Van's Top 5 Holiday Attractions from Richmond to Williamsburg

  1. The Colonial Williamsburg “Grand Illumination”

Williamsburg, VA

9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

No ticket required

The annual “Grand Illumination” features a day of holiday-themed attractions in the Revolutionary City.

Guests can marvel at the historic homes decked out for the season, attend one of three holiday dinner events available for reservation at the restaurants and taverns.

“I love “Grand Illumination,” said Van, “because I love getting down to Williamsburg and seeing the colonial decorations. I think it’s very Virginia and an extremely authentic way to celebrate the season. It also reminds me of college because I attended William and Mary and it was a tradition I started when I was 18 and have done it ever since.”

A brass band will perform bouts of seasonal music at varying locations throughout Colonial Williamsburg on December 8th and the fireworks show begins at 5:15 p.m.

“One of the great things to do is to get a hot apple cider, walk down Dog Street and look at all of the decorations, the wreaths on each door. Then, at sundown, a fireworks show like you’ve never seen before goes off at three different locations along Colonial Williamsburg’s historic area,” said Smith.

“Grand Illumination” is held the Sunday of the first full weekend in December each year.


  1. Richmond Tacky Lights Tour

Richmond, VA

“RVA does tacky lights right,” said Attorney Van Smith.

For years, Richmond homeowners have made a name for the city as a hotspot for over-the-top incandescent displays of Christmas cheer each December.

“I’m not an authority on this, but I believe that RVA has the best tacky lights tour in the world,” said Smith. “I think it’s a cool local tradition and it’s an opportunity to cruise around, see different places in the city and see some fantastic light shows.”

Neighborhoods from most areas in Richmond have begun to take part in the charade, from Downtown, Maymont, the Fan and Lakeside to Short Pump Midlothian, and Mechanicsville, you’re likely to find a tacky show in your neck of the woods.

The light tours have become so popular that the lights are now the centerpiece of a variety of spinoff events. CarMax sponsors a Tacky Light Run in Midlothian on December 14. Last year, breweries throughout town hosted Tacky Light Brew Tours.

Tacky Light mobile guides are now available for smartphones and guided limo rides through participating neighborhoods are also available each year.


  1. See a Live Holiday Production


The Night Before Christmas, Nov. 29 to Dec. 29, The Children’s Theatre of Virginia at Willow Lawn

A Lug Nuts Christmas, Nov. 29 to Jan. 5 , Barksdale Theatre at Hanover Tavern

Sorry! Wrong Chimney, Dec. 26-28, Dreamers Production, Williamsburg’s Kimball Theatre



A Big Band Christmas, Dec. 17 and 18, Williamsburg’s Kimball Theatre

Handel’s Messiah, Dec. 6 at the Carpenter Theatre; Let it Snow, Dec. 7 and 8, Richmond Symphony, Richmond’s Carpenter Theatre



The Nutcracker, Richmond Ballet, Dec. 14 to 23 at the Carpenter Theatre

“Every year, I always go see some type of symphony or play related to the holiday season,” said Attorney Van Smith.

Local performances are available each year through The Richmond Symphony, The Richmond Ballet, The Children’s Theatre of Virginia and the Barksdale Theatre.

“Get out there, take somebody you love and see a play or hear music. It’s not the same as watching a movie. A movie doesn’t count. It’s got to be live and you’ve got to be in a live audience,” said Smith.


  1. Buy a gift for a child in need

“Always buy a gift not for a family member,” said Attorney Van Smith. Toys for Tots, Sergeant Santa and the Christmas Mother collect gifts for needy children through churches, schools and other organizations each year.

“There’s something very special about buying a toy for a seven- to nine-year-old and giving it away,” Smith said. “It connects you to the holiday season and makes you appreciative for what you have.”


  1. New Year’s Day Shopping

“As you all know because you’re my past client, I appreciate a good suit and tie,” said Attorney Van Smith. “I only go shopping one time every year, only once.”

“This is a super top-secret that I’ve never given away before. It’s the biggest secret in all of Richmond. You’ve never heard this from anywhere else,” said Smith.

Go shopping early in the morning on New Year’s Day. Department stores in Stony Point Fashion Park and Short Pump Mall have all of their merchandise marked 50 percent off until noon.

“I am not making this up,” said Smith. “My wife has made fun of me for years for this but every single year I go to sleep right after midnight. I get up really early, get Starbucks coffee and drive to the mall and buy everything I need for the entire year in one day.”

“Now if you actually do this and you run into me, don’t take the size 42 suit because I got dibs on that,” he said. But if you do happen to go at 9 a.m. to the Stony Point Dillard’s and see me rummaging through the navy blue suits, come say ‘Hi.’


Bonus Tip!

* 27th Annual Court End Christmas

December 9, noon to 5 p.m.

Richmond, VA


Nine historic Richmond attractions open their doors for free admission as a part of an annual holiday celebration. Live music, living history demonstrations and carolers will perform. The event will also feature carriage rides, gift shops and children’s crafts.

Participating sites include:

  • Valentine Richmond History Center and Wickham House
  • The John Marshall House
  • St. John’s Church
  • St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
  • The Museum and White House of the Confederacy
  • Monumental Church
  • The Egyptian Building
  • The Beers House
  • The Virginia State Capitol


Van Smith is the founder and lead attorney at Smith Strong, PLC


H. Van Smith
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Trusted Virginia Family Law Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg
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