21 Best Things to Do in Houston This Week: Pub Crawl, Hive Caroling and a Bake-off

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Saturday, December 10

Admit it. There’s something sinfully enjoyable about busting out our tackiest sweaters. And there’s no better cure for viewing the tacky garments than downing a few brewskies during a pub crawl. And the only thing better than that is putting on the Nancy Drew hat for some sleuthing during a scavenger hunt. For all these reasons and more, TX Pub Crawls is hosting its annual Ugly Sweater Scavenger Crawl. “There are five bars with a set order and amount of time. There are five clues written in riddle format, and you have to figure it out,” says owner Nick Petersen. Want to know the starting point? That’s a mystery too. Bedecked revelers need to register to get the 411 on the locations. But don’t show up empty-handed: The event organizers are hosting a toy drive to benefit Toys For Tots as part of the entry fee. 3 to 8 p.m. December 10. For information, visit $20 to $25. — Sam Byrd

Ooey, gooey, sticky and sweet — everyone loves a gingerbread house. For those who skipped Martha Stewart’s master class on being the perfect gingerbread homemaker, thankfully there’s relief when Architecture Center Houston hosts its 8th Annual Gingerbread Build-Off. See more than 30 teams compete for prizes in categories such as Best Architectural Icon, Tallest Standing Structure, Best Traditionally Themed, Best Non-Traditionally Themed, Most Creative Interpretation of Materials and Public Favorite. And, of course, there’s the top prize: Grand Prix de Show. These edible structures inspire all sorts of creativity, says event organizer Geoff Smith. “Two of my favorite ones were grizzly scenes with Teddy Grahams. There was a Battle of the Alamo that was re-created with the bears, and there was a Houston’s historic Macy’s that was torn down, with Teddy Grahams as shoppers still inside the store.” 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. December 10. Hermann Square, 900 Smith. For information, call 713-520-0155 or visit Free. — Sam Byrd

’Tis the season to misbehave, and Firecracker Productions’ First Annual Holiday Soiree promises to be the perfect place to get a little naughty. But be sure to watch the spiked eggnog, because infused into the festivities is A Krampus Story, an original radio play written by Sammy McManus and Taylor Wood. “It’s anti-Christmas,” says McManus, Firecracker’s founder and executive director. “It’s not about going to the mall, it’s not about buying things; it’s about the way that you act around people.” And using St. Nick’s evil, horned counterpart Krampus — who according to German folklore punishes bad children on Christmas Eve — is “a really fun way of getting that message across.” McManus says the night will be “a little darker than your usual holiday party,” but folks can still eat, drink, be merry and take pics with Firecracker’s own “Old Saint Rick,” whom you’ll have to see to believe. 7 to 10 p.m. December 10. Hub Studio, 1502 Sawyer. For information, visit $20. — Natalie de la Garza

Mercury goes for baroque in Vivaldi’s Gloria, its holiday concert built around Antonio Vivaldi’s majestic choral work Gloria, RV 589. It is a passion program, yes, but it also glorifies life and renewal, a fact reflected in its additional offerings: Vivaldi’s chirpy Concerto for Sopranino Recorder in C major, RV 443 and the exultant hymn Lauda Jerusalem (Psalm 147), RV 609. “It’s an expression of instinct,” says Brian Ritter, Mercury’s executive director, about both the works and the performance. The ensemble is playing period instruments to give a crisper, clearer sound in the strings and a more natural, balanced and centered sound in the woodwinds and brass. The result, says Ritter, is a subtlety of flavor. The secret ingredients? Guest vocalists Teresa Wakim and Abigail Fischer and members of the Houston Symphony Chorus. There’s a pre-concert lecture at 7:15 p.m. December 10; the concert begins at 8. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-533-0080 or visit $19 to $68. — Katricia Lang

Houston's lyric theater company is having some fun with the holidays. It starts out easily enough, a sing-along to the tunes from Irving Berlin's White Christmas, with lyrics projected on the wall. No bouncing ball, but no excuses either. After the intermission is when things get really interesting: If you fashion yourself on par with Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney, then drop some notes into the tip jar then belt out the big notes into the mike. Joseph Li will tickle the ivories while Crosby and Clooney wannabes sing "Count Your Blessings," "Swinging on a Star," "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and more. Join Lone Star Lyric in its new "Saturday Series" for one night of extroverted fun with White Christmas - Sing-a-Long, Then Clooney & Crosby - Sing-a-Like. Now that's a mouthful. 8 p.m. December 10. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 917-414-9577 or visit $25 to $30. — Susie Tommaney

