The old school guide to dating in Richmond

by | Jan 19, 2016 | POLITICS

So, remember how up until like five years ago people met each other people face to face to get to know one another? Well guess what? You can still do that!

So, remember how up until like five years ago people met each other people face to face to get to know one another? Well guess what? You can still do that! I know it sounds crazy, and you’re probably thinking who can afford to get to know someone without Googling them first? But, bear with me while I offer you some tips on how to meet real people and form real connections in Richmond, Virginia (or any city) without using online dating sites.

If you’re like me you’ve probably already tried online dating sites long enough to realize that it’s really only useful for those looking to hook up, or those who have just given up. Those of us who fall in between and haven’t lost hope in real romance struggle to find what we want from the virtual world. What we fail to realize though is that everything we want in a real relationship can’t be found with the swipe of a finger or by setting certain search criteria. It has to be built from scratch. Thing is, most of us have forgotten totally how to do that by now. Just as Google Maps has ruined our navigational skills, online dating has ruined many of our relationship skills.

Go Old School

If you think you can find a short cut to love, and that he or she is going to be everything their profile said they were with no catches- well, then you may have written Rihanna’s We Found Love (In a Hopeless Place). The rest of us, however, are just going to have to face the fact that love takes time. It’s the time and energy and sacrifice that online dating circumvents; which is what makes it so appealing. Whereas, in reality it’s those things that make finding real love truly special. It’s also probably the lack of a thousand other people trying to out peacock each other that makes meeting someone in person much more advantageous in my opinion.

Think about all the great loves you’ve had, or all the stories about love and romance you heard from others growing up. Many of those probably centered on a first meeting—this unknown, unplanned event, or this encounter with an unfamiliar person—and how years later it led to this beautiful thing. But, how asks the millennial? How can you fall in love with someone without first knowing what religion they are, or what their ideal first date is, or what bands they like? That’s the beauty of meeting someone in the real world. You fall in love with them, not their profile.

The Double Ds

So, to start our journey down memory lane and relearn how and where to meet people in real life, let’s begin with the double Ds: dogs and dancing.

Dogs are a perfect way to meet new people because they provide a topic of conversation, and an excuse to go out where other people may be with their dogs as well. If you’re really smart, you even teach your dog a couple of cool tricks beforehand to stand out. Just always be aware enough to realize when someone is only interested in your dog (which is the majority of the time). But, if they ask for your name or introduce themselves or stay a while—then game on! Oh, and I always recommend introducing yourself anyways IF someone comes up to you. They could be interested but not have the time to stay and talk.

Great places to take your dog in Richmond: all the city parks and dog parks, farmer’s markets (I claim South of the James), coffee shops (Captain Buzzy’s Beanery, Lamplighter, Brewer’s Cafe), most of the breweries, pet stores (duh), Ellwood Thompson’s, Union Market, etc. The Richmond SPCA has a great list on their site.

Disclaimer: Most of these places only allow dogs outside in case you’re the kind of idiot who would go there and then complain about them complying with the law.

Now for the other D: dancing. Dancing is basically the art of letting go of all inhibitions and just enjoying the moment and the music. It is probably the best way to meet someone, but realistically also the hardest for most. For many, like my younger self, I’m sure the idea of dancing in front of and with random strangers is probably terrifying. However, that’s also what makes it so electric. If you can learn to shut your mind off and allow yourself to just let go and get lost in the moment, two people dancing can become one. That’s a powerful thing. Not to mention, the more you get out there, the more confidence you will have and the more partners you will attract. And if you suck, then that’s ok too because then you at least have the start of a good story and a good laugh. Guys, please remember to always allow the women to dictate the spacing and touch.

Warning: As much as I enjoyed the shit out of my bump-n-grind days we are going to forgo the Sisqo – Thong Song-esque dancing venues for various reasons.

Great places to dance in Richmond: Havana 59 (offers Salsa lessons), Lewis Ginter Recreation Association (Contra dancing 2nd and 4th Saturdays and Square dancing via RVA Squares), The Dance Space (Swing dancing), Balliceaux (live music and DJ’s playing funk, soul, etc.).

The Double Gs

So, if you’re the kind of person who would leave their dog outside all of January or dances like Will Ferrell’s character in A Night at the Roxbury, we’re just gonna skip to the double Gs: groups and gyms.

I want to start with gyms because I want everybody to know that I don’t mean all gyms, and I definitely don’t mean it’s appropriate to just go to a gym and be the creepy person checking other people out all the time (especially if it’s within your own locker room). However, if the gym is more of a group thing where you are working out with the same people then maybe—maybe—it’s ok to try and talk to someone. It needs to be a place though where you are a part of a team so to speak, and that allows the space for some conversation to take place. This excludes spin classes, yoga studios, and large gyms in general. Please don’t be the person who’s all up in someone else’s biz at a place they go to get away from it all. As a trainer myself, I would also say please don’t put your trainers in an awkward situation as well by hitting on them.

But let’s say you do go to a gym that sounds like it qualifies as an appropriate place to meet people. Then what? Well, start by checking their hand for rings (good idea regardless), and then after you feel like you’ve been there long enough for them to recognize you, introduce yourself and start with some small talk. Congratulate them on a good workout, or thank them for pushing you. Also, see if you can figure out a way to truly know whether or not they are single without being obvious. Listening for the word “we” is always a pretty good idea. Regardless, you should approach anyone in any situation where you’d be happy just being their friend if nothing else. Don’t try and force love to happen. Get to know someone first, and then see what happens naturally. When in doubt, don’t.

Gyms that might qualify in Richmond: Cross Fit gyms, boot camp (Seal Team), martial arts, and that’s about it.

Lastly, (and I would say gyms should be a last avenue to venture down) groups are another decent, yet tricky place to meet people. Really all the same rules apply to groups as it does with gyms. Lots of groups, especially support groups, are seen as a safe place by the people that go to them. However, groups can also be a place where you have a great deal of interaction with others, and can share a common interest with someone as well. Just don’t be the person who goes to the divorce support group looking to take advantage of vulnerable women or men. Find some groups that actually explore your own interests or allow you to try new things that sound interesting to you. Then just be a good, active member. Whatever the group is, do it because you like doing it not because you’re solely looking to meet someone. As such, I would recommend avoiding singles groups for many of the same reasons I would argue that you should avoid online dating. It just creates expectations before allowing things to take shape on their own.

Groups and where to find them in Richmond:, local newspaper/magazines, running groups (breweries, RRRC, etc.), volunteer groups (too many to mention, just search for a cause), churches, etc.


Whatever alphabet letter you choose to use in your NONline dating world, just remember to follow the Golden Rule and be kind and respectful towards others. Don’t get offended if someone else doesn’t want to get to know you. And don’t be the person who ruins a cool place for everyone else by being weird. Keep in mind that people are just going to these places and doing these activities without previously thinking about who they might meet more than likely. So, do these things because you see it as a continuation of your own personal interests and maybe you’ll meet someone along the way to share in them down the road.

Amy David

Amy David

Amy David was the Web Editor for from May 2015 until September 2018. She covered craft beer, food, music, art and more. She's been a journalist since 2010 and attended Radford University. She enjoys dogs, beer, tacos, and Bob's Burgers references.

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