big cat at the houston zoo
big cat at the Houston Zoo | Flickr/Andrew R.
Monday - Sunday
Nov 28-Jan 15
True story: Animals celebrate Christmas, too. For its annual Zoo Lights, the Houston Zoo gets decked out with over 2 million twinkling LED lights. That’s 15 miles worth, in case you were wondering. Some of the animals may be resting, but there’s a good chance you’ll spot some Masai giraffes, zebra, ostriches, and snakes.
Monday - Sunday
Nov 28-Feb 5
It’s not often you can embarrass yourself outdoor ice skating in Houston. Do so at The ICE at Discovery Green; then make a $20 contribution to  the conservancy at the beer garden and get a hand-carved stein made of ice filled with Saint Arnold beer.
Monday - Wednesday
Nov 28-Feb 8
Firmament shows off an amazing canopy of LED lights by acclaimed Burning Man artist Christopher Schardt, its first installation in an urban setting. At 52ft wide and 42ft high, grab a spot underneath and trip out over the celestial, playful, and psychedelic images dancing above you.
Monday - Sunday
Nov 28-Feb 19
Ten giant peony bouquets are taking over the Brown Promenade, providing ample opportunity for a new Gluten Free Singles profile pic. Designed by TILT, a French light and art design studio, the flowers grow brighter at night, with a blazing red light that emanates through its petals and scatters warm light throughout.
December
shamir day for night festival
Shamir at Day for Night 2015 | Julian Bajsel

December

Saturday
Dec 3
Give yourself the gift of tamales at the Tamale Festival Houston. You can expect a tamale eating contest, a variety of tamales and Tex-Mex classics, and live bands and DJs -- including a Van Halen tribute band (because if that doesn’t scream “tamale!” to you, nothing does).
Saturday
Dec 3
Downtown
Dust off last year’s hideous sweater vest for the Ugly Sweater Bar Crawl. The game plan includes downtown favorites like tequila temple El Big Bad, classic cocktailery Dean’s and the whiskey-soaked nightcap Boots 'n Shoots. Tickets are $30 and bars will be running $3 drink specials throughout the crawl.
Sunday
Dec 4
Garden Oaks/Oak Forest (43rd between Rosslyn & Ella)
The streets of GOOF will be closed to cars and open to you for the last Sunday Streets of the year. Now’s the time to break out those roller blades (or bike, whatever) and join your fellow Houstonians for some good clean fun.
Sunday
Dec 4
The Hay Merchant’s Kevin Floyd is joining forces with the team at Sierra Nevada for a Rare Beer Dinner. The menu is still being developed, but you can expect a welcome Pale Ale served in a can with a koozie plus four beer-paired courses, featuring Celebration 3 Liter, Ovila Saison with Sage, Ovila Quad with Cherries and Barrel Aged Dry Hop Drops. The dinner is community seating and tickets are $100.
Thursday
Dec 8
Create a sculpture of sound as you and everyone around you plays one of four tracks from your smartphone. Or boombox, if you’re cool like that. Contemporary New York composer Phil Kline composed the 43-minute multi-track electronic piece, written specifically to be heard outdoors in the month of December. To up the level of awesome, Saint Arnold Brewing Company and Katz Coffee will be providing complimentary beverages and the Fusion Taco truck will have food available for purchase.
Saturday
Dec 10
The streets of the Heights
And by light up, we mean pack some spiked cocoa and get cheery at the Lights in the Heights. The streets will be buzzin’ with live music, bright lights, and holiday joy, so take a stroll through before you hit some of the bar festivities on White Oak.
Tuesday
Dec 13
Learn to break down a whole hog from master charcutier Andrew Vaserfirer and Revival co-owner Morgan Weber. The duo will work through the breakdown, head to tail, as you enjoy a selection of charcuterie upon arrival and a family-style dinner midway through the class. BYOB is strongly encouraged. $125 per person (including take away a selection of Revival salumi).
Sunday - Sunday
Dec 17-18
Houston’s coolest “experiential festival” is a mosaic of light, space, and sound, combining headlining musicians with immersive art installations. Björk Digital is bringing a five-room experience and digital set, and other performers include Kaskade, Travis Scott, Odesza, and Aphex Twin.
Wednesday
Dec 21
Prove your love for burgers
Prove your love for burgers
Anywhere you damn well please
Celebrate yet another National Hamburger Day with all the burgers.
Friday
Dec 23
This season, Houston’s oldest brewer is taking over 30 taps at Downtown’s coolest beer garden. Ditch the in-laws and drinks some chilled Saint Arnold brews alongside a lineup of eats, from Moroccan chicken crepes and Melange Creperie to Myth Kafe’s gyros, and Samurai Noodle’s tonkotsu ramen.
Wednesday
Dec 28
It’s a Santa vs Krampus holiday smackdown at EaDo’s beloved 8th Wonder Brewery. The second annual Christmas with Krampus party features adult and kid-friendly pictures with Santa, Krampus, and the Grinch and culminates with the smackdown presented by World of Wrestling. The event is free, with beer and food available for purchase.
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January
Artopia 2015
Artopia 2015 | Marco Torres and Francisco Montes/Courtesy of Artopia

