Santa, Baby!

All the Outdoor Holiday Events You Need to Know About

From Downtown to Bayou Bend, here's where Santa will be popping up.

By Gwendolyn Knapp November 28, 2018

Tie on a pair of skates.

OH THE WEATHER OUTSIDE IS FRIGHTFUL, mainly because the 90 percent humidity is still frizzing everyone’s hair to Beetlejuician proportions, despite it being (finally!) somewhat tolerable temperature-wise. But we can still get festive, can we not?  

Put a beanie over that terrifying mop of yours and head on out to Houston's many holiday outdoor events—all of these are family-friendly and some are even free. 

Let's start with Downtown, because there are quite a few events heading around the Discovery Green and Market Square areas over the next few weekends:


Discovery Green | 6 to 10 p.m.

Behold, ice. Yes, Discovery Green has opened its rink, The ICE, powered by Green Mountain Energy—there is a fee to skate—and a new art installation GUST: Celebrating a Decade of Discovery by Mexico City-based design studio Cocolab. Also happening at Discovery Green:

  • Winter Flea by Night presented by Green Mountain Energy on Saturdays from December 1 to 22.  
  • Screen On The Green will show holiday films including Home Alone on December 6 and Elf on December 27. Make sure to catch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on December 18, too. All films start at 7 p.m.

Cigna Sunday Streets: Main Street Holiday Edition

Downtown | December 2 | 4 to 8 p.m.

This foot-traffic-only festival features holiday decorations along Main Street, from Polk Street to Texas Avenue, as well as street performances and specials at area bars and restaurants, live music at Market Square Park and, of course, ice skating at Discovery Green.

Holiday in the Park 

Market Square | December 1 | 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Organized by Pop Shop America and the Downtown District, this free pop-up market will bring more than 30 Texas-based vendors to the area with stylish goods—Kissed by a Beer Organics, Santa Diabla and many more—a DIY crafting station, a hot chocolate bar, holiday selfie stations, all-day mimosas, music from DJ Fredster, and...wait for it… Texas’s largest mistletoe (pucker up, baby).

99th Annual Mayor’s Holiday Celebration and Tree Lighting 

City Hall, 901 Bagby St. | November 30 |  6 p.m.

Santa, fireworks and music? It’s all in store at the lighting of our city’s towering holiday tree, presented by Reliant.

10th Annual Gingerbread Build-Off

Hermann Square, 900 Smith St. | December 8 | 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

This gingerbread competition, featuring our city’s best architecture firms, is fun for the entire family, with a kids "construction" zone where they can build gingerbread houses with oodles of candy toppings. The gingerbread masterpieces in the competition are worth the trip alone: Last year featured a Minute Maid Stadium, Jurassic World, Nightmare Before Christmas and more incredible displays. For more information, visit

Houston’s 12K of Christmas

Sam Houston Park, 110 Bagby St. | December 22 | 7:30 a.m.

This fun run starts and ends at Sam Houston Park with post-race cups of hot cocoa, appearances by Santa and his elves, Christmas carolers and more holiday shenanigans. Registration starts at $45 at

The Space City Sound performs at Levy Park on December 1 and 2. 

Of course, there are other wonderful events happening elsewhere in town, this weekend especially.

Holiday Brews on the Bayou

Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens | December 1 | 2 to 6 p.m.

Add some hops to your holiday spirit, surrounded by the 14-acres of beautiful gardens at Bayou Bend. For $35, guests will sample seasonal beers from craft breweries with live music from the Richard Brown Trio and access to the historic mansion and its art collection as well. Tickets are available at

Levy Park Holiday Festival

Levy Park | December 1-2 | noon to 5 p.m.

Head to Upper Kirby for the free family-friendly fest, including music from the Phillip Hall Singers (on Saturday), the Houston Bronze Ensemble (on Sunday), and Space City Sound (both days), a holiday market, a family photo booth, the Coffee-Q food truck, and even an ugly sweater contest for dogs. This fest is dog-friendly.

Naturally Wild Families: Homemade Holidays

Houston Arboretum | December 1 | 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

One of Houston's best hidden gems teaches families how to make holiday decorations using goodies plucked right from nature (pinecones, berries and more). For $50 per family of four ($25 for members), you'll learn how to make wreaths, ornaments and homemade gifts. Tickets and more information can be found here

Houston Zoo Lights

Hermann Park | now through January 13 | 5 p.m.

The zoo gets jolly with 15 miles of LED Lights illuminating the facility during this festive holiday tradition, at $17.95 per person for members and $22.95 for nonmembers per person. 

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