With Thanksgiving over, it's time to focus on the giving holiday season. Here are the 10 best holiday events:
Lights abound at the menagerie of animals at Hermann Park (now through Jan. 4; 6 to 10 p.m. nightly). More two million are on display throughout the wildlife property from the high wattage African Forest (with a walk-in snow globe) to the brightly lit Enchanted Forest (with life-size animal sculptures).
Prepare to be dazzled. Note: The zoo will be closed Dec. 24 and 25
Cost: $10.95-$14.95 (separate from zoo admission)
Sleigh bells are ringing as Santa makes his way to the Museum District (Dec. 21; 12 to 4 p.m.). Get your cameras and hashtags ready for the chance to snap a selfie with good ol’ Saint Nick — and his live reindeer.
Cost: $9 per person; $8 for seniors; free for museum members and kids under one.
No worries about what to wear when you visit the SpongeBob SquarePants holiday exhibit in Galveston (now through Jan. 4; 12 to 10 p.m.). You’ll be provided with a special parka when you enter the space, kept at a frosty 9 degrees to ensure that the hand carved ice sculptures, made from 900 tons of ice, are still standing 30-feet tall when you visit.
Thaw out with a walk along the mile-long trail of animated displays at the property’s Festival of Lights (now through Jan. 3; 3; 6 to 10 p.m. nightly).
Cost: Ice Land: $26.95 per person; $21.95 for seniors; $15.95 per child. Festival of Lights: $8.95 per person.
What better way to celebrate the season than with a performance of the classic ballet. A treat for the entire family, it’s sure to get you in the holiday mood.
Cost: Ticket prices vary.
Shopping dreams come true at this inaugural event (Dec. 7; 12 to 6 p.m.). With 25 top local retailers onboard (from Andrea Montogomery Designs and Tootsies to Natural Pawz and Zayver Jewels), the gifts choices will be plentiful.
While you're at it, sip libations, nosh on bites, enjoy festive music and take advantage of complimentary gift-wrapping service.
Lace up your skates and work off your Thanksgiving feast with a few laps around downtown’s massive 7,716 square-foot ice rink (now through Feb. 8).
Cost: $13 per person
Galveston’s 41st annual holiday street festival (December 5 to 7) centers around a 19th century Victorian London theme. Expect parades, non-stop entertainment on six stages, strolling carolers, roving musicians, bagpipers, jugglers, food vendors and plenty of shopping fun.
Ring in the season with Mayor Parker at the 95th holiday celebration and tree lighting event at Hermann Square Park at City Hall (Dec. 5 at 6 p.m.). The family fun includes music, fireworks and a towering holiday tree.
Even the biggest Grinch will appreciate this merry tour of the city's most illuminated spots including City Hall, Discovery Green, River Oaks and Woodland Heights (Dec. 16, 17, 18 and 23; 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. nightly). BYOB food and drinks: Eat up, drink up and leave the driving to someone else. Note: Tours depart from Niko Niko’s at Market Square Park.
Cost: $30 per person (with $5 from each ticket donated to Buffalo Bayou Partnership).
The Woodlands goes to the dogs as top area chefs present their four-legged takes on gingerbread (dog)houses (displayed throughout the hotel beginning Dec. 5). Grab the kids and your wallet for a cocktail reception and silent auction of the houses with proceeds benefiting Operation Pets Alive (Dec. 15; 6 to 7:30 p.m.)