This is the only list you should be checking twice this holiday season–maybe three or four times, because there’s just so MUCH to do!
Spending an entire weekend with the family putting up holiday decorations is going to be a big waste of time, because there are so many things to do this season that you’ll never want to be home. Ever.
Don’t let the name fool you, looking around at Christmas lights can be a classy event! Prices vary, but the leading services found are from bioRide, James River Transportation, and James Limousine. Book with them ASAP!!
Whether it’s piling the entire family (and pets) in the car or letting a luxurious transportation company take care of you, driving around to look at Christmas lights never ceases to amaze us. Richmond has quite a few houses and neighborhoods that bask in the electric glory. Pack the flask (if you’re not driving), coffee, and candy canes to observe the holiday lights.
- When: Throughout the holiday season, whenever the houses want a better electricity bill
- Where: Everywhere!
- Cost: Gas money, tour packages range from $100 – $500, hot chocolate, etc.
- Tips: Research what the tour packages come with, (bioRide offers a ride with Santa Claus!). Use maps and Google as much as possible if you’re on a DIY tour. Traffic is crazy in some parts, so be prepared to wait in a long line of spectators!
Revel in grandiose Victorian holiday by taking a tour of the Dooley mansion lead by a costumed guide who will explain how they celebrated the holidays way back when corsets were in and central heating was not. Or if you’re feeling cold from the brisk walk up and down the rolling hills, this should be a nice spot to warm up and learn about the Dooleys. Don’t know who they are? Clearly, you haven’t been to Maymont!
- When: Daily except Mondays, 12:00 – 5:00 PM
- Where: Maymont, 1700 Hampton Street
- Cost: $5 suggested donation
- Tips: No touching!
Whether you skate backwards or courageously grip the sides of the walls, this unique experience is fun for everyone. You can also take a break from the wintry activities by settling next to the fire pit with hot chocolate and s’mores.
- When: Friday, November 23rd – Thursday, January 31st; check site for times
- Where: 6th and Broad Streets, across the street from CenterStage downtown
- Cost: Season Pass – $20; General Admission – $5; Senior/Military $4; 60 & up $4; Children 10 and under FREE
- Tips: Free arts and crafts from 12:00 – 2:00 PM on Saturdays. Also, wear plenty of padding on the you-know-what, just in case.
It’s a good thing Santa is used to chimney sliding, because he’ll be doing it every day for a month in order to listen to the good (and not so good) children’s Christmas wishes. Take pictures, have tea, and let the little ones shop at this classic Richmond tradition.
- When: Friday, November 23rd – Monday, December 24th, check website for times
- Where: Children’s Museum of Richmond
- Cost: FREE
- Tips: Weekends are hectic, and prepare to wait to see the big guy for two hours, so plan accordingly.
Come witness more than a half-a-million twinkling displays of lights throughout the botanical garden. This year’s theme, “East Meets West,” features a wide array of plants and decorations from the corners of the far East. Returning favorites of s’more roasting at the fire pits, a maze, and other festivities will be featured as well.
- When: November 23rd – January 7th, 5:00 – 10:00 PM (closed Dec. 24 & 25)
- Where: 1800 Lakeside Avenue, Richmond, VA 23228
- Cost: $11 adults; $10 seniors; $7 children ages 3 – 12; children under age 3 FREE
- Tips: Double check the weather for how many layers to put on, and don’t forget comfortable shoes. Scour your mail for $3 off in Val-Pak coupons.
The Original Fawn Shop is returning to the downtown location of Children’s Museum of Richmond this year. Children have the opportunity to shop for those they love (try to emphasize mom and dad over Spider-Man) while visiting Legendary Santa. Pre-wrapped gifts will be available, as well as museum staff and helpers to guide your child’s decisions.
- When: Friday, November 23rd – Monday, December 24th
- Where: Legendary Santa’s Workshop
- Cost: All items cost “Two Fawn Dollars”
- Tips: This can teach children that their parents can get presents too for Christmas!
Lock up your newly bought presents, decorations, and save the roast beast in preparation for the infamous green villain from Whoville. The Grinch is coming to the Landmark! We all know the story, from the book, cartoon, and movie, but it’s even better LIVE!
- When: November 27th – December 2nd
- Where: Landmark Theater; 6 N. Laurel Street
- Cost: $33 – $63
- Tips: Be prepared for a lot of traffic by the parking decks and VCU Monroe Park campus.
Whether you’re a “BizBaz” veteran or a wandering newcomer, this event consists of over 475 exhibits from around the country and will keep you satisfied with plenty of holiday splendor.
