The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Festivals

The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Festivals
Courtesy of GHCVB

Houston is flush with great festivals. Our mild winters and open spaces make festivals pretty much a year-round thing. We've decided to look at the top festivals in the area. Now keep in mind, we're not looking at events where music or food are the main attraction; these are family-friendly cultural and arts events. Our list includes everything from the small-ish Japan Festival to the mega-monster iFest, the Christmas holiday celebration Festival of Lights to the fest that defies categorization, The Art Car Parade Weekend. See who tops our list - and who didn't make the cut.

The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Festivals

10. The Houston Children's Festival The largest of its kind in the country, the Houston Children's Festival celebrates its 25th year in 2013. Rated "one of the world's 300 unmissable events" by Frommer's Travel Guides, HCF attracks some 50,000 people a year with six stages scheduled with non-stop celebrity appearances and performances, some 300 games, crafts and activities, a petting zoo, food and more. HCF benefits Child Advocates, a group of volunteers that work with abused and neglected kids.

This year's Houston Children's Festival is scheduled for April 6 and 7 at City Hall.

9. Houston Festa Italiana Okay, we admit one of the main draws for the Houston Festa Italiana is the food - come on, who can resist the mountains of spaghetti, lasagna and sweets that get dished up over the course of the weekend? But food's not the only attraction. Along with cooking demos with celebrity chefs, wine tastings, there's plenty of entertainment including live music and folk dancers, a grape stomp, films, puppet shows and family activities.

Upcoming Events

Houston Festa Italiana occurs in the fall on the campus of St. Thomas University.

8. The Festival of Lights The Christmastime Festival of Lights on Galveston Island features thousands and thousands of twinkling lights. The Moody Gardens grounds are filled with seasonal scenes, each aglow in lights and many with sound and automation. Santa usually drops in - literally, he jumps out of a plane and parachutes down to the festival. Singing carolers stroll the walkways and there's more entertainment inside. Christmas dinner is served all month long at the Gardens' restaurant. Buy a Moody Gardens attraction pass and a Festival admission for the best bargain.

The Festival of Lights is slated for the Christmas season at Moody Gardens.

7. Japan Festival We stumbled onto Japan Festival several years ago. It was a small festival with activities spilling out from the Japanese Garden in Hermann Park to food stalls surrounding the Reflection Pool. The festival has grown every year, and while Japan Festival is still centered on the Reflection Pool, it's spreading out to take over more and more of the park. A bustling crowd gathers around multiple stages that feature jpop music and traditional (the Taiko drummers always attract a big crowd), folk dancing, martial arts demonstrations, karaoke and anime / Cosplay activities and contests. Food and craft stalls have an ever-growing variety of offerings.

2013 Japan Festival is scheduled for April 13 and 14 at Hermann Park.

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