Nov 22, 2023 - Things to Do

Things to do in Richmond this holiday season

Illustration of the Axios logo as an ornament on a Christmas tree

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's T-minus one major meal until the holiday season officially begins.

Driving the news: It's almost Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa-time in RVA — and that means our favorite seasonal events are coming in hot.

Why it matters: It's the most wonderful time of the year. Allegedly. We say that's weather-contingent.

  • Regardless, here's a quick rundown of the can't-miss events to get you started on the festive cheer.
The James Center tree lighting. Image: Courtesy of Richmond Region Tourism

The big-deal events:

🎄 RVA Illuminates, formerly known as the Grand Illumination, is Friday. Dec. 1.

  • The event that lights up most of the downtown skyline begins at 4pm at Kanawha Plaza, and the flip gets switched around 6pm.
  • Expect live music, food trucks, a free plaza screening of "The Grinch" and street closures around the plaza.

🥁 Dominion Energy Christmas Parade is Saturday, Dec. 2.

  • Richmond is packing all the festive fun into one weekend with the Christmas Parade beginning at 10am.
  • The route is east down Broad from the Science Museum to Seventh and Marshall, and attendees can line up anywhere.

🛳 Parade of Lights at Rocketts Landing is Saturday, Dec. 9 at 5pm.

  • Richmond boaters light up their boats and sail (boat?) from Rocketts to Osborne Landing or from The Boathouse to The Lily Pad, however you prefer to think about nautical distance.

🕎 Short Pump Hanukkah Party at Gather in West Broad Village is Saturday, Dec. 9, from 4:30-6:30pm.

  • There will be menorah lighting, nonalcoholic cocktails, kids games and more. Free, but RSVP required.

🌍 Capital City Kwanzaa Festival from Elegba Folklore Society is Saturday, Dec. 30 from 5-11pm at the Convention Center

  • Organizers say it's one of the largest Kwanzaa celebrations on the East Coast with performances, kids activities and an African market. Tickets start at $5.
Christmas on Wendhurts. The James Center tree lighting. Image: Courtesy of Richmond Region Tourism


⛲️ Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights is now nightly (save Thanksgiving, Christmas and Christmas Eve) through Jan. 7, from 4-8:30pm.

  • There are more than 1 million lights, and this year's theme is "Rhythms of Nature."
  • Advance tickets are required and priced based on peak and off-peak nights, starting at $12 for kids and $20 for adults.

Ice skating at Stony Point Fashion Park is open daily through Jan. 2.

  • Stake tickets (with or without skate rentals) are $15.

🩰 Richmond Ballet's "The Nutcracker" at the Carpenter Theatre at Dominion Energy Center is a holiday tradition for generations of Richmonders.

🌟 Tacky lights tours — for more than 30 years, the Times-Dispatch has verified and compiled a list of every house with aggressive Christmas lights and decor. Find it here.

🎅 Legendary Santa — Richmond's official Santa — is already at the Children's Museum of Richmond, daily through Christmas Eve.

  • A handful of time slots are left for a Santa visit as of press time. Tickets are $30 and must be purchased in advance.

Looking for more holiday things to do? Check out our guide to holiday pop-up bars and igloos.

Plus, Venture Richmond's guide to downtown holiday markets.


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