- When: Thursday, November 29th – Sunday, December 2nd; early bird hours 8:00 – 10:00 AM; regular bird hours 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM (5 p.m. 12/2)
- Where: Richmond Raceway Complex, 600 E. Laburnum Ave
- Cost: Early bird prices: $12 in advance / $12.50 at the door; regular bird hours: $6.50 in advance / $7.00 online and at the door
- Tips: $1 re-entry passes are available, bring a friend for decision-making and comfortable shoes for happy walking
If you like counting down to zero, bright lights, big Christmas trees, and lots of people, this is the perfect event for you.
- When: Friday, November 30th, 5:50 – 7:00 PM
- Where: James Center, between 9th-12th & Cary Streets
- Cost: FREE
- Tips: Parking deck locations and street closings are available on the website. Double check the weather and dress accordingly. Although this does NOT include the word “tour,” it is still advisable to wear comfortable clothing.
The famed Richmond Symphony will play timeless favorites with help from City Singer’s Children’s Choir and Susan Greenbaum to get even the biggest Scrooge into the holiday spirit.
- When: Saturday, December 1st at 8:00 pm; Sunday, December 2nd at 3 pm
- Where: Carpenter Theatre; 612 E. Grace Street, Richmond, VA 23219
- Cost: $10 – $76 (senior discounts on website)
- Tips: Be prepared for some spirited foot-tapping.
Grab some coffee, chairs, and blankets–don’t forget the kids–and witness the chilly splendor that is the Christmas Parade. Admire the marchers, floats, and shiny things! If you live on Broad Street, prove to your friends that it’s a great location by keeping them warm as you watch from the comfort of your balcony (you probably don’t go out on it much anyway).
- When: Saturday, December 1st, 10:00 AM
- Where: Departs from the Science Museum on W. Broad Street and continue east to 7th Street
- Cost: FREE
- Tips: Don’t like being outside? You can watch it live on WTVR the day of the parade from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM, or see it on Christmas Day.
Sign up, start a team (or do it by yourself), raise money, prepare to run or walk a 5K, and jingle the whole way. Whether you are coming to support or exercising for the cause, wear a holiday themed costume and tie jingle bells to your laces. Proceeds go to the Arthritis Foundation.
- When: Saturday, December 1st, 7:00 AM registration, 8:00 AM race
- Where: Stony Point Fashion Park, 9200 Stony Point Parkway, Richmond, VA 23235
- Cost: Adults – $30, Children – $20
- Tips: Keep the bells on after the race. There’s nothing more awkward than being out of breath while running and trying to warn the lazy walkers that are in your way.
Welcome to crafty decoration DIYer’s heaven. With a donation, you can make all the wreaths, swags, and candle accessories that wire cutters will allow. There will also be handmade products for sale and experts to help along the way. Susan Greenbaum will serenade you as you visit the toasty Big Red Barn for refreshments and rest to prepare for more hours of decor-making.
- When: Sunday, December 2nd, 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM
- Where: 12438 Elmont Rd, Ashland, VA
- Cost: Adults • $30, 5-12 • $10, Under 4 • FREE
- Tips: Parking is at Henry Clay Elementary School, (310 South James Street, Ashland, VA 23005), and Hanover Arts & Activities Center, (500 South Center Street, Ashland, Va 23005). A “Deck the Halls Trolley” will run every 15 minutes to take participants to and from the event.
The organization’s monthly meeting is BACK this month. So come learn something, while having a drink and a bite to eat! More details as to what the conversation will be about and who the guest speaker is will be available closer to the event’s date.
- When: Tuesday, December 4th
- Where: The Camel, 1621 W. Broad Street
- Cost: FREE (unless you get beer and food)
- Tips: Register online beforehand! Bring a few bucks to donate, everything helps.
Not only does this event make North Side a hub of holiday activity, but it also collects toys for Toys for Tots. Last year, about 2,700 toys were were donated, making it the largest single contributor in the Richmond area. Nice! Organizers are trying to exceed that number this year…and have some fun while doing it.
- When: Saturday, December 8th, 12:00 – 4:00 PM
- Where: 4000 block of MacArthur Avenue
- Cost: FREE
- Tips: Not only do you want to be there early so you don’t miss the parade, but bring some cash too: there will be vendors on-hand selling homemade arts and crafts.
Get away from the mainstream malls and come do your holiday shopping at the annual indie holiday craft show. It will feature 50 of the best local, regional, and national indie artists and crafters that the Richmond Craft Mafia could find… trust them, they have “mafia” in their name.
- When: Saturday, December 8th, 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM
- Where: Art Works, 320 Hull Street
- Cost: FREE
- Tips: Don’t try to give them an offer they can’t refuse.
This year brings something new to Doswell, VA, and no it’s not Kings Dominion related. But better: BEER! Come sample local craft breweries such as Hardywood, Legend, and newcomers Center of the Universe. There will even be some out-of-town breweries to sample, and music by the perfectly-named, Last Call to help liven up the festivities.
