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Archive for the ‘Free Activities’ Category

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:

Richmond: 

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.

Henrico:

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. 

Chesterfield:

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.

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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!

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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!

 

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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.

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If you have already had your fill of apple pie, homemade apple sauce, Brunswick stew, and October beer this Fall, (unlikely, I know, but stay with me here), this Saturday, October 16 from 12-6pm is the Richmond Oystoberfest in Ginter Park.  There will be plenty of oysters, brats (no, not “brats,” we’re talking sausages here), and beer (see, I told you to stay with me, you still get beer) to feast on. You can get your oysters fried, grilled, or raw, however you like them.  There will be other grilled foods and refreshments available as well (none of which are known aphrodisiacs, sorry).

 

There will also be live entertainment, of course, from 12:30 to about 5pm.  You can find the lineup posted here.  Children and pets are welcome at this festival.  There will be a children’s area with slides, moonbounces, and the usual festival activities to keep them occupied.  There will not be a pet fun area so be sure to keep them on a leash.  Prizes will be raffled off periodically all day, including a brand new iPad. 

 

The festival will be held, rain or shine, at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 3602 Hawthorne Ave.  You can find a map and directions here.  This is smack in the middle of historic Ginter Park, which is beautiful if you have never been there. This neighborhood was Richmond’s first suburb, connected to downtown by the electric trolley line.  Planned and developed by Lewis W. Ginter, Ginter Park was supposed to be a way that men could return to the “country” after work every day.  Today, Ginter Park features a variety of architectural styles ranging from smaller bungalows to large Colonial Revival mansions. Many of those can be found in the heart of Ginter Park on the historic Seminary Avenue.   
 

Admission to the festival is free, although there are additional fees for food and drinks.  Because all proceeds go to benefit St. Thomas Church, a $2 donation is suggested, but not required. 

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Fall is definitely in the air.  The weather has turned chilly, announcers at high school football games can be heard for miles on Friday nights, and the baseball playoffs are on TV.  All of this can only mean one thing.  Its time for the Richmond Folk Festival!  The Folk Festival is a beloved Richmond tradition and, at approximately 200,000 visitors every year, Central Virginia’s largest festival.  Surprisingly, this is only the third year for our Richmond Festival.  Prior to that the International Folk Festival was here.  Despite its short tenure, the Folk Festival has become a favorite in this region and has quickly made itself into a Richmond tradition.  This year the Festival starts Friday, October 8 and runs through Sunday, October 10.

The main focus of the Folk Festival is, of course, the music.  This year the Festival promises 20+ new performers.  There are seven stages and performances do overlap so be sure to map out your favorites ahead of time to avoid missing anyone. You can get information on the different performers and sample their music here.  A full schedule of events is available here.  Types of music will vary from Salsa & Chicago Blues to Andean, Haitian, and Gospel.  With all that music, you’d be crazy to not get out there and dance, at least a little.  Be sure to visit the dance pavilion and let loose.

The Folk Festival is definitely family friendly so don’t leave the kids at home.  Genworth is sponsoring a children’s area where the kids can do arts & crafts, make a sculpture, and see exotic birds.  There will also be vintage games and demonstrations.  Most of these activities are run/organized by the Children’s Museum so they will be top-notch.  There will also be music in this area and the best part of all, a harmonica giveaway (they only have 200 to give, so get there early).

During the festival, don’t miss the Documentary Film Series that will be showing at the Civil War Visitors Center.  Click here for a schedule of films slated to play.

Of course this is a Richmond festival so there will be plenty of food.  If you are all sugared out from the State Fair, be sure to check out some of the more unique dishes offered like alligator bites.  There will also be beer and this year you will be able to drink everywhere at the festival, so enjoy (responsibly of course)!

The marketplace is where you will find all the authentic crafts and artisan demonstrations.  Remember, crafts cost extra so bring your wallet.  It’s never too early for holiday shopping.

The Festival is large so be sure to study a map and bring it with you for your visit.  It is located downtown between 7th street, 2nd street, Byrd street, and the American Civil War Center at Tredegar (they are offering free admission on Saturday and Sunday) with spillover onto Brown’s Island.  You can see a full map here.  There is also a pocket map available and if technology is your thing, they even have an iPhone app this year.

There are multiple ways to coordinate travel to the event. There will be parking available in the surrounding parking garages (for around a $5 fee).  However, if you wish to avoid the traffic crowds, you can take advantage of  free parking and shuttle service leaving from The Diamond and Spring Rock Green on Midlothian Turnpike..

The Festival will go on rain or shine.  The bad weather kept the attendance down to approximately 160,000 last year so most people will not be deterred by the weather.  There are four tented stages so if it does rain (and come on, how likely is that these days) head over to the tented areas to continue enjoying the music.  Hours for the festival are:  Friday, Oct. 8:  6-10:30pm; Saturday Oct. 9: 12-10:30pm; and Sunday, October 10: 12-6pm.  No pets are allowed.

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It may be Fall, but the festivals continue.  In fact, Richmond has their own Fall Festival season, much like we have our Spring Festival Season.  It really started last week (I’m so sorry I missed it!) with the Armenian Food Festival and others.  Hopefully you got out to enjoy some of them.  It continues this weekend with several more festivals and it is going to continue throughout October so keep an open stomach!!  Tomorrow, Saturday, from 10am-5pm is the 19th annual 43rd Street Festival of the Arts.  This Festival is going to take you South of the River to the beautiful and historical Forest Hill neighborhood.  The intersection of 43rd Street and Forest Hill Avenue to be exact.

The focus of this Festival is art — it features about 65 of the Richmond region’s finest artisans and their crafts. Don’t worry, there will also be local musicians, including Susan Greenbaum, Blue Line Hwy, OminOtagO, Bluz Catz and Rachel Leyco,  and of course, plenty of festival food.  The festival is also for a good cause of course, with funds going to help the  Freedom House, a local homeless shelter.

Admission to the festival is free, but food and any arts and crafts purchases will cost money so, as I always say, don’t leave your wallet at home.  The weather this weekend (unlike the past couple of days) is supposed to be beautiful and autumn-like so this is a great time to get out and explore some of Richmond’s Fall Festivals.  Make sure to put this one your list.

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