The Nutcracker Ballet, performed by the Richmond Ballet every year, is another favorite Richmond Christmas tradition.  The Richmond Ballet’s professional company, accompanied by the Richmond Symphony has been performing the Nutcracker here in Richmond for the last 27 years.  Local kids ages 7 and up can audition and for parts including party children, mice, and lambs.  This is the second year the ballet has been performed at the Carpenter Center and the space is getting great reviews.  The show itself is getting fantastic reviews this year as well.  The costumes and dancing are supposed to be amazing and there are quite a few locals dancing this year.  I am so excited that my daughter is finally old enough to go. 

If you have a daughter, then don’t forget to also look into the Clara’s Tea events.  There are two more to be held on  Wednesday, December 22, 2010 at 5:30pm, before 7:00pm performance and Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 5:30pm, before 7:00pm performance.  The kids will enjoy tea and other refreshments with the sugarplum fairy, Clara, and other performers from the show. 

The Nutcracker runs until December 23rd.  Times vary.  They have added an extra show during the day on the 23rd and some of the lower priced tickets are still available for that show.  There are also various coupon codes floating around out there, although I wasn’t able to locate any.  If you know them, please feel free to post them.   Enjoy this Richmond Christmas tradition!


The weather is still kind of crappy and cold, and most of the snow is melted.  If you are looking for something holiday-related that is inside, warm, affordable, and kid-friendly, then this is perfect for you.  The Greenberg Train & Toy Show is at Richmond International Raceway today & tomorrow (Dec. 18-19) 10-4pm both days.  This show started back in 1976 and is the largest traveling model train show in the Northeast.

There will of course be many different train displays with incredibly intricate scenery that both kids and adults will love.  There will also be workshops, train demonstrations, and trains and accessories for sale.  For the kids that can’t stand to just watch the trains, there will also be a much larger train for them to ride.

Tickets are $7 for ages 12 and above.  All kids under age 12 are free.  Tickets are good for both days and should hold you over until the next snow storm.

If you are anything like me, you love to drive down Monument Ave and dream what it would be like to live in one of those gorgeous big mansions, or at least to visit, or at least to get a glimpse in the window.  Well, for all the voyeurs out there, this is your (and my) chance.  This weekend, December 11-12 is the Annual Fan District Holiday House Tour.  Going one better than the Kitchen & Garden Tour in the Spring, this time you get to tour the entire house in all its holiday-decorated splendor. 

This year there are 8 beautiful homes all located around Meadow Park in easy walking distance to one another.  There will also be live music and antique cars on display around Meadow Park.  Expect to see historical architecture & antiques, but also modern art & contemporary styling.  Regardless of the style, the pictures suggest all of the homes will be amazing. 

Some logistics:  The tour requests that you wear flat or soft soled shoes so as not to damage any of the many hardwood floors you will be walking on.  Also, no eating, drinking, photography, backpacks, or strollers.  The tour runs from 1-5pm on both days.  Parking is available at Heartfield Assisted Living on N. Allen and Retreat Doctor’s Hospital on Grove.  There will be a shuttle from the parking deck at Retreat Doctor’s Hospital to shuttle people back and forth from the tour area.  Tickets are $30/person (cash or check only).  One ticket is good for both days.  Tickets are available at Strawberry Street Vineyard, Heartfield Assisted Living,  and Retreat Doctor’s Hospital.   

This weekend is a busy weekend for holiday activities in the Richmond area.  You are probably best off doing the scheduled activities this weekend and saving the other ongoing favorites for during the week.  Just my humble opinion!  One of my family’s favorite activities, the James River Parade of Lights, will be held Saturday night, December 11, at 6pm.  The 18th annual parade begins in Richmond up by Libby Park and travels along the James River through Henrico and Chesterfield, ending at Henricus Historical Park.  There are several viewing sites along the route where you can find various fun activities to pass the time.  There are 5 main viewing sites:


Libby Hill Park (Corner of 28th and Franklin St)- 
Entertainment begins at 4:30 p.m.  There will be holiday music, hot cider and cocoa, hot dogs, roasting marshmallows, bonfire and a big count down to the lighting of the boats.  The actual parade doesn’t start until 6pm.

Intermediate Terminal Dock/Rockett’s Landing (Dock & Water St.)- You can also view the parade here at 6pm.


Osborne Park and Boat Landing – Entertainment begins at 5:30 and will include a bonfire, fire dancers (I have no idea what this is, but it sounds awesome), Jonathan Austin Juggling and Magic (if you have kids, you know him, he’s great and the kids love him), holiday music, and concessions.  Santa will also be there giving glow bracelets to the kids.  The parade is expected to arrive here between 7pm and 7:30pm. 


Dutch Gap Boat Landing – (441 Coxendale Rd) There are no planned activities at this location that I could find so if you are looking for a quick view this might be the place to go.  The parade is expected here between 7:30 and 7:45pm.  

Henricus Historical Park (251 Henricus Park Rd) – Entertainment here begins at 5:30pm with Zebo the Clown, face painting, arts & crafts for the kids, music and concessions.  There will also be complimentary cider and cookies. You can tour the 1611 Citie of Henricus and talk with the settlers about their lives and holidays in the 17th century.   The parade is expected here between 7:45 – 8:00 p.m.

I’m not going to lie, the Richmond Christmas Parade has to be one of my all time favorite Richmond traditions so I”m super excited that it gets to be #100 on my list. We started attending when my husband was in college and we have rarely missed a year.   I’m also not going to lie and say I didn’t have to go back and delete “Ukrops” out of the title.  It feels so strange calling it the Dominion Christmas Parade, but hopefully they will win our hearts today as well.

