Back home, the holiday season is amazing. Chicago’s Mag Mile is lined with lights up and down the street, Marshall Field’s (oh alright, Macy’s) windows are a tradition, and you can’t help but stare up in wonder at the Christmas tree in Daley Plaza.

So that’s why I wasn’t sure how Richmond would stack up.  This is our first holiday season here and I’ve been a little worried if it could be as entertaining as home.  And I’m so happy to report it’s awesome.

The week after Thanksgiving is the Grand Illumination when downtown Richmond creates a really cool skyline effect by lighting up all the building silhouettes with holiday lights.  Then there’s the 20+ reindeer at the James Center who are all lit up and sparkly too.   The Botanical Garden light show is wow.  AND, there’s the holiday tree at The Jefferson Hotel…

This hotel is also a must-see if you’re in town any time of the year but particularly during the holidays.  The reason?  It’s got a quirky history for a hotel.  Here’s the story…apparently back in the day, the folks who vacationed in Florida would stop and stay at The Jefferson in Richmond on their way back to the New England area.  And they would bring their pet alligators from Florida with them.

The hotel would let their alligators play in a pond around a Thomas Jefferson statue in the courtyard.  But when it was time to continue on, the guests realized the alligators were too big or too much hassle and left them behind at the hotel.

Yep, this hotel in the middle of the mid-Atlantic region is known for its alligators.  Alligators.  In Virginia.  So random and not the first thing that comes to your mind, huh? I love hearing stories like this.

Things to remember for next time…

1. Try and reserve a place for Sunday Brunch. If you’re looking to come during the holiday season, then you’ll need to make a reservation 6 months in advance.  Seriously, 6 months.  The tables all surround the large Christmas tree and there are beautiful decorations everywhere so it’s incredibly popular.

2. An alternative is to reserve a Sunday Brunch appt. in a non-holiday time. It’s usually $15 cheaper and considerably less crowded (much more fun if you want to take in the atmosphere of such a historic place).  Brunches in the Summer (Jul/Aug) are even cheaper.

3. The Grand Illumination is free for everyone and happens the week after Thanksgiving. The city closes down the streets around the James Center and, since it usually takes place on Friday night, traffic does get a little complicated around 5pm with all the usual commuters.   Public parking garages are a little hard to find so plan your trip before you come downtown.  If you do that, it’s easy breezy and a lot of fun.


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