What the Dickens?

The author of A Christmas Carol’s historic visit to Virginia inspires holiday events around the state.

Early on the morning of March 16, 1842, British author Charles Dickens—then 30 years old and already internationally famous for Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby and The Old Curiosity Shop—took a coach from Washington D.C. to Fredericksburg and from there on to Richmond. He arrived in the evening and took a room at the Exchange Hotel, which stood at the corner of 14th and Franklin Streets from 1841 to 1900. 

For the next few days, Dickens explored the city, which was to be his southernmost stop on a six-month tour of the United States, visiting tobacco factories and curing barns, plantations and—of particular fascination to the author—the site of the 1763 Revolutionary War battle of Bloody Run, which is now remembered on a marker at the corner of 32nd and Broad Streets in Richmond. 

Dickens’ visit to America also included stays in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Chicago, and would serve to inspire the travelogue published as American Notes for General Circulation. Of Richmond, Dickens wrote: “There are pretty villas and cheerful houses in its streets and Nature smiles upon the country round.”

A year later, in 1843, Dickens published his “ghost-story of Christmas,” A Christmas Carol, which has inspired stage productions, fireside readings and holiday-season events ever since. Homes and villas across Virginia, bedecked with Christmas lights, are perhaps at their most cheerful and not too far down the street, a Dickens event may be found to celebrate the season.

Dickens-Inspired Holiday Events Around the Commonwealth

A Christmas Carol, Norfolk

In addition to its usual performance schedule, Virginia Stage Company will offer a low-stimulation performance for theater-goers on the Autism spectrum. Click here to read more about Theater for Everyone. Tickets from $25. Dec. 7 – 24. VaStage.org

Dickens of a Christmas, Roanoke 

This winter carnival offers family-friendly rides, a pet costume contest and activities such as carriage rides and roasting chestnuts. Admission is free – $5. Dec. 8 and 15, 6:00 – 10:00 p.m. DowntownRoanoke.org

Charles Dickens Holiday Tour, Roanoke 

The Taubman Museum of Art will offer a special tour of the galleries led by Ebenezer Scrooge. Visitors may encounter the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future along the way, and will have the opportunity to craft their own holiday keepsake. Dec. 8, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Tickets from $5 for children and $15 for adults. TaubmanMuseum.org

Holiday Tea with Charles Dickens, Williamsburg

Enjoy a unique opportunity of having tea with and hearing A Christmas Carol read by Charles Dickens’ great-great grandson, Gerald Dickens. Tickets from $20 for children and $40 for adults. Dec. 12 and 13, 2:30 – 4:30 p.m. ColonialWilliamsburg.com

A Christmas Carol One-Man Play, Richmond

Actor John Hardy of Abingdon will perform more than 40 characters in a solo stage adaptation of the Dickens classic, hosted by the Henrico Theatre. Tickets $10. Dec. 15 at 7:00 p.m. Additional performance in Gloucester, Dec. 10. HenricoLive.com, GloucesterArts.org

The Man Who Invented Christmas, Fairfax

This new film from stars Dan Stevens (of Downton Abbey fame), Christopher Plummer and British actress Miriam Margoyles, who herself visited Richmond during the filming of her 2005 documentary Dickens in America, and tells the story of Dickens writing process leading up to the publication of A Christmas Carol. Showing at the Angelica Film Center and other movie theaters statewide. Tickets from $13. AngelicaFilmCenter.com/mosaic

June 11, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
July 9, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
August 13, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum