There are a lot of things to love about the holiday season, but few things make my heart happier than holiday lights. From artistic professional displays to flashing colored bulbs on neighborhood homes, holiday lights are one of the things that make this time of year feel like magic.
Here in Richmond, we are actually quite well known for our Christmas lights. And I’m not just talking about the famous Tacky Lights Tours. There are, in fact, a number of places with holiday lights displays that will dazzle the whole family. After all, even if Christmas isn’t your “thing,” it’s hard not to be impressed with as many as a million lights decorating the night sky.
To help you make the most of the lights this season, we’ve looked around to find the most impressive holiday light shows, events, and private homes. To make our list, each light display needed to have:
- Easy access for the whole family
- Unique themes or features
- More than “just” lights (i.e., something for everyone in your crew!)
The following five options for holiday lights each offer a truly unique experience. We’re pretty sure you’ll agree, but if you have a favorite that we haven’t listed here, let us know. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell about your favorite holiday light display!
Hosted annually by The Valentine Museum, the Holiday Glitter Walking Tour has become a special tradition for many families in Richmond. This guided tour takes you down Richmond’s elegant Monument Avenue to see some of the city’s most spectacular homes festooned with decorations and lights, as well as learn some history about the street and the homes themselves. The tour is held on December 27 and offers a perfect way to extend the holiday season. This event is especially perfect if you’re looking for things to do with out-of-town guests. You can not only show them some of Richmond’s best lights, but you’ll give them a taste of history, too.
Why we love it: The beauty of this event lies in the fact that it offers more than just dazzling lights decorating one of Richmond’s most beautiful streets. It also offers a chance to learn more about Monument Avenue and the homes that line it. The walking tour is part of The Valentine’s Richmond History Tours program and features a professional guide that will share the history of the homes, details about their architecture, stories of their past and present residents, and holiday traditions from the area. But what sealed the deal for us when choosing it as one of our favorites is that even if you don’t want to take a guided tour, you can visit Monument Avenue any time during the holiday season to see its elegant lights and décor.
December 27, 2017, 6pm – 7:30pm
$15 per person
$5 for Valentine Members
Purchase event tickets online
The tour begins at the Robert E. Lee statue on the corners of Monument and Allen Avenues
For the third year in a row, the town of Ashland comes alive with Christmas lights and decorations. Starting at the beginning of December and lasting through New Year’s Day, visitors to the quaint railroad town of Ashland (just north of Richmond) can see lights decorating businesses, homes, and Randolph Macon College. With lights stretching a mile through town, Light Up the Tracks has already become a beloved tradition for many in the area. In addition to lights, the town will host fantastic holiday events throughout the month, including visits from Santa, musical and dance performances, the “Gingerbread Trail,” family activities, crafts, holiday open houses, and more.
Why we love it: Not only are the lights featured in Ashland’s Light Up the Tracks event beautiful in and of themselves, the town itself is truly a local treasure. This event offers an opportunity to experience a good old-fashioned, small-town Christmas. It may not offer as many bells and whistles as some of the other events we’ve listed, but Light Up the Tracks serves up holiday spirit in abundance. You and your family will love strolling the streets of this quaint town, visiting the historic Main Street Train Station, shopping at local businesses, and most of all, being part of a close-knit community that represents the true spirit of holiday fellowship.
December 1, 2017 – January 1, 2018
If you’re looking for an event that will be fun (and easy) for the whole family, then the Illuminate Light Show will more than do the trick. This drive-through lights spectacular features more than a million dazzling lights in a wide array of displays, from twinkling Christmas trees and snowflakes to breathtaking tunnels. Best of all? All of the lights are synchronized to holiday music that you can play from your car radio. Simply tune in and enjoy the ride!
Why we love it: When it comes to light displays, the Illuminate Light Show and Santa’s Village takes the cake for variety and flexibility. The drive through the event takes anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes on average – but you get to do it from the comfort (and warmth!) of your own car. This is especially nice if you have little ones who don’t want to, or can’t, spend too much time walking around in the cold. Likewise, if you have other family members that do like to get out and explore, then Santa’s Village offers more than enough opportunity for working out the wiggles. In addition to games and concessions, there are nightly visits and photos with Santa, as well as a special holiday market for finding gifts, souvenirs, and more. With something for everyone, Illuminate is an event you won’t want to miss.
