Houston Holiday Season Highlights: The Nutcracker

A performance of The Nutcracker Ballet
Houston Chronicle

The holiday season in Houston would not be complete without the Houston Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker. Beginning in 2016, the Houston Ballet has been performing The Nutcracker as choreographed by the current Artistic Director, Stanton Welch. Today, audiences are still treated to the well-known tale, but with all new sets, animation, and choreography, establishing what the Ballet terms “a new tradition.” Fans of The Nutcracker should make every effort to see this year’s performance at the Wortham Center to view Welch’s original vision of The Nutcracker.

Nutcracker Market

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.

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. Each year, more than 100,000 people go through the gates each year to shop at the nearly 300 national and international booths that are arranged street market-style in NRG Center. 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.

Special Events

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 are just in search of unique and interesting Christmas gifts, a visit to The Nutcracker Market is an entertaining way to spend a day in Houston during the holiday season.

Besides attending The Nutcracker Ballet or shopping at The Nutcracker Market, visitors will find plenty of other fun holiday events and happenings 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 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.

Many of Houston’s neighborhoods also have long-standing traditions of putting forth amazing light displays. For those unfamiliar with the city or not wishing to fight traffic to view the lights, the Houston Wave offers holiday light tours around town.

Holiday Activities and Dining

Given the climate of Houston, ice skating isn’t exactly what most people think of doing on a visit to Houston. However, Houston ice-skating enthusiasts have a handful of options. The original and best-known recreational ice rink in Houston is situated inside the Galleria Mall. 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 restaurants found in the Bayou City are Goode Company Barbecue or Gatlin’s Barbecue. For steakhouse fare, try Rainbow Lodge, or Morton’s Steak House.

More continental options include Le Mistral and Grotto Ristorante.    

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.