While the holiday season can be an expensive time for most families, there’s one holiday activity that’s completely free and a great way to spend some time together with your family: driving around and looking at the best holiday lights in Houston.
Houstonians across the city go all out for the holiday season, and the best Christmas lights in Houston do not disappoint. In gardens and plazas across the city, bright lights wind their way through trees and around columns and bridges. Trees decked out in lights and ornaments sit proudly, and there are plenty of walking paths for families to stroll down as they look at all the lights.
If you prefer to stay in your car, there are so many gorgeous holiday lights in Houston hanging on houses around the neighborhoods. Houstonians love to pack their kids into their cars, turn on the holiday tunes and pour some hot chocolate as they drive around neighborhoods and check out the lights. Neighborhoods with Christmas lights in Houston go all out with their displays, and homes both new and old are adorned with beautiful displays that celebrate the spirit of the season.
Of course, not everyone wants to put up a big display, and if you’re looking for the best Christmas lights in Houston, then you need to know where to go so you don’t waste gas and time driving around in neighborhoods that go for a more muted display.
So now’s your chance to get you and your family into the holiday spirit with a modern-day equivalent of a sleigh ride. Here are the best Christmas lights in Houston and neighborhoods with Christmas lights in Houston worth checking out — get your holiday music playlist ready!
Best Christmas lights in Houston
If you want to see the biggest displays, your first route should be through downtown Houston and then through some of Houston’s top attractions to see their displays. As the song says, it’s Christmastime in the city, and the best Christmas lights in Houston will put you right in the holiday spirit.
Your first stop downtown should be Avenida Plaza, which has been transformed into a massive kaleidoscope for the holiday season called Prismatica. All over the plaza, giant prisms reflect the lights of downtown Houston during the day, but at night, the best Christmas lights in Houston fill these prisms and reflect the lights back across the plaza. Visitors can walk through the different prisms and spin them to create different lighting reflections and compositions. This can be a fun activity to get your kids out of the car and running around together.
Next, head over to Hermann Square where Houston’s Christmas tree is all lit up and spreading the Christmas spirit. Though the tree lighting ceremony happened a few weeks ago, the tree itself is still standing proudly in Hermann Square. Decked out in energy efficient LED lights, this tree towers over the square and is surrounded by massive Christmas presents. When the lights in the reflecting pool near the massive tree, the effect is simply enchanting.
If you’re ready to keep this walking tour of the best Christmas lights in Houston going, then head over to the Houston Zoo in the Museum District to tour the zoo’s eighth annual TXU Energy Presents Zoo Lights. All over the zoo, over two million energy efficient LED lights wrap around ancient oak trees and line paths around the park. From now through January 5, your family can come stroll across the grounds, sipping hot chocolate as you go, and enjoy the beautiful lights. Since the weather is still mild, many animals may be outside, and on some nights, Santa will be stopping by to take photos with families. Check out Houston Zoo’s website for more details and to purchase tickets.
Starting next week, you can visit the Christmas Village at the Bayou Bend and get your family into the Christmas spirit with lights and other fun holiday activities. As you probably know, Bayou Bend was once owned by philanthropist Ima Hogg. She built a beautiful home called Bayou Bend in the 1920s and later donated it and its land to the Museum of Fine Arts in 1957. She continued to live at the house and saw its transformation as a museum, which opened in 1966. She lived in the house until 1965, and now the house showcases art and objects from as early as 1620.
During the holiday season, the Christmas Village at the Bayou Bend is one of the best displays of Christmas lights in Houston. The grounds are covered in beautiful lights, and there are plenty of family-friendly activities for everyone. Santa will be visiting through December 23, and you can go on an interactive tour of Ima Hogg’s beautiful home where live actors, theatrical effects and Christmas decorations will fill your tour.
Pro tip: If you want to have a date night, the Christmas Village at the Bayou Bend covers its 14 acres in lights, so if you and your spouse want to take a romantic stroll, this is one of the best Christmas lights in Houston for such an occasion. The white lights wrapped around trees, bridges and through paths will set a romantic mood — it’s what makes this one of the best displays of Christmas lights in Houston.
Neighborhoods with Christmas lights in Houston
Of course, downtown doesn’t have a monopoly on the best Christmas lights in Houston. If you and your family want to drive around and stay singing songs in your car, there are a lot of cool, hidden gems of lighting displays in neighborhoods all around the city. All you have to do is sit back, relax and let the lighting displays do their work.
Driving around aimlessly will just waste gas, so here’s your roadmap to neighborhoods with Christmas lights in Houston.
