did this all completely by those numbers.
If you’re curious where big places like Virginia Beach and Roanoke ranked (they both did quite well), you can check the bottom or the article to see our full list. But we’ll bet you’re wondering how we got these zaney numbers, right? Well wonder no more, we’re about to go over all that in the very next section.
How We Created This Ranking
First, we made a list of the most populated places in the state, which was 46 places in this case. Then we looked to the 2010 U.S. Census and local business listings to get data for our excitement-measuring criteria:
- Nightlife per capita (bars, clubs, comedy, etc.)
- Live music venues per capita
- Active life options per capita (parks, outdoor activities, etc.)
- Arts and Entertainment per capita (movie theaters, festivals, galleries, theaters, etc.)
- Fast Food restaurants per capita (the fewer the better, because fast food is boring)
- Percentage of restaurants that are not fast food (the higher the better)
- Percentage of young residents ages 18 to 34 (the higher the better)
There were a few places that didn’t have all the data we needed, so those were left out of the list. If you don’t find your city here, that might be the reason.
Then, we ranked each place in each category from one to 46, with one being the best. We averaged each place’s scores into one Big Deal Score, and the place with the average score closest to one ended up being our most exciting spot.
Let’s take a peek at why Charlottesville, as well as each of our top 10, got to be the high ranking and thrilling places they are.
Some people might be downright shocked to find this smaller city at the top of our list, but let us assure you, there’s a good reason why it’s No. 1.
First of all, the young population here was the third highest on our list, thanks partially to The University of Virginia, and the nightlife ranked No. 4. Foodies will also be thrilled to learn that the non-fast food restaurants ranked No. 2 and feature establishments like Fleurie Restaurant.
Of course, for the history buffs there is no shortage of things to see. Monticello, The Rotunda, and more landmarks are just waiting to be discovered.
Much bigger than our No. 1 city, Alexandria had some exciting and solid numbers across the board. With the second highest population density, fifth best arts, and fourth ranked non-fast food restaurants, it’s easy to see why people of all sorts can find a bit of excitement in this area.
Beyond that, we did mention the awesome eateries, right? Well foodies, or just cheese lovers in general, have got to stop by Cheesetique for an amazing and cheese-tastic meal. Or if you prefer something a bit more eclectic, you can take in some medieval dinner theater (yes you read that correctly) at Medieval Madness. The sword fights are sure to wow you.
If you haven’t been to this place, you’re seriously missing out. The Pentagon, one of the most majestic cemeteries in the world, and more memorials than you can shake a stick at all call this place home. A huge amount of young people call this place home, too—about 37 percent of the population, in fact, so this spot has a pretty young sense of youth as well as a history.
As far as other numbers go, this place also had the third highest population density as well as the third best non-fast food restaurant ranking. Throw in some decent nightlife and you’ve got a place for history buffs, patriots, students, foodies, and partiers alike. If you find yourself bored here, you’re clearly doing something wrong.
This place may feel like a bit of an anomaly on our list, but let us assure you, there is excitement to be found here. Simply by the numbers, this city had the second best music venues per capita ranking as well as the third best nightlife and active life per capita rankings. Most of the other scores were around the top 10 as well.
Past all the math and stats, this place still has a whole lot to offer. With eateries like Mokomandy, golf courses, hiking trails, and more, there’s always something to do no matter what kind of person you are. It just goes to show that exciting things can come in small packages.
One of our bigger cities, Richmond put out some big numbers across the board. With good per capita music venues, arts, and a pretty young population, the excitement vibe here is apparent. Add in a few festivals, such as the very awesome Baconfest, and you’ve got one thrilling city.
If you’re fond of walking or jogging to have a good time, this place has got you covered. There are a wide assortment for parks, including the James River Park and the Maymont for the kids. If you’re less about exercise and more about partying, you might indulge in one of the No. 5 ranked nightlife venues, such as The National.
Though it might be the smallest place on our list, the fun is definitely a big deal in this little city. Just to start with, Fairfax had the most active life amenities per capita on our entire list, featuring spots like Bikram Yoga Fairfax and Lakeside park. It also had the No. 1 arts ranking, so if you’re looking for culture, you’ve definitely come to the right place.
Where this little place really thrived, however, was in its huge number of festivals. Books, crafts, chocolate, the Civil War, and art all have their special day planned out in Fairfax. There’s even a day set aside to celebrate parks and outdoor active life amenities, so get ready to lace up your jogging shoes.
From this writer’s personal experience, we can say without a doubt that this place has the most bars for its size that we’ve ever seen. The numbers back our opinion on that, too, as this place boasted the most nightlife and music venues per capita, as well as the second most arts. It’s a beautiful and historic little place to boot, if the bar scene isn’t quite your thing.
If you’re in town or are going to visit, you should really hit The Sunken Well Tavern. The food is wonderful, the service is friendly, and it’s easy to miss that place once you’re gone. Even though they don’t stay open super late, it’s easy to have an exciting time there.
The main reason Harrisonburg is on our list has to do with the youthful and lively population here. Over half the population was between the ages of 18 and 34, which made sense considering the place is home to several college, including James Madison University. Colleges do breed excitement, after all.
Of course, the perks this place had didn’t stop there. The non-fast food restaurants here ranked well, with such awesome places as the Local Chop & Grill House, as did the nightlife and music venues. There are festivals throughout the year, so really you just have to ask yourself what there isn’t to do?
This is definitely the biggest place in our top 10 with 242,803 thrill loving people. Both the nightlife and music venues ranked well here, and there were few fast food restaurants to bore those with a refined palate. In fact, the non-fast food restaurants here ranked No. 9 with such awesome options as Chartreuse Bistro and Cilantro Bangladeshi Bistro.
We might mention that this spot has some very amazing history and some pretty awesome attractions. From historical landmarks, to zoos, to minor league hockey, this city has an eclectic mix of anything you could ask for if you want something fun to do. There’s also a pretty cool military vibe here, considering they’re home to the nation’s largest naval station.
While this place is definitely smaller than No. 9 Norfolk, it still knows how to pack a punch in the excitement department. One thing Winchester has going for it is its annual Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, which has been going on for nearly 100 years. If you’d rather some more sporting excitement, this city is home to Shenandoah University, which offers tons of sports and school-sponsored events.
Just by the numbers, Winchester is actually pretty impressive. The nightlife, music venues, active life, and arts per capita all ranked in the top 10. It also had a fairly young population, with over a quarter of the people here being between the ages of 18 and 34. If you’re hungry for some refinement rather than youth, you can always hit the One Block West Restaurant to taste some really stellar pork belly.
Virginia Is For Excitement
Whether you’re in love with the history and culture, or into the amazingly fun attractions and sports teams, Virginia has a lot to offer. It’s a welcoming place and knows how to keep things interesting any time of year, especially in these top 10 places. It’s enough to make a former resident a bit nostalgic for the fun that can be had there. That’s to be expected, though, considering how thrilling and exciting Virginia can be.