The holidays have now descended upon Houston, which means a seemingly endless array of festivals, light shows, performances and other opportunities to make merry.
With that in mind, we've rounded up a list of favorites for getting into the holiday spirit, from events, activations, hotel happenings and staycations, and more.
A very Houston holiday experience
The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa aka Houston’s presidential palace (the former home of President George H.W. Bush) welcomes holiday revelers with a consummately elevated, Houston-centric experience. Head to the hotel’s Great Room to take in the towering, Texas-sized Live Oak tree adorned with more than 100,000 lights and munch on the hotel’s signature chocolate chip cookies, made with beloved Former First Lady Barbara Bush’s recipe.
Snap photos and take in the holiday decor and the “Merry Mansions” gingerbread house display sitting above the lobby’s 30-foot stone fireplace. The “Merry Mansions” exhibit boasts hundreds of pounds of actual, intricately decorated gingerbread, gumdrops and candies that rise up to six feet above the fireplace. Local design aficionados should take note that the exhibit pays homage to noted architect John Staub, who designed the elegant Bayou Bend mansion for oil heiress Ima Hogg in 1927, as well as numerous River Oaks estates and The Houstonian’s Manor House estate, built in 1941 for oilman Thomas Lawrence. Staub’s home of Ernest Bel Fay, now the Fay School, is also featured in the exhibit.
Merry Mansions at The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa is an actual gingerbread display that nods to notable architect John Staub and his elite Houston homes.Photo via The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa Mistletoe Moments
While in the Great Room, head to the picturesque staircase for “Mistletoe Moments” with a sweetie and steal a kiss under the large mistletoe at what’s dubbed the “most kissable place in the city.”
The smooching couple who scores the most like for their IG kiss photo — be sure to use hashtag #houstoniankisses2023 — will score a free night at the hotel (canoodling couples must tag @houstonianhotel and use the hashtag to enter).
After gingerbread home tours and Christmas kisses, check out Tribute, the hotel’s restaurant for a meal or drink, and stroll the property’s woods and green space — and the majestic Grand Texas Live Oak that glows with more than 70,000 lights.
Staying in Houston this holiday? There are plenty of offerings to get a little bit of pampering and luxury. Stay inside a Hallmark Christmas movie with the Hilton Americas-Houston "Haul Out the Holly" Suite, an ultra-exclusive spot that comes complete with Christmas lights and a gingerbread bar. Packages are available beginning November 25.
The Perks and Presents Package at the Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa offers and array of goodies, including two complimentary holiday-themed cocktails, a hand-painted Merry Mansions ornament, holiday coloring books for children, and more. Guests can book the special package from November 25 through December 30, and enjoy the posh hotel's other holiday amenities, such as 18 Christmas trees and 30,000 ornaments throughout the property, gingerbread houses, the huge mistletoe ball that's "the most kissable place in the city," a Holiday Hideout for kids that delivers their very own teepee to guests' rooms, and a host of additional holiday cheer.
The Couples Winter Value Package at Moody Gardens gives guests two passes to the Ice Land Sculptures, the Festival of Lights Walking Trail, unlimited rides on the Arctic slide, and admission to Moody Gardens attraction. Rates start at $392. (For more Moody Gardens fun, see our Experiences listing below)
There's something for every taste on stage across Houston this holiday season. At the Houston Ballet, there's The Nutcracker, the annual favorite that tells the story of Clara and her journey to the Land of Sweets. The Alley's A Christmas Carolfinds Scrooge transformed thanks to a Christmas Eve visit from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
Kick it old school in Rice Village at the cozy Ovations Night Club, where Paul Hope Cabaret's We Need A Little Christmas includes some holiday favorites and rarely performed gems. Right next door at Main Street Theater, Georgiana and Kitty - Christmas at Pemberley is a must for Jane Austen fans, centering on Mr. Darcy's younger sister and the youngest Bennet sister. Can't get enough Jane Austen? 4th Wall Theatre Company's Sense and Sensibility is a modern take on the classic story.
