In this Insiders Guide, we'll give you the full scoop on everything you need to know about The Roanoke Times Dickens of a Christmas. We cover parking, event details, highlight things you don't want to miss, and offer some tips to ensure you have the best experience possible.
What: The Roanoke Times Dickens of a Christmas is the Roanoke Valley's largest holiday celebration. There is a tree lighting, Christmas parade, pet costume contest, kids activities, train rides, horse drawn carriages, and food and crafts vendors.
When: The first three Fridays of December (2, 9, and 16) from 6pm to 10pm
Where: Downtown Roanoke
Night 1 - December 2nd
The first night of Dickens kicks off with the City of Roanoke Christmas Tree Lighting, which takes place on Salem Avenue in the Plaza behind the Market Building. The ceremony begins at 5:30pm with the tree lighting at 6:20pm and will include live stage performances from Woodlawn United Methodist Church Choir and Fame AllStars Roanoke. Arrive early for a good spot to watch the festivities.
Night 2 - December 9th
The highly anticipated City of Roanoke Christmas Parade takes place on the second night of Dickens. The parade begins at 6:30pm on Jefferson Street at Elm Avenue, turns onto Campbell Avenue, goes past Market Square, and ends at Williamson Road.
The parade will include William Fleming Carolers, Virginia Highlands Pipes & Drums, Angels of Assisi, Floyd Ward School of Dance, and many more!
Night 3 - December 16th
The final night of Dickens is perfect for those wanting to bring a furry friend along. The beloved Roanoke Valley SPCA Pet Costume Contest takes place on Salem Avenue at the Plaza behind the Market Building. Pet owners may start registering their pets at 5:30pm the night of the event. The contest begins at 6:30pm. Categories include Best Holiday Theme, Crowd Favorite, Most Creative, and Funniest Costume, so start picking out costumes!
40th Anniversary Celebration & Snow
It's hard to believe that Dickens of a Christmas began 40 years ago, in 1982, as a retail opportunity. Now, Dickens has grown to be one of the biggest holiday celebrations in the Valley.
We're celebrating our 40th year of The Roanoke Times Dickens of a Christmas by creating three magical snowy evenings. Take a stroll down Market Street from 6pm to 9pm and enjoy a snowing wonderland. Make sure to stop by the whimsical igloo in Market Square to get your picture made with Santa and the snowmen!
The Freedom First Express
Hop on the choo choo at the Crafteria Building (located at 16 Church Avenue) and ride all the way to WDBJ7's Elmwood on Ice in Elmwood Park. Once at the park, the train will turn around and return to the Crafteria Building. The Freedom First Express runs on December 2 and 16, 6pm - 10pm.
While you're at Crafteria, go inside for their Winter Wonderland featuring unique and handmade items, holiday-themed drinks from Little Green Hive, food vendors, a fire pit, and more.
If you adore horses, we have something you'll love. Carriage rides will be available 6pm-10pm on December 2nd and 16th at The Roanoke Times Dickens of a Christmas. Take in the wonder of the event while beautiful horses guide you around downtown.
The ticket booth is located near the carriage stop on Campbell Avenue.
How it works: Walk up to the ticket booth and purchase a ticket. Carriage rides are $5 per person and kids under 3 ride for free. We accept cash and credit cards. Once you've received your ticket, staff will direct you to the line for rides. Once you reach the front of the line, hand staff your ticket and you will be assisted into the carriage. Then, ride around and have a good time. When the ride is over, someone will assist you down to the ground.
Please note that ticket sales end at 9:30pm.
Come enjoy inflatables, games, and children’s activities each night of Dickens, 6pm - 9pm, along Market Street and Wall Street. The Kids Zone is for children 12 and under. The best part? It is completely free!
Visit the City Market Building for children's activities. While you're there, mail a letter to Santa at the North Pole. Stay and hear a classic holiday story with Roanoke City Library’s Holiday Story Time at 7:00pm. Santa’s Workshop is located on the ground floor and will be open all three nights of Dickens.
Dickens has wonderful opportunities to have your photo taken and capture memories that will last a lifetime.
Tracie Hoprich Photography is offering free family photo sessions at Dickens with free digital downloads and the option to purchase prints from her website. You can find Tracie at the Pearl Fu Plaza Fountain next to the Hampton Inn and Suites Downtown on December 2nd and 16th, 6pm - 9pm.
You can also grab a picture with Santa! Patrick Perkins Photography is offering professional photos with Santa and you can purchase the photos from his website or you can take the photos yourself on your phone or camera (for free). Head over to Market Square and look for the inflatable igloo!
You will find Patrick there December 2nd from 7-9pm, December 9th from 8:30-10pm, and December 16th from 7-9pm.
Top Tips for Making the Most of Dickens
Parking and Street Closures - Plan Your Trip in Advance
Parking can be stressful, but we're here to make it as simple as possible. We recommend PARK Roanoke because they offer parking in lots and garages at rates lower than privately owned lots and garages. You can find a full list of downtown parking options here.
Make sure to review our street closures for the event so that you can decide the on best route and parking. There are quite a few closures!
Read our Roanoke Times Insert
The Roanoke Times creates a beautiful insert for Dickens each year. The insert includes details about performances (singing and dancing), entertainers (fire performers, sword swallowers, balloon artists, etc.), which businesses are open late, and general event information.
If you haven't already, look over the insert to know exactly what you can expect at The Roanoke Times Dickens of a Christmas.
Save Time for The Elf on the Shelf® Adventure in Downtown
Santa's Scout Elves have landed in Downtown Roanoke. Come on a fun scavenger hunt and find the 16 Scout Elves hiding in downtown stores and restaurants.
You can pick up a passport from any of the participating locations. Once you find a Scout Elf, tell an employee at the location and get a stamp. Once your passport is full, meaning you've found all 16 Scout Elves, drop off your completed passport at Mast General Store by 5pm on December 16th to be entered for a chance to win $1,000!
Stroll Through the Market
In addition to all of the amazing restaurants and retailers we have downtown, we will have just about every kind of vendor you can think of set up along Market Street.
There will be holiday wreaths, ornaments, kettle corn, funnel cake, arts and crafts, jewelry, soap, and so much more. Plus, roasted chestnuts will be available on December 2nd on Campbell Avenue, in front of 202 Social House. Peruse the items for sale and maybe check an item off your Christmas shopping list. Some vendors will be set up at the Market stalls and others can be found in the Square. See what they have to offer.