As a girl who grew up in the 757/804 area of Virginia, Christmas is about the lights. I don’t just mean driving through the neighborhoods to see the Christmas lights…I mean going to see light festivals. In Virginia there is this thing called the 100 Miles of Lights where several cities (mostly in the tidewater) host light festivals that can either been driven or walked through.
The only one I actually went to growing up was the Celebration of Lights in Newport News. As amused as I was by the skiing elves and the penguins jump over our vehicle, my favorite was the Loch Ness monster…I was puzzled as a kid how they put the lights in the water. (In reality it was on the edge of the lake).
I was on the hunt for a spectacular light festival, thinking with the gorgeous mountains there had to be something around here…I googled and googled and googled… but apparently Central Virginia is not interested in the light displays. Husband explained the reason is the difference in the population density between here and the tidewater region.
Therefore, I convinced the husband to take a day trip to the Richmond area! Where I was able to enjoy part of the 100 Miles of Lights!
Driving on the way there we stopped by this roadside Thai place. He’d eaten there before. I ordered Sweet and Sour Chicken, despite that is my default choice at Chinese locations. However, the description of cucumbers and tomatoes intrigued me. I was not disappointed! Our food was brought to us on platters in the typical Thai style. I went to Thailand in 2009 and my Team Leader explained that in Thailand “family style eating out” means that they order multiple meals and each share some, as opposed to our Western idea of each person ordering their own entree.
I usually get nervous speaking foreign language bits to native speakers. Oddly, I think I’m going to offend them or something. Paying for our bill I wai’d her (a respectful bow with hands bent in a praying formation) and said goodbye “Sa wa de ka!” I’m so glad I did, because she responded with the biggest smile!
I felt like the drive took forever, but it was definitely worth it. I’d thought maybe we would go to Short Pump to wait until the festivities started at 5pm. However, we turned onto the exit, saw how crowded everything was, said “nope!” and turned around.
We decided to head to the Gardens even though it was still too early. I wasn’t sure they’d even let us in, or if they needed to distinguish between the day/night visitors for separate prices. Getting there at 4pm we had an amazing parking spot, and many cars were creeping in, and we had no problems being let into the park early.
We’d visited the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden before with my in laws last September. During that trip I was excited to use my still new camera…but realized upon arrival that the battery was at home! So the images I caught that day were only from my smart phone. I was mostly excited, this visit to document the lights with my schmancy DSLR. Though I suspected the butterflies wouldn’t be there :0(.
The trick to documenting Christmas lights is a tripod and the lowest ISO possible. I didn’t want to drag the tripod around, so I just experimented with the ISO. Also, the perfect time to document lights is at dusk, when there is just some light in the sky. The sunset was a gorgeous one with purples and blues, my favorite! I loved getting there early enough to see the lights come to life.
My favorite displays were solid creations. We turned to walk into the children’s area. I literally gasped when I saw a unicorn…and then remember I was 26…and posed for a picture anyway!
At the gift shop we purchased a hand blown ornament from Germany. It really was a magical evening.
Feel like you missed out? This event continues nightly 5pm-10pm until January 13th.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!