Head to Head Series: DMV vs RVA

My name is Faith Arata and I am a NOVA native, and a junior at Virginia Commonwealth University. Over the past few years I’ve been able to make RVA my home, and have seen a lot of similarities between RVA and the DMV.

Almost a third of the VCU students I’ve met also come from NOVA, but for those unfamiliar with the terminology, NOVA is the Northern Virginia area, often including Loudoun, Prince William, and Fairfax counties. The DMV is a bit more expansive, containing D.C., some of Maryland, and most of Northern Virginia. A common consensus is that anywhere the metro reaches can be considered part of the DMV.

This head to head comparison will help the NOVA natives discover Richmond spots that feel like home. 


Tysons (McLean) vs Short Pump Town Center (Short Pump)

Short Pump is the largest mall in the Richmond area, and is similar to Tysons Corner Mall except a large portion of the mall is outdoors. The mall features many of the same upscale stores in addition to restaurants.

Tysons Corner
Short Pump Mall

Reston Town Center (Reston) vs Carytown (RVA)

Carytown is a long strip of small stores and restaurants, with similar energy to Reston Town Center. There are multiple good burger joints, some hole-in-the-wall local shops, and multiple cupcake shops.

Reston Town Center

Kennedy Center (D.C.) vs Altria Theater (RVA) 

The Altria Theater has recently put on Wicked, Dear Evan Hansen, Mean Girls, Les Mis, and Hamilton. The theater is right on VCU’s campus and is equally beautiful inside as it is outside. And as a college student, the discount for their rush tickets makes the theater more accessible on a college student budget.

Kennedy Center
Altria Theater

Udvar Hazy Center (Chantilly) vs Science Museum (RVA)

The Science Museum of Virginia is super interactive, and features live rat basketball in addition to exhibits that highlight the speed of various objects, space exploration, and more.

Udvar Hazy Center
Science Museum of Virginia

Six Flags (Woodmore, MD) vs Kings Dominion (Doswell)

Both amusement parks have a lot to offer, but Kings Dominion is home to Planet Snoopy, a section of the theme park that is devoted to Peanuts. It is also home to the Intimidator 305, one of seven “giga roller coasters” with an intense drop that I personally have blacked out on multiple times. (I also dropped my phone on this ride.)

Six Flags
Kings Dominion

National Gallery of Art (D.C.) vs Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (RVA)

The VMFA is free for everyone and features a gorgeous garden area with a fish pond. There’s plenty of space for picnicking and enjoying the sculpture garden as well as admiring the three levels of art inside. 

National Gallery
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Wolf Trap National Park (Vienna) vs Meadow Event Park (Doswell) 

The Meadow Event Park has featured artists including Darius Rucker, Lady Antebellum, Lindsey Stirling, and more. The wide open space is a great venue for family and friends.

Wolf Trap
Meadow Event Park

Herndon Festival (Herndon) vs VA State Fair (Doswell)

The VA State Fair is one of the best things I have ever been to. They have pig races, a petting zoo, carnival rides, a circus, otters, and other acts that vary by the year. The fairgrounds are right by Meadow Event Park and core memories are made at the Virginia State Fair.

Herndon Festival
Virginia State Fair

Great Falls Park (McLean, VA) vs Belle Isle (RVA)

Belle Isle may be smaller than Great Falls, but it still offers fun hikes, rapids for kayaking or whitewater rafting, and scenic views.

Great Falls Park
View from Belle Isle

Meadowlark Gardens (Vienna) vs Maymont Park (RVA)

Maymont Park is free to the public and features three main gardens and live animals. There is plenty of space for picnicking and taking photos. The gardens are gorgeous in the Spring and are only a few miles away from the VCU campus.

Meadowlark Gardens
Maymont Park

About the Author

Faith Arata author photo

Faith is a junior at VCU majoring in social work and homeland security and emergency preparedness. Faith currently works as a Resident Assistant and Tutor for VCU, and is involved in multiple student organizations on campus. She enjoys hiking at Belle Isle, visiting the game store in Carytown, and seeing shows at Altria. This photo was taken at Maymont Park.