Planning to spend Christmas in Houston? Live in H-Town and looking for Christmassy things to do in the city?
Explore this detailed guide to festive events, Christmas markets, twinkling holiday lights, ice festivals, and more in Houston, Texas.
Houston is one of our favorite destinations to visit in the winter.
The weather is mild – even warm if you’re traveling from the northern states – the Christmas decorations are abundant and if you’re lucky you might even see a sprinkling of snow!
Here is an Ultimate Guide to spending the holiday season and Christmas Day in Houston, Texas!
Also Read: Best Places to Visit in Texas in winter
Best Christmas things to do in Houston
There are many ways you can celebrate Christmas in Houston.
From holiday markets and festivals that offer a variety of celebrations to special services at churches and synagogues, there are plenty of ways for visitors to enjoy the holiday cheer in the city.
Get into the holiday spirit by checking out some of these different Christmas attractions in Houston!
See the Christmas tree at the city hall
Kick off your holiday season with the Official Tree Lighting Celebration at City Hall Plaza in downtown Houston.
As part of the festivities, visitors can enjoy live music performances at the outdoor stage with a special appearance by Santa Claus himself who will turn on the official Christmas tree lights!
Be sure to stick around for some fun family activities after the tree lighting ceremony.
Can’t attend the celebration? Visit anytime after the tree is lit to take family pictures and enjoy the seasonal festive decor at City Hall Plaza.
Also Read: 18 Best Christmas Things to do in Dallas
Ice skate in the city
It may not snow in Houston but that doesn’t stop us Houstonians from activities like ice skating – and falling flat on our asses!
The city’s most famous ice skating rink is at Discovery Green.
This is the largest outdoor ice rink in the Southwest USA.
Skating here in the midst of the downtown skyscrapers is an amazing experience
There’s an indoor rink at the Galleria Mall and this one is open year-round!
During the holiday season, it plays cool holiday songs and is one of the best places to spend quality time with the family.
Pssst… While you’re visiting the Galleria, do not forget to see the beautiful Houston Waterwall fountain!
Moody Gardens in Galveston Island also has an ice skating rink.
Most of the arenas have skate rentals but you can also bring your own.
Watch the shows in Theatre District
Houston’s Theatre District is one of the best places you should visit for some culture, elegance, and style.
The district has museums, theatres, restaurants and cafes for visitors to enjoy.
This section is home to some of Houston’s most iconic buildings like Wortham Theater Center.
During the holidays, expect festive shows at all theatres here including classics such as Elf on the Shelf, Charlie Brown Christmas, and A Christmas Carol.
One of the performances the entire city looks forward to is The Nutcracker presented by Houston Ballet.
Young children are especially enthralled by the sheer beauty and grace of this magical dance.
Have fun at the zoo lights in the Houston Zoo
The vast and sprawling grounds of the Houston Zoo look magical during the holiday season.
At this time, the Houston Zoo is home to the Zoo Lights Holiday Festival.
While you cannot see the animals at the after dark event, you can revel in the beauty of the fountains, lit up trees, and oh, the tunnel of Lights!
See the best holiday lights in Houston’s neighborhoods
Wondering what is there to do in Houston for Christmas?
Take a drive around the city’s top neighborhoods that are known for their holiday lights and Christmas decorations.
River Oaks has some of the best Christmas lights in the area. The magnificent mansions here are all decked out with stunning Christmas lights and holiday decor.
The Heights is another great neighborhood to see Santa Claus, Mrs Claus, reindeers, penguins, and other festive displays.
Another fave: Pecan Grove!
This hidden Gem is located in the suburbs near Katy but it’s totally worth the drive.
The houses here go all out with elaborate themes and synchronized light and music shows.
Don’t want to drive a car through the traffic? Pecan Grove also offers hayrides where everyone can bundle up and watch the amazing lights.
Those looking for even more holiday lighting displays should head to Memorial City, Sugarland, Pearland and Spring Branch areas which all have extensive holiday lights and decorations.
Head north a bit to Montrose if you’d like to see a more eclectic set of Christmas lights in Houston!
Visit the Dasher’s Lightshow
Looking for something more than driving through neighborhoods?
Visit the Dasher’s Lightshow in Hockley!
Previously known as Rudolph’s lightshow, the Holiday Lights Festival has been popular with Houston area families for several years.
This drive-thru holiday Extravaganza is located northwest of Houston downtown.
Here you can drive through tunnels of Lights, giant candy canes, and lit up Christmas trees.
You can watch dancing lights synchronized to popular holiday music.
Ride the Christmas train
When it comes to the holiday season, dream lovers of all ages look forward to riding the Christmas train!
Taking a ride on the festive holiday train and meeting Santa Claus himself is a memorable experience.
Houston’s Hermann Park has its very own Christmas train ride. There’s also a Santa Express at Traders Village.
Hockey also has its own Center and express which takes Riders around the pretty lake.
But the most popular Christmas train in Houston is the one in Alvin.
You can see the spectacular holiday lights and decor from the train. The ride ends with a photo op with Santa.
Also Read: Ultimate Guide to the Polar Express in Palestine, Texas
See fascinating gingerbread house displays
Houston has its fair share of beautiful, artistic gingerbread houses.
You can see them in the lobbies of malls such as the Galleria as well as hotel lobbies.
The Houstonian is famous for its elaborate gingerbread displays.
