Posts Tagged ‘Downtown’

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!


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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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Halloween is definitely getting closer and if you don’t feel like driving to the ends of Richmond Metro to get a pumpkin or have a genuine Halloween experience, you are in luck this weekend.  Sunday, October 17 from 2-5pm the Edgar Allan Poe Museum downtown is having their own pumpkin patch and other Halloween activities for the kids.  Kids will be able to wrap mummies, go on a scavenger hunt, and decorate pumpkins.  There will also be “Poe-themed” face painting and even a black cat pinata.  Costumes are a must and there will be a costume contest to reward the best.  Of course this isn’t a farm so the number of pumpkins is limited.  In other words, if you want a pumpkin in addition to all the other fun activities, get there early.

The Edgar Allan Poe Museum has the world’s finest collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s manuscripts, letters, first editions, memorabilia and personal belongings.  It also has one of the most beautiful gardens in Richmond.  The museum is located close to where Poe lived and worked in Richmond in the early nineteenth century.  What better place to get the full creepy Halloween experience!  The museum is located at 1914-16 East Main Street Richmond, VA 23223.  Admission is $6 which is a lot cheaper than some of the pumpkin patches are charging this year.  Just watch out for ravens 🙂

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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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For the sake of full disclosure, I must tell you that Belle Isle is one of my favorite places in all of Richmond.  I’ve been waiting to write about it so that I could make another trip there and have everything fresh in my mind (ok, I admit, I really just wanted to go again!).  Aside from its amazing beauty, incredible convenience, and utter peacefulness, the island also has a long detailed history (but really, I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you).  Don’t be turned off by the fact that summer is over.  This is an even better time to go –without the crowds. The fall colors on the island are incredible.

Belle Isle is a 54-acre island on the James River that is owned by the City of Richmond.  It is said that the island was first explored by Captain John Smith in the early 1600’s.  Later in the 1600’s the island was owned by William Byrd I (but really, what wasn’t?).  In the 1700’s the island was home to a fishery.  In the 1800’s the Old Dominion Iron & Nail Company built a factory on the island.  By the 1860’s the island was inhabited by an actual village with a school, church, and general store.  During the Civil War, the island served as a prison for Union soldiers (this is the story I had always heard).  Between 1862-1865 the island held approximately 30,000 POW’s.  After the war, the nail factory reopened and operated until 1972.

In 1904, Virginia Electric Power Company built a hydroelectric power plant on the island which operated until 1963.  The shell of this building still stands on the bank of the James and on warm days you can watch crazy people with no fear (or too many beers in them) jump from the building into the water.  The island was designated a Richmond city park in 1973.

Today Belle Isle is one of the most popular parks in Richmond with areas for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, picnicking, sunbathing, exploring, kayaking, and more.  It is also home to the Xterra Challenge Mountain Biking Tournament which is a testament to the quality of mountain biking opportunities available.  The island is accessible by a suspension foot bridge from the north bank, under the Lee Bridge (watch out for the bikes crossing over).  I know it looks scary, but trust me, you’ll make it.  If you are driving, park over by Tredegar (don’t expect to find parking on a warm summer day). If you are feeling more adventurous (and the River is low) you can hop the rocks across the James River to get to the island.

Once you come off the pedestrian bridge go straight for about 100 yards and then bear right to the river. This is the main trail that loops around the island.  You can continue following this path along the river, or veer off on one of the many  side paths that will take you over to the rocks where you can sunbathe, picnic, swim, or relax.  Just remember, the rock is a rock — its hard, hot, and slippery so wear good shoes and bring something to sit on (trust me here).  If you continue on the trail, you will come to the quarry and pond on the left.  I’ve spent many days fishing there.  Can’t say I ever caught anything, but the relaxation was satisfaction enough.  Not too far from this point is a picnic area (if you don’t find the rocks appealing).  After you are done eating, continue on the main loop about 150 yards and there will be a side path that will take you to remnants of the power plant dam, oh, and more rocks.  As you keep walking on the main trail, you will also see the power plant and the iron mill.  Continue circling around until you see a steel framed building right before the foot bridge, which is the old iron foundry.  If you stop to explore on the way, the entire loop will probably take you about an hour.  It is an easy path with markers and historical notes along the way.  If you are looking for something more challenging (hiking or biking) head to the thinner trails on the interior of the island.  Wherever you go, do not miss the fantastic views of the Richmond skyline, Hollywood Cemetary, and Tredegar Iron Works.