Spring Branch: Quincannon Lane’s Candy Wonderland
Every year, the residents of this Spring Branch cul-de-sac go all out with their Christmas decorations and create a Candy Wonderland. Routinely ranked as one of the best Christmas lights in Houston, Candy Wonderland spreads out across three lots on this cul-de-sac and is decked out with Christmas trees, tons of candy decor, twinkling lights, music and a countdown to Christmas Day.
Visitors have been asked not to stop or get out of their cars so as not to disrupt the flow of traffic, but there’s nothing wrong with taking a second — or even third — round through the cul-de-sac to take in the fabulous display. You can find this display off I-10 and Gessner Rd. in Spring Branch.
Prestonwood Forest: Nites of Lites
Talk about coordination and Christmas spirit. Prestonwood Forest, a northwest neighborhood in Houston, does Christmas in a big way every year. Almost the entire neighborhood turns out in a big way to create the Nites of Lites. Neighbors will get together to coordinate a theme for their block and decorate their homes to bring that theme to live. Each block will compete for different awards, including Best All-Around Home, Best MailBox and Best Block.
In the car, you and your family can dole out your own awards. As you tour, have each person pick their favorites for each category, and when you’re finished, vote to determine the winners of your own competition. It’s a fun way to pick the best Christmas lights in Houston on your own.
Shepherd Park: The Lights of Shepherd Park Plaza
Want to see one of the most over-the-top displays? Head to Shepherd Park where the honor of winning the best Christmas lights in Houston in an honor to be celebrated all year. All over the neighborhood, you’ll see arches of Christmas lights that the residents put together themselves. Here too neighbors compete to win Best Lighting, Best Window and Best Cul-de-sac.
You and your family can get on the action and vote for your favorites as well, but you can make up your own awards. Give an award for the tallest Christmas tree, the most colorful or the most original. Dole them out as you drive through the neighborhood.
There’s no official neighborhood decorating effort, but the homeowners in River Oaks do not disappoint when it comes to the best Christmas lights in Houston. The neighborhood is known for its beautiful mansions and gorgeous homes. Around the holidays, many of them hire professionals to put their lighting displays together.
Pro tip: Start at the River Oaks Country Club on River Oaks Boulevard and work your way around the neighborhood. There’s no competition for the best lighting displays, so there’s no coordinated effort, but the residents of River Oaks put on a show regardless. Almost everywhere you turn, you’re going to see fabulous lighting displays and homes dressed to the nines.
The Heights: Lights in the Heights
If you’re familiar with the Heights, then you know that it’s filled with classic craftsman-styled homes built in the early 1900s. These charming bungalows light up every year for a spectacle they call Lights in the Heights. On Dec. 14, Houstonians from all over the city are invited to come and walk through the neighborhood and admire the lights and homes all decked out for Christmas.
This is a great chance to get out of your vehicle and take a leisurely stroll with your family. When you’re out of the car, you can spend as much time as you’d like admiring each home without having to worry about holding up traffic. You can even meet up with other friends and family members for an enjoyable walk through one of the best displays of Christmas lights in Houston.
What to pack when touring neighborhoods with Christmas lights in Houston
Want to make the most out of your tour of the best Christmas lights in Houston more special? Don’t pack up your van or car without taking these essentials first.
- Phone charges: You’re going to want to snap photos of the cool displays and take videos of everyone singing in the car together. Plus, you’re going to need to use your GPS to get around if you’re unfamiliar with some of these neighborhoods. Don’t forget to pack an extra phone charger to keep the fun going.
- Hot chocolate: It may not be a winter wonderland in Houston, but ‘tis the season for hot chocolate. Fill up a few thermoses with hot chocolate before you head out. Give them a short amount of time to sit before putting the lids on. This will allow the hot chocolate to cool down enough to drink, just in case someone spills in the car. Don’t forget to add marshmallows!
- Snacks: If you don’t plan to stop anywhere for dinner or dessert, bring a snack for everyone to share in the car. You can pop some popcorn in advance or bring a bag of pretzels along so everyone has something tasty to snack on.
- Warm blankets: It may not be cold enough for a coat, but it’s nice to snuggle up under a blanket as you tour through all these neighborhoods with Christmas lights in Houston.
If you can, leave the tablets and other screens at home. This is a time to be together and share the fun and excitement of the holiday season. Although some may be tempted to bring a Christmas movie to watch as you tour, it will take away from the lighting displays. Opt for holiday music instead and leave the movie as a special treat for when you get home.
We know that every family in Houston has special traditions when it comes to the holidays. From touring the best displays of Christmas lights in Houston to baking cookies together, the holiday season means bringing families together, encouraging everyone to slow down a bit and savor the time spent together. The season goes by so quickly every year, and it’s up to us to make sure we’re being present for the season.
So with that said, we want to know: What are your family’s holiday traditions? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!