Sunday, December 11

One fateful night, Santa Claus crashed his sleigh onto the grounds of a historic mansion. Only Rudolph stayed behind, and now it’s up to us to find the rest of the reindeer. Detective work is only part of the fun at Christmas Village at Bayou Bend: There’s a faux snowball play area, a visit by Jingles the live reindeer (December 16-23), and some holiday magic courtesy of actor Todd Waite, Alley’s Crumpet the Elf. As creative director, he’s imagined themed tours, holiday decor and theatrical effects in the former home of Ima Hogg. “We’re bringing back the very successful 3-D video of Santa trying to get into the house,” says Bonnie Campbell, Bayou Bend’s director. Over in the stained glass and mirrored spiegeltent are model trains — so elaborate they took more than 1,000 hours to assemble — running through themed villages while a snowman blows snow. The event was so popular in its inaugural year that they’ve added timed ticketing for tours of the mansion. 5:30 to 10 p.m. daily; closed December 24, 25 and 31. December 10 through January 1. 6003 Memorial. For information, visit Free to $23. — Susie Tommaney

Singers from around the world were invited to sing “Silent Night” in their native language, as part of the audition process for International Voices Houston. Artistic Director Mark Vogel took that kernel of an idea and has planned a special collaborative arrangement of the song for the multicultural choir’s holiday program. “The arrangement will feature ten languages. It’s pretty special. The first time we did it, there were tears everywhere,” says Vogel. Also on the program for This Shining Night are works that promote peace and understanding. “Light is a strong theme. We begin with a beautiful, moody selection using traditional Irish text called ‘The Darkest Midnight in December,’ and from that darkness our program will progress toward a piece called ‘Northern Lights,’ by a Norwegian composer, Ola Gjeilo,” says Vogel. “It literally shimmers, the harmonies are so beautiful. 7 p.m. December 10; 3  and 5:30 p.m. December 11. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit $15 to $25. — Susie Tommaney

Italian tenors whose voices and fans can fill American sports arenas are hardly a dime a dozen, easily making Andrea Bocelli one of the most prominent pop-classical singers of his time. Much of the 58-year-old Tuscany native’s reputation rests on Romanza, the 1996 album that helped introduce him to American audiences with songs like “Con Te Partirò (Time to Say Goodbye).” Bocelli has gone on to sell more than 80 million albums worldwide, and his latest Houston appearance arrives on the heels of the recent 20th-anniversary reissue of Romanza as well as 2015’s Cinema, his collection of songs made famous in more than a dozen films, among them West Side Story, Life Is Beautiful and The Godfather. Joining him onstage Sunday are the Houston Symphony and Chorus and two featured vocalists, Houston Grand Opera soprano Ana María Martínez and Katherine McPhee, the former American Idol finalist now appearing on CBS’s espionage drama Scorpion. 7:30 p.m. December 11. Toyota Center, 1510 Polk. For information, call 713-758-7200 or visit $75 to $375. — Chris Gray

When they're not out sewing people up, running tests and saving lives, the medical community stays active with other creative pursuits. The Texas Medical Center Orchestra typically performs in the lobby at Houston Methodist Hospital, but for their upcoming holiday concert, 'Tis the Season to Be Jolly, they're taking things downtown to The Hobby Center. The health professionals enjoy rehearsing at the end of an intense shift, and they're looking forward to performing classic holiday fare in front of a larger audience, including "Carol of the Bells," the brass in "Bugler's Holiday" and selections from The Nutcracker Suite. They'll be joined onstage by the KIPP Sharp Singers, performing pieces by John Rutter as well as popular Christmas carols. 5 p.m. December 11. 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-315-2525 or visit $10 to $15. — Susie Tommaney

Monday, December 12

For more than 20 years, Mexican nationals traveled north through a guest worker program that offered pitiful conditions and backbreaking work, but also economic opportunities. Holocaust Museum Houston is hosting its first Spanish/English bilingual exhibit in “Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964,” telling the harsh reality of the bracero life through photographs and oral histories. The museum is a fitting location, says Michelle Tovar, a former fifth-grade teacher who now serves as associate director of Education-Spanish Outreach and Latin American Initiatives at the museum. “Students would tell me about their parents traveling to go work on the farms in the fields,” she says, of her time in the classroom. The Houston community is also represented through companion programming for the traveling exhibit. University lecturer Juan Galvan’s father was a bracero, and Helen Cavazos’s father was a troquero who trucked braceros to work; she now serves on the Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Board. There’s an opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. December 8. Continuing 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. December 9 through May 14. Holocaust Museum Houston, 5401 Caroline. For information, call 713-942-8000 or visit Free to $12. — Katricia Lang
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