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Holiday Happenings

Where to go, what to do

Jenna Mazzoccoli
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Lightscape at Houston Botanic Garden

MERRY AND BRIGHT Lightscape at Houston Botanic Garden is new to Houston this year. The light display will be open throughout the holiday season, ending Jan. 2. (Photo: Richard Haughto)

It’s that time again, and this year we actually get to go places.

In case you have forgotten what is out there in the world, after too long of hiding out at home, we’ve pulled together some ideas for what you can do over the holidays. For details, plus more events, see our events calendar

Texas Renaissance Festival 

21778 FM 1774, Todd Mission

Weekends, through Nov. 28, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.

The Texas Renaissance Festival started in October and will run through Nov. 28. On 77 acres of permanent fairgrounds in the woods, interact with street performers, eat, drink, shop, and see plays, comedy acts, falconry, and jousting. For the most fun, wear your own Renaissance costume. During the last three days, the fairgrounds are transformed into a Christmas wonderland. Presale tickets at a reduced price are available, or purchase tickets the day-of at the box office or online.

Admission: $12-40

Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market 

NRG Center

Nov. 11-12, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Nov. 13, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Nov. 14, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

The Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market, celebrating its 40th anniversary, is back in-person this year. You can find gifts and décor from 200-plus vendors. A portion of the merchandise sales will benefit the Houston Ballet Foundation. 

Admission: $18-20

Santa’s Wonderland

18898 Hwy. 6, College Station

Nov. 12-Dec. 30

Santa’s Wonderland, a seasonal amusement park in College Station, celebrates a Texas-sized Christmas. Venture through the expansive property of Santa’s Wonderland and see the Trail of Lights, meet Santa, race down the toboggan chute, enjoy live music, or take a carriage ride.

Admission: $45-50

Galaxy Lights

Space Center Houston, Clear Lake

Nov. 12-Jan. 2, 6-10 p.m.

Galaxy Lights at Space Center Houston is an interactive and technologically advanced light display. The attraction takes you on a walking path through different parts of the Space Center, both inside and out. Allocate at least 90 minutes to walk through the entire light display and exhibit.

Admission: $20-25

Zoo Lights

Houston Zoo, Hermann Park

Nov. 15-Jan. 9

Zoo Lights is back this year. Tickets will not be available at the gate, so purchase online in advance. As you stroll through the zoo, thousands of lights illuminate your way. You can stop and snap a picture in the giant ice throne and take photos as Santa prepares for the holidays in his workshop.

Admission: $13-25

The Alley Theatre presents A Christmas Carol

Alley Theatre’s Hubbard Theatre, 615 Texas Ave.

Nov. 19-Dec. 29

This family-friendly production retells Charles Dickens' classic story following Ebenezer Scrooge's journey with the three ghostly spirits who visit him on Christmas Eve. All guests are required to wear a mask and must show a negative Covid test within 72 hours prior to the performance or proof of vaccination. 

Admission: $27-121

Holiday in the Gardens 

1 Hope Blvd., Galveston

Nov. 20-Jan. 2

Holiday in the Gardens features several holiday attractions at one venue, from the Arctic Slide to 3D holiday films, train rides, and gardens decked out in 2 million lights. Get a picture with Santa or watch the Cirque Joyeux Holiday Show.

Admission: $18-40

Lightscape at Houston Botanic Garden

1 Botanic Lane

Wednesdays-Sundays Nov. 20-Jan. 2, 5:45-11 p.m.; Additional dates: Dec. 20-21

Lightscape is new to the Houston Botanic Garden this year. Walk through at night and enjoy the magical light displays along the winding paths. Availability cannot be guaranteed at the door, so buying tickets in advance is advised.

Admission: $20-27

A.D. Players presents The Christmas Shoes

George Theater, 5420 Westheimer Rd.

Nov. 24-Dec. 23

The best-selling novel The Christmas Shoes is being adapted for the stage in this world-premiere holiday play about a young boy from a loving family who crosses paths with a workaholic lawyer and gives him a much-needed wake-up call. Masks are required. Some sections are socially distanced while others are at full capacity. Purchase tickets online in advance or at the box office. 

Admission: $30-75

BakerRipley Houston Turkey Trot

Galleria Dillard’s

Nov. 25, 7:30 a.m.

