The holiday season is a magical time of year here in Houston. The city becomes transformed—even before Thanksgiving—and the excitement in the air is almost palpable. Many residents and their loved ones visiting from other places enjoy attending seasonal events and looking at all of the Christmas lights in Houston and the surrounding communities, and 2019 has more options than ever to choose from.
It can be a challenge to keep track of everything going on—especially when you’re trying to find time to decorate your own home and attend to a long list of to-dos. With the help of this guide, you can plan your holiday season so that you can enjoy beloved local traditions and create new opportunities to make special memories.
Best Christmas Lights Events To Ring In The Season
Part of the fun of the holidays is seeing the sparkling lights all over town, and we’re lucky to have so many different Christmas light events to choose from! Clear your calendar for the following one-night celebrations:
- Mayor’s Holiday Celebration – November 30th, 2019, from 6-8pm. This year’s event is extra special because it marks the 100th anniversary of this holiday tradition! Attendees will enjoy music, fireworks, family fun, and a special guest appearance: Santa Claus. The celebration takes place in Hermann Square at City Hall and is accessible to the public. However, if you’d like, you can bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate to spread the holiday cheer to less fortunate people.
- Christmas Boat Parade – December 14th, 2019 starting at 6 pm. You don’t need a boat to experience this unique holiday happening. More than 100,000 people enjoy the parade from land. Featuring 60 brightly decorated power and sailboats, the route begins at the Clear Lake channel and continues into the South Shore Harbour Marina. These festive boats reach the Nassau Bay Lagoon and end up in Galveston Bay.
- Uptown Holiday Lighting – November 28th, 2019, at 4 pm. The 32nd Annual Uptown Holiday Lighting will be bigger and better than ever in 2019. This year’s lighting will include 300 new, 20-foot-tall trees. The decorated trees are located on Post Oak Boulevard from the West Loop and Richmond Avenue. Event attendees will be treated to festive music, holiday treats, and characters, including jolly old Saint Nick! After the trees have been lit, a fireworks show will close out the night. This event is entirely free for you and your family to attend.
- Lights In The Heights – December 14th, 2019 at 6pm. Stroll along the Lights in the Heights route to take in beautiful Christmas lights with your favorite holiday music playing on the front porches, driveways, and garages of these homes. Some homes will have traditional white lights, while others will be colorful and eclectic. Some homeowners choose to play Christmas carols or recent renditions of the classics. There is sure to be something for everyone! Just keep road closures in mind when traveling through the neighborhood.
While these events are fun one-time celebrations, there are plenty of other opportunities to get in the holiday spirit in and around Houston.
Ongoing Holiday Events In Houston And Beyond
You’ll have plenty of flexibility when attending one of these holiday celebrations. These events start in November, and some last until the new year. There is so much to explore between the different events, so get ready!
These ongoing events include:
- Magical Winter Lights – Opened on November 10th, 2019. It wouldn’t be the holidays without Magical Winter Lights. This beloved local tradition takes place on a 20-acre plot of land and runs for 52 days. This winter wonderland has anything and everything you could dream of lantern displays, cultural performances, carnival rides, favorite characters, and even Chinese arts and crafts to celebrate Chinese New Year. Check back for more information regarding ticket sales.
- Holidays at Moody Gardens – November 16th, 2019 – January 12th, 2020. The options are endless at Moody Gardens! There’s ice skating, an arctic slide, holiday films in 3D, photos with Santa, and even the traditional Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer film in 4D. If you bundle up, you can visit the Ice Land attraction, where two million pounds of ice sculptures show how the holidays are celebrated worldwide. You can purchase your tickets now, and you even have the option to buy a season pass. Check out this link for hours of operation and ticket prices.
- Dickinson Festival of Lights – Opens on November 30th, 2019. This light festival is a free event with over two million holiday lights. Guests can also participate in cookie decorating and have a picture taken with Santa. At Paul Hopkins Park, attendees can park at the Dickinson Plaza Shopping Center and take a free shuttle from the shopping center to the festival. The last shuttle into the festival will leave at 8:30 pm, and the shuttles will run until everyone has exited the park.
- Santa’s Wonderland – Opened on November 8th, 2019. You can enjoy the festive lights in Santa’s Wonderland by a hayride tour or a VIP horse and carriage ride. This wonderland will also have snow, so grab a snow tube and ride down Frostbite’s Mountain. Early bird tickets are sold on September 1st at 8 am and close on September 4th at midnight. Check out everything you need to know about tickets here.
- Sugar Land Holiday Lights – November 22nd, 2019 – January 5th, 2020. With more than 3 million holiday lights and eight different themed areas, this spectacle will surely get you in the holiday spirit! Last year, a carnival was added to the lineup, which will be returning this year. There will be carnival food, other food vendors, and plenty of opportunities for holiday shopping. You can attend this event from 6 pm to 9 pm on Sundays through Thursdays or, if you would instead participate in on the weekend, the festival will be open from 6 pm until 10 pm. The last entry is allowed 30 minutes before closing.
