This Bustling City Is Actually An Outdoor Oasis

Most state capitals can boast of being home to ornate rotundas, but there's only one that can lay claim to class IV rapids. In fact, the whitewater known as Hollywood is only about a mile from Virginia's seat of state government.

With the help of the James River that runs through the heart of downtown Richmond, the historic city has become a hub for watersport enthusiasts from around the world. While watersports reign supreme, there are plenty of other outdoor activities to take advantage of in this metropolitan playground where al fresco adventures are easily found without leaving the city limits.

The best way to find out what Richmond has to offer in the outdoors department is to attend the city's annual Dominion Riverrock festival. Billed as the East Coast's premier outdoor sports and music festival, Dominion Riverrock brings together hard-core athletes who compete in everything from assault mountain bike races to mud runs, bouldering battles, slackline showdowns and of course, the obligatory kayak and SUP contests. The festival is put on by Sports Backers – a unique non-profit whose vision is to "transform greater Richmond into the most physically active community in the nation."

In addition to Dominion Riverrock, Sports Backers also hosts the Anthem Moonlight Ride where thousands of cyclists ride under the light of a full moon and the Richmond International Dragon Boat Festival that features teams of at least 21 paddlers racing in 40-ft long canoes.

Another international event, and perhaps the biggest sporting event that Richmond will see in decades, is the upcoming 2015 UCI Road World Championships. For nine days next May, the city will belong to the who's who in the cycling world as they compete in the cycling equivalent of the Olympics.

While Richmond hosts some extraordinary events and competitions, the outdoor active lifestyle is celebrated 365 days a year. Runners can get their daily fix by taking to the 6.2-mile Richmond Liberty Trail or exploring the 550-acre James River Park System. A pedestrian suspension bridge connects the Park's shoreline property with uninhabited Belle Isle where mountain bikers can practice challenging maneuvers on a recently constructed biking skills training course.

via Richmond Region Tourism

Another adrenaline-inducing educational experience comes courtesy of a unique partnership between Riverside Outfitters and True Timber Tree Service. True Timber's arborists lend their expertise to Riverside Outfitters' clientele who can unleash their inner monkey on canopy courses, limb walks, tree swings, rope bridges and more.

While the allure of tall trees attracts some of Riverside's clientele, most customers come to sign waivers that will get them wet. With the exception of a few winter months that are set aside for training instructors, Riverside runs guided rafting, kayaking and canoeing trips that give paddlers a different perspective on downtown Richmond.

The river is also popular with stand up paddle boarders and Richmond's Black Dog Paddle unites the SUP community with classes including SUP Fitness, SUP with Your Pup, SUPer Sisters and SUP yoga. Black Dog and Discover the James also offer eco-tours—an activity that makes perfect sense in the region that is home to one of the biggest and fastest-growing bald eagle populations in the U.S.

via Black Dog Paddle

With a population of more than one million people, Greater Richmond is a city in every sense of the word. Yet, it's easy to forget that you're in a metropolitan place when so many outdoors activities abound and all can be accessed without having to pay for a tank of gas. Richmond may be geographically located where I-95 meets I-64, but it's also safe to say it's at the intersection where urban meets outdoorsy.