Step back in time to Victorian-era London, explore a spectacular rainforest made of ice and celebrate the holidays at the “Official Opera House of Texas.” This is just a taste of all the things you can do over the holidays in Galveston. From November through January, Galveston is transformed from a vibrant beachside getaway into the “Winter Wonder Island” of Texas. With more than 50 days of special holiday events, the island is filled with the kind of festive fun that you won’t find anywhere else. Here are just eight of these unique things to see and do.
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1. Travel Back in Time
Dickens on The Strand: Nov. 30 – Dec. 2
Don your finest frock coat or hoop skirt and join the festivities at the 45th Annual Dickens on The Strand, when downtown Galveston is transformed into the Victorian-era London of Charles Dickens. Take in the Strand Historic District’s gorgeous architecture as you listen to roaming carolers, bagpipers and musicians. Relish non-stop entertainment on the six stages, delicious food and drink, whimsical parades and unique shopping for Victorian-inspired clothing, crafts and holiday decorations. Don’t miss any of the fun and family-friendly events like the Holiday Handbell Concert (Nov. 30) and the crowd-pleasing Victorian Bed Races (Dec. 2).
2. Chill Out from Pole to Pole
Ice Land at Moody Gardens: Nov. 17 – Jan. 6
Admire larger-than-life statues of polar bears, penguins, humpback whales, snowy owls, walrus and of course reindeer as you explore Ice Land at Moody Gardens, a wintery wonderland carved from two million pounds of ice. Crafted by a team of 25 master ice carvers from Harbin, China, this year’s version of Ice Land takes guests on a journey from the North to South poles. The CAA Ruijing Ice Carving Team will create a giant ice slide that will take guests on a glacial journey and, of course, create the infamous Shivers Ice Bar serving up the coolest cocktails. Covering 28,000 square feet and kept at a chilly nine degrees, Ice Land is one of the coolest attractions on the Texas Gulf Coast.
3. Stroll a Trail Illuminated by One Million Lights
Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens: Nov. 17 – Jan. 6
There’s nothing that better represents the festive nature of the holidays than vibrant Christmas lights brightening the dark of night. In true Texas style, where everything has to be bigger, Moody Gardens delivers the largest holiday lighting event on the Gulf Coast. Now in its 17th year, Festival of Lights features a one-mile-long trail with more than 100 sound-enhanced animated light displays and one million lights. In addition to taking in all the lights, show off your balance on the outdoor ice-skating rink or get some thrills snow tubing down the Arctic Ice Slide. Fun for the whole family, you won’t find anything else like the Festival of Lights here in the Lone Star State.
4. Splash Around at an Indoor Waterpark
Holiday Splash at Schlitterbahn Galveston: Nov. 17 – Dec. 30
Enjoy a sprinkle of holiday cheer while making a splash at Houston’s only indoor waterpark. See Surfing Santa appearances, Bahn Borealis light show, holiday friends, holiday meal packages and more.
5. Run with Thousands of Santas
Santa Hustle Half Marathon and 5K: Dec. 15 – 16
We all know it’s exciting to meet one Santa Claus but to see thousands at once? If that doesn’t warm your cockles, nothing will. Welcome to one of the most unique running events in Texas, the Santa Hustle Half Marathon and 5K. Wear your special Dri-FIT shirt made to look like St. Nick’s trademark coat, candy cane socks, Santa hat and jog along to the tunes of holiday music while you’re tempted with cookies and candy. Cross that finish line and you’ll get the best prize of all, a special finisher’s medal that will surely impress the real Santa when he pays you a visit.
6. Enjoy a Christmas-Themed Cocktail
Miracle Pop-Up Bar: Nov. 23 – Dec. 31
Miracle, the beloved Christmas-themed pop-up bar launched in 2014 in New York City, will continue spreading holiday cheer around the globe in 2018, as the brand celebrates its five-year anniversary. This year, Miracle will launch in over 80 locations around the world with Sippin’ Santa expanding to multiple locations in partnership with notable tiki-connoisseur Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. Galveston will be hosting the internationally-acclaimed pop-up at DTO (Daquiri Time Out) located across the street from Maceo's Spice and Import.
7. Catch a Holiday-Themed Show at The Grand 1894 Opera House
Nov. 24 – Jan. 12
Celebrate the holidays with Grand entertainment – Asleep at the Wheel – Merry Texas Christmas Y’all, The Priests, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Jerry Jeff Walker, All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914, A Charlie Brown Christmas Live on Stage and The Other Mozart - presented in Galveston’s magnificent, historic theatre.
8. Step Inside a Giant Snow Globe
Downtown Lanterns & Lights: Nov. 24 – Jan. 1
This holiday season, historic downtown Galveston will be illuminated by lighting and décor encompassing the main corridors of this charming 36-block district. Downtown Lanterns & Lights will feature a magical display of lights and other holiday-themed attractions in Saengerfest Park and beyond, including an interactive photo frame and a giant snow globe for visitors to enjoy on designated weekends. Lights will stretch throughout downtown from 20th to 25th streets on The Strand as well as along 23rd and Postoffice streets. In addition, visitors will find unique holiday gifts at the district’s many boutiques, art galleries and antique shops set among beautiful Victorian architecture.
These events aren’t the only ways to enjoy yourself in Galveston this holiday season. Browse for unique gifts in the Historic Downtown District’s boutiques, tour the island’s magnificent Victorian homes bedecked in festive decorations and treat yourself to delicious dining at local restaurants. So give yourself the best Christmas gift of all by spending your holidays in Galveston.