- Zoo Lights – November 23rd, 2019 – January 12th, 2020. Zoo Lights will be twice as bright this year with a 100-foot-long Infinity Tunnel of Light, a 4D Enchanted Forest, and a giant ice dragon. Take in all the beautiful holiday lights adorning oak trees while sipping hot cocoa. Activities such as decorating churros, making s’mores, and taking photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus will also be activities. You don’t want to miss this Houston tradition!
- Campfire Christmas – December 14th and 21st, 2019. Travel to experience how Christmas was celebrated from the 1830s through the 1930s at the George Ranch Historical Park. Things will be a little different this year because they have opened up the park to include all four major historical sites and lowered ticket prices. Also, there’s no formal dinner, so guests can arrive whenever possible! Enjoy the park by tram, running from 6 pm to 9 pm. Remember that the last entry into the park is at 8 pm to ensure visitors can experience the entire tour.
- The Christmas Train In Alvin – December 6th and 7th, 12th through 14th, and 16th through 23rd, 2019. Take an old-fashioned train through Christmas scenery and over 300,000 lights. This event has happened since 2000 and is now a Houston metro tradition. This event is 25 miles south of Houston and has delicious food and concessions to purchase before hopping aboard the holiday train. The train is open weekdays from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm and is available on Fridays and Saturdays from 6 pm until 10 pm.
Of course, sometimes having more relaxed options for celebrating the holidays is nice. If you’re looking for a quieter (and cheaper) way to celebrate, there are plenty of festive neighborhoods in the Houston metro area to visit.
Houston In December: A Great Time To Tour The Neighborhoods
A great holiday hack is hopping in your car and visiting neighborhoods known for their light displays.
Some of our favorites include:
- Nite of Lites – This starts during the second week of December and runs through the last weekend of December. The Prestonwood Forest Area has been recognized for over 40 years for welcoming thousands of visitors to see their neighborhood’s holiday lights. The Nite of Lites is also a friendly neighborhood competition. Visitors can vote for their favorite holiday display online. Go check out the lights, SMF, then cast your vote for your famous house and favorite block of the neighborhood.
- River Oaks Christmas Lights – Starts on Thanksgiving and runs until the day after Christmas. Some homeowners leave their lights up until January 6th. The festive homeowners on River Oaks Boulevard have created a recommended driving route so homeowners can see all of the different holiday lights from their cars. This is an excellent option if you are looking for a group outing that doesn’t involve much walking since you can put on some Christmas tunes while sipping hot chocolate and taking in the displays. While you can get out of your car and walk around to look at these homes, parking is scarce.
If these festive neighborhoods have inspired you and you’re looking to want to improve upon holiday displays this year—or if you have a long list of people to shop for—there are plenty of Christmas markets for you to visit this holiday season.
The Best Christmas Markets In Houston
Whether you want to try new holiday recipes, you’re looking for gifts, or unique holiday decorations, there is a Christmas market for every Houstonian! These markets are a great way to support the local community while trying new things and even giving back to the community.
Try something new this year at these holiday markets:
- German Christmas Market & Festival – December 13th through 15th, from 6-10 pm. This market showcases over 175 different vendors selling German holiday items, as well as traditional German foods and drinks, including Glühwein (mulled wine), imported beer, Bratwurst, red cabbage, sauerkraut, apple strudel, and more. There will also be traditional American fair foods for your pickier eaters: corn dogs, funnel cake, and kettle corn.
- The Nutcracker Market – November 14th through 17th. The Houston Ballet has been hosting this market for 38 years. With over 260 vendors, booths have unique home decor, gifts, food, apparel, toys, and accessories for sale. Your shopping will support the arts, as a portion of each ticket returns to the Houston ballet. You can purchase access to this upscale holiday event here.
- The Sugar Plum Market – November 7th through 9th. The Fort Bend Junior Service League puts on this event, and part of the proceeds go to local nonprofits. The 19th Annual Market will kick off with a special preview night to give shoppers a special chance to take advantage of this one-stop holiday shopping extravaganza. Last year, this market raised $335,000 for 22 charities in Houston.
- A Christmas Story Art Market At Karbach Brewing Company – December 15th, 2019, from 12-7 pm. Do you love the movie A Christmas Story? Or an ice-cold beer? If so, this market is for you. Karbach Brewing holds a funky art market showcasing pieces inspired by this traditional holiday movie. This is also an excellent opportunity to don your most wonderfully horrific sweater to compete in the ugly Christmas sweater contest.
With all there is to do in Houston during the holidays, it’s not a surprise that many homeowners find it hard to find the time to decorate their homes with Christmas lights.
ABC Can Put Up Your Christmas Lights So You Can Enjoy Houston’s Holiday Events
The holidays are a busy time of year, and most of us would prefer spending time with friends and family rather than atop a ladder putting up Christmas lights. That’s why more and more homeowners are outsourcing this thankless task to the professionals at ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our lighting experts make your home the envy of the neighborhood without your having to lift a finger. Better yet, we’ll return after the holidays to take down and store your lights. ABC can make your life easier this holiday season, whether by installing your Christmas lights or working on your landscaping and lawn.