• The West End Mom

7 Activities to Do with Your Family This Christmas

Updated: Nov 30, 2021

Christmas is officially 53 days away! And we all know that the holiday calendar fills up so quickly, so I created a list of family-friendly activities and events that you need to do with your family this year.

Here are some of the best Christmas activities around Richmond for families:


1. See the Christmas Lights


Ashland's Light up the Tracks: This historic main street town is hosting its annual tree lighting on Saturday, November 6 at 6pm. This free event begins at Town Hall. You can also visit throughout November and December to see the historic main street town with lights on all the buildings and watch the trains coming through town.


Cross Creek's Illumination Night: This Midlothian nursery has been serving the community for 46 years. On its 24 acres, Cross Creek Nursery has a greenhouse, growing farm, outdoor plants & landscapes areas to explore. The annual Illumination Night is on November 17 from 3-8. This is a free event, and food & drinks will be available for purchase. You can also shop with local vendors. The nursery will illuminate at 7pm.


*Check here for my full review.


The Cultural Arts Center's The Joy of Illumination Annual Tree Lighting: Located in Glen Allen, the annual tree lighting is typically the first Saturday of December from 4-6. Last year, guests walked through decorated trees, listened to carolers, and Santa read a story! This event is hosted by Henrico County Parks and Rec and The Cultural Arts Center, and it's free for the public to attend.


Illuminate Lights Display: The largest drive thru Christmas light show in central Virginia is Dowswell from November 12 to January 2. Illuminate happens nightly from 5:30 to 10pm, and it’s $30 per car. At this rain or shine event, you can drive through about 30 minutes of lights that are synchronized to Christmas music!  


*Check here for my review of last year's event and here for videos of it.


The Jefferson: While Santa Tea may be sold out (this fills up 6 months in advance), you can still visit the historic hotel to catch a glimpse of the most gorgeous Christmas decor. The Jefferson will be decorated for Christmas from Monday, November 29, 2021 through Sunday January 9, 2022. They will have a grand Christmas tree, live poinsettias, lights, a gingerbread display and more. We like to grab hot chocolate and cookies from the Gator's Gift Shop and wander around in our Christmas best.


*The Jefferson is now closed to the public for the month of December. In order to visit, you must be a hotel guest or a dining guest (as of November 18). Hopefully they will change this next year!


Lewis Ginter's Garden Fest of Lights: The annual Garden Fest of Lights is one of our favorite family traditions. We love this seasonal event because Lewis Ginter is completely stroller friendly, and even my grandmother can enjoy the illuminated paths (*there is a slight slope down into the gardens that you have to walk back up - there's places to rest along the way). It's open nightly from 4:00 to 10:00 p.m. from November 22 until January 9. You can enjoy thousands of lights, a train display & refreshments outside in the garden. General admission tickets range from $5 to $18, depending on ticket type and date.


Lewis Ginter is part of Museums for All. With a SNAP or WIC card, you can purchase adult tickets for $1-$5, depending on the night. Children 12 and under are free.


*Check here for my 2020 review, and here for more videos of the event.


The Quirk Hotel: Located a couple blocks from the historic Jefferson Hotel, The Quirk is decorated in pink this Christmas season and it's open to the public! We love visiting their coffee shop in the main lobby for hot cocoa and coffee cake while surrounded by the pretty pink decorations. The main feature, of course, is the gorgeous pink Christmas tree! This is definitely a festive and unique picture opp.


The Coffee Bar is open daily from 7:00- 1:00, and the barista can also make kids' temperature hot cocoa - just ask! There is street parking available.



West Broad Village's Holiday Tree Lighting: On November 12 from 6-8, West Broad Village will host their annual tree lighting. There will be special performances, s-mores stations and other holiday activities. This event takes place on "The Pad," a large green space in the middle of the shopping area. This is a free event.


We also love doing our own "Tacky Lights Tour" with our children, and here's a great list from December 2020 by NBC 12. Some of our favorites are Henrico Fire Station 13, 8720 River Rd. (5 minutes from Coco and Hazel), 1411 Pennsylvania Avenue in Glen Allen, and the home across from Quioccasin Middle School (they didn't have lights last year though).


2. Visit with Santa


Ashland Santa Train: Tiny Tim's Toy Store and Amtrak teamed up to create the 2021 Ashland Santa Train. This event is on Sunday, December 5 and Sunday, December 12 only. Call (804) 368-0063 to reserve your tickets.


This is an all-day, round trip to Williamsburg with Santa, the elves, and the Polar Express Conductor. It costs $110 for adults, $55 for children 2-12, and children under 2 are free if they sit in an adult's lap.


*Please note that current Federal Order requires all individuals 2 and older to wear a mask on public transportation (trains, planes, buses, etc).


The Red Barn Farm's Cookies with Santa: Located in Dinwiddie, this local farm hosts Cookies with Santa on November 20-21 and November 27-28 from 11-2pm each day. Children can see the real Santa in his workshop, decorate their own cookies and feed the animals. Call (804)536-6879 to reserve a spot. Cookies with Santa is a free event, but if you would like to add on the barnyard experience and the Elf Hayride, it costs $8 per person.


