For those of us lucky enough to get a long holiday weekend, congrats, and for everybody else who has a job that doesn't align with Turkey Day festivities, then we still wish you seasons greetings and the spirit of the holidays. There's plenty to see and do this weekend in Houston, so between all the cooking, eating and shopping that's on your "to do" list, be sure to check out a few of these. Several of them are free.
Only the most glorious of trees will look appropriate in the magnificent grand hall of downtown's Wortham Theater Center, and organizers Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet and Houston First Corporation never disappoint. The 31st Annual Wortham Tree Lighting Ceremony kicks off this season's "Unwrap Downtown" with more than 8,000 lights — somebody has been very busy checking for burned out bulbs — along with costumed characters from Houston Ballet's The Nutcracker.
The 31st Annual Wortham Tree Lighting Ceremony is scheduled for November 27 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Avenue. For information, call 832-487-7000 or visit visithoustontexas.com/event/wortham-center-tree-lighting-ceremony/74787. Free.
Watching a parade on television doesn't even come close to viewing it in real life, so why not get outside for some fresh air before sitting down for the big turkey dinner later in the day? This year's grand marshal for the 70th Annual H-E-B Thanksgiving Day Parade is Jim "Mattress Mack" McInvale and the parade includes a performance by The Voice contestant Simone Gundy; she'll be joined by the Houston Contemporary Second Company and Aldine Carver Dance Company to present a flashy performance from The Greatest Showman. Also featured will be a musical number from Theatre Under The Stars' Elf — The Musical, plus you won't want to miss all 12 high-flying balloons, 13 floats including the ever-popular Tom Turkey and Santa Claus, and a variety of performing groups and marching bands.
The 70th Annual H-E-B Thanksgiving Day Parade is scheduled for November 28 at 9 a.m. Thursday, beginning at Lamar and Smith. For information, visit houstonthanksgivingparade.org. Free.
When you're too stuffed to move after a big Thanksgiving dinner, there's no better remedy than to get up off the couch and get going. Head over to the newly transformed Post Oak Boulevard with 300 all-new, 20-foot-tall holiday trees that are lining the boulevard from the West Loop to Richmond Avenue. The entertainment runs deep for the 32nd Annual Uptown Holiday Lighting:
4 p.m., Holiday music, art cards, characters, and holiday treats at concession stands
5 p.m., Merry Holiday stage show with entertainment from Houston Concert Band, America’s Got Talent semi-finalist Christina Wells, Houston Show Choir, Ballet Folklorico Herencia Mexicana de Houston, and A.D. Players
6:30 p.m., Announcement and illumination of the top three winners of the Balcony Decorating Contest
7 p.m., Houston's largest sing-a-long with Santa and Mrs. Claus and a grand finale fireworks extravaganza with dazzling light show
32nd Annual Uptown Holiday Lighting is scheduled for November 28 from 4-7 p.m. Thursday along Post Oak Boulevard between Westheimer and San Felipe. For information, visit uptown-houston.com. Free.
Playwright Becky Mode knew how to throw down a challenge when she wrote Fully Committed, a one actor, 40 character play about an aspiring actor at the reservations desk of a busy New York City restaurant. And who better to inhabit the role than Alley Company member Dylan Godwin, who for years covered for Todd Waite in Alley's The Santaland Diaries — another tale about a struggling actor that took on other characterizations. From entitled customers to a demanding head chef and maitre 'd, to working in the very unglamorous basement of a Michelin-starred restaurant, the reservationist's back story unfolds along with the play. Godwin and director Brandon Weinbrenner have been working for months on bringing all 40 characters to life — all without a costume change — which to us sounds like a Christmas miracle. Read our preview here.
Fully Committed is scheduled for November 26 through December 29 at 7:30 p.m. (November 27 and 29-30 and December 4-6, 11-13, 17-20, 24, and 26-27) and at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. (December 1, 7-8, 14-15, 21-22, 28-29), at the Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Avenue. For information, call 713-220-5700 or visit alleytheatre.org/plays/production-detail/fully-committed. $49 to $62.
Tap into the real spirit of Christmas when A.D. Players presents the stage version of Miracle on 34th Street with a fresh perspective from director Philip Hays who — surprisingly enough — had not seen the 1947 classic film starring Maureen O'Hara, Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn. The set-up is not all sugary sweet: Central characters Doris Walker and her daughter Susan are struggling to get by and there's no room for a rich fantasy life, while the enigmatic Kris Kringle is ready to stand trial in court to prove he's really Santa Claus. We won't spoil the ending, but we're sure you'll walk out of the theater with a fresh outlook on the holidays, one that doesn't center around shopping and consumerism, and that instead will have you remembering that the Christmas spirit is really about believing. Read our preview here.