The Houston Chamber Choir's Feliz Navidad; Christmas at the Villa takes place in arguably the prettiest place in Houston, the chapel at the Villa de Matel. The Houston Symphony's Very Merry Pops offers favorite Christmas songs, while its annual production of Handel's Messiah traces in soaring song the greatest story ever told. Early music ensemble Ars Lyrica presents Awe and Wonder at St. Philip Presbyterian Church, two major works for chorus and orchestra, one telling the creation story and the other the incarnation of Christ. Head to Queensbury Theatre to see A Charlie Brown Christmas on stage. At the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, TUTS takes over both stages, and audiences can catch Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella or the all-new, original The Ugly Christmas Sweater Musical. Stages collaborates with TEATRX on this year's Panto show, Alicia in Wonderland.
Green Mountain Energy Ice at Discovery Green offers plenty of fun for the young and young at heart. The popular ice skating rink returns to the downtown park, giving revelers the opportunity for winter fun against the backdrop of the Houston skyline. The ice is open daily through January 28, 2024, and admission is $17. It's $8 on Cheap Skate Mondays.
Hit the ice at Discovery Green. Photo courtesy of Discovery Green
On December 3, families can take part in the Holly Jolly - Santa's Workshop at the Houston Museum of Natural Science where they can make an ornament or a holiday card to take home. And, of course, there will be photos with Santa. Through December 19, The Christmas Train in Alvin is a chance for families to ride in the open-air car through a wonderland of twinkling lights.
Family performances of Main Street Theater for Youth's production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast run through December 23 at the MATCH. Children and adults will love this tale as old as time, with its enchanted candlesticks and clocks, magical mirrors and a story of seeing the good in others.
Book photos with Santa at the Galleria through December 24. Kiddos can share their Christmas wish lists with Santa, while moms and dads can ooh and aah. Everyone can enjoy ice skating at the mall before or after visiting the man in the red suit.
Moody Gardens' Holiday in the Gardensis a multi-activity extravaganza with something for everyone. There's the Ice Land and Festival of Lights, with a stroll along a mile-long trail of twinkling lights that transform the space into a fairy land. There's A Christmas Wish Holiday Spectacular, spellbinding show combines the artistry of Broadway-style song and dance with mesmerizing acrobatics, and more. There are holiday films, an ice rink, Christmas Break camps for kids, holiday buffet dinners, breakfast with Santa, hotel specials, and a wealth of other opportunities to enjoy this beloved Galveston getaway.
Dickens on the Strandmarks its 50th anniversary in Galveston (with a nod from Parliament, no less), with characters in Victoria costumes, live entertainment, parades, Tiny Tim's Play Land, roving peddlers, and other revelry. This beloved holiday tradition returns to the island December 1 through 3.
Dickens on the Strand, Galveston celebrates half a century this year. Dickens on the Strand Facebook
Enjoy The Lancaster Hotel's Holiday Tea every Saturday and Sunday now through December 31. Seating times at Noon and 2:30 p.m. Enjoy an array of tea sandwiches, cranberry scones, seasonal patisseries, and a selection of exquisite teas from around the world. Guests also receive a complimentary tea tin with their specialty holiday spiced black tea. Call 713-228 9500 to book.
Visit the Christmas Village at Bayou Bend December 8 through 30 and take part in tours of Ima Hogg's historic home, hear costumed carolers, toss snowballs, sled on a faux-snow slide, and take photos with Santa (through December 23). Check out Architecture Center Houston's 14th Annual Gingerbread Build-Off at Levy Park on Saturday, December 9. Competing teams will create 100% edible, architectural masterpieces using gingerbread, candy, and all sorts of other sweet treats. Cheer on the teams, let the kiddos play in the kids' construction zone, race throughout the park to complete a scavenger hunt, enjoy holiday music and performances, and even take a picture with Santa.
The Post Oak Hotel offers myriad holiday experiences for the young and young at heart, including Breakfast With Santa December 9 and 10, the transformation of Stella Wine Bar into a holiday chalet with wine specials and fondue through December 30, and decorating gingerbread houses on December 18.
The Mingle Holiday Market at Stomping Grounds on December 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. is a chance to shop for unique items for everyone on that gift list, and take in food and drink from some of Houston's best eateries, pose for selfies, and other holiday fun.
Steven Devadanam contributed to this article.