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Houston’s best holiday lights. 

By Joanna O’Leary 

Some years, finding the time to put up holiday decorations can take a Christmas miracle. Fortunately, there are myriad ways to get in the spirit by basking in the glow of magical holiday lights without having to construct them yourself or foot the resulting high electricity bill. Here’s a roundup of our favorite holiday light displays in and around Houston.

• On December 1, kick off your luminescent journey through H-town by attending the 87th annual Mayor’s Holiday Celebration and Tree Lighting in Hermann Square at City Hall. Rounding out the evening will be a fireworks show, as well as an appearance by Jolly Old Saint Nick himself. Those who bring a new unwrapped toy to the Reliant booth will be rewarded with a festive souvenir in the form of a light-up Santa hat. The toys will go to the Salvation Army Greater Houston Area Command’s annual toy drive.

• For a tour of over-the-top and awe-inspiring holiday lights that can be enjoyed in the comfort of your own vehicle, head to the River Oaks and Upper Kirby neighborhoods, where upper-crust owners spare no expense in decorating not only the exterior of their houses, but also the surrounding stately oak trees and manicured bushes. And speaking of bushes, the palatial residence of George H.W. and Barbara Bush always looks particularly charming with the addition of classic white lights and wreaths. Just don’t linger too long outside, or the Secret Service may start to get suspicious.

Lights in the Heights, from 6 to 9 p.m. on December 9, began as a local event but has quickly grown in popularity due to the unique opportunity it presents to see an impressive lineup of private light displays, all conveniently located in one neighborhood. Street closures make it easy for visitors, especially families, to stroll up and down the streets to admire the illuminated houses and enjoy musical performances held on some of the front porches.

• Now in its fourth year, Sugar Land Holiday Lights is an electronic holiday extravaganza held nightly through January 1. In addition to its dazzling walk-through display of 2.5 million lights in the park at Constellation Field, Sugar Land Holiday Lights features Texas’ largest inflatable snow globe, holiday vendors, food trucks, and shows on select nights.

• Serious seekers of Christmas lights should consider heading to Galveston, where the already-stunning Moody Gardens takes on another dimension of beauty as the site of the annual Festival of Lights each evening at 6 p.m.  through January 7. Make your way along a mile-long promenade adorned with more than one million lights that showcase various illuminated holiday scenes, in addition to offering terrific views of Galveston Bay. Revelers can also opt to take a train ride through part of the trail, and then continue the fun by grabbing a hot chocolate at the concession stand or making figure-eights on the outdoor skating rink.

Zoo Lights, which runs through January 14, allows you to celebrate the season with other members of the animal kingdom via its approximately 15 miles of twinkling lights strung along the pathways of the Houston Zoo. Light projections and life-sized animal sculptures also line the route, and the zoo’s nocturnal creatures make guest appearances at their leisure.

• For a less traditional, more eclectic illuminated celebration, check out the Magical Winter Lights Festival at Gulf Greyhound Park in La Marque, which runs through January 2. Millions of bulbs are used to recreate famous landmarks such as St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow and Rio’s giant Christ the Redeemer statue. Another highlight (pun intended) of the Festival are replicas of ornate imperial-style Chinese lanterns, which serve as a fitting backdrop to the Chinese arts-and-crafts demonstrations.

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Joanna O’Leary

Joanna O’Leary is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine and a freelance food and travel writer based in Houston. Her exploits are chronicled on brideyoleary.com.
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