The park is open from sun up to sun down.  Alcohol is supposedly not allowed, but evidence of how much Richmonders care about that law is littered all over the park.  As an aside, please pick up your trash when you leave.  I was very surprised at how much trash I saw everywhere!  Dogs are allowed on the island, as long as they are on a leash. Admission to the park is 100% free!!

You can walk the 2 mile + trail in just about an hour, but plan to spend the whole day so you can really explore the island, and get some relaxation time in!

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Don’t get too excited Richmonders, I’m not talking about pet dogs, just hot dogs.  I’m almost embarrassed to say I didn’t know this place existed until about a month ago when I was dragged there for lunch with some co-workers.  Hot dogs for lunch?  My mind strayed to a recent episode of “How Its Made” but I’m adventurous so I tagged along.  We went to the original location in Shockoe (there is now one in the Fan as well).  Its located at 1316 East Cary Street, not too far from the Tobacco Company.  I was expecting hotdogs, ketchup, buns, and paper trays — boy was I surprised.

These are not your average backyard hotdogs.  The menu takes you on a trip through American culture with the Chicago Dog (mustard, onions, relish, pickle, tomato slices, peppers, poppy seed bun), Coney Island Dog (chili, mustard, onions, cheese), Boston Dog (sauerkraut, bacon, relish), Carolina Dog (Pork bbq and cole slaw), Miami Dog (homemade salsa, cheddar cheese), and Santa Fe Dog (homemade salsa, cheese, jalapenos, guacamole, and tortilla chips).  Don’t worry, there is more, but I didn’t want to torture your taste buds.  The corn dog nuggets (what I ordered) were fantastic and should definitely be considered when you look at the menu.  In summary, be prepared for a few strange looks if you order a plain hot dog!

There are also sandwiches, burgers, chicken, etc for the more cautious diner, but whatever you do, don’t pass on the french fries and/or onion rings.  You will definitely be missing out. If meat isn’t your thing, don’t stop reading yet, there are vegetarian and vegan options available on the menu as well.  Oh, and of course, what is a hot dog without beer?  There is a full bar at both locations.

If you stick with the hot dogs, prices are about $4 with a couple extra dollars for fries or rings.  Servings are large so the prices aren’t bad.  This place is casual, affordable, family friendly, and has a great atmosphere.   But remember, you are at a hot dog  joint.  This is not 4-star dining.  Sports and news are playing on the TV and loud music is playing.  The kitchen is open and they cook the food right in front of you.  At lunch time (when I arrived) it is crowded, loud, and the lines can be out onto the sidewalk.  But take that as evidence of the great experience inside.  I’ve read my fair share of reviews that complain about the service, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.  I arrived at the height of the lunch rush with 10 other people, no reservation, and a 30 minute time limit.  After they realized we weren’t joking, they had us seated, fed, paid, and back out the door in 30 minutes flat.  I was impressed.

They open daily at 11am and close at midnight.  On weekends (Fri-Sat) they are open until 3am, perfect for a late night snack and beer at the bar.  The Shockoe location has already taken off and has expanded into the basement space with extra seating, a small game room, and sports bar.  The Fan location is located at 1309 W. Main St, close to the Monroe Park campus.  It has live music, game room, outdoor patio, and full bar.  I wish I could give you a link to their website, but I was shocked to find out they didn’t have one.  To be as popular as they are, with no Internet presence?  It’s almost unheard of and just goes to show how good the food and experience are.  Don’t be scared off by stories about bad service.  Some of the best places in Richmond (Mama Zu’s, Kuba Kuba, Carytown Burgers and Fries) have been known to suffer from service issues, but the food is still great.  Don’t confuse this place with the Jefferson and you’ll be fine.  Go hungry!

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