Merry and Bright
City Lights returns to dazzle Houston this holiday season
Downtown Houston is once again transforming into a magical holiday destination complete with enchanting lights, ice skating, 11 themed holiday villages, and the state's biggest mistletoe for City Lights Downtown Holiday Magic presented by Shell Energy.
Houston First Corporation and Downtown Houston+ are helping The Plaza at Avenida Houston come alive on Friday, November 17, 2023, at 5:30 pm with a ceremonial lighting of the Christmas trees led by Tiny Tim from Alley Theatre’s A Christmas Carol.
The evening’s festivities will also include live music, holiday craft making, and entertainment by aerialist performers, balloon artists, stilt walkers, and Houston’s beloved Art Cars. Visitors and residents will be able to enjoy the mostly free experience at downtown’s holiday villages through Sunday, December 31, 2023.
Here's what's new this year at City Lights:
Harmonies by LeMonde Studio: Step into a world where music and magic meet in a captivating series of interactive music boxes presented by the Houston Theater District in partnership with Lynn Wyatt Square, Market Square Park, and Trebly Park.
With a simple turn of the crank, 10 music boxes of various shapes harness the power of human energy to weave mesmerizing soundscapes and illuminate their surroundings with enchanting lights. Visitors will be fascinated by the larger-than-life creations, which include a giant Nutcracker, guitar slide, massive boombox, a banjo, violin, music note, theater mask, mic, and an elegant harp, each with its own unique soundtrack.
Pedicabs: Grab a free ride from village to village in one of the festively decorated pedicabs provided by Downtown Houston+. Locate the holiday pedicab pickup stations at Discovery Green, Lynn Wyatt Square, POST Houston, Trebly Park, and Market Square Park.
Hop-On, Hop-Off Holiday Trolley: For a nominal fee, guests can ride in a holiday-decorated double-decker trolley to five downtown stops: Trebly Park, Heritage Society, Avenida Houston/Discovery Green, Market Square Park, and POST Houston.
Holiday Passports: Pick up a holiday passport from Market Square Park, Trebly Park, and Heritage Society to explore all 11 downtown City Light villages for the chance to win awesome prizes and be entered to win a downtown holiday staycation package with a one-night stay at Hotel Icon, four tickets to a Theater District performance, and four tickets to a Houston Rockets game.
Welcome to the Holiday Villages
Deck the Trees (Avenida Houston): Enjoy the stunningly decorated Christmas trees on display at the Alley Theatre and the Grand Holiday Window at the George R. Brown Convention Center. On select weekends, live musical performances will take place on The Plaza at Avenida Houston.
Land of Sweets (Hilton Americas): Let the sweet smell of chocolate envelop you as you encounter the life-sized Super Mario Bros. chocolate display in the hotel lobby.
Along with the legendary annual chocolate display, you can fill your holiday season surrounded by 80,000 sparkling lights and 14-foot Champagne trees also lining the lobby of the hotel.
Texas Winter Lights (Marriott Marquis): Where else but Houston can you enjoy floating along the 80-degree, Texas-shaped lazy river atop the Marriott Marquis while also enjoying thousands of twinkling lights with floating orbs and colorful archways. Admission is complimentary for hotel guests, and a nominal admission fee for others.
ICE @ Discovery Green (Discovery Green): A holiday tradition continues with open-air ice-skating at Discovery Green Park. Don’t miss the chance to match your skating skills with Santa on the ice.
Sugar Plum Plaza (Fish Plaza, Wortham Theater): Guests will be able to experience light and sound by turning the wheels on life-sized hourglasses. These giant time catchers, created by Creos, allow a magical way to take control of time as you sing, clap, or do whatever inspires you. A Harmonies music box art installation will add to the whimsical holiday moments in Sugar Plum Plaza.
Jingle Town (Lynn Wyatt Square): The recently opened greenspace in the heart of Houston’s downtown Theater District will come alive with sweet sounds of the holiday season when visitors turn a crank to experience three of the Harmonies interactive music box art installations: a guitar slide, banjo, and violin.
Winter Wanderland (Bagby St.): You may want to don your sunglasses to stroll through this spectacle of more than 100,000 lights in an 80-foot long tunnel. These dazzling lights are flanked by a number of constellations and blinged-out arches from Hobby Center to City Hall, creating some unforgettable selfie moments.
Additionally, the Heritage Society at Sam Houston Park will be a holiday hub with hot chocolate, free pictures with Texas Cowboy Santa, letters to Santa, and the main place to grab a ticket and catch a ride on the Hop-On, Hop Off Holiday Trolley. You can also pick up your “Holiday Passport,” which if stamped at every village qualifies you for some awesome prizes.
Twinkle Town (Trebly Park): Enjoy live holiday music every Friday night, then on Saturday afternoons, Santa Paws will be available for photos with those "naughty and nice" four-legged fur-babies.
A life-size Harmonies music box art installation is available for everyone to explore whenever the park is open.
Mistletoe Square (Market Square Park): Prepare to pucker your lips under the state’s biggest mistletoe in this return of the 150-inch ball of greenery hanging from a giant 15-foot candy cane. A Harmonies music box art installation will be on site to add to the magic of the village. Every Saturday, visit with a multi-cultural Santa and take advantage of a gift-wrapping station, mini market, and face painting.
City Hall-iday Headquarters (City Hall): The seat of city government is also the place to get the best view of H-Town’s towering Christmas tree in Hermann Square. Live musical performances and a free photo with Santa will be part of the annual tree lighting festivities December 2, 2023, from 6-8 pm.
Winter Wonderlawn (POST HTX): Don’t miss viewing thousands of lights at the POST’s rooftop garden with downtown Houston’s skyline as the backdrop. Skylawn will be decked out with festive holiday lights and decorations that will take your breath away.
At the center of it all is a 25-foot Christmas tree surrounded by multiple holiday-themed activations. A nominal fee will be charged for access to the POST’s rooftop during the holiday season.
Make your own magic and chart your holiday course at City Lights here.