RNA viruses are major threats to global society and mass outbreaks can cause long-lasting damage to international economies . RNA and related retro viruses represent a large and diverse family that contribute to the onset of human diseases such as AIDS; certain cancers like T cell lymphoma; severe acute respiratory illnesses as seen with COVID-19; and others . The hallmark of this viral family is the storage of genetic material in the form of RNA, and upon infecting host cells, their RNA genomes reprogram the cellular environment to favor productive viral replication . RNA is a multifunctional biomolecule that not only stores and transmits heritable information, but it also has the capacity to catalyze complex biochemical reactions . It is therefore no surprise that RNA viruses use this functional diversity to their advantage to sustain chronic or lifelong infections . Efforts to subvert RNA viruses therefore requires a deep understanding of the mechanisms by which these pathogens usurp cellular machinery . Here, we briefly summarize several experimental techniques that individually inform on key physicochemical features of viral RNA genomes and their interactions with proteins . Each of these techniques provide important vantage points to understand the complexities of virus-host interactions, but we attempt to make the case that by integrating these and similar methods, more vivid descriptions of how viruses reprogram the cellular environment emerges . These vivid descriptions should expedite the identification of novel therapeutic targets.