The Tacky Lights Tour is a holiday staple in Richmond. For about 30 years, Richmond area homes have been getting decked out for the holidays in a major way. In fact, we’re so well known for our huge displays of Christmas lights that Richmond was proclaimed the Capitol of Tacky Christmas Lights by the mayor and was featured in a story on CBS Sunday Morning a few years back and a few of the homes have competed even won The Great Christmas Light Fight on ABC. Not only do people from neighboring cities and towns visit us to get a glimpse of our tacky lights during the holidays, but visitors drive and fly from different states and even countries just to see this spectacle.
The Tacky Light season officially began on Thanksgiving, but only about half the homes that participate are lit up. The other half will join in on November 30, along with downtown RVA’s Grand Illumination.
One of the most recognized homes on the tour is Al and Esther Thompson’s in the West End with more than 170,000 lights and 100% homemade decorations, with 93 new ones made by Mr. Thompson this year. This is their 20th year on the tour and in all those years they’ve become Christmas light celebrities being featured in many television specials, including TLC’s “Crazy Christmas Lights”, CBS Sunday Morning, and they won ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight” two years ago. They were also named one of the top locations to see Christmas lights in the country by USA Today.
7703 Strath Road has over 50,000 lights and more than 250 inflatables. They want visitors to park, get out and walk around. It’s said that their lights can be seen from airplanes landing at Richmond International Airport. New lights and inflatables are added every year and there’s plenty of parking so that families can walk around the display and take pictures. They also plan to have a visit from Santa and the Grinch on the last couple of weekends before Christmas.
If you think that those two homes have a crazy amount of lights, you have to see the Phifers on Asbury Court in Henrico. Wait, what are we saying? Everyone in Richmond has heard of the Phifers and has visited their phenomenal Christmas lights display every year. They’re an icon in the Tacky Lights tradition and have been decorating for the past 40 years. Yes, they’ve been tacky since before tacky was cool! Now two houses, mother and son, that together have A MILLION AND A HALF lights. They are two of the most famous houses on the tour. Just for the illumination they have somewhere between 500 and 1,000 people visit their homes. Their houses are noticeable for miles away, and it’s blinding up close, but wow is it something you don’t want to miss! They serve hot chocolate on most nights and they collect donations too. Their electric bill during the Christmas season is upwards of $1,200 per month. Though they love it so much they don’t mind. To them, it’s their gift to the people of Richmond.
The last tacky homes we’re highlighting are located in Walton Park in Midlothian. The entire cul-de-sac of Dawnridge Court in Walton Park lights up this time of year and have been doing so for over 10 years. Each house is different — some have dancing lights, others have white lights and multi-colored lights, plus blow-ups, figures and much more. You’ll see it by the icicle lights strung across the streets. The most decorated is probably the home at 12618 Dawnridge Court. They change their theme each and every year. The Walton Park neighborhood is also the site of the Tacky Lights Run being held Dec. 9.
To be a part of the spectacle that is the Tacky Light Tour homes must have a whopping 40,000 lights or more on display and submit an application to get in on the fun. This year there are 68 homes on the tour list, which is kept by The Richmond Times Dispatch. There are several new homes this year, and of course many that have been favorites since the start. To find the list of this year’s homes and get driving directions, go to http://www.TackyRichmond.com or download the mobile app on your Android or IPhone by searching for RTD Tacky Lights.
Whether you see them by limousine, party bus, or just your own car, it’s not Christmas in Richmond until you’ve seen the lights on the Tacky Lights Tour. It’s amazing to be part of a city that has so much Christmas spirit!