Blogger, Writer, Urban Adventurer
Whether it’s your first holiday season in Houston or you’ve spent decades enjoying the not-so-cold temperatures and uniquely Texan traditions (tamales, anyone?)—each season brings something new and different to the Bayou City. While the holidays in 2020 might look a bit different due to the ongoing pandemic, there is still plenty of cheer to be had. Enjoy various options as you safely make your way through our Houston holiday bucket list! How many will you check off?
1. Lace up your skates at the Discovery Green Ice Rink, which is open from November 13 to January 31, 2021. Check the schedule before you go for special theme nights (like Staking with the Stars, DJ Nights, and even a Santa Skate). Tickets must be pre-purchased online for contactless payment. Plan to wear a mask while skating, but at 50% capacity, there will be plenty of space to spread out. Tickets are $15 with skate rentals included or $8 on Cheap Skate Nights.
2. The Alley Theatre’s family-friendly retelling A Christmas Carol—A Ghost Story of Christmas is going virtual this year. All you need to do to snag a viewing of this one-of-a-kind production with cast members performing from home is to register for the free viewing link here. The link will be live from December 4 to 27. Love the show? You can watch the production as many times as you like.
3. Here’s one that’s so 2020: Rudolph’s Lightshow is a unique holiday light drive-thru experience where your crew can see illuminated tunnels, Christmas trees and other holiday displays right from the safety of your car. Tickets are $30 per vehicle if purchased online and $35 at the door. Lights are up from November 1 through January 2, 2021.
4. Grab a warm cup of hot chocolate and take a tour of the 15 miles (and more than two million lights) covering the Houston Zoo’s paths at Zoo Lights from November 14 to January 10, 2021. Snap a family photo on a giant ice throne with a socially distanced Santa. The event is entirely outdoors, though masks are required for ages 10 and up.
5. The Houston Ballet’s famous Nutcracker Market is going virtual this year with extended sales from November 11 to December 11. Shop safely from your home from nearly 150 vendors who are guaranteed to add some holiday cheer to your mailbox. You can also support the Ballet by attending one of their many drive-ins, including a showing of 42nd Street and White Christmas. RELATED: 30 Museums Every Houston Kid Should Visit At Least Once
6. The train-obsessed will beg you for a trip to the Christmas Train at Victory Camp in Alvin—and we think you should give in. Go for a ride through more than 300,000 lights, colorful gingerbread villages, penguin snow lands and life-size storybook illustrations on select days from November 27 to December 23. Buy tickets online for contactless payment. Trains will be running at reduced capacity to allow for more social distancing and they are asking attendees to follow the state’s masking guidelines.
7. Boni’s Dance and Performing Arts Studio is presenting The Woodland’s Dance Company’s performance of The Nutcracker at the Cynthia Woods Pavillion. This outdoor venue has packs of tickets for groups of two, four and six for four performances on two dates—November 21 and 22.
8. Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens is another one for the field trippers (or perfect for south Houston residents). This Galveston icon has seven holiday attractions at one venue! You can enjoy Rudolph 4D, 3D films, an Arctic Slide and train rides, plus fireside s’mores and great food. Of course, you don’t want to miss strolling through their “Festival of Lights” along their mile-long outdoor trail. It’s open from November 21 to January 2, 2021 with additional hotel packages available.
9. If you’re looking for a holiday light experience that is out-of-this-world, check out Galaxy Lights at Space Center Houston. There are plenty of photo ops along the way with lighted tunnels, rocket ships and a 20-foot “twinkling tree.” Keep an eye out for a special display to commemorate the 20th anniversary of continuous human habitation on the International Space Station (ISS). Take a #stellarselfie under the massive 40-foot tall, 100-foot long shooting star! The lights are open in the evenings from November 14 to January 3, 2021.
10. For 2020, Dickens on the Strand in Galveston has been reimagined to Dickens on the Squares. There will be five carefully curated Victorian-themed holiday squares at five different venues which will offer entertainment, food and shopping. The festivities take place on December 5 and 6 and tickets are $20 for adults, $20 for ages six to 18; children under five are free. Please note, masks are required.
11. Head to the always-fun Kemah Boardwalk for Jingle on the Boardwalk from December 4 to 20, including visits with Santa, holiday music and movies, and the Christmas Boat Lane Parade on December 12!
12. The Square at Memorial City knows how to celebrate. Mark your calendars for “New” photos with Santa, Snowfall at the Square, limited capacity family movie nights (read: Elf!) and Jingle and Mingle concerts.
13. Get into the Holiday Spirit with the Very Merry POPS concert by the Houston Symphony. You can enjoy hits like “Feliz Navidad,” “O Holy Night,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” two ways—in-person at Jones Hall or virtually streamed on a live link. The in-person seating is limited due to social distancing guidelines and there is a discount if you choose the virtual option. Check their website for more details and dates.
14. Sugar Land Holiday Lights is an outdoor lights experience not to be missed from November 20 to January 3, 2021. The stadium will be filled with more than three million lights and eight themed areas. They also offer holiday shopping, food, outdoor holiday movie nights and some socially distanced Santa offerings. There is even a midnight fireworks show on New Year’s Eve!
15. Squeeze in a trip to see the fish during your trip to see Santa at the Downtown Aquarium’s Breakfast with Santa (and Sharkey) on select dates from December 12 to 24. There will be breakfast, photo ops and, if you’re lucky, a glimpse of Santa swimming with the fish! Sharkey is also hosting a family-friendly New Year’s Eve party on December 31. Reservations are required. RELATED: 10 Things to Do in Houston as a New Mom
16. Houston Museum of Natural Science is bringing back Trains Over Texas. This holiday-themed exhibit is comprised of various Texas landmarks imagined in O-scale size (think Enchanted Rock, Pedernales Falls, The Balcones Escarpment and Big Bend National Park), and is the size of a tennis court! Come see it at the main campus of HMNS from November 20 to January 3, 2021.
17. Beginning December 5, guests can enjoy a daytime visit to Bayou Bend and find the estate’s historic mansion to be filled with not only American antiques and art but stunning holiday décor throughout the first floor—this includes five Christmas trees decorated to complement the theme and colors of each room. Families can also enjoy a selection of holiday-themed, self-guided activities, including a hunt in the gardens for Santa’s reindeer. Just remember your mask for the indoor tours.
18. Believe it or not, you can cut your own tree right in Spring at the Old Time Christmas Tree Farm on select dates from November 21 to December 20. There’s also a train ride, inflatables and photos with Santa to keep the kids entertained.
19. Go on a (short) road trip to Santa’s Wonderland in College Station, open from November 13 to December 30, and experience the amazing trail of lights, a snowy mountain for tubing, a train ride, mechanical bull and the giant Texas flag made from lights. They have added more outdoor seating and extra sanitation this year. You are also highly encouraged to purchase your tickets online.
20. The parking lot of Hurricane Harbor Splashtown has been transformed into The Light Park with a mile-long drive-thru display. The organizers are boasting a 7,000-foot LED tunnel (the largest in the world, so they say). Tickets are $35 a vehicle and open seven days a week from November 5 through December 31.
Main image: Adobe Stock/Stephanie Adams for Houston Zoo
Originally Published on Mommy Nearest