As adult-oriented as Houston can feel at times, it's actually a great place to raise kids—especially around the holidays. From light displays to Santa sightings and ice skating rinks, there are a myriad ways to get the whole family in the holiday spirit. Here are just a few of the things kids will love to see and do in the Houston area during the winter season.
Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens is worth a visit any time of year. The house-turned-museum has some of the most gorgeous collections of furniture, artwork, and decor in the city, and the gardens are stunning on their own. But something particularly magical happens during Christmastime.
From December 12 to 30, 2019, the grounds will be converted into a winter wonderland, complete with fake snow, carolers, arts and crafts, elaborate light displays, games, tours, model trains, a sparkling Christmas tree, and—of course—a visit from Santa. Inside Bayou Bend's mansion, live actors are there to interact with families and spread holiday cheer.
Traders Village is one of the largest open-air markets in Texas, so naturally, Santa makes a point to give a special appearance every year. Every weekend from Nov. 23 to Dec. 22, 2019, kids can get their picture taken with him for free. Afterward, parents can get a little shopping done, so it's a win-win.
Given its year-round temperate—and at times balmy—climate, Houstonians don't often get a chance to experience ice skating outside. But in the weeks leading up to Christmas, Discovery Green park downtown sets up an outdoor rink you can visit even if it's 70 degrees outside. Themed nights make it fun to go back several times throughout the season, and yes, Santa drops by as well. While visiting the park is free, ice skating there isn't, so be prepared to drop a few bucks for both parking and skate rentals in addition to entrance to the rink, which will be open from Nov. 15, 2019 to Feb. 2, 2020.
Head on over to the Houston Heights, one of the city's nicer neighborhoods, and take in their Lights in the Heights event, located in the Woodland Heights area. One of the most popular winter activities for families in Houston, Lights in the Heights features live music, food, and awesome light shows. The event takes place on Dec. 14, 2019, but the lights are often left up for the whole holiday season. Walk or drive through block after block of beautifully lit and decorated homes, while listening to Christmas music and sipping hot cocoa as you enjoy the sights.
This is more than just a Christmas event at the aquarium, because here Santa will actually make an appearance inside the tank! And the only thing better than Santa is a Santa that scuba dives. The breakfast event is scheduled for weekends in December (and in the days leading up to Christmas Eve) from Dec. 7 to 24, 2019. Call ahead to make the required reservations for the event.
On select days between Dec. 6 to 21, 2019, hop on a 30-minute cruise along Houston's Buffalo Bayou in a pontoon boat decorated to maximize Christmas cheer. Take in the gorgeous views of Houston's downtown by boat, all while listening to holiday music and drinking hot chocolate. Tours take place in the evenings from 5 to 8 p.m. and leave every 30 minutes. Attending children must be over four years old.
This Galveston attraction, about an hour's drive from Houston, has tons of fun educational activities and things to do all year long, and winter is no exception. From roughly Thanksgiving to New Year's, Moody Gardens puts up thousands of holiday lights to see and explore, as well as an ice slide, ice skating, and photos with Santa himself. This year's season runs from Nov. 16, 2019 to Jan. 12, 2020 and opens daily from 10 a.m to 10 p.m, including on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
While much of the country starts their holiday shopping Thanksgiving weekend, Houstonians' Christmas season starts with the Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market. The massive market takes place from Nov. 14 to 17, 2019 at the NRG Center, where hundreds of vendors set up shop to sell everything from high-end chocolate to children's clothing and vintage nutcrackers. While kids are welcome, strollers are not, so be sure to plan accordingly.