Houston Ballet's The Nutcracker | Jackie Rodriguez/Visit Houston
Houston Ballet's The Nutcracker | Jackie Rodriguez/Visit Houston

The Most Festive Events Happening in Houston This Holiday Season

It’s legit the most wonderful time of the year in Houston, and that’s not just because the humidity has finally dropped to tolerable levels (though it certainly helps). This season, a wintry mix of bright and merry holiday cheer comes to H-town in the form of outdoor ice skating rinks, festive pop-up markets, classic holiday films under the stars, and boozy beverages aplenty. Get warm and cozy with a Snowball Old-Fashioned, get your holiday shopping done early, fly down a colossal ice slide that is definitely made for kids, and watch Christmas classics under the stars to get all the holiday feelsies.

A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story of Christmas
A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story of Christmas | Alley Theatre

Get life lessons from Scrooge

November 15 - December 29
The Alley Theatre
The Alley Theatre brings Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story of Christmas, to life, retelling Ebenezer  Scrooge’s journey and the three ghostly spirits who teach him mad life lessons on Christmas Eve.
Cost: Tickets are $39 and up.

Drink festively at an interactive Christmas pop-up bar

November 15 - December 31
Porch Swing Pub
Santa’s Tavern is bringing its holiday cheer to Porch Swing Pub. The winter wonderland will feature wall-to-wall decor, Instagrammable holiday booze (including a giant holiday drink you can share with a friend, appearances from Santa, and festive photo-ops. The event is family-friendly by day (from 11am-7pm) and adults-only by night (7pm-2am).
Cost: Tickets are $20 per adult, sold in three-hour time slots to avoid overcrowding and long wait times ($10 for children 5-12, free for 4 and under). 

Feel the magic under hundreds of majestic lanterns

November 15 - January 5
Gulf Greyhound Park
The spectacular Winter Lights Festival isn’t your run-of-the-mill holiday lights show. This one puts a multicultural spin on the magic, with lantern attractions, Chinese acrobatics, and a carnival. The magic is open every day through January 5, including Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.
Cost: Tickets are $22/adult; use code MAGICAL19 for discount tickets through November 28

Ice at Discovery Green
Ice at Discovery Green | Julie Soefer | Visit Houston

Show off your skating skills (or lack thereof) on the ice in the middle of Downtown

November 15-  February 2
Discovery Green
The Ice at Discovery Green returns for a season full of open skating right in the heart of Downtown. Glide to the backdrop of the city skyline, and try not to embarrass the crap out of yourself in front of your date.
Cost: $11 admission; $4 skate rental

Relive your youth on a giant ice slide

November 16 - January 12
Moody Gardens
Unleash your inner kid at at Moody Gardens’ “Holiday in the Gardens” extravaganza, with eight holiday attractions including the mile-long Festival of Lights, Ice Land: Christmas Around the World, ice skating, and a gigantic Arctic Slide.
Cost: Tickets from $8.95 to $45.95

Zoo Lights
Zoo Lights | Joseph Haubert/Visit Houston

Enjoy Zoo Lights, sans kids

November 21
Houston Zoo
Before the Houston Zoo opens up for its annual Zoo Lights (more on that next), you can stroll through the Zoo with a Saint Arnold brew, glass of wine, or spiked hot chocolate, and absolutely no kids from 7-10pm. 
Cost: Tickets are $45 GA and include two 12oz pours of Saint Arnold beer

See Constellation Field illuminated with over three million lights

November 22 - January 5
Constellation Field
The 6th annual Sugar Land Holiday Lights sparkles and shines with over three million lights and themed displays at Constellation Field. You can also expect a variety of vendors, food and drink, and a visit from Santa. Hours are 6-9pm (10pm Fri-Sat).
Cost: Tickets are $15-$16 per adult

Get your holiday shopping done at Flea by Night

November 23, November 30, December 7, December 14, December 21
Discovery Green
Now through December 21, Discovery Green transforms itself into a nighttime flea market on Saturdays from 6-10pm. Treasure hunt for holiday gifts, buy yourself something nice, and fill up on local food and drink while you shop.
Cost: Free

Stroll the Zoo by dark and see oh so many twinkling lights

November 23 - January 12
Houston Zoo
Snag some hot cocoa and stroll through the beautiful grounds of the Houston Zoo, which becomes even beautiful-er when its ancient oaks and pathways are illuminated with earth-friendly LED lighting. This year’s Zoo Lights promises to be 2x brighter, with special attractions including the 100-foot-long Infinity Tunnel of Light, 4-D Enchanted Forest, and “snow” in its Winter Wonderland. See it all from 5:30-10:30pm nightly.
Cost: Tickets are $15.95 and up (buy early to save)

