From train rides to the North Pole on the authentic Polar Express to new laser light shows downtown, a 2-million-pound ICE LAND, and a world-renowned Victorian festival, Galveston offers no shortage of holiday fun. If you’re in the mood for visits with Santa, sips of hot cocoa and all the magic the holiday season brings, then head to Galveston this November and December for the island’s 50-plus days of holiday attractions and events.
Here’s a look at a few of the events taking place in Galveston this season:
The Polar Express Train Ride
The Polar Express Train Ride will open at 5 p.m. Nov. 15th at the Galveston Railroad Museum offering an exciting opportunity for kids (and adults!) to experience, first-hand, the magic of the classic children’s tale. Set to the soundtrack of the motion picture, The Polar Express will whisk passengers away (on six separate cars pulled by vintage locomotives) for a magical one-hour trip to meet Santa complete with hot chocolate and dancing chefs. The ride will be open on weekends and select dates through Dec. 29th.
Find out more at galvestonrrmuseum.org/polar-express.
ICE LAND at Moody Gardens
Galveston’s holiday festivities will continue Nov. 16th when Moody Gardens opens its 28,000-square-foot ICE LAND attraction (made from 2 million pounds of ice) with an all-new “Christmas Around the World” theme as well as its annual Festival of Lights. ICE LAND will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Nov. 16th and will remain open daily through Jan. 12th. In this 28,000-square-foot ice wonderland, visitors can explore a chilling maze of majestic ice sculptures decorated in elaborate colors and shapes with some standing 30 feet tall! Kids’ eyes will light up when they see 30-foot ice slides and intricately carved sculptures, featuring holiday figures and scenes that will allow you to “travel” from Russia and Egypt to China and beyond to see representations of how different cultures celebrate the holiday season.
Find out more at moodygardens.com/holiday_season.
Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens
Also opening Nov. 16th is the 18th annual Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens, where visitors can enjoy the largest holiday lighting event on the Gulf Coast. At 5 p.m. Santa will parachute in and at 6 p.m. he will flip the switch that turns on the mile-long Festival of Lights trail, showcasing more than 100 sound-enhanced animated light displays. The opening ceremony will feature choirs and other free, live entertainment. While visiting Moody Gardens, visitors can also take a ride on the Arctic Slide, go ice-skating, visit with Santa, go on a train ride, grab hot cocoa, and more. Festival of Lights will continue nightly through Jan. 12th.
Find more at moodygardens.com/holiday_season.
Galveston Holiday Lighting Celebration at Hotel Galvez
The annual Galveston Holiday Lighting Celebration at Hotel Galvez will kick off at 6 p.m. Nov. 29th to celebrate the start of the Christmas season. This free event will feature live performers, including the Galveston Ballet, visits with Santa, and the lighting of the city’s official 35-foot Christmas tree.
Find out more at hotelgalvez.com.
Downtown Lasers & Lights
Nov. 29nd through Dec. 22nd, Galveston’s historic downtown district will host Downtown Lasers & Lights featuring new laser shows, a magical display of lights, and other holiday-themed attractions in Saengerfest Park and beyond. Highlights at Saengerfest Park include a 30-feet-tall Christmas tree and a giant snow globe for visitors to enjoy on weekends. In addition, lights are hung on The Strand from 20th to 25th streets, as well as along 23rd and Postoffice streets. New this year, four-hour holiday laser shows synchronized to music will be projected on the American National Insurance Company Building from 6 to 10 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through Dec. 22nd. While in the area, visitors can tackle some of their holiday shopping at the district’s many gift shops, boutiques, art galleries, and antique shops set among beautiful Victorian architecture.
Dickens on The Strand
The first weekend in December (Dec. 6–8), the majestic iron-front buildings found in Galveston’s historic downtown district will make the perfect backdrop for the 46th annual Dickens on The Strand. This holiday street festival transforms the area, particularly Strand Street, into the Victorian London of Charles Dickens, complete with costumed characters, street performers and vendors, parades, holiday food and drink, Victorian-inspired crafts, and more. Each year, descendants of Charles Dickens travel from London to be a part of the festivities, and attendees are encouraged to join in the fun by dressing in period costumes.
Find out more at dickensonthestrand.org.
Historic East End Holiday Homes Tour
With Galveston being home to one of the largest collections of Victorian architecture in the country, it’s not hard for the island to put you in a nostalgic state during the holidays–especially on the East End Historical District’s East End Holiday Homes Tour. The 30th annual tour will be held from 5:30-9:30 p.m. Dec. 6th, featuring five private homes that will open their doors to the public for one night. Each home will be decked out in festive décor. The event will also include refreshments and holiday music at the East End Historical District Association cottage. Tickets are $25 and proceeds benefit the EEHDA.
Find out more at eastendhistoricaldistrict.org.
Victorian Holiday Tours at Moody Mansion
Restored to its turn-of-the-century splendor, the 28,000-square-foot Moody Mansion is one of the premier architectural museums in Galveston. During the holidays, guests can tour this home, completed in 1895, while it is dressed up for the season with festive trimmings and elaborately adorned Christmas trees throughout its 20-plus rooms. The mansion is open for tours daily except on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
Find out more at moodymansion.org.
Holiday Shows at The Grand 1894 Opera House
For holiday entertainment, Galveston certainly won’t disappoint. The Grand 1894 Opera House, which is a gem in the island’s historic downtown district, offers no seat further than 70 feet from the stage for its exciting lineup of live holiday shows happening throughout November and December. Here you can catch shows like Merry Christmas from the Doo Wop Project, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, The 5 Browns Holiday, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, and more.
Find out more at thegrand.com.
Cirque Joyeux Dinner and Show
You can experience Christmas Around the World at the Cirque Joyeux Dinner & Show coming to the Moody Gardens Hotel Dec. 20–30. This one-hour Christmas spectacular features an exciting performance from a cast of international circus and a variety of talents plus a sumptuous holiday dinner. Tickets to the show include admission into Moody Gardens’s Festival of Lights. You’ll also visit Santa’s Workshop and see Santa himself.
For pricing, visit moodychristmasshow.com.
The Santa Hustle
If you’ve never seen 5,000 Santas racing along the beach, you’ll have your chance Dec. 15th when Galveston hosts a wacky holiday race: the Santa Hustle 5K, Half Marathon & Kids Dash. This unique race event will be a “jolly good time” as participants receive a lightweight performance Santa hoodie, Santa hat, and beard to wear while running. Participants will also be able to stop at cookie stations and enjoy festive music and outrageous holiday decorations along their routes. The races, put on by Adrenaline Sports Management, will take off from Moody Gardens. The Kids Dash will start at 6:45 a.m., the half marathon will start at 7 a.m., and the 5K race will begin at 7:15 a.m.
Find out more at santahustle.com/galveston.
And for more information on all of the many holiday events in Galveston, visit galveston.com/holidaymagic.