By Jenn Haight
Houston offers every kind of holiday fun you could hope to find. Do want the glitter of beautiful lights? The excitement of a photo opportunity? Maybe you long to get your body moving to burn off some of your holiday indulgences? From the zoo to historic homes to running dressed as Santa, no doubt Houston has a holiday treat for everyone.
• Zoo Lights is an annual event held at the Houston Zoo. The zoo comes alive with over 2 million lights, train displays and a walk-in snow globe. The exhibit covers a large expanse of the zoo and is a go-at-your-own-pace exhibit. Food and drinks are available, as well as seasonal-only treats. This is a ticketed event with separate fees from zoo admission.
• Holiday Light Tours are offered by Houston Historical Tours. They offer nine different tours ranging in length from three to seven hours. Choose a section of the city to tour or go with a group and personalize the tour based on a movie or specific narratives. You can bring your own beverages as long as they are in a covered container. Spots fill quickly so call ahead to schedule.
• Magical Winter Lights, also known as Houston Lantern Festival and Holiday Celebration, is a new display in Houston. Held at the Sam Houston Race Track, displays are themed by continent. See famous landmarks from Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas created by lights and lanterns. The site also offers carnival rides, cultural performances and pictures with Santa.
• Festival of Lights is an annual event at Moody Gardens in Galveston, Texas. The grounds of the Gardens are overtaken with holiday illuminations featuring over 1 million lights and 100 sound-enhanced displays. Other activities offered include an Arctic Ice Slide, a museum, a 4-D theater and rides on a paddle wheel boat.
• The Christmas Train in Alvin, Texas, is an affordable and fun way to get into the Christmas spirit. About 30 miles south of Houston, the train hearkens back to Christmas past with a short ride and hundreds of lights and displays on view. They also offer several vendors including pizza, coffee and a Christmas store. The train departs every 7-10 minutes.
• Festive Traditions is an annual event of the Bayou Bend Family Day series held at the Bayou Bend Collection & Gardens. The event includes activities, music, demonstrations, performances, craft workshops and tours of the first floor of the house. This event is free, lasts throughout the day and is open to all ages.
• Discovery Green offers events almost every night and most have a holiday twist. From films to concerts to circus and ballet performances, the calendar is packed. Bruno Munro's impressive art display, Field of Light, will be on-site Nov. 2015 - Feb. 2016. A return after last year's success, this slow changing and entrancing display celebrates winter and appeals to people of all faiths and beliefs. Most events at the park are free or charge a nominal fee.
• The Candlelight Tour is a Houston event offered annually by The Heritage Society. Lasting several hours, guests tour buildings, interact with historical characters, have the option to participate in workshops and learn about Houston's traditions and customs. There are also performances by choirs and musicians and a Holiday Art Market.
• Santa Hustle 5K and Half Marathon is an annual event in Galveston. It takes place Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015. Participants receive a Santa hat, beard and dri-fit zip Santa coat. Cookies, candy and cocoa are served and holiday decorations adorn the route. This year's race proceeds provide donations to Toys For Tots and the Galveston County Food Bank.
• ICE at Discovery Green is the largest outdoor skating rink in the Southwest. It is made with recycled water from Kinder Lake and is open from November to February. Besides regular open skates, a large variety of special events are available, including Cheap Skate Nights, Two Step Tuesdays and Jazz Night on ICE.
• YMCA Jingle Bell Run is an annual event held to raise funds for the Tellepsen Family Downtown YMCA. It will be held Sunday, Dec. 13. Participants of all fitness levels can choose from a 5-mile timed run or a 3-mile run/walk. A Kid's Fun Run is also available. The event includes a costume contest, live music, food vendors and a kid zone.