*Check here for my full review.


3. Watch a Christmas Parade


Henrico County Parks and Recreation's Holiday Express Tour: This free holiday parade is on three nights in different areas of Henrico County: Tuesday, December 7, Wednesday, December 8, and Thursday, December 10. This parade is from 5-8 each night, and it will travel through Brookland & Fairfield Districts, Varina District and Three Chopt & Tuckahoe Districts. Santa and decorated vehicles travel through local neighborhoods to spread holiday cheer. Last year, we watched from Regency Square Mall's parking lot after having a car picnic. This is a free event.


Richmond Christmas Parade: On Saturday, December 4 at 10 am, The Dominion Energy Christmas Parade returns! This parade takes place on Broad Street, and it travels east to end at the Richmond Coliseum. We are so excited to see the giant balloons, colorful floats, local marching bands, our favorite princesses, and, of course, Santa! This is a free event.


4. See A Christmas Performance


The Cultural Arts Center's "A Charlie Brown Christmas": Henrico Theatre Company is putting on 3 live performances of "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Performances are on December 10 at 7pm, December 11 at 3pm and December 12 at 3pm, and tickets cost $15.

*Masks are required inside The Cultural Arts Centers for all visitors.


The Cultural Arts Center's "The Nutcracker": Students of Central Virginia Dance Academy will perform "The Nutcracker" on December 17, 18, 19 and 20. Tickets cost $15.

*Masks are required inside The Cultural Arts Centers for all visitors.


The Richmond Ballet's The Nutcracker: Live performances of "The Nutcracker" are at the Carpenter Theater from December 11 through December 23. The matinee showings of this classic tale of Clara and her nutcracker is perfect for families. The theater is dark and some of the music can be loud, so know your kids. I didn't attend this show until elementary school, so I will probably do the same with my children. Tickets start at $25.

*All patrons must show a negative virus test within 72 hours of the show, and all individuals over the age of 2 are required to wear a mask.


5. Visit the Country


Fruit Hill Orchard: Located in Palmyra, this family owned orchard has over 2,000 fruit trees & thousands of vegetables. Fruit Hill Orchard is currently open for the Christmas season on Monday through Saturday from 10-6. They are closed on Sundays. They have donuts, Santa visits, and an illuminated orchard (starting at 5pm).


*Check here for my full review.


Sweet Haven's Country Christmas: This family owned lavender farm is located in Williamsburg, about an hour from #RichmondVA . Their annual Christmas event Country Christmas is on Saturday, December 3 and Sunday, December 4. Families can enjoy live music, free hayrides, a petting zoo, and more! Sweet Haven's farm is gorgeous, too. There are picnic tables and hammocks & a children play area too! Tickets cost $5 for adults & children, and kids 5 and under are free.


*Check here for my full review.


6. Go Ice Skating


Stony Point Fashion Park: This local mall decks its halls every year for Christmas around mid/late November. Stony Point has an ice skating rink, snow falling during the week (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays), a play area, horse drawn carriage rides,a giant Christmas tree & more! The ice skating rink opens on November 20 through January 2, and it costs $14 per person (with or without skates). You can visit with Santa between December 3 to December 24. Sign up here to meet with him.


*Check here for my 2020 review.


7. Check out Model Trains


The Great Big Greenhouse: This locally owned nursery is in Huguenot Village Shopping Center. We love Great Big Green House because they are so family-family & host many events throughout the year. Typically, Santa visits for at least 2 weekends in December, and you can take your own picture with him using a personal camera/phone. River City 3 Railers set up an elaborate model train display, and the trains will be there starting November 20. You can watch it in operation from 4-7pm during the week and 11-2 on weekends (these times sometimes change). This is a free activity.


*Check here for my review.


The Science Museum's 44th Annual Model Railroad Show: This was one of our favorite events in 2019, so we are thrilled it's back in person. This special event is the weekend after Thanksgiving, November 26-28. There will be 8 different train layouts including different landscapes and cities. The Model Railroad Show is included with museum admission, and all guests need to reserve an entry time on line in advance.


*Please Note: The Science Museum is requiring a mask for anyone unvaccinated, regardless of age.


Looking for a festive day trip? For the first three weekends in December, Colonial Williamsburg's A Grand Illumination Celebration begins at 6 with Father Christmas, music & stories, and A Grand Display of Fireworks will begin at 7pm on each Saturday night (12/4, 12/11 and 12/18). For the full calendar of events, check here.


Colonial Williamsburg is a 301 acre living-history museum with restored & recreated colonial buildings from when Williamsburg was the capital of Virginia in the 18th century. With special events like a ice skating rink in the winter to the every day events like military activity & carriage rides, Colonial Williamsburg is a fun place to explore with your family. The Liberty Ice Pavilion is open through February. There’s ice skating & refreshments at Duke of Gloucester Street. 


*Check here for my full review, and check here for my Historic Triangle Guide.


For more Christmas activities, check out The Best Places to Find Santa in Richmond !


Don't forget to tag @thewestendmom and #thewestendmom in your adventures! I love seeing all the fun your family has!







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