Growing up in Galveston, I’ve been lucky to experience the evolution of Dickens on The Strand as a child, teenager and adult. It never gets old to dress in my favorite Victorian style dress and hat to partake in this local holiday festival. Plus, I always enjoy the smell of festival food, the sound of holiday music and browsing through the booths of all the wonderful vendors. I’m certain you and your family will, too.
Dickens on The Strand is always the first weekend of December and this year falls on Dec. 4-6, 2015. Following are our picks on five things not to miss at Dickens on The Strand:
1. For the kids – It’s always a treat to see Santa Claus, Queen Victoria and other Charles Dickens characters in costume and a stop to Oliver’s Alley Children’s Area is a “must do.” This year Oliver’s Alley, presented by the Galveston Children’s Museum, will offer hands-on activities for children, a petting zoo and a stage with children’s programming. Plus, Charles Dickens’ great-great-great-granddaughter Lucinda Dickens Hawksley will lead a special writing workshop for kids. Plus, through a grant by the Alice Taylor Gray Foundation, the first 3,000 youth who enter the festival grounds will receive a special print edition of Charles Dickens’ 1843 “A Christmas Carol.”
2. Quirky holiday fun – If you are looking for some quirky entertainment during Dickens check out the Whimsical Whisker Revue facial hair contest. You’ll see some crazy long beards and mustaches and the emcees for the contest add to the fun. And, find a good spot to watch the Dickens Victorian Bed Races.
3. Victorian food – In addition to the tasty festival food, like the popular Scotch Eggs, the Galveston Historical Foundation offers “Dinner with Dickens” on Friday, Dec. 4 at Garten Verein and “Breakfast with Dickens” on Saturday, Dec. 5 at Ashton Villa. Both options will give you a taste of traditional English food as you are entertained by charming hosts who happen to be descendants of the great Charles Dickens. Advance tickets are required and are available online at www.galvestonhistory.org.
4. Spirits and not the paranormal kind – On Friday, enjoy Mr. Fezziwig’s Beer Hall from 5 to 9 p.m. featuring specialty acts, hearty brew and a specialty cocktail from Cedric Dickens’ book Drinking with Dickens and hosted by great-great-granddaughter Jane Dickens Monk. Travel Tip: Admission to the festival is free on Friday. Craft beer fans can learn about the history of The Strand and enjoy Saint Arnold signature brews during a Saint Arnold’s Strand Walking Tours offered Friday through Sunday. Advance tickets are recommended. This tour fills up quick and it’s a ton of fun.
5. Parades – You should plan your time at the festival so you are there to watch the Queen’s Parade on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. and Pickwick’s Lanternlight Parade on Saturday at 7 p.m. You’ll be able to take some great photos of Queen Victoria and her Royal Court, various Dickens characters from A Christmas Carol and other guests in their amazing Victorian-style costumes.
• If you need a quick break from the cold, step inside The Tremont House, located inside the festival area at 2300 Mechanic. The hotel offers live holiday music from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday and has holiday choirs scheduled throughout the day on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
• If you want to dress in Victorian costume you’ll save on the ticket price and pay $8. Old bridesmaid dresses with a repurposed hat work well for the ladies. Several local resale shops are a great resource for last minute costumes, we recommend Le Chat Noir, 4301 Avenue S.
• Advance tickets are available at area Randall’s stores and online at www.dickensonthestrand.org. Tickets are $13 for adults and $7 for ages 7-12 in advance and $15 and $9 at the gate.
If you haven’t experienced Dickens on The Strand then book your room early, put together a costume and plan on making your way to Galveston Dec. 4-6 for one of the best holiday festivals in the United States.
Hotel Holiday Offers:
• Holiday Getaway Package: Throughout the holiday season, Hotel Galvez is featuring a Galveston Holiday Getaway Package. The package includes a $50 food and beverage credit, valet parking and shuttle to The Strand for shopping and holiday festivities.