Things to do in Houston

Christmas Events & X-Mas Activities in Houston, TX

Feel the holiday spirit with our guide to Christmas events in Houston, where magic comes alive.

Winter chills and cozy decked halls offer convincing arguments for curling up inside all season. But an enticing array of Houston Christmas events might be worth donning your coat and hat for; you don’t want to miss out on the holiday magic. Here are 11 can’t-miss Christmas activities in Houston to indulge in this year. 

1. Noche Buena 

Music encapsulates the spirit of Christmas, evoking the joys and pleasures of the giving season. And while heavenly choruses and divine symphonies produce superb renditions of classic holiday tunes, they don’t always bring bodies to the dance floor. Houston Christmas gets a trendy makeover at Noche Buena, a spirited event hosted by Monkey’s Tail Bar and anticipated by club-goers all year long. 

Expert DJs spin remixed Christmas tracks beneath a sea of twinkling bulbs as Houston’s adult crowd dances their way through holiday cheer. Festive accoutrements, such as Christmas photo booths and a spinning prize wheel, fleck the space for private expressions of seasonal joy. Early evening guests are treated to a lively mariachi performance before the lights go down and the DJ takes over. It’s a holiday spectacular of the fun and festive variety.

Amidst the decked halls, visitors sip seasonal spirits, such as Horchata Eggnog and Frozen Andes Mint, warming souls from the inside out. A gourmet kitchen churns out fresh tamales, still steaming hot and made to be enjoyed outside on the heated patio, where a 14-foot Christmas tree sits for your viewing pleasure. All five senses will feel festive at Noche Buena; this is one holiday experience you have to be there for.

2. Christmas Light Displays 

No sight produces a more powerful surge of Christmas spirit than an incredible display of thousands of magical winter lights, showering buildings, and trees in a cheerful glow of festive flair. Houston’s Christmas light shows remain unmatched, sprouting up across the city and creating cozy pockets of joy to enter when the season calls you. 

Ready for some state-of-the-art themed displays? Fuzzy friends get in on the fun at the Houston Zoo Lights, where towering great oak trees shine upon crowds, and blooming groves evoke chameleons with color-changing LED lights for an enchanted forest made real. The butterfly garden flutters to life after dark with a canopy of illuminated flowers suspended over entranced visitors. In other words, it’s the perfect place to stop by after your holiday shopping.

Rivaling this display is the Houston Botanic Garden’s Radiant Nature production, alighting the impressive gardens with larger-than-life lanterns and a moving holiday lights show. Here, a 200-foot-long dragon soars above a two-story peacock while visitors romp on whimsical light-up swings and seesaws.

While the wonders of the natural world gleam bright with dazzling lights, no Christmas lights tour is complete without a journey into the universe above. Space Center Houston’s Galaxy Lights adventure is an earth-defying leap into outer space, complete with massive twinkling planetary models and a strobing light show that will leave you starry-eyed. Just one glance will get even the biggest Scrooge into the festive spirit.

Photographer: Steven Van Elk

3. Living History Houston Christmas Events 

Houston’s centuries-long history as a city has seen its holiday celebrations evolve and diversify, culminating in the dynamic Christmas culture seen by the community today. But sometimes, it’s fun to look back on the customs and traditions of times long gone. While outmoded, they just might offer a new perspective on modern ways — if anything, a trip to the past is a fascinating way to spend an otherwise ordinary winter afternoon. 

The folks at the Texas Historical Commission know the value and delight of the old-fashioned ways, and their Texas Time Travel project is dedicated to immersing curious holiday crowds in the Christmases of yore. Events such as Christmas in the Canyons whisk visitors back in time to the days of horses and buggies in a magical holiday wonderland. Here, you’ll paint ornaments, shop from local merchants, and collect stories of the old days around a candlelit Christmas tree.

Bring the entire family out for the day and embrace the holiday spirit at a rustic Campfire Christmas celebration. This is the holidays, Texas-style. Guitar ditties float from the fireside, buffet fare warms from within despite the cool country air, and cowboys mingle in the ranch house, dressed to the nines for the season.

4. Ice Skating 

Twirling figures zip across the ice during the Christmas season, bathed in the warm glow of nearby Christmas lights. Houston might be hard-pressed for snow, but residents and visitors alike can still experience the joys of an evening laced in skates and topped with chilly red noses. 

Green Mountain Energy Ice is the city’s only outdoor ice rink, much to the locals’ delight. The first scrape of skates on the open-air ice is a sound that rings in Houston’s holiday season, drawing guests from far and wide eager to join in this classic Christmas activity. Nightly DJs turn after-hours excursions into full-blown parties for couples, friends, families, and solo stars whirling beneath the starry sky.

