8 Seasonal Sights to Experience at City Lights Downtown Holiday Magic

With a festive ice skating village, a chocolate-filled land of sweets, and much more, Downtown Houston is the place to be this holiday season.

By Daniel Renfrow

Houston First and Central Houston, Inc have joined forces this year to transform Downtown Houston into the ultimate holiday destination

The World Series may be over, but there’s still one good reason to keep Downtown Houston on your regular itinerary: City Lights Downtown Holiday Magic. For the holiday season-long extravaganza, Houston First and Central Houston, Inc have joined forces to transform Downtown Houston into the ultimate holiday destination.

The experience, which kicks off on November 18 with a ceremonial lighting at 5:30 p.m. on the plaza at Avenida Houston, runs through January 2 and spans eight unique themed villages spread across Downtown. We’ve put together a guide to each of the eight villages so you can make the most of them this holiday season—especially if, like us, you like to leave the roaming to the carolers. 

The George R. Brown Convention Center will contain an indoor forest this Christmas. 

Deck the Trees and Live Music at Plaza at Avenida

If you’re looking to spruce up your holidays this year, then head over to the George R. Brown Convention Center for a Christmas display you will never fir-get. The Grand Holiday Window at the convention center will display 30 fully decked out Christmas trees this year, which will be viewable from Avenida de las Americas, the street that runs from Minute Maid Park to Hilton Americas. A series of live musical performances from the Avenida Concert Series promises to add to the installation’s holiday ambiance. 

Christmas in Texas sometimes calls for a bit of swimming. 

Texas Winter Lights at Marriott Marquis

The Marriott Marquis, home to Houston’s famous Texas-shaped lazy river, is bringing back Texas Winter Lights, their one-of-a-kind poolside tradition, again this year. Through January 8, guests can kick back on the hotel’s lazy river (conveniently heated to 80 degrees all this winter) and slowly float their way through a holiday display that includes shimmering overhead lights, a grove of decorated Christmas trees, and nightly snowfall. Tickets start at $25. 

Celebrate the holidays by watching Houstonians try to ice skate at Discovery Green—and maybe put on some skates yourself. 

Holiday Ice Village at Discovery Green

Even though winter temperatures sometimes make it into the 80s in Houston, you won’t be skating on thin ice at Discovery Green’s annual Holiday Ice Village—although you might find yourself on some if you skip out on its potential as a great date option. The park’s famous outdoor ice-skating rink is back again this year, just in time for the holidays and everyone’s favorite pastime: watching Houstonians try to ice skate. To dial up the fun this year, quirky themed nights will be taking place throughout the season, including an opportunity to hit the ice with Santa. Tickets are priced at $17 a person and include a skate rental. 

A visit to the Land of Sweets at Hilton Americas is always a treat. 

Land of Sweets at Hilton Americas

Hilton Americas is giving Willy Wonka a run for his money this year through a chocolate display that will boast well over 2,000 pounds of chocolate. This year’s hand-sculpted display, which holds court in the hotel’s lobby, is a Minion-themed masterpiece that is sure to wow even the most chronically unimpressed of school-age minions—you know, the one’s whose parents almost want them to get stuck in a chocolate fountain. Since Hilton Americas is adjacent to the George R. Brown and Discovery Green, the Land of Sweets is a great holiday pit stop before heading out to other nearby holiday attractions.  

Sugar Plum Plaza at Wortham Theater

Wortham Theater’s iconic Fish Plaza is getting a much-needed name change this holiday season when it is reimagined as a winter wonderland—and no, it unfortunately doesn’t involve any ice fishing. The plaza, which has been seasonally renamed to Sugar Plum Plaza, will serve as host this winter to a collection of leviathan, custom-built ornaments so grand in scale they’ll give any production by Houston Grand Opera a run for its money.

You have all holiday season to put this giant mistletoe at Market Square Park to good use. 

Mistletoe Square at Market Square Park

If your hints aren’t working, maybe a 150-inch ball of mistletoe will be enough to do the trick? Find out this holiday season at Market Square Park, which is home this year to what is being branded as the biggest mistletoe in the entire state of Texas. To the delight of lovebirds, the hulking bunch of greenery will be hanging from a 15-foot candy cane in Market Square Park all this holiday season—plenty of time for you to put it to good use. 

Main Street Square will be home to Santa's Village this year. 

Santa’s Village at Main Street Square

While it takes a village to raise a child, this holiday season you can let Santa’s Village at Main Street Square do some of the work. Santa Claus will be coming to the festive square every Friday and Saturday this holiday season (starting at 6 p.m.) to check in with visiting children so he can make sure he has a copy of everything on their gift list. After a meeting with the jolly man in red, visitors can explore a series of holiday markets also taking place in the market every Friday and Saturday—a perfect opportunity to find gifts that didn’t make it onto Santa’s list. 

Taking a photo in front of these wings might confuse Santa enough for him to take you off the naughty list. 

Winter Wanderland on Bagby Street

If you’re looking for a highly Instagrammable locale in which to snap some holiday pics, the Winter Wonderland on Bagby Street has over 100,000 twinkling LED lights that will ensure your pics will come out merry—and also very, very bright. The light scape, which will be strung from Lamar to Preston, includes constellation arches, an 80-foot light tunnel across from the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, and a set of giant angel wings that, if you take a picture in front of, are just convincing enough to trick Santa into thinking you’re on the nice list.

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