Sippin’ Santa
Sippin’ Santa

Sip with Santa at a holiday bar pop-up

November 25 - December 31
Johnny’s Gold Brick & Daiquiri Time Out
Two Christmas-themed pop-up bars are transforming Houston watering holes this season, with Miracle and Sippin’ Santa pop-ups at both Johnny’s Gold Brick (opening November 25 in the Heights) and Daiquiri Time Out (opening November 29 in Galveston). Each location will sport a festive menu of signature cocktails, décor of lights, garlands, ribbons, and tchotchkes inspired by nostalgic vintage Christmas decorations, all to a soundtrack of holiday songs. DTO will be hosting be hosting a toy drive in support of The Galveston Police Department along with Miracle Mondays: a Christmas themed movie night during the duration of the pop-up. Johnny’s will be hosting a Toy Drive for Houston Area Women’s Center and will be offering Nog Bottle Service (paired with fresh baked cookies) and Tuesday Night Tamales with Christmas Movies.
Cost: Varies

Run a turkey trot and earn that third helping of stuffing

November 28
Fact: You are going to be eating, and napping, a lot on Thanksgiving Day. With that in mind, it may be wise to pregame with an adrenaline rush via the 10K or 5K Houston Turkey Trot over in the Galleria area. The action starts bright and early at 7:30am (first race).
Cost: Register for $35-40

Spend Thanksgiving at an ice house

November 28
Eight Row Flint
Whether you are spending the holiday by your lonesome or need an escape from the family, Eight Row Flint is here for you on Turkey Day (well, at least from 4pm to midnight). And by here for you, we mean it will be serving $8 full pours of Wild Turkey bourbon and rye and Revival Market Thanksgiving plates with turkey and gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mac ‘n cheese, dinner rolls, and pumpkin pie.
Cost: Thanksgiving plates are $25

Close out RenFest with a Celtic Christmas

November 29 - December 1
Todd Mission
Father Christmas and his merry elves will unwrap the magic of the Yuletide season at the Texas Renaissance Festival’s closing weekend. Feast like a king, slosh flagons of mead, wander the winter wonderland, and get rowdy at RenFest after dark. 
Cost: Tickets are $23.95 by day and $34.95 after dark (21+ only)

Search a Christmas Forest for the perfect tree

November 29 - December 29
Dewberry Farm
The 40 back acres of Dewberry Farm have transformed into a Christmas Forest this holiday season; one where you can find and cut down your very own Christmas tree. Find your perfect match (tree heights in the 2019 season range from 4-feet to 12-feet), then stick around for holiday lights. The farm will be open Fridays through Sundays.
Cost: Trees run from $30-220+, with an average price of $90; there is no admission fee to visit the farm to shop for a tree before 6pm

Attend a Black Friday Thing-A-Ma-Jingle

November 29
Congress and Main
Head Downtown to shop a Black Friday Night Market, going down along Congress between Travis and Main from 7pm to midnight. Recommended for those 21 and up, the giant block party will also feature Christmas karaoke, photo ops with Hipster Santa, lighting projections, and live music and food and drink specials at area bars and restaurants.
Cost: Free

Shop local this Black Friday Weekend

November 29 - December 1
Silver Street Studios
Hit the Flea at Silver Street: Black Friday Holiday Flea to go beyond your basic holiday shopping from 10am to 5pm all weekend long. The pop-up market will feature local artists, designers, and craftsmen and a curated market of one-of-a-kind collectibles, jewelry, vintage, art, mid-century modern furniture, original designs, and more; plus local food vendors, food trucks, a pet adoption event, music, and a bar.
Cost: Admission is $5

The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker | Amitava Sarakr/Visit Houston

See the Sugar Plum Fairy come alive on stage

November 29 - December 29
The Wortham Theater Center
Watching the Houston Ballet’s opulent production of The Nutcracker has become a Houston holiday tradition. Revel in the magic of Clara, Drosselmeyer, and the Sugar Plum Fairy, with performances at 7:30pm and 2pm on select days.
Cost: Tickets starting at $30

Holiday Tree
Holiday Tree | Joseph Haubert/Visit Houston

Watch the tree lighting Downtown

November 30
Hermann Square
The Mayor’s annual holiday celebration is going next-level for its 100-year anniversary. 
The spectacular event will rock music, Santa, and the lighting of the Holiday Tree, towering and glowing with LED lights and shimmering ornaments. The event takes place in Hermann Square at City Hall from 5-8pm.
Cost: Free and open to the public