The Aerodrome Ice Skating Complex serves up skating minus exposure to the elements during public ice hours scattered throughout the season. Helpful skating classes make ideal opportunities to put your skills to the test, slicing and spinning your way across the ice with the verve of one of our performers. This is one of those holiday attractions you just have to attend.

Photographer: DESIGNECOLOGIST

5. Houston Holiday Parades 

Standing out in the crisp morning air as a procession of brightly colored balloons and floats drift by is a decades-strong holiday tradition. Packed snug onto street corners to get the best view, there’s no community like one that shows up every year to celebrate the season in concert. No holiday events schedule is complete without a festive parade, and Houston delivers.

The Houston holiday parade era kicks off annually during fall’s festivities with the H-E-B Thanksgiving Day Parade. Though still squarely in turkey territory, this spectacular display rings in the winter season in a show of spirit that's quintessentially Christmas. On this day, the streets of downtown Houston come to life with the triumphant sound of local marching bands and cheerleaders, bubbling balloons, and towering floats travel down the street for this festive event. Hosted by the city and carried out by an army of volunteers, to witness this exhibition with a hot drink in hand is to uncover the wild and fun spirit of Houston itself.

Just a little ways from downtown sits the Kemah Boardwalk, home to another rocking holiday spectacle. The Christmas Boat Parade fills the Clear Creek Channel with hundreds of boats, all decked out to celebrate the season. When you’re not watching this uniquely Southern show float by, the lively music and freshly fried food available at the boardwalk are waiting to enfold you.

Photographer: Colin lloyd

6. Charities and Wrapping Parties 

It’s hard to resist the season of giving when tender sentiments arise and holiday nostalgia leaves celebrants feeling soft and generous. Give into your charitable urges this year by diving into Christmas charities, lovingly dedicated to benefitting the less fortunate in the Houston community and beyond. 

The Houston Children’s Charity is a stalwart member of the city’s generous organizations, making Christmas in Houston special for countless families. The CPS-centric Be A Resource organization also invites charitable spirits to bear gifts and cheer by sponsoring children and volunteering to brighten the season for kids in need.

Of course, some of the best gifts are given to those closest to you, lighting up their sleep-dusted faces in the early hours of Christmas morning. Local wrapping parties can turn those hours of quiet cutting and taping into a holiday activity you’ll look forward to all year long. The Harris County Public Library hosts a jolly one, complete with snacks and festive beverages — no supplies required. Space Center Houston also invites gift-givers (who happen to be members) to come and wrap gifts with the community and features out-of-this-world special guests in the form of genuine astronauts.

7. The Texas Winter Lights 

You would think a massive, Texas-shaped pool atop a sixth-floor balcony couldn’t get any grander, but Houston would prove you wrong with its majestic holiday light displays. Perched on the Mariott Marquis is a whimsical water feature that gets a spectacular seasonal makeover each winter. The Texas Winter Lights treats visitors and locals alike to a visual extravaganza as the stately pool is enshrouded in thousands of bright Christmas bulbs. 

Pockets of the seemingly endless balcony space are dotted with a host of merry activities. An adult playground holds light-up swings, a strobing dance floor bumps to a DJ’s mix, and majestic stallions shine in their glittering drapery. Heated all year long, the winding lazy river offers visitors a serene cruise through the water beneath awe-inspiring arches of tiny festive lights. 

Signature cocktails flow freely from the poolside bar, spiked with seasonal flair and served up alongside scrumptious winter-themed dishes. Thursday nights feature a lively showing of Christmas movie favorites for a dash of nostalgia, while Friday visitors who arrive in an ugly holiday sweater earn themselves a free hot chocolate to sip under the glow.

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8. The Nutcracker Ballet 

The cherished tale of fairies, mice, and Christmas spirit is reinvented every year on the Houston stage, much to the delight of audiences new and old. As winter blooms, scenes are set and costumes donned. Music and moves are precisely practiced for the season’s grand finale, one that has earned the Houston Ballet a barrage of national acclaim. 

The Nutcracker is a timeless story backed by a score seeped into the collective consciousness. Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece is sprinkled with memorable tunes exuding a powerful spell of holiday charm, from the commanding March of the Toy Soldiers to the saccharine bounce of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Fraught with adventure, otherworldly travels, and swordfights meld with the tender passion between a child and her precious toy. Delicate snowflakes and swirling, candy-colored sets turn dreams into a reality, captivating audiences year after year. 