The Architecture Center Houston also hosts an annual gingerbread bread house competition every year.
This is an amazing place to see marvelous edible creations made from gingerbread.
Shop at a holiday market or two
Most visitors do not know that Houston has many holiday markets.
The Houston Ballet hosts The Nutcracker Market while in the suburb of Katy, the Old Fashioned Christmas Festival Market.
The Czech Center Museum also hosts a holiday market in downtown – here you can enjoy authentic Czech traditions such as Saint Nicholas Day.
Holiday on the 19th Street hosted by The Heights neighborhood it’s also a great holiday market to finish your Christmas shopping.
Have a date night at the Houston Symphony
Enjoy a beautiful holiday performance of the Houston Symphony.
The classical music concerts are presented by talented musicians of the orchestra and great for music lovers.
Enjoy a romantic meal in the Heights or downtown before the concert for a memorable experience.
Have fun watching a Christmas movie on the big screen
Houston has many outdoor holiday movie nights during winter where you can see classics such as The Night Before, the Grinch, and Frozen.
The venues are located throughout the city. Popular ones include Market Square Park, the Square at Memorial City, and the Sugar Land Town Square.
Bring a large blanket as well as some marshmallows and cozy up to get in the Christmas spirit.
Festive things to do near Houston this Christmas
Ready to venture a bit further from H-Town?
The gulf coast region near Houston from Galveston Island to the Woodlands and Sugarland has a fascinating variety of Christmas events and festivals.
Here are some of our favorites to enjoy this year.
Have a fun time at the Magical Winter Lights
Located in La Marque Texas, the Magical Winter Lights is a hands-down favorite for families every year.
This festival features gigantic themed lantern sets such as a Christmas Village, the Far East, and more.
It also has an exciting dinosaur area which is a favorite with kids.
Our favorite exhibit here is probably lanterns forming the Houston skyline!
The festival is spread over an area of 20 acres and has carnival rides, food stalls, and kid-friendly areas including a dino dig!
See the Galaxy Lights at Space Center Houston
No list of Houston Christmas events can be complete without the Galaxy Lights at the Space Center Houston.
This holiday light show is perfect for nerds and geeks with its elaborate and technologically advanced light display.
The amazing immersive experience includes space themed attractions such as rockets, space stations, and astronauts and is a hit with teens.
Attend the Moody Gardens Festival of Lights
Moody Gardens, located on Galveston Island, is a popular destination for visitors and locals to enjoy the holiday season.
Each year in November and December this popular tourist attraction holds their Festival of Lights which includes Christmas Tree Maze, lit up pathways, tree lights, and more.
The 11-acre holiday light spectacular features over a million lights that dance to the beat of Christmas carols.
Moody Gardens also hosts Iceland, a themed ice sculpture event where you can see animals, birds, and structures made from ice.
Shop at the Tomball German Christmas Market
If you want to get in the Christmas spirit with some yuletide cheer, head over to Tomball for their German Christmas Market.
The market celebrates the city’s German heritage and includes a craft show, gift stalls, carnival rides as well as a beer garden.
This is said to be one of the best Christmas markets in America and is an amazing experience.
You can shop for Christmas gifts, holiday shopping, eat ethnic food, buy German souvenirs, and have holiday fun with the family.
See the Christmas Boat Lane Parade at Kemah
Tired of seeing decorated buildings, trees, and going through drive tunnels?
Looking for something unique to do this Christmas in Houston?
Watch the Christmas Boat Lane Parade on Clear Lake.
During the event you can see over hundred beautifully lit boats sail by.
The boats depart from South Shore Harbour Marina in League City and cruise all the way up to Galveston Bay.
One of our favorite places to watch the parade is from the Kemah Boardwalk.
Other Christmas events a short day trip away from Houston
Besides these, you will also find holiday festivals such as Sugar Land holiday lights, Hometown Holiday Festival in Pasadena, and the Texas style winter wonderland – Santa’s Winter Wonderland in College Station.
In New Braunfels, you can take photos with Cowboy Santa while the San Antonio Riverwalk holiday lights are the best in Texas.
Galveston is also home to Iceland ice sculpture festival where you can slide down an arctic slide.
Christmas in Houston: Trip planning tips
When traveling to Houston around Christmas time, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see the city’s festive side.
Traveling to Houston for Christmas can be easy with these helpful tips.
Is Christmas a good time to visit Houston?
Yes, Houston is fabulous at Christmas!
The city and its surrounding areas are gorgeous and home to many festive events.
You can visit Christmas markets, sip hot chocolate, and enjoy the wonder of the holidays at these popular destinations.
Shop for Christmas gifts and indulge in hassle free holiday shopping while enjoying holiday treats like mulled wine and gingerbread cookies.
How’s the Houston weather in December?
This is ideal for visitors who want to hit the highlights of Houston in one trip
December is a warm month in Houston. It can be hot and humid but because it’s winter, the humidity levels are usually lower than they would be in the summer.
You will need to consider bringing heavy jackets for nighttime, especially if you plan on going outdoors at night to events or visiting Christmas exhibits or markets.
Where to stay in Houston for your Christmas trip?
If you are looking for a place to stay during your visit, check out our guide on where to stay in H-Town and things to do in Houston during winter.
We hope you enjoyed our guide to Christmas in Houston. Merry Christmas!