Updated November 25, 2015.
Piling into the car with hot chocolate in hand, my family and I hit the road to look at everyone else’s Christmas lights. It’s our annual tradition and it’s an easy one. But lately I’ve been thinking about all of the really awesome light-peeping opportunities across the state, and I’m thinking it’s time to spice things up. Maybe it’s time for you and yours as well?
For more ways to brighten the start to the holiday season, including Virginia’s famous 100 Miles of Lights, read this great article Five Illuminating Ways To Kick Off The Holidays.
— LIGHTS BY CHAIRLIFT —
Natural Tunnel State Park in Duffield has a chairlift that glides riders from the top of what William Jennings Bryan called the “Eighth Wonder of the World” to the bottom. The tunnel is 100 feet by 850 feet through a limestone ridge, and the area surrounding it is decorated in lights and animations from Thanksgiving weekend until the weekend before Christmas during what is known as the “Lighting of the Tunnel.” Rides are available Fridays and Saturdays from 6 to 9 p.m. The fees are $4 to park and $3 per person to ride. In addition to the lighted lift, Santa can be found at the mouth of the tunnel, should your little one wish to provide a list of Christmas desires. Performances, hot chocolate, and the gift shop round out the experience.
— LIGHT REFLECTIONS —
If you’ve never seen a boat parade, it’s really a pretty neat sight. Waterside communities along Coastal Virginia, the Potomac River, and even on Smith Mountain Lake enjoy the lighted vessels parading on the water.
Find a Boat Parade:
Jackson Creek Cruise, Deltaville
— NASCAR LIGHTS —
Come on, everyone wants to drive on a NASCAR track! Fortunately, Bristol Motor Speedway gives you that opportunity during their Speedway in Lights event. Yes, we realize that technically the Speedway is on the Tennessee side of the line, but we share State Street and all the amazing dining, shopping and lodging, so cheers to “sharing is caring” this holiday season!
— PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES … and carriages —
First, let me apologize that The Santa Clause Train out of Dillwyn has already sold out this year. Second, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include it here for your “I want to do that next year” consideration. This special excursion departs six times during the first two Saturdays in December, and includes a visit with the Jolly Ol’ Elf himself. Oh, and he has a gift for each little girl and boy. Obviously, advanced planning is strongly recommended, and seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The round-trip experience lasts approximately 45 minutes and costs $22 per person. Online Reservation
Additionally (and with continued apologies), Norfolk Botanical Garden offers themed tram experiences each season, all of which are sold out for this year. Sadly, these are what you missed, if you’re not one of the lucky ones. The early bird gets the worm when it comes to train rides, for sure.
- Polar Express
- Hogwarts Express
The original version of this post did not include planes because I didn’t know we had plane tours for light peeping! WE DO! Yes! Check out Horizon Holiday Lights Tour in Chesapeake, operating daily in December with 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 7 p.m. tours. Up to three passengers can be accommodated in one of their Cessnas flying out of Chesapeake Regional Airport. Advance reservations are required.
“Tacky” is a fun word, but can be offensive to some (most, probably). In certain situations, however, being tacky is actually the goal. For example, tacky lights are a real thing in Richmond. People request to have their homes listed on the tacky light tour map, and unofficially compete with one another to see who can “tack it up” the best. Limo companies offer tours, and that is where the fun begins. Your small group can book a limo for one of these tours, or your large group can book a mini bus. Rates vary depending on tour duration, vehicle requested, and any additional whims you might want to throw in (beverages, maybe?).
Why not try a drive-thru light experience this year? There are quite a few to choose from. Begin with Virginia’s 100 Miles of Lights, which runs from Virginia Beach to Richmond, with communities illuminating the drive.
More Drive-Thru Lights:
- Celebration in Lights, Newport News
- Celebration of Lights, Staunton
- Elks National Home, Bedford
- McDonald’s Holiday Lights at the Beach, Virginia Beach
Carriage rides are pretty romantic as is, but pair them with cold weather and the cuddling really kicks in. Snuggle up with the one you love while being escorted along historic streets, past beautifully, tastefully decorated homes and businesses this holiday season.
— LIGHTS ON FOOT —
Stroll through gardens and residential areas to enjoy the hard work of the beauty at your own pace. Here are a few suggestions …
- Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond
- Meadowlark Botanical Garden, Vienna
- Monument Avenue, Richmond
- Norfolk Botanical Garden, Norfolk
Do you have a unique light experience to suggest? Leave a comment!