Bayou City

City Lights Downtown Holiday Magic Lights Up The City

The lights at night will shine big and bright during City Lights Downtown Holiday Magic.
The lights at night will shine big and bright during City Lights Downtown Holiday Magic. Photo by Morris Malakoff
'Tis the season, and with that comes a heaping dose of merriment and cheer. Thanks to Houston First Corporation and Central Houston, Inc., it's going to be a lot easier to find the holiday spirit. The two groups are transforming Downtown Houston into the ultimate holiday destination dubbed City Lights Downtown Holiday Magic.

Festivities kick off Friday at 5:30 p.m. with a ceremonial lighting on the plaza at Avenida Houston, 1001 Avenida de las Americas. The experience continues through January 2 at various locations downtown.

"It's something for everyone to enjoy, and most of the locations are free. What's wonderful is City Lights Downtown Holiday Magic brings people together. With Houston being so spread out, it's a time to come together and celebrate not only our family and our friends but also the city. The city can be really beautiful at night, and it will be even more so beautiful with the holiday lights," said Sydney Dao, director of brand integration at Houston First Corporation.

The events have a star-studded lineup of destinations throughout the multi-week run, and it's identified eight sections of downtown, or "villages," that it will highlight this year:

The Plaza at Avenida Houston - Deck The Trees, a display of 30 immaculately curated Christmas trees, will appear in the Grand Holiday Window at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Adding to the ambiance is the Avenida Concert Series with live musical performances.

Marriott Marquis - Texas Winter Lights, an interactive walk-through or float–under–lights experience at Altitude Rooftop & Pool, is back. Make your selection from more than 30 festive beverage offerings, peruse the interactive graffiti wall, and marvel at the nightly snowfall. For a different option, partake in a poolside movie every Thursday at nightfall.

Discovery Green - Houston might hardly ever receive real snowfall, but Discovery Green knows how to create a winter wonderland. Glide underneath the glittering lights of Downtown at its open-air ice-skating rink. Not into skating? No problem. Take in a holiday movie every Thursday evening or explore the park and Solstice Art Installation. In addition, every Saturday in November and December, Flea by Night brings an eclectic array of vendors selling items perfect for gifting that special someone.

Hilton Americas - Willy Wonka would go berserk in this expedition. The Hilton Americas's lobby is bringing back its iconic holiday chocolate display, which includes more than 2,000 pounds of chocolate molded into the theme of minions (courtesy of Despicable Me).

Wortham Theater – Visions of sugar plum fairies might dance through many a persons' heads during this season, and Wortham Theater is making this vision a reality. Fish Plaza at the entrance of the Wortham Theater is being reimagined as a tribute to the holiday season, including larger-than-life custom-built ornaments. This will be ground zero for Instagram selfies.

Market Square Park - Texas’ biggest mistletoe installation returns to historic Market Square Park. Bring some lip gloss, chap stick, or a breath mint, because there is definitely a smooch to be shared under this giant garland. The 150-inch ball hanging from a 15-foot candy cane is sure to inspire a holiday honey to get a little more amorous during the cold weather.

Main Street Square – Take a photo with Santa every Friday and Saturday starting at 6 p.m. at Santa’s Village. After Santa shares his magic, explore a series of holiday markets.

Winter Wanderland on Bagby Street – Ensure your season is merry and bright as you stroll through 100,000 LED lights along the recently reconstructed Bagby Street from Lamar to Preston. Signature elements include giant angel wings, constellation arches, and an 80-foot light tunnel across from The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.

The two organizations are making the holiday a little more sweet by adding a bonus for online participants.

"Along with City Lights Downtown Holiday Magic, there is a free digital City Lights Pass which is available through our website. Download the pass, and once Houstonians visit these various villages digitally, they can check in. The more places they check in, the more prizes they enter to win. We have wonderful prizes from tickets to ice skating, Texas Winter Lights, The Nutcracker, and A Christmas Carol. It's a fun way to encourage people to visit all the different sites and win some fun holiday experiences for the family," Dao said.

City Lights Downtown Holiday Magic runs nightly from Friday to January 2 at various locations in downtown Houston. For more information on City Lights Downtown Holiday Magic, visit Sign up for the free City Lights Pass for a chance to enter to win holiday-themed experiences every week. Check the website for various prices.
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Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to the Houston Press who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture.
Contact: Sam Byrd