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Insiders Guide - Dickens of a Christmas 2023

Category:  What’s New

In this Insiders Guide, we'll give you the full scoop on everything you need to know about Delta Dental 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. 

Event Information

What:  Delta Dental 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 (1, 8, and 15) from 6pm to 10pm

Where: Downtown Roanoke

Tree Lighting Ceremony
2021 Parade Entry 

Night 1 - December 1st

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 Mill Mountain Ringers and Divine Dance Center. Arrive early for a good spot to watch the festivities. 

Night 2 - December 8th 

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, Southernettes Baton Corps, Floyd Ward School of Dance, marching bands, and many more!

A dog dressed as an elf at Dickens 

Night 3 - December 15th 

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! 

Dickens Highlights

PARK Roanoke Silent Disco

Immerse yourself in a world of dancing never before seen at Dickens of a Christmas. PARK Roanoke is bringing the fun to Century Plaza with a silent disco on Friday, December 15th, 6-9pm!

Grab a pair of wireless headphones and groove to the beats. The only catch? People not wearing headphones won't hear the music, creating a unique disco experience. 

Northwest Ace S'mores Station

Indulge in the delightful flavors of winter at the Northwest Ace S'mores Station. Head to Salem Avenue behind the City Market Building to roast your marshmallow to golden perfection over a firepit and warm your hands at the same time. FREE pre-made kits include all of the s'more making essentials, including chocolate, graham crackers, and a marshmallow are available on Friday, December 15th, 6-9pm while supplies last!

Cactus Joe Choo Choo

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 Cactus Joe Choo Choo runs on December 1st and 15th, 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, and more. 

Carriages at Dickens

Carriage Rides

If you adore horses, we have something you'll love. Carriage rides will be available 6pm-10pm on December 1st and 15th at Delta Dental 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.

Santa's Workshop

Kids Zone

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! 

Santa's Workshop

Visit the City Market Building for children's activities. While you're there, mail a letter to Santa at the North Pole. Santa’s Workshop is located on the ground floor and will be open all three nights of Dickens. 

Photo Opportunities 

Dickens has wonderful opportunities to have your photo taken and capture memories that will last a lifetime. 

You can 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 Santa! You will find Patrick there December 1st from 7-9pm,  December 8th from 8:30-10pm, and December 15th 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!

Pages from the 2023 insert

Read our Official Guide

We created a beautiful insert for Dickens in The Roanoke Times. 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 Delta Dental 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!

Learn More

Chestnuts Roasting at Dickens

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 cakes, arts and crafts, jewelry, soap, and so much more. Plus, roasted chestnuts will be available on December 1st and 8th 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.

We can't wait to see you at Delta Dental Dickens of a Christmas!