Every great city boasts a great downtown holiday celebration — take Christmas in New York City, for example. The Bayou City is no different, as it toasts the 2022 yuletide season with a downtown, stroll-worthy event.
Aptly titled City Lights Downtown Holiday Magic, the holiday fun offers up eight unique, themed villages/venues located across downtown. Visitors can enjoy holiday markets, winter lights, a hot chocolate bar, roaming carolers, movie nights, sweet treats, and more.
Things kick off at 5:30 pm on Friday, November 18 with an official, ceremonial lighting at Avenida Houston's plaza. These experiences are mostly free, open to the public, and run through January 2, 2023 — just in time for nights out, weekend fun, staycations, or a trip for visiting friends and family.
Visitors are encouraged to visit the official site regularly, where they can sign up for the free City Lights Pass and even enter a drawing to win holiday-themed experiences every week.
“This will be an exciting holiday season as downtown Houston transforms itself into a signature wonderland unlike anything we have seen in years past,” said Michael Heckman, CEO of Houston First Corp., in a statement. “From the elaborate holiday villages to skating on the largest outdoor ice-skating rink in the southwest, families and visitors will now have multiple opportunities to make new holiday memories.”
Here's what to expect with the holiday village fun downtown, per organizers Houston First Corp. and Central Houston, Inc.
Plaza at Avenida - Deck the Trees and live music
The Grand Holiday Window at the George R. Brown Convention Center facing Avenida de las Americas is beginning to look a lot like Christmas, with 30 artfully decorated holiday trees — all perfect for those Instagram moments. Live music from the Avenida Concert Series will add to the ambience; check the performance schedule here. This event benefits the Alley Theatre’s educational community and artistic initiatives.
Marriott Marquis - Texas Winter Lights
One of Texas' most picturesque hotel rooftops is bringing back a poolside tradition. Each year, fans pack Texas Winter Lights, an interactive walk-through - or float–under–lights experience at the Marriott Marquis Downtown's Altitude Rooftop & Pool. Visitors can enjoy more than 30 festive beverage offerings, a new interactive graffiti wall, and nightly snowfall, or a poolside movie every Thursday at nightfall. More fun includes the Marriott’s Grove of Trees, the Archway of Lights, and the lazy river, which is heated to a perfect 80 degrees all winter long. Tickets start at $25 for non-guest days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday only); event runs through January 8, 2023.
Discovery Green - Holiday Ice Village
An icy Houston downtown tradition returns in the heart of Discovery Green. Ice skaters of all skill levels can look forward to quirky and cool, themed skate nights (many set to a DJ) and even a chance to hit the ice with Santa. Tickets are $17 per person and include a skate rental. More options at the Green include a enjoy a holiday movie under the stars every Thursday night and the park's Solstice Art Installation. Every Saturday in November and December, shoppers can hit Flea by Night for a diverse offering of vendors selling interesting holiday gifts. Check the official Discovery Green site for details.
Hilton Americas - Land of Sweets
The lobby of the Hilton Americas brings back its sweet holiday fun. This year’s chocolate display features hand-sculpted and Minion-themed masterpiece encompassing more than 2,000 pounds of chocolate. To sweeten the deal, the hotel is offering themed packages for potential guests, including treats, ice skating packages, and more.
Wortham Theater – Sugar Plum Plaza
Visions of sugarplums to dance in the iconic Fish Plaza at the entrance of the Wortham Theater. This ode to a holiday classic also presents cheerful tunes amid the Sugar Plum Plaza to gaze at its larger-than-life, custom-built ornaments.
Market Square Park - Mistletoe Square
Downtown's Market Square Park own state bragging rights with Texas’ biggest mistletoe installation, cleverly named Mistletoe Square for the holidays. Grab a loved one (or anyone who'd up for a peck) and smooch under this 150-inch ball of greenery hanging from a giant, 15-foot candy cane — perfectly made for an IG Boomerang. For more date night fun, craft a gingerbread house with Phoenicia Specialty Foods or catch a holiday movie under the lights. Check www.marketsquarepark.com for details.
Main Street Square – Santa’s Village
Here comes Santa Claus — specifically, to Main Street. Score a photo with Kris Kringle every Friday and Saturday starting at 6 pm at Santa’s Village in Main Street Square, which is centered by lit, 40-foot water bursts and a 250-foot-long, eight-inch-deep reflecting pool. After hanging with Mr. Claus, explore a series of holiday markets happening every Friday and Saturday.
Winter Wanderland on Bagby Street
The totally lit fun on Bagby Street is highlighted — literally — by some 100,000 twinkling LED lights that span from the newly updated Bagby Street and Lamar to Preston. Don't miss the giant angel wings, constellation arches, and an 80-foot light tunnel across from The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts for those picture-perfect holiday photo opps.
“Downtown’s walkability and its central location within the region make it the perfect neighborhood for all Houstonians looking to enjoy a picturesque and affordable holiday experience,” added Kristopher Larson, CEO of Central Houston, Inc.