Not trying to resurrect an old post but...the beauty of modern PCs are that they are fast, affordable and storage is cheap, cheap, cheap. I would just install a bunch of different distros, either on the same drive using partitions or even on separate drives. Test drive and see what you like!
I haven't done much work with VMs, so for me, what I propose is easy. If you have worked with VMs, that is going to be an even easier solution.
I have run SUSE, Arch, Puppy, Slackware, Mint, Ubuntu, etc...what keeps me coming back is the middle ground of Bodhi and frankly, an easy going community. I would love to start from scratch and don't like to dissuade others, but for me, Arch was a bit too stuffy and had too many rules in their community. There appeared to be this odd double standard...post to the forums as an expert or get the boot...soooo, what is forum for again? Oh, that's right, help on questions or topics to discuss that you don't fully grasp. This is just my experience - your mileage will vary! Once I am an "expert" I will try Arch again and likely enjoy it more. With other distros I didn't like their package managers, file manager, appearance, bloat, etc.
Anyway, play around - GRUB makes things easy these days! You can literally download, install, play with and delete a distro in as little as a few hours.
I hope this is some helps - good luck and have fun!