On Thanksgiving Day, the BakerRipley Turkey Trot is back in person. Race start times are from 7:25 to 9 a.m. Sign up in advance for the 10k, 5k, or 1k Kid’s Run, or show up to cheer on the runners.

Admission: $15-40

Thanksgiving Day Parade

GOBBLE Cheer on the H-E-B Thanksgiving Day Parade as it winds through downtown. (Photo: Richard Carson)

72nd Annual H-E-B Thanksgiving Day Parade

Downtown Houston

Nov. 25, 9 a.m.

Houston’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of the oldest in the country. The parade, consisting of floats, marching bands, and more, will travel 20 blocks around downtown. The public is invited to line the streets of downtown to cheer on the participants and floats.

Admission: Free

Uptown Holiday Lighting

Post Oak Boulevard from West Loop to Richmond

Nov. 25, 4-7 p.m.

The Uptown Holiday Lighting is back this year. Kick off the holiday season with live entertainment, a visit from Santa Claus, fireworks, and a light show of 300 new, 20-feet-tall holiday trees that line the boulevard this year. 

Admission: Free

Houston Ballet presents The Nutcracker

Wortham Center’s Brown Theater, 501 Texas Ave.

Nov. 26-Dec. 24

Houston Ballet presents The Nutcracker. In this traditional holiday tale, Clara and Drosselmeyer travel together to the Land of the Sweets where the Sugar Plum Fairy is reunited with her Nutcracker prince and discovers a world of magic. Masks are required. Purchase tickets online in advance or at the box office.

Admission: $27-153

Holiday in the Plaza

CityCentre, 800 Town and Country Blvd.

Nov. 27, noon-5 p.m.

The CityCentre plaza will be full of holiday cheer. Bring an unwrapped toy to be donated to The Salvation Army in exchange for a picture with Santa. 

Admission: Free

Holiday in the Park

Bellaire Town Square, 7001 5th St.

Dec. 2, 6-8:30 p.m.

Santa will listen to the holiday wishes of children. Pictures with Santa will be available for purchase. The evening will also include music from local choirs, food, family activities, and a giant snow slide.

Admission: Free

Dickens on the Strand

The Strand, Galveston

Dec. 3-5

Experience the architecture, sights, and sounds of a Victorian holiday, and dress up for extra fun. Interact with time-period performers, watch live entertainment, and shop from local vendors. 

Admission: $9-18

Southside Winter Carnival

Fire Truck Park, 3742 Garnet St.

Dec. 4, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Bring the family, as well as four-legged friends, for a photo with Santa, carnival games, face painting, fun on inflatables, and – most important – snow.

Admission: $20 

Handel’s Messiah

Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana St.

Dec. 10, 8 p.m.; Dec. 11, 8 p.m.; Dec. 12, 2:30 p.m.

The holiday tradition of Handel’s Messiah returns to Jones Hall. The Houston Symphony, chorus, and guest soloists perform this beloved holiday classic. Masks are required. Some sections are socially distanced while others are at full capacity. Purchase tickets online in advance or at the box office. Concert livestream video is also available.

Admission: $29-140

10th Annual Rudolph Run

CityCentre, 800 Town and Country Blvd.

Dec. 11, 7:30 a.m.

Register for the Dasher 10k, Rudolph 5k, or Cupid 1k at CityCentre. Proceed benefit Firefighters Helping Firefighters. Costumes are encouraged, and the best Christmas outfit will win a prize. Santa will be available for photo opps as he cheers on the runners.

Admission: $18-40

12th Annual Gingerbread Build-Off

Levy Park, 3801 Eastside St.

Dec. 11, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Architecture Center Houston will host the Gingerbread Build-Off at Levy Park. Competitors will design and build edible masterpieces. The public is invited to attend and cheer on the teams. Santa will also be at the park watching the competition and greeting visitors. 

Admission: Free; team registration is $200

Trans-Siberian Orchestra 

Toyota Center

Dec. 12, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra will perform at the Toyota Center during their Winter Tour celebrating the 25th anniversary of their popular album Christmas Eve and Other Stories.

Admission: $50-90

Houston Symphony presents Very Merry POPS

Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana St.

Dec. 18, 2:30 and 8 p.m.; Dec. 18, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.

The Houston Symphony performs holiday classics like “Feliz Navidad,” “O Holy Night,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Masks are required. Some sections are socially distanced while others are at full capacity. Purchase tickets online in advance or at the box office. Concert livestream video is also available.

Admission: $29-154

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