With the holiday season already upon us, Houston is in the midst of its annual transformation into a brilliant winter wonderland — millions of sparkling lights, a calendar filled with festive events, and numerous activities catering to every interest. Whether you're an individual seeking cultural enrichment, a couple searching for romantic experiences, or a family eager for holiday fun, get ready to jingle all the way through sleigh-loads of fun with a variety of Houston's Christmas offerings.
To help prepare you for the best of the 2023 holiday season, let's explore the top things to do during Christmas in Houston.
1. Houston Ballet's Nutcracker Performance
Get ready to twirl into the holiday spirit with the Houston Ballet's Nutcracker! A seasonal staple for over 30 years, the Houston Ballet's rendition of The Nutcracker is a quintessential holiday experience, embodying the grace, beauty, and fantasy that makes the Christmas season so enchanting. This beloved ballet, set to Tchaikovsky's iconic score as performed by the Houston Ballet Orchestra, is a holiday must-see. Plus, there are VIP experiences if you're feeling a bit extra.
2. The Houston Symphony's Holiday Concerts
Whether you're a Mozart maestro or just here for some Tim Burton vibes, the Houston Symphony's got your holiday playlist covered. From Handel's "Messiah" to the Nightmare Before Christmas, they're cranking up the holiday cheer at Jones Hall. It's like a symphony for your soul.
For 2023, the Houston Symphony's holiday programming appeals to a wide range of musical tastes. The full holiday schedule includes:
- Dec. 9 and 10: Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas
- December 12: Duke Ellington's Nutcracker
- Dec. 15, 16 and 17: Handel's Messiah
- Dec. 20, 21, 22 and 23: Very Merry Pops
- December 23: Holly Jolly Holiday
- Jan. 5, 6 and 7, 2024: Swingin' Sinatra: A New Year's Celebration
3. Christmas Village at Bayou Bend
Step back in time and straight into a Christmas fairy tale at Bayou Bend! The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is again staging its Christmas Village at Bayou Bend on the dazzling 14-acre estate of renowned Houston philanthropist and art collector Ima Hogg.
With a historic house turned winter wonderland, complete with a model train, faux-snow slide, carolers, and even a visit from the big man in red—Santa himself! This is where nostalgia and Christmas magic collide.
4. High-End Holiday Shopping in River Oaks District
Ready to splurge on some holiday bling? River Oaks District is your go-to, featuring 60+ high-end brands like Cartier and Dior. It's not just shopping; it's a sophisticated holiday retail therapy session. And when you're done, treat yourself to some of Houston's finest dining spots!
With the shops adorned in their best festive décor and the district featuring regular holiday-themed events and promotions across December, it's a delightful and sophisticated experience for those who appreciate the finer side of holiday shopping.
Beyond the high-end retail, River Oaks is also a favorite amongst those who appreciate fine dining and nightlife, including several of Houston's best culinary experiences, including Le Colonial, Loch Bar, Steak 48 and MAD.
5. The Christmas Carol at The Alley Theatre
Bah, humbug? Not at The Alley Theatre! Dive into the holiday spirit with their dazzling production of "A Christmas Carol." It's not just a play; it's a festive extravaganza with Victorian costumes, stunning sets, and all the feels.
Over the years, "A Christmas Carol" at The Alley Theatre production has become a holiday tradition for many Houstonians. Attending the play is a fantastic way to kick off the festive season and, for many, an eagerly anticipated annual event. The classic tale is brought to life with a dedicated and highly talented cast backed with period Victorian costumes, spectacular sets, and special effects, providing theatergoers with an exceptional experience.
All performances are at the iconic Alley Theatre — a past Tony Award® winner for Outstanding Regional Theatre — in Houston's celebrated Theater District.
6. Ice Skating at Discovery Green
Lace up your skates and hit the ice! While there's no shortage of indoor ice skating rinks in Houston, the most notable being the Ice at the Galleria, ice skating at Discovery Green ice rink presents a unique and enchanting winter activity in the heart of Houston. With the Houston skyline as your backdrop, this isn't your average skating rink.
Sparkling lights, festive vibes, and even a chance to skate with Santa every Saturday in December. Glide into winter like a pro!
For those seeking additional ice skating opportunities and events, The Woodlands Township boasts a 21,000-square-foot seasonal rink, and the Aerodrome Ice Skating Complex hosts the "Nutcracker On Ice 2023."
7. The Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens
Want to venture beyond Houston? Head to Moody Gardens in Galveston for the Festival of Lights. Picture this: a million twinkling lights, animated displays, live entertainment, and even an arctic slide. It's like stepping into a Christmas postcard.
This world-renowned conservation, education and research destination becomes a magical setting with its annual Festival of Lights, which is just one part of its Holiday in the Gardens celebration, running from November 18, 2023, to January 6, 2024. The Festival of Lights features over a million sparkling lights and numerous animated light displays spread over a one-mile trail. As you walk through this luminous landscape, you're surrounded by the glow of intricate light designs, from whimsical scenes to holiday characters — a genuinely enchanting atmosphere that captures the magic of the season.
Guests are invited to enjoy live entertainment, watch holiday movies in the Garden's 3D and 4D special FX theaters, ice skate or traverse an arctic slide, and partake in a wide variety of arts and crafts activities and numerous food and drink options throughout the season-long event.