November 17 – December 31, 2017
5:30pm – 10pm nightly
Visits with Santa are available through December 23, 2017
Car admission (1-9 passengers): $25
Limo or mini-bus admission (10-34 passengers): $55
Full-size bus admission (35+ passengers): $100
Admission with valid military ID: $22
Click here for additional discounts and group rates.
Admission to Santa’s Village is free with a paid ticket for the lights display, however, concessions, photos with Santa, and some activities do require a fee.
Meadow Event Park
13191 Dawn Blvd
Doswell, VA 23047
The Phifer Family Home
There are people who hang Christmas lights every year—and then there’s the Phifer family. Over the last 43 years, this local family has been creating light displays that draw crowds from near and far. Done for no other reason than to celebrate the joy of Christmas, the Phifer family has grown their display to include more than a million lights covering two homes (located side-by-side), as well as more Santas, snowmen, reindeer, and nutcrackers than you can count. The display takes nearly three months to complete, and for spectators, the love and attention to detail shows in every twinkling light.
Why we love it: It’s easy to see why the Phifer family’s holiday lights would make our list of favorites. But, we’re not the only ones that have taken notice of this family’s special holiday tradition. The Phifer family has been invited to compete on ABC’s reality game show “The Great Christmas Light Fight” for a number of years. But in the past, they’ve turned down the offer. This year, however, they accepted for a very special reason. After losing his mother earlier this year, Bobby Phifer decided to dedicate this year’s display to her memory, making it one of their most meaningful displays ever. The Phifer family home appears on the December 11 airing of the show, with the finale occurring on December 18. But don’t settle for seeing this amazing display on screen…this is one that you need to see in person to believe!
The Phifer family lights display can be seen nightly from now until after the holiday season ends. The Phifer family home is also a stop on the Richmond Tacky Lights’ Tour. If you want to see more amazing displays of lights throughout the Greater Richmond area, be sure to visit www.richmond.com/holiday/tacky-lights/ to see a map of participating homes in your area.
Cost: Free, but given the magnitude of the display, the family will accept donations.
9604 and 9606 Asbury Court
Henrico, VA 23229
This annual event at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is like no other. Unlike many holiday light displays that only focus on Christmas, Lewis Ginter comes up with a special theme each year that encompasses a broader range of creative concepts. This year’s theme, Naturally Ever After, features “Stories in Lights.” Using more than half a million twinkling lights, the event designers and architects have fashioned displays and exhibits that represent stories ranging from fairy tales and folklore to timeless classics. The theme intends to highlight stories from a multitude of cultures and eras, draw out these stories’ lessons, integrate them with nature, and bring people together in a spirit of community and joy.
Why we love it: GardenFest of Lights is more than just a lights’ display. It’s a community experience that can be celebrated regardless of culture, creed, or religion. However, with special events throughout its duration, GardenFest definitely offers traditional Christmas elements, as well. In addition to indoor and outdoor light and plant displays, you’ll find hand-crafted botanical decorations, special holiday dinners, firepits for s’mores and hot chocolate, opportunities for holiday dinners, visits with Santa, family activities and crafts, caroling, concerts, story times, and much, much more. We love this event, not only for its lights, but for it’s broad and open appeal to every member of the community.
November 24, 2017 – January 8, 2018
5pm – 10pm nightly (closed December 24 and 25)
$11 seniors (age 55+)
$8 children (ages 3 – 12)
Free for children under age 3
$7: Garden members
$5: Child on Garden Membership (ages 3 – 17)
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
1800 Lakeside Avenue
Richmond, Virginia 23228
For a complete list of all of the twinkling highlights of the holiday season, be sure to check out the Richmond Times Dispatch Tacky Lights Tour Guide!
Tacky Lights Tour provided by Richmond Times-Dispatch