- When: Saturday, December 8th, 12:00 – 7:00 PM
- Where: Meadow Event Park, 13111 Dawn Blvd., Doswell, VA 23047
- Cost: FREE (Tasting tickets $1-$10)
- Tips: Kids and non-drinkers are welcome, as there are also food vendors and booths for holiday shopping.
Celebrating its 20th year, this event will feature a parade of boats and other seafaring vessels snake down the James River while covered in (perhaps tacky) lights. After all, who says that houses are the only things you can decorate for the holidays?
- When: Saturday, December 8th, 6:00 PM
- Where: Boats will travel down the James River from Richmond to Henricus Historical Park in Chesterfield.
- Cost: FREE
- Tips: Local spots to view the parade are Libby Hill Park (which will have additional entertainment beginning at 4:30 PM) and the Intermediate Terminal Dock (at Dock and Water streets).
50 years in the making, this tour shows a festive side to those who admire the eclectic history that makes up the Fan by going through some of the oldest homes in the neighborhood.
- When: December 8th and 9th, 1:00 – 5:00 PM
- Where: Tour starts at 1621 Hanover Avenue
- Cost: $25 – $30
- Tips: Check out the website for parking and hospitality areas. And as stated earlier in the list, this is a tour–don’t wear heels.
UR Schola Cantorum and Women’s Chorale will serenade audience members with holiday classics as well as new songs. Ending with the congregation lighting candles and singing “Silent Night,” this public event will be sure to leave you in tears (in a good way).
- When: December 9th, 5:00 – 8:00 PM
- Where: Cannon Memorial Chapel, University of Richmond
- Cost: FREE
- Tips: Bring tissues
Celebrate the Christmas season during three different eras at this mansion which came from the old country (England). Charles Dickens will be making an appearance to read from A Christmas Carol, as well as many workers from many different time periods asking you to help put up decorations (no wonder it’s free… you have to work for it).
- When: Sunday, December 9th, 12:30 PM – 5:00 PM
- Where: Agecroft Hall
- Cost: FREE
- Tips: Bring the kids! Lots of crafts to do and fields to run in.
Carriage rides! Carolers! History! Music! Holiday, history, and free-stuff buffs will be sure to enjoy this annual downtown tradition. There’s even a complimentary shuttle that takes you to each of the nine sites.
- When: December 9th, 12:00 – 5:00 PM
- Where: The Wickham House, The John Marshall House, St. John’s Church, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, The Museum and White House of the Confederacy, Monumental Church, The Egyptian Building, The Beers House, The Virginia State Capitol
- Cost: FREE
- Tips: Parking is tricky downtown, be sure to check the website for the decks that are nearby.
Sweet confections are what make the holiday season so great (calories don’t count this time of year). What better way to perfect your decorating skills than by learning them from the Cake Boss! He will tell stories of his life and business and even get several lucky members of the audience up on stage for cupcake and cake decorating.
- When: December 13th, 7:30 PM
- Where: The Landmark, 6 N. Laurel Street
- Cost: $35.75 – $45.75
- Tips: It’s the Landmark, once again, prepare for crazy traffic. Wear something nice and festive just in case you’re called onstage!
Witness the beauty of ballet with a familiar soundtrack that can help bring back happy memories of sugar plum fairies and leotards. If you can’t appreciate ballet, at least respect the bravery of ballerinas jumping on their toes and their ability to do the splits in the air.
- When: December 14th – 23rd
- Where: Carpenter Theater
- Cost: $20 – $125
- Tips: Remember the word “pirouette” to sound cultured.
When it comes to having a weekend filled with holiday festivities, the oldest neighborhood in Richmond has it covered. Start out with a candlelight walk in Church Hill on Friday, David Napier’s Whitehouse Catered holiday party at Old City Bar on Saturday, and finish up on Sunday with a holiday house tour to admire some of the beauty in the neighborhood.
- When: Friday, December 14th – Sunday, December 16th
- Where: Church Hill
- Cost: Candlelight tour – FREE; Holiday party at Old City Bar – $35; House tour – $25
- Tips: Whenever you see the word “tour,” wear comfortable shoes. The word “bar” signifies drinking.
Join Richmond History Tours program for a tour of the most famous street in Richmond at night. Take in the sparkly happiness that is the best of Christmas decor on Monument Avenue.
- When: December 26th & 27th, 6:00 – 7:30 PM
- Where: Lee Monument, Monument Avenue, and Allen Street
- Cost: $10, space is limited, so call ahead at 804.649.0711
- Tips: Comfortable clothes and flashlights may help.
Photo by: Don Williams Photography