Nutcracker Highlights Houston Holiday Season

The Nutcracker
••• The Nutcracker. Houston Chronicle

The holiday season in Houston would not be complete without the Houston Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker. Having been performed by the Houston ballet for decades, The Nutracker highlights the holiday season in Houston. In fact, through the years more than one million people saw The Nutcracker as directed by former Houston Ballet Artistic Director Ben Stevenson. Beginning in 2016, the Houston Ballet began performing The Nutcracker as choreographed by current Artistic Director Stanton Welch.

Like Stevenson’s version before, Welch’s Nutcracker has been well received and well attended. Today, audiences are still treated to the traditional tale, characters and settings such as Clara, King Rat, Sugar Plum Fairy, the Land of Snow, and the Kingdom of Sweets, but with all new sets, animation and choreography, establishing what the Ballet terms as “a new tradition.” The 2016 Nutcracker opens November 25 and runs through December 27. VIP experiences are available for matinees on Nov. 26 and Dec. 22, 23, 24, 26 and for evening performances on Nov. 25, 26 and Dec. 10, 22, 23. All performances are held at the Wortham Center. Fans of The Nutcracker should make every effort to see this year’s performance and be among the first to view Welch’s version of The Nutcracker.

Prior to the opening of The Nutcracker each year, the Houston Ballet stages its largest annual fundraising event – The Nutcracker Market.

This extremely popular event, which has been held annually since 1981, draws thousands of visitors each year. The brainchild of Houston Ballet supporter Preston Frazier, The Nutcracker Market raises money for the Houston Ballet’s Academy and Scholarship Fund. More than 100,000 people go through the gates each year and spend millions of dollars at the nearly 300 national and international booths that are arranged street market-style in NRG Center.

Visitors to The Nutcracker Market can expect a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. Originally envisioned as a European style street market shopping venue, The Nutcracker Market has grown from a humble bazaar-type weekend into a giant four-day shopping festival featuring over 280 different merchant booths. Visitors to The Nutcracker Market can find an amazing variety of goods and services, including decorative items, gourmet food products, clothing, toys, accessories, garden items, home goods and much, much more.

In addition to The Nutcracker Market itself, there are special events associated with the Market, such as the Wells Fargo Preview Party, Saks Fifth Avenue Fashion Show and Luncheon, Macy’s Fashion Show and Brunch, and the Market Raffle. So, whether you are a fan of The Nutcracker or just want some unique and interesting Christmas decorations and/or gifts, a visit to The Nutcracker Market is an entertaining way to spend a day in Houston during the holiday season.

Of course, for many people, the holiday season means shopping – both for themselves and others. And, obviously, Houston’s holiday shopping scene entails more than just The Nutcracker Market. In fact, Houston has great Holiday shopping scene, with malls, shops and stores across the city and surrounding area offering a variety of merchandise and deals from Black Friday through New Year’s Day.

Some fo the more popular shopping venues in and around Houston include The Galleria, Town Center and First Colony Mall in Sugarland, Town & Country Mall, Katy Mills Mall, and Memorial City Mall. The Harwin Outlet Mall and Houston Premium Outlets are other popular shopping spots during holidays. And, a reasonably short drive from Houston will take shoppers to the Tanger Outlets between Houston and Galveston or, heading in the opposite direction, the Conroe Outlet Mall.

Besides shopping or attending The Nutcracker and its accompanying events, visitors will find plenty of other fun holiday events, happenings, sights and sounds in Houston. Light displays can be found throughout the Greater Houston Area. Commercial lighting events such as Zoo Lights at the Houston Zoo, Magical Winter Lights at Gulf Greyhound Park and Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens in Galveston are big draws.

Magical Winter Lights, in fact, is an event unto itself, featuring not only the largest lantern lighting display in the country but also carnival rides and games, cultural performances and other live entertainment. Additionally, many of Houston’s neighborhoods have long-standing traditions of putting forth amazing light displays. Among some of the more notable neighborhood lighting displays found in Houston are River Oaks, Prestonwood Forest, Woodland Heights, Shepherd Park, Candlelight Park, and Highland Park. For those unfamiliar with the city and not wishing to fight traffic to view the lights, the Houston Wave offers holiday light tours around town.

Another favorite activity in the Houston area during the holiday season is ice skating. Of course, given the climate, ice skating isn’t exactly what most people think of doing on a visit to Houston. However, Houston area visitors have a handful of ice skating options. The original and best known recreational ice rink in Houston is situated inside the Galleria Mall. However, ice skating is also available at Memorial City Mall and at the Aerodrome Ice Skating Complex. The most unique ice skating experience in Houston is the outdoor ice skating rink at Discovery Green, the largest outdoor skating rink in the Southwestern United States.

Sharing meals with family is another major part of the holiday season. And, not all of those meals must be “home cooked.” To that end, Houston is home to dozens of great restaurants offering visitors a myriad of options for dining out with friends and family – it is really a matter of what type of cuisine and style of dining experience one prefers. Some of the more popular restaurant found in the Bayou City are Goode Company Barbecue, Gatlin’s Barbecue, Rainbow Lodge, Magnolia Bar & Grill, Morton’s Steak House, Old San Francisco Steak House, Le Mistral, Grotto Ristorante, and Michelangelo’s Italian Restaurant.    

Anyone finding themselves in Houston during the holidays might also want to take a day trip to one of the many destinations located a short drive from Texas’ largest city. Clear Lake, Galveston and Kemah are all popular day trips from Houston, as are the nearly dozen Texas State Parks situated within a reasonable drive of the city.