The 27th annual parade is on Saturday, December 4th starting at 10am.  If you are just reading this and its 10:30, don’t worry, the parade usually starts late and I swear it goes on for hours so just get in your car and get down there.  The parade starts at the Science Museum on Broad Street and finishes at Seventh and Broad.  It usually travels down one side of Broad so spectators will be standing on the sidewalk on one side and the median on the other.  This parade is our mini-Macy’s parade with big parade balloons like  Bob the Builder and Raggedy Ann.  There will also be plenty of marching bands and other performers.  This year the Harlem Globetrotters are the grand marshals so that should make for some performance fun.  Santa of course is at the end of the parade, if you make it that long (I’m not kidding, it’s a very long parade).

One of the best things about this parade is its accessibility.  I’ve never had trouble finding good parking and a good viewing spot.  That being said, this year the parade is at the same time as the VCU Men’s Basketball game so stay as far away from the Siegel Center as possible.  Also make sure to pack chairs (however long you think this parade is, its longer!), blankets, and hot cocoa (its freezing out there and it can be hard to find somewhere to buy it).    This is definitely a Richmond tradition that you don’t want to miss!

In keeping with the ever-expanding holiday spirit, this Friday is Richmond’s 26th Annual Grand Illumination.  In the past I have stayed at a distance to avoid the traffic, but this year, with a shiny new parking space right in the thick of things, I am ready to join the countdown.  This is really the kick off to the holiday season in Richmond so holiday events will be non-stop from here on in.

At 5:59pm, Santa will begin the countdown to light up all the downtown office buildings, the James Center tree, and all the beautiful James Center reindeer at 6pm sharp.  They have been hard at work for weeks placing all the reindeer and decorating inside the James Center.  It will definitely be beautiful.  Richmond isn’t going to miss out on a chance to turn this into a street festival, so there will also be blocks of family entertainment including live music, the Sugar Plum Fairy from the Richmond Ballet, various characters from The Nutcracker, the Snow Queen, and the Virginia Piedmont and Central HO Model Railroad Club.  Radio Disney will also be there to keep the kids entertained (as if the twinkling lights aren’t enough).  Although the Grand Illumination itself will run from 6pm-7pm, much of downtown Richmond has gotten in on the act and there will be free and discounted activities until 9pm.

From 6-10pm (on Friday AND Saturday) there will be free horse and carriage rides around the historic River district (these are usually $10/person).  A 12-passenger holiday decorated carriage will carry families around Shockoe Slip & Shockoe Bottom.  All rides start and end at the fountain at 13th and E. Cary Streets and last approximately 20 minutes. 

Make sure you don’t miss out on the $2 canal rides while you are in the area (ages 4 and under are free).  Canal rides are being offered at this discounted rate from 6-9pm on Friday.  Rides last approximately 20 minutes and provide an awesome view of the lights and the city.  There will be a marching band in the area providing live music, and rumor has it Santa may even take a boat ride or two.  Boats leave from the Turning Basin at 14th st. and Dock St.

Main Street Station will also be offering holiday activities during Grand Illumination.  Their holiday open house, with a Polar Express (the children’s christmas movie) theme will be held from 5-9pm.  There will be a tree lighting, decorations, and free kiddie train rides, hot cider & cookies, and live music.  There will also be professional storytellers to read to the children (am I the only one that thinks this could be the best job ever??) by the fireplace.  The Richmond public library will even “gift” a free book to the first 300 children in attendance.   

Finally, if you didn’t finish all your holiday shopping on Black Friday, there will be a holiday market at the 17th Street Farmer’s market from 5-9pm featuring homemade crafts, gifts, music, snacks, cider, and Mr. & Mrs. Santa  Claus!

Main illumination festivities are held in front of James Center 2 (by the clock tower) and down into Shockoe Bottom.  Discounted parking is available after 4pm at the parking deck on the corner of 10th and Canal St. for $3.  There will also be $2 parking available at Main Street Station on the West Side using the Franklin St. entrance.  This promises to be a huge holiday event so if you aren’t lucky enough to attend, and you work downtown, count on escaping around 4pm on Friday if you want to make it home before 10pm.  Otherwise, stay and enjoy!


Admit it.  You have gotten over your shock of seeing Christmas decorations up in the stores around Halloween and you are actually starting to get into the spirit.  I walked by the James Center this morning and they were outside working on the setup for Grand Illumination.  Seeing all the reindeer and the lights going up initially caused me some panic, but then I realized that was just the holiday spirit. 

Usually Richmond waits until Thanksgiving is over (at least 10 minutes after is over) before the holiday festivities begin.  But even Richmond seems to have started early this year.  If you want to get into the spirit too, the Ashland Holiday Parade is the perfect place to start.  This parade is chock full of small town charm, marching bands, costumed kids, and men in little cars.  Of course,  it wouldn’t be a holiday parade without Santa Claus who arrives at the end riding an antique fire truck (should be around 4:15). 

The 41st annual Ashland Old Time Holiday Parade will be held tomorrow, November 21st at 2:30 p.m.  It starts at Thompson Street S. Snead Street and will follow Thompson Street east across the railroad tracks and along England Street to Henry Street. Going north along Henry Street, it will end at Archie Cannon Drive in front of John Gandy Elementary School.  The weather should be beautiful so go out and get an early dose of Christmas spirit.