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Artists of Houston Ballet in The Nutcracker; choreography by Stanton Welch AM.
Artists of Houston Ballet in The Nutcracker; choreography by Stanton Welch AM.
Photo by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy of Houston Ballet

5 Best Bets This Weekend in Houston: Holiday Lights and Celtic Christmas

If too much family togetherness has given you cabin fever, or you're so weighed down by starchy foods and tryptophan that you feel like The Nutty Professor, then keep being thankful but get up and get going because it's another great weekend in Houston. Several holiday traditions are kicking off, including Houston Ballet's The Nutcracker and ogling Christmas lights in River Oaks, and we say farewell to TexRenFest with Celtic Christmas. And while we're all still mourning the death of Stan Lee, come out and fly the flag at this weekend's DC vs Marvel art showdown, then catch the best commercials from across the pond at MFAH's British Arrows.

Once Clara travels through a magical Christmas tree to the lavish Kingdom of Sweets in The Nutcracker, it's hard to know where to look. Everybody has their own story and action: the Nutcracker Prince, the Sugar Plum Fairy and animal ambassadors introducing delicacies from all over the world. This is only the third time that Houston audiences are being treated to this choreography by Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch AM, making this classic tale a fairly new holiday tradition while preserving Tchaikovsky's beautiful score. During last year's performances — which rode Tropical Storm Harvey's flood waters all the way to Sugar Land for refuge — wide-eyed children were delighted with pre-show balloon animals from three of the dancers; here's hoping they do that again now that the production is back at the Wortham. Different dancers have the roles of Clara, Drosselmeyer, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince for each performance this time around, adding a nice international flair to the casting that mimics the themes of the ballet. Welch is from Australia, and the dancers come from all over: Linnar Looris (Estonia); Soo Youn Cho (Korea); Mónica Gómez and Carlos Quenedit (Cuba); Karina González (Venezuela); Yuriko Kajiya, Charles-Louis Yoshiyama, Yumiko Fukuda, Aoi Fujiwara and Nozomi Iijima (Japan); and Christopher Coomer (England).

7:30 p.m. November 23, 2 and 7:30 p.m. November 24-25. Performances continue December 1-27. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas, 713-227-2787, houstonballet.org, $40 to $180.

Father Christmas and his merry band of elves welcome children of all ages to Texas Renaissance Festival's final themed weekend, Celtic Christmas.
Father Christmas and his merry band of elves welcome children of all ages to Texas Renaissance Festival's final themed weekend, Celtic Christmas.
Photo by Steven David Photography

Christmas comes early this time of year — Celtic Christmas that is — and it's a super-sized wrap-up for this year's Texas Renaissance Festival. Enjoy an extra day of fun as Father Christmas and his merry band of elves transform the village into a winter wonderland of Christmas trees, holiday music and ye olde shopping. Compete in the pumpkin pie eating or holiday costume contests and find gifts for that special somebody at the New Market shoppes. And, even if your fridge is full of leftover turkey, there's something about eating a giant turkey leg on festival grounds that tastes so much better. Unwrap the magic of the Yuletide season, RenFest style.

9 a.m.-8 p.m. November 23-25, Texas Renaissance Festival, 21778 Farm to Market 1774, Todd Mission, 800-458-3435, texrenfest.com, $12.95 to $32. (Free for children 12 and under on Sundays, free for children 4 and under.)

Whether you're team DC or team Marvel, everybody can come together to celebrate comics at the DC vs Marvel Art Show, co-presented by War'Hous and Super Happy Incredible Toys.
Whether you're team DC or team Marvel, everybody can come together to celebrate comics at the DC vs Marvel Art Show, co-presented by War'Hous and Super Happy Incredible Toys.
Photo by Maribel Quintanar

There's much to celebrate at this first ever DC vs Marvel Art Show. We'll raise a glass to the late Stan Lee, Mr. Marvel himself, while also paying tribute to the flawed superheroes that he unleashed into the universe. This art festival is being co-presented by a couple of artists (and comic fans) — Dandee Warhol (founder of War'Hous) and John Salazar (owner of Super Happy Incredible Toys) — bringing together comic themed artwork and a vendor market in Saint Arnold Brewing Company's new beer garden. The Friday night VIP preview party is for ages 18 and up ($25 tickets), but the kiddos can get in during the free admission Saturday and Sunday. This event is not sponsored by DC or Marvel, but cosplay is encouraged and just might net some sweet merch for the winners of the cosplay contest. So come out and fly the flag at this comic art showdown.

6-10 p.m. November 23, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. November 24-25, Saint Arnold Brewing Company, 2000 Lyons Avenue, facebook.com/events/474300289715045, free to $25.

Samsung, Samsung Gear VR, Ostrich, made for Leo Burnett Chicago by MJZ London, directed by Matthijs van Heijningen, earned the British Arrow for Best Crafted Commercial in 2018.EXPAND
Samsung, Samsung Gear VR, Ostrich, made for Leo Burnett Chicago by MJZ London, directed by Matthijs van Heijningen, earned the British Arrow for Best Crafted Commercial in 2018.
Film still courtesy of the British Arrows and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Why is it that we love to watch television commercials during the Super Bowl but loathe them the rest of the year? The ads we see during the big game were made with swollen budgets, using big name spokespersons, and often created by notable filmmakers. Across the pond, the British Arrows awards celebrate the best from United Kingdom's ad men and women, but with a twist. Their awards also include public service announcements — something that we see less of ever since the FCC lifted broadcast's mandate to show them. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is showcasing the 2018 winners this Thanksgiving weekend. Be on the lookout for filmmaker Andrea Arnold's (American Honey, Fish Tank) entry for Youth Can Do It, the love it or hate it commercial for Marmite and thought-provoking PSAs about tax evasion and migrant sports teams.

5 and 7 p.m. November 23-24, 5 p.m. November 25, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Law Building, 1001 Bissonnet, mfah.org/calendar/british-arrows, $7 to $9.

Join Mister McKinney on the Houston History Bus for a lookie loo at the Christmas Lights in River Oaks or dig deeper with stops at The Houstonian with its gingerbread mansions.
Join Mister McKinney on the Houston History Bus for a lookie loo at the Christmas Lights in River Oaks or dig deeper with stops at The Houstonian with its gingerbread mansions.
Photo by Chris Daigle

There are certain pockets of Houston that shine a little bit brighter this time of year — even from space — and one of them is the storied and monied River Oaks district. Hop on board the elevated, open air Houston History Bus for a tour of the amazing Christmas lights in this historic neighborhood with Mister McKinney's River Oaks Christmas Lights Tour. Now here's the kicker: Space is limited to 20 passengers and the tour is free; McKinney just asks that you make a donation to the 13th annual Pre-K Pals Toy Drive that benefits more than 3,000 preschoolers in the Houston Independent School District. Insider tip: Dress warm (it is an open air bus and things can get frosty) and receive a discount by liking and following Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for both Mister McKinney and Houston History Bus.

6:30, 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. November 23; 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. November 24; 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. November 25; bit.ly/RiverOaksXmasLights; $24 to $39.95. Tours continue through December 30.

Weather in Houston can be iffy, so Mister McKinney also is taking revelers through River Oaks inside a climate-controlled, deluxe motor coach that includes a stop at The Houstonian to view the six-foot-tall gingerbread mansions (miniature replicas of actual historic homes), nosh on cookies and enjoy a sophisticated cocktail.

3:30 and 5 p.m. November 24-25, The Houstonian, 111 North Post Oak Lane, facebook.com/events/257613218218605, $35 to $45. Tours continue through December 23.

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