I’m not a huge fan of the holidays. I get a real “get off of my lawn” attitude around this time of year that doesn’t mix well with 24/7 Christmas songs and more traffic than usual.
I’m not a huge fan of the holidays. I get a real “get off of my lawn” attitude around this time of year that doesn’t mix well with 24/7 Christmas songs and more traffic than usual. Plus, people aren’t very nice. They cut each other off in parking lots. They glare at each other when shopping carts accidentally bump. Everyone is on edge and it’s not very cheery. Plus, the holidays make me sad. Life doesn’t stop just because it’s Christmas; Christmas has (for the last couple years, at least) just been a complication.
This year, for some reason, I feel a little more jolly. I put up a silver tinsel tree and decorated it with blue lights. I am having fun thinking of the presents I would buy if I had any money. I don’t completely abhor this time of year, at least not right this second. So, when I found out that Black Car Richmond, a local corporate transportation company, was offering tacky light tours, I was like, “Yeah. That sounds good.” The tacky light tour is something my mom and I always said “We should do that next year!” and never did. This was our chance.
They picked us up around 5:30. It was already dark, of course, because it gets dark at roughly 2PM in December. Mom and I climbed into this Escalade and settled in for the ride. A Christmas Story was playing on the DVD player inside the car, and Ben, the driver, had holiday music playing on the satellite radio. Fancy, eh? We were on our way.
A word of caution. If you go on one of these tacky light tours, maybe go a little later than 5:30. Heading out to the classic West End route was tricky, since it was totally rush hour. Ben handled it all with good cheer, and we made it to our first stop, Wendhurst Drive. One of the houses there, 9716 Wendhurst, is a classic that has been featured on TV and everything. I found myself wondering what Wendhurst Drive looks like from space.
Over 170,000 lights and almost 800 decorations lovingly crafted by Al and Esther Thompson adorn this Glen Allen home, making it a dazzling first stop. Right down the street at 9629 Wendhurst, we were treated to decorations with a pop culture theme. 9629 is not on the “official” list, but it was pretty cool.
Droid to the World, indeed. Next was 9300 Howse, a house you really have to walk around. They were still working on stringing the lights, but the rock and roll classics were blasting from around back.
After that we headed over to 4901 Daffodil Circle, a house with moving lights, cutouts and inflatables. I really liked the stripey lights on the roof.
The next stop was 4610 Packard Road, where the homeowners feature a 60-year-old Santa and sleigh, in addition to an outside TV that plays Christmas movies. The night we were there they were playing National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Ben drove us on over to 2503 Pine Grove Drive, where the Siceloffs have the yard and house ablaze with 30,000 lights and adorned with numerous inflatables–including a giant Shrek.
The next stop was “The Christmas House” at 2300 Wistar Court, home of “Mr. Christmas” himself, Frank Hudak. Hudak was, incidentally, the grand marshall in the Christmas Parade this year. His house has a donation box for the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls, which I thought was a nice thing. The Christmas House has also been featured on TV and in magazines, and is a prime tacky light tour destination.
There were several more stops on the list, including the two houses on Asbury, the four houses on Boardman (three of which aren’t on the official list), the Whitlock home on River Road, and Venetian Way, viewable only from Maybeury Drive.
8720 River Road
9604 & 9606 Asbury Court
Christmas row on Boardman Lane
9625 Peppertree Drive
The last stop on the house tour was 1925 Laburnum Avenue, and WOW did those people put some work into their decorations. The lights are synched up to music, and you just tune your radio to 89.3 FM and sit back and watch the show. The videos on their website (www.rosedalechristmas.com) aren’t updated with their new pillars with stars on top, but pictures don’t really give the experience justice. It’s pretty freaking cool.
So I was sitting there, watching these lights move in time with the holiday music, watching my mom’s face, and thinking about all these people who put the time and effort into their respective tacky lights. Some of the houses were just ordinary houses, but the garish display of lights made them sort of, well, magical. I don’t know what the motivations are behind spending all that time (and money) to light up houses so that they might be seen from space (maybe, right?) but in that moment I thought that they must be doing it for the right reasons. That they just want to take this dark, grumpy time of year and make something fantastic and oddly beautiful for us to see. I know it’s kind of cheesy, but my heart grew bigger (maybe three sizes, even) that night, and I’ve been decidedly less grouchy since then.
You won’t catch me wearing a Santa hat anytime soon, though, so don’t ask.
If you want to take the route I did, or take another, and want someone else to drive you, I encourage you to call Ben at Black Car Richmond sedan service and book yourself a tour. He did a great job and I just want to give him a shout out.
P.S. If you’re on instagram, participate in RVA Mag’s Tacky Lights instagram contest, and win a pair of tickets to Lewis Ginter’s non-tacky, actually quite lovely Christmas light show, Dominion GardenFest of Lights. Contest ends December 22–details in the image below: