The Collegian
Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Broke and bored: How to have fun in Richmond without paying a cent

A statue of Cleopatra is located in the free section of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
A statue of Cleopatra is located in the free section of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Most college students seem to have two things in common: a constant state of stress and an empty bank account.

Students at the University of Richmond are no exception to this. In the brief moments where school is not the priority, students find themselves searching for economical activities to do in the city. Thankfully, Richmond is a college student’s heaven. There are so many free activities to do here, it’s impossible to list them all. We have compiled a short list of activities to do in the city that will not require you to open your wallet.

James River

River trips are always a popular study break for UR students. The James River is such an integral part of the city, and yet it is easy to forget its beauty. 

Pony Pasture Rapids and Belle Isle, two parks on the James, are both a 15 to 20 minute drive from campus.

“I do love the river," senior Frances Gichner said. "It’s such a little escape from the city and campus."

Looking at the river, it seems impossible that it is in the middle of a city. Lush woods line the intimate beaches. For the most part, there is no sign of urbanity while gazing at the river. This makes it the ideal place for evening picnics on the water. There’s nothing like enjoying a good meal while watching the sunset.

“We always go and we always sunbathe, or get in the water," senior Paige Levine said. "It’s really fun, sometimes we’ll bring our homework out or sometimes we’ll just bring snacks from home and sit on the rocks and eat and talk.”

Pony Pasture Rapids and Belle Isle are the perfect places to leave the fast-paced college and city lifestyle behind. Instead of watching students rushing between classes, you can watch water rushing downstream.

Pipeline Walkway

Despite the popularity of river trips, many students don’t know about the James River Pipeline Walkway. Just a 20-minute drive from campus, this park perfectly merges Richmond’s natural and urban identities.

Roaring whitewater rushes just beneath a skinny walkway, which is just above the water level and is wide enough only to walk single file.

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Sophomore Valentina Zuluaga said she had been looking for activities to do with her family when they came to visit her in Richmond. On a recommendation from a friend who is a Richmond native, Zuluaga found the Pipeline Walkway.

“It was really nice, we didn’t have to spend any money to spend time with each other," Zuluaga said. "It just stretched on, so you could keep walking."

At the end of the walkway, there is something unexpected. A plethora of murals greets explorers once they step off the walkway. Although it is just a small pocket of the massive amount of street art in Richmond, it is still a nice surprise.

“There was one that was a bull's-eye and a lot of mannequins sticking out of them like they were darts, and I thought that was cool," Zuluaga said. "It's a nice part of the town that I normally don’t get to go to."

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Another current favorite spot for UR students and locals alike is the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Although there are exhibits that require a VMFA membership pass (student year-long memberships are $10), most exhibits are free to view.

“I can’t really talk about Richmond without talking about the VMFA," sophomore Noah Campbell said. "It’s one of my all-time favorite locations."

One of the perks of art museums, and the VMFA specifically, is that patrons can experience a whole new worldview without leaving the comfort of their hometown. Currently, the VMFA has exhibitions ranging from early 20th-century European art to Japanese landscape prints by Kawase Hasui. 

“One of my favorite memories from last year was going with my now-roommate Patrick to the African masks exhibit," Campbell said. "You just get a lot of culture there that’s really hard to get on a small campus."

Although it is not completely free, the VMFA has a happy hour every Friday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. However, for those looking to not spend money or for those who are under 21, the event is free.

"Anyone can go, and you can sit on the grass and see all the cool sculptures that they have in the garden,” Levine said.


Almost every UR student is familiar with Carytown. Only a five-minute drive from campus, the singular street is constantly bustling with small shops, delicious restaurants and unforgettable personalities.

“Going to Carytown and just people watching is so much fun," Campbell said. "On one hand, you have the hipsters from VCU come around, you have the rough punk crowd, which is still very much alive in Richmond."

Richmond, as a city, is full of interesting personalities. If you watch for long enough, you’re sure to see a person whom you’ll never forget.

“Every now and then you’ll get the rare chance to spot the lady with two purple dogs," Campbell said. "She’s a curator at the VMFA actually, and she just strolls around. She’s got these two dogs that she’s painted purple, and she loves to talk. So if you ever have an hour, she’s there."

Richmond is a college student’s heaven. The city is full of things to explore. With the help of a car (or a ride-sharing app) and an empty wallet, fun can be found outside of the confines of UR’s campus.

Contact lifestyle writer Susanna Getis at

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