Picture it. It is 1994 – your Mom takes you and your little brother to see Santa in the mall. Santa listens intently as you make a request for a Barbie with rollerblades. He makes no promises, but you’re feeling optimistic. Santa hugs you and your brother, and your Mom buys the photo. An elf gives you all candy canes. It’s the most exciting day of your entire year.
This is my precious holiday memory, and it continues to be one of my very favorites. It was “just” a mall Santa, but my brother and I still talk about how long the line was, how much anticipation we felt, how magical the time was with Santa.
As I plan the holiday season for my family, I strive to keep this memory at the forefront of my mind. In doing so, I remain acutely aware that holiday magic and money don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Spending a fortune, or stressing yourself out to create the perfect, social media worthy holiday moments will leave you exhausted and frankly, unable to fully enjoy the season with your family.
Here are a few festive holiday outings that won’t break the bank:
A pink Christmas tree, hot chocolate, and croissants – these are a few of my favorite things–and you can find them all this season at Quirk Hotel! This is a fun and easy outing, costing less than $25 for our entire family.
You do NOT need a reservation to visit during the holidays, simply choose a morning or afternoon (to avoid crowds), take in the gorgeous pink tree, and enjoy sipping on delicious hot chocolate.
DIY Tacky Light Tour
Make a holiday playlist, pack some candy canes, and hot chocolate, or cider if you prefer, and take a drive to see all the tacky and tasteful light displays around Richmond. Be sure to turn off/dim your headlights once you’re parked and looking at lights, and keep the music volume in your car quiet enough, so as not to disturb neighbors.
Must-see tacky lights:
- Dawnridge Ct. in Walton Park also known as Christmas Court. This is one of the most popular places to see holiday lights in all of Richmond, and is included in the CarMax Tacky Light Run!
- Pendergrass Christmas Spectacular: (2216 Millcrest Terrace) Although listed on the official “Tacky Light Tour,” this home is decorated with such care and professionalism, as all the displays are handmade. When you arrive, turn your radio to 97.3 to hear holiday music.
- The RVA Christmas Pig House: (7302 Buck Rub Ln) The entire yard is covered in illuminated or inflated pigs, along with a sign wishing visitors, “Merry PIGmas and happy HOGidays!” There is usually a bucket labeled “pig treats” for visitors. I suggest not letting your kids get the squeaky pig toy…learned that the hard way!
- 13914 Walnut Creek Rd: Families are invited to get out of the car and walk around the light display. My children love the tunnel, train, and gigantic Santa!
Free Santa Visits
Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops offer free Santa visits! I suggest making a reservation online before your visit, to avoid wait time. Typically, each child receives a stuffed animal and candy cane from Santa. Not only will you get the 4×6 photo from the store, you are welcome to take as many photos as you like with your phone.
Great Big Greenhouse
Poinsettias, Santa, and model trains are all part of the holiday experience at Great Big Greenhouse, which is completely free. The model train exhibit will be there December 1st – January 20th, and Santa is available for visits the first 2 weekends in December. Great Big Greenhouse welcomes visitors on these 2 weekends with free hot chocolate, popcorn, and coffee.
As the holidays draw near, remember the magical moments aren’t made in swiping your credit card. If they were, my brother and I wouldn’t reminisce about that mall Santa every Christmas. When you plan your holiday outings, refer back to this list for frugal and festive holiday fun.
Be sure to utilize our RFM calendar to find more family-friendly fun!