January

Sunday
Jan 15
The Chevron Houston Marathon should assist with those extra holiday lbs. Registration has officially sold out, so if you didn’t sign up, the very least you can do is show up with a six-pack and cheer on the runners along Memorial.
Monday
Jan 16
Eat everything truffle as Houston’s hottest culinary talent competes for the title. This year’s competition is stiff, with talented chefs including Mark Holley of Holley’s Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar, Austin Simmons of Hubbell & Hudson Bistro and Cureight, and Ronnie Killen of Killen’s Steakhouse. Something tells us this one’s about to be tasty.
Friday - Saturday
Jan 20-21
Not trying to lose weight? Yaga’s 8th Annual Chili Quest & Beer Fest is the perfect place to bulk up this winter. Hit the Beer & Chili tasting for $37, or skip the samples and go straight for a Frito Pie & Beer combo for $12. There’s also a Washers Tourney and Jackpot Margarita Contest.
Friday
Jan 22
This 5 and 10K race combines two of Forrest’s favorite things, running and chocolate. After crushing the race, you can look forward to a chocolate wonderland, complete with a chocolate fountain, live band, food and drinks, and more chocolate.
Friday - Sunday
Jan 27-Feb 5
Who cares about the Super Bowl? The free 10-day festival leading up to the big game is where it’s at. Besides all the cool parties and free live music, the festival is introducing Future Flight, a virtual reality ride that takes you through space, to Mars and back again after a 90ft drop. It’ll likely be the coolest two minutes and 10 seconds of your life.
Saturday
Jan 28
One part art. One part music. One part awesome. The Houston Press’ annual event brings together local artists, musicians, restaurants, and bars for a cultured evening o’ fun. Tickets are $45 to $60 for general admission and $75 to $100 for VIP, with a portion of proceeds benefiting the Washington Ave Arts District.
Sunday
Jan 29
The third annual event melds music, brews, and competitive cooking for a cause. Headlined by Aaron Lewis, Tracy Byrd, and Sundance Head, tickets ($60) include entry to the cookoff, unlimited tastings of all the entries, a commemorative firefighter glass, entry to the concert and three Karbach beers.
February
mardi gras
Galveston Mardi Gras | Courtesy of the Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

February

Saturday
Feb 11
Five bars, five beers, and a 5K is something worth loving. The race route is tentative, but the current lineup goes from Kung Fu Saloon to Taps House of Beer to Underdogs to Porch Swing Pub to Fuego's Icehouse, and back to Kung Fu Saloon for the after party.
Friday - Tuesday
Feb 17-28
What? It’s Mardi Gras... that’s what you do. It’s the Island’s 106th celebration, and this year expects to draw over 300,000 patrons to a lineup of 30+ concerts, 22 parades, 20 balcony parties and five masked balls.
March
houston rodeo
HSLR’s World Championship Bar-B-Que Contest | Flickr/Katharine Shilcutt

March

Thursday - Saturday
Mar 2-4
Or rather, the smoked meat sweats at the HSLR’s World Championship Bar-B-Que Contest. You’ll probably want to start working on that tent connection now. If all else fails, show up and hit the Miller Lite stage and Saloon & Chuck Wagon.
Tuesday - Sunday
Mar 7-26
The Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo is pretty much the city’s Super Bowl. No word on the musical lineup yet, but you were really in it for the mutton bustin’ and Hideout after-party anyway, right?