Attending this larger-than-life production remains a holiday tradition for the ages, making it one of the quintessential Christmas things to do in Houston. The Houston Ballet company spares no detail, crafting a performance garnished with stunning details and atmospheric design for a show so spectacular that you’ll yearn to visit the Land of Snow over and over again.

9. The Christmas Village at Bayou Bend 

All year long, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston draws visitors to Bayou Bend for a glimpse at its collection of rare paintings and glinting ceramics. At Christmastime, the 14-acre estate transforms into a winter wonderland adorned with thousands of glittering lights. The Christmas Village at Bayou Bend whisks visitors away to a world where the spirit of the season imbues every brick on the gallery grounds. 

The journey begins with a walk over a luminous bridge, carrying visitors into bedazzled museum gardens. Hidden pockets of visual marvels, such as secret statues and gurgling fountains, all decked out with shimmering strands, add an air of intrigue to the adventure. Beyond the celestial trees and bushes lies a gathering space dense with the fragrant scent of hot chocolate and crowned with a massive, star-topped Christmas tree. 

Eye candy isn’t the only thing on the agenda at Bayou Bend, where reindeer games are a rite of passage. A whimsical faux-snow slope makes frost fun possible amidst Houston’s dry coolness, while snowball tosses, train rides, and animated projections delight visitors of all ages. Sweet-noted carolers sing through the night, treating the space to a chorus of holiday favorites. 

10. Christmas in the Square 

Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the holiday celebrations. Christmas in the Square is a jubilee unlike any other, spanning a month long and drawing visitors from across the state for a marvelous series of bite-size festivities. Each frigid day presents a new way to rejoice in the spirit of the season as the community gathers time and time again in the quaint shopping village of Sugar Land Town Square. 

Christmas in the square kicks off at the close of November with a visit from Mr. Claus himself, gathering holiday wishes to attach to his list of names. Hot chocolate vendors return night after night for town traditions, such as the official tree lighting, ice skating in the square, and a showing of Christmas movie favorites held under the peaceful glow of the moonlight. The artisan-run Boho Market highlights local crafters for a taste of Houston that can be placed under the tree. 

The gradual evolution of this citywide tradition means there’s something for everyone here, whether your Christmas fancy is struck by concerts, symphonies, or local marketplaces. Nearby restaurants serve up delectable dishes for passing festival-goers to indulge in for a full day of special seasonal celebration. 

Photographer: Daniil Silantev

11. Caring Santa 

Taking a seat atop Santa’s lap and whispering a Christmas wish into his ear is a time-honored tradition beloved by parents and kids alike. But when the experience isn’t accessible to all, some children may miss out on the fun. Ensuring everyone can partake is the goal of Caring Santa, an annual venture hosted by mega-mall Memorial City. 

Here, visitors enjoy a Santa Claus meet-and-greet without the overwhelming extras. Low lighting and soft, ambient music set the scene for a soothing atmosphere still glittered with the spirit of the season. All dressed up in red and white, the day’s special guest approaches every interaction with a tender heart and gentle tone, just right for kids with disabilities. 

A sensory-friendly environment keeps overstimulation risk low and spirits bright for greater accessibility to a cherished tradition, complete with sweet commemorative photos to grace the mantle with this season. With a visit to Santa Claus checked off your list, the Memorial City location makes other holiday errands a snap, thanks to an expansive directory of shops and artisan boutiques stuffed with Christmas gift prospects. 

12. Carols on the Green

The Houston Grand Opera meets Discovery Green in this holiday spectacular, a testament to the vibrant things to do in Houston during the holiday season. A festive way to celebrate Houston’s rich cultures, this concert features some of the city’s most talented singers decked out to the nines as they take the stage singing holiday classics. Carols on the Green isn’t Christmas specific, so if you celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or something else entirely, you’re welcome to watch these opera masters sing their hearts out. Even better? This 90-minute concert is completely free of charge, so come have a wonderful time at this family-friendly event.

Houston’s Holiday Charm: Where the Stars Shine Bright and Dreams Come to Life! 

Houston’s winter persona is a jolly wonderland, lit by the collective glow of millions of tiny bulbs and bursting at the seams with holiday joy. For more festive fun, especially for the little ones, explore the things to do in Houston with kids, where we're always crafting new and exciting entertainment experiences. High-flying feats and emotionally moving stories capture the wild and warm feeling of the season for a performance steeped in sweet sensations to share with your Christmas clan. Our Houston shows are sure to be a wondrous mix of heart-stopping excitement and awe.

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