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Posts Tagged ‘Richmond’

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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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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I know.  I know.  I can’t believe it took me this long to write about our awesome new Minor League Baseball team, the Flying Squirrels.  That’s right.  I’m not talking about the crazy squirrels around the Capitol (I swear one jumped up on a bench next to me one day and tried to steal my lunch, or shake my hand, its debatable, but I digress), I’m talking about the Diamond.  Now there are only a few home games left but there is still time to get tickets and enjoy Richmond’s greatest surprise this summer.

I still remember the whole Richmond Braves crisis and the cries of lonely baseball fans everywhere that we would never have baseball in Richmond again.  I hated seeing the Diamond sit empty in 2009.  Then the Flying Squirrels showed up.  Admit it.  We all thought the name was a little crazy.  And when Nutzy came into the picture, well, we all did a double take.  But this team and its management have won over the hearts of Richmond baseball fans and residents alike.

Flying Squirrel games are affordable (even I did a double take at the $6-$10 price tag), convenient, and tons of fun for everyone in the family.  My kids don’t even understand baseball, but they love going to these games.  The low ticket prices are in no way reflected in the experience you get when you go to a game.  Almost every series has a fun promotional giveaway like pillow cases, lunch boxes, umbrellas, baseball bats and more.  There are also theme nights including Fireworks Nights and “Bark in the Park” where you can actually bring dogs to the game (it obviously didn’t take them long to figure out where Richmonder’s hearts are).  And of course there are the nights the kids get to run the bases.  Don’t deny it, you wish you could run too.  Many parents “pretend” they need to run with their kid (tip:  don’t leave your kid in the dust, it’s an instant giveaway).

In line with their “family atmosphere” theme, the team included a Kids Zone (1st base side), Picnic area (third base side), and Ultimate Family Entertainment area (main plaza) in the stadium renovations.

The Flying Squirrels have also jumped into the Richmond community with both feet.  First and foremost, Nutzy is everywhere.  I see him at the kids’ school, street festivals, the games, when I go to dinner at CiCi’s, Nutzy is always there (and no, I’m not crazy, he’s really there).  The marketing for this team is fantastic and kids love it.  In addition to fundraising for local and national organizations, they also participated in Toys for Tots, Coats for Kids, and the recent Stuff the Bus program.  During the school year kids have the opportunity to receive free game tickets for reading books and for every A they receive on their report card (K-12 only, sorry guys).  Finally, I can’t even begin to list the community sponsorships that the Squirrels have participated in.  They stepped up just at the right time to fill in for Ukrops’ absence.

If you haven’t made it to a game yet, do your best to get tickets to one of the few home games left on the schedule.  You won’t regret it.  I think we need to give as much support to the Flying Squirrels as they have given to us.

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It’s another busy weekend in Richmond this weekend so if you are one of the few that aren’t leaving town, there will be plenty to enjoy.  I’m not just talking about tax fee school shopping (I mean come on, are we really supposed to get excited about that?  How about tax-free flat screen tv weekend?) I’m talking about street festivals.  That’s right.  If you haven’t had your fill yet, or you are just joining the living and haven’t been to a Richmond street festival yet, then this weekend is for you.  The biggest is sure to be the Carytown Watermelon Festival, a now 27-yr old Richmond tradition.  This festival has become one of the largest on the East Coast and if the weather holds out, I’m sure this one won’t disappoint.  This festival regularly brings in over 100,000 visitors so be prepared for the crowds.  It is scheduled for Sunday, August 8 from 10-6pm (in Carytown of course).   

I swear I should just cut and paste this, but of course there will be live music with approximately 80 performers stationed around Carytown.  There will also be hundreds of vendors selling various wares, arts & crafts, food, and drinks.  There is no alcohol sold at the festival, but local restaurants will still be serving so you aren’t totally out of luck.  Be sure to try a watermelon cocktail if you can find one!  There will also be plenty of watermelon (of course).  Watermelon stands are scattered around the festival with 2500 watermelons donated by Martin’s Grocery Stores.  Proceeds from the watermelon sales go to benefit the Shriner’s Hospital so don’t forget to buy!

Kids are welcome, but if they are little you will probably want to bring a stroller (crowds+heat+walking = miserable kids & parents).  This festival has one of the largest kids’ zones of any festival around.  Furry kids are welcome as well (that would be dogs of course) but don’t forget leashes.  This year AAA will be raffling off a trip to Disney World which will include airfare, lodging, and park tickets.  With Disney’s recent rate increases (have they not heard about the recession?) you could buy like 600 raffle tickets and still save money on the trip if you win.  

Admission to the festival is free of course, but don’t leave the wallet home if you want food, drink, or anything else you didn’t bring with you.  Parking promises to be a major pain.  You can park on the street or in the side street decks, but I’m sure those will fill up very quickly.  Some of the local stores will let you park as will the University of Richmond stadium, but be prepared to walk.  Be sure to wear your walking shoes, sunscreen, and bring plenty of water to drink.  Baby wipes for all that sticky watermelon juice would probably help out too.   As you are walking, don’t forget to check out all the watermelon-themed window displays.  You can vote for your favorite on the Carytown website.  For a map of the entire festival (and to find the quickest way to the closest watermelon stand) click here.  If this all sounds too overwhelming, drop by early or late to get your fill and get out, but you can’t miss this awesome Richmond tradition.

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