One of the most jubilant times in Houston is when the city gets hit with its first fall chill after a long summer. Usually in late autumn, everyone breaks out their winter coats and scarves, getting into the spirit of the season with changing leaves, sparkling lights, and pumpkin spice everything. Our winters are comparatively mild to other parts of the country, so our holiday celebrations are exuberant, energetic, and a perfect opportunity to observe happy Houstonians in their colorful holiday habitat.

November 9th sees the 31st annual tree lighting ceremony at the Galleria, the most convenient location to start your holiday shopping. Fan favorite runner-up from Season 16 of The Voice, Gyth Rigdon, will be performing while a spectacular group of professional ice skaters break in the indoor ice rink in the heart of the Galleria.

Now in its 39th year, the annual Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market is returning to usher in Houston’s holiday season with its one-of-a-kind shopping extravaganza. The four-day event will host than 260 merchants from across the country, showcasing unique holiday items, gourmet food, apparel, jewelry, accessories, home décor and more. 

Kick off the season off right with a newer Houstonian tradition that’s already an instant classic. Our inner-city park, Discovery Green, features a seasonal ice skating rink that opens on November 15th. With its 12 acres of green space in the heart of downtown, Discovery Green is an urban oasis with idyllic sights and festive events that perfectly encapsulates Houston’s paradoxical existence as a major metropolitan city with the signature Texan wide-open spaces.

It’s just not the holidays without Houston Ballet’s Nutcracker performance and The Alley’s performance of A Christmas Carol. A Christmas Carol opens on November 15th, and The Nutcracker opens November 29th. Both are excellent excuses to fancy it up and dress to the nines, so have something cute picked out in advance.

November 23rd sees the opening of Houston Zoo’s annual Zoo Lights event, recurring daily until January 12th. Earth-friendly LED lights sparkle all over the zoo’s old oak trees as the animals snooze away. This year’s iteration has a giant ice throne just begging for selfies.

It’s no surprise that Thanksgiving Day is packed to the gills (or wattles, rather) starting with the traditional Turkey Trot starting at 7:30 AM at Dillard’s Uptown Galleria, benefitting local nonprofit, BarkerRipley. The 70th Annual HEB Thanksgiving Parade kicks off at 9 AM downtown.

Anyone 21 and up will want to be in downtown Houston’s historic district on the night of the 29th, for Thing-A-Ma-Jingle on Main Street. This giant block party will feature a Black Friday Gift Market, Christmas karaoke, and photo opps with Hipster Santa.

Head to Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens on the 30th for Holiday Brews on the Bayou, where local breweries serve beer tastings set to live music. Head to City Hall by 6 PM to catch The Mayor's Holiday Celebration and Tree Lighting Presented by Reliant. Bring a new, unwrapped toy to the Reliant booth and receive a free light-up Santa hat, and stick around for the fireworks show above Houston’s dazzling tree that officially rings in the holiday season.