Shop at a super cool local holiday market

December 1
Revival Market
The Revival Holiday Market is super cool for a couple of reasons. First, you can get breakfast or lunch while you shop; and second… one of the gifts on display is baskets of beer. You’ll find the goods on sale from 10am-3pm.
Cost: Free to attend

Watch Billy Bob be a Bad Santa in Market Square

December 4
Market Square Park
Bring a blanket for this holiday edition of Market Square’s movies under the stars. The free show starts at 7pm, and you can buy booze and eats from Niko Niko’s (because no one ever said gyros weren’t movie snacks). 
Cost: Free

Watch a classic holiday film under the stars

December 5
Discovery Green
Cozy up for a showing of Miracle on 34th Street on the big screen at the beautiful Discovery Green. You can bring blankets, and food/drink (including beer) will be available from the Lake House. The free showing starts at 7pm, and those who want to ice skate can do so for a fee.
Cost: Free 

Do Dickens on the Strand

December 6-8
The Strand
Feel all the Christmastime feels as you transport yourself to 9th century Victorian London at Galveston’s Dickens on the Strand -- complete with carolers, bagpipers, roaming musicians, holiday food and drink, and fun stuff like the Saint Arnold Walking Tours and five-person Victorian bed races. This year’s festival runs Friday from 5-9pm (free admission on Friday night); Saturday from 10am-9pm; and Sunday from noon-6pm.
Cost: $13-$15 for adults; wear a Victorian costume for half-price admission

Shop ‘til you drop (a lot of money) in the Heights

December 6
19th Street
The shops along 19th Street join together for this annual holiday celebration, complete with roaming Christmas carollers, in-store festivities, holiday-inspired booze, and REAL SNOW! Hit it up from 6-10pm. 
Cost: Free.

Shop ‘til you drop some more in Downtown

December 7
Market Square Park
Pop Shop America’s Holiday in the Park will go down at Market Square Park from 10am to 4pm. Sip mimosas and get in some holiday shopping with a lineup of local creatives and small businesses.
Cost: Free

Eat your weight in tamales at the season’s tastiest festival

December 7
Navigation Esplanade
‘Tis the season for tamales (fa-la-la-la-la la-la la-la), and the 9th Annual Tamale Festival Houston is bringing them by the dozens to the vibrant East End from noon to 9pm. Grab creations from local tamaleros and tamaleras alongside live music and plenty of drinks.
Cost: Tickets are $5-12

Take advantage of Ugly Sweater Weather at a themed bar crawl

December 7
Downtown & Midtown
It may be itchy, it may be ugly, but all those worries go away when you imbibe with your fellow ugly sweater-wearers at the 4th Annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Pub Crawl. The fun runs from 3-9pm in Downtown and Midtown.
Cost: GA tickets are $5

Watch a Christmas with Krampus Smackdown

December 7
Eureka Heights
The Houston Zombie Walk and Eureka Heights team up for this annual Christmas with Krampus event, which takes holiday themed wrestling bouts and combines them with an Ugly Christmas Sweater contest, Vendor Village, holiday photos with Santa and Krampus, food trucks, and a silent auction, raffle, and bake sale. Declare yourself Team Santa or Team Krampus, sip brews, and raise money for a good cause (the HZW’s Too Ghoul For School Education Fund).
Cost: Just make a $5 donation (and buy some beer)

Cozy up for a classic holiday film

December 12
Discovery Green
Catch a screening of It’s a Wonderful Life under the stars at Discovery Green. You can bring blankets, and food/drink (including beer) will be available from the Lake House. The free showing starts at 7pm, and those who want to ice skate can do so for a fee.
Cost: Free

Houston Symphony and Chorus
Houston Symphony and Chorus | Wilson Parish/Visit Houston

Hear some Very Merry Pops

December 13-15, 17
Jones Hall
The Houston Symphony and Chorus present a sparkling concert filled with the merry sounds of the season, including a musical and narrative telling of the Christmas story, Glad Tidings, packed with classic carols like “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World.” 
Cost: Tickets run from $25-$159

Pretend you live in a Christmas Village

December 13-30
Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens
Cross a dazzling bridge to enter a winter wonderland at Ima Hogg’s historic mansion and beautiful gardens, where you’ll discover thousands of lights, live actors, theatrical effects, and Christmas decorations across the 14 acres. The Christmas Village at Bayou Bend is open every evening but Christmas Eve and Day.
Cost: Tickets run $13-$18

Hit up a Weihnachtsmarkt, once you find out what that is, exactly

December 13-15
Tomball Historical Train Depot Plaza
Weihnachtsmarkt is a Christkindlmarkt, which is a German Christmas Market; and Old Town Tomball’s annual one rocks. Hit it to find a 200+ roster of festive street vendors, polka music, lederhosen, and the ceremonial tapping of the Christmas keg, as is tradition. Hours are Friday 6-10pm; Saturday 10am-10pm; and Sunday 10am-6pm. Parking pro-tip: definitely take advantage of the free shuttle.
Cost: Free

Go on a beer-fueled Holiday Lights Bike Ride

December 13
The Heights
Eureka Heights Brewing Company invites you to enjoy the Christmas spirit (and some beer) on its official unofficial Lights in the Heights Bike Ride. The social 10-mile ride will take you on a slow-paced holiday light tour of the Heights neighborhood, rallying at Eureka at 6:30pm and rolling out at 7pm. Stops along the way include Onion Creek Cafe and Good Dog Houston.
Cost: Free

Embark on an epic Xmas bar crawl

December 14
The 12 Bars of Xmas bar crawl is making its way through the streets of Midtown beginning at 4pm. Break out your Santa, elf, and reindeer costumes, and hit bars like Dogwood, Electric FeelGood, Front Porch, Jack & Gingers, Pub Fiction, and more.
Cost: Early bird tickets start at $15

Fill your flask and light up the Heights

December 14
The Heights
'Tis the season to fill your flask with warm cider and get merry and bright at the massive annual holiday block party, Lights in the Heights. The street party runs from 6pm to 9pm, but the revelry at neighboring bars goes well into the night. 
Cost: Free

Conquer the Santa Hustle 5K and Half

December 15
Moody Gardens
Work off all the holiday cookies you’ve been sneaking from the office pantry at this 5K and half marathon. Don’t worry, there will be more cookies (and some merry tunes) at the race. The half marathon starts at 7am, with the 5K popping off at 7:15. 
Cost: Register for $64.75-$80 for the Half and $44.75-$60 for the 5K.

Shop A Christmas Story-themed art market

December 15
Karbach Brewery
Shop Local Market is setting up its annual Funky Christmas Story Art Market at Karbach Brewery’s biergarten from noon to 7pm. Details are TBD, but you can expect Karbach suds, a lineup of artists and vendors, and cool stuff like a gift wrapping center and Ugly Sweater Contest. 
Cost: Free to attend

Catch a beloved holiday classic outside on the big screen

December 19
Discovery Green
Head Downtown and cozy up for a screening of a cult favorite classic holiday film, A Christmas Story. You can bring blankets, and food/drink (including beer) will be available from the Lake House. The free showing starts at 7pm, and those who want to ice skate can do so for a fee.
Cost: Free 

Enjoy perfect harmony with the Houston Symphony and Chorus

December 20-22
Jones Hall
The Houston Symphony Chorus, soloists, and orchestra perform the annual holiday tradition, Handel’s Messiah on three occasions. Shows begin at 8pm on Friday and Saturday and 2:30pm on Sunday.
Cost: Tickets start at $24

Cheers your beers at a holiday market

December 21-22
Saint Arnold Brewery
A two-day holiday market is popping into Saint Arnold Brewery, featuring local artists and vendors, lots of gift ideas, festivities in the beer garden, and flowing beers, of course.
Cost: Free and open to the public

Ring in the New Year with a sultry Midnight in Paris

December 31
13 Celsius
Sure, you could pop into any overcrowded, vodka-soaked watering hole this New Year’s Eve -- or, you can spend a magical “1920s midnight in Paris” at sexy wine bar 13 Celsius, beginning at 10pm. Snag a ticket to enjoy twinkling lights and Champagne dreams; and dress in your best Parisian ’20s glam garb to really set the mood. The evening's cover charge will guarantee a seat, a toast at midnight and a second toast at 1am for the bar’s 13th birthday.
Cost: Tickets are $26

Cure your hangover with a New Year’s Day brunch bar crawl

January 1
Get some hair of the dog and crawl your way into the new year at this Washington-area pub crawl. The all-day (11am-8pm) party journeys through spots like Concrete Cowboy, Fuegos Saloon, Lincoln Bar, and Velvet Taco, with live music, drink specials, and brunch bites along the way.
Cost: $30 gets you a wristband access to brunch buffets, boozy specials, swag, and one free drink ticket

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Brooke Viggiano is a Houston-based writer who is likely busting out her faux Christmas and Hanukkah trees as we speak. Get festive AF with her on IG @brookiefafa or on Twitter @brookeviggiano.