Miracle on 34th Street is scheduled for November 29-December 29 at 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. December 4 and 11, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and December 18, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays at A.D. Players at The George Theater, 5420 Westheimer. For information, call 713-526-2721 or visit adplayers.org/miracle-on-34th-street-1. $25 to $75.
We're oh-so-sad that the Texas Renaissance Festival is coming to a close, but there are still plenty of reasons to smile as the final Celtic Christmas themed weekend is expanded to include the Friday after Thanksgiving. So avoid the shopping mall congestion and take TexRenFest's advice about how to best navigate the traffic because there are still plenty of ways to buy gifts on the festival grounds with more than 400 shoppes. Look for Father Christmas, Mother Christmas and all the elves as the kingdom is transformed into a Christmas wonderland with holiday music, a costume contest (2 p.m. in The Arena) and a pumpkin eating contest (4 p.m. in the New Market Music Gazebo). Huzzah!
Celtic Christmas is scheduled for November 29-December 1 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday at Texas Renaissance Festival, 21778 Farm to Market 1774, Todd Mission. For information, call 1-800-458-3435 or visit texrenfest.com. $11.95 to $61.95.
In a season full of tradition, we always have room for one more. The first ever Thing-A-Ma-Jingle on Main Street — a 21-and-up block party — takes place along historic Main Street, courtesy of the Houston Downtown Management District. Look for a Black Friday gift market, Christmas Carol-oke for the extroverted set, photo opps with Hipster Santa and other characters, free cotton candy from Lush Puff, and a chance to take pix with friends old and new at the pop-up holiday photo booth courtesy of OMG Bus. Rest your weary feet at any of the area bars and restaurants that will be offering drink specials and hosting live music.
Thing-A-Ma-Jingle on Main Street is scheduled for November 29 from 7 p.m. to midnight Friday at Main Street Square, 1000 Main Street. For information, visit downtownhouston.org/calendar/thing-ma-jingle/95343. Free.
What's not to love about the sparkly and glitzy aluminum Christmas tree, where there's never any danger of it drying out or dropping needles? This year marks the 60th anniversary of the debut of these trees; they were all the rage in the 1960s and we're pretty pumped about them still. View some of the rarest examples with the 1940 Air Terminal Museum's new exhibit "Space Age Christmas Trees: The Exhibit," based on The Evergleam Book that documents the 1959 debut and meteoric rise of the tree by the Aluminum Specialty Company of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Fun fact: Retired B-29 fighter pilot Richard Thomsen based his idea for the tree's design on the chaff (aluminum needles) that are dropped from aircraft to make sure it is undetected by enemy radar; children would often pick up the silver slivers to make their own Christmas decorations. The coolest part about this exhibit is that they've created 'The Space Age Holiday Pad" where visitors can immerse themselves in midcentury artifacts; take our advice and wear '60s era clothing for a social media feed that will get you noticed. The vignette will feature one of the trees set up in a rotating stand, a George Nelson coconut chair, a Saarinen tulip end table, a couple of bar pieces from Mirro Medallion, a Sputnik chandelier, faux (cardboard) fireplace, and 1960s vintage holiday music.
"Space Age Christmas Trees: The Exhibit" is scheduled for November 29-January 3 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays at the 1940 Air Terminal Museum, 8325 Travelair. For information, call 713-454-1940 or visit 1940airterminal.org. $2 to $5.
It's hard to know where to look after Clara travels through a magical Christmas tree to the lavish Kingdom of Sweets in The Nutcracker. 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 fourth time that Houston audiences are being treated to this choreography by Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch AM, set to Tchaikovsky's beautiful score. Different dancers have the roles of Clara, Drosselmeyer, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince for each performance, adding a nice international flair to the casting that mimics the themes of the ballet. Welch is from Australia, and some of the dancers hail from all over: Nozomi Iijima (Osaka, Japan), Aoi Fujiwara (Osaka, Japan), Mónica Gómez (La Havana, Cuba), Yumiko Fukuda (who came from the Hong Kong Ballet), Christopher Coomer (Birkenhead, England), Chun Wai Chan (Guangzhou, China), Charles-Louis Yoshiyama (Shizuoka, Japan), Karina González (Caracas, Venezuela), Soo Youn Cho (Incheon, South Korea), Yuriko Kajiya (Aichi, Japan), Luzemberg Santana (João Pessoa, Paraíba, Brazil), Ryo Kato (Tokyo, Japan), and Valerie Tereshchenko and Ty King-Wall (guest artists from The Australia Ballet). Read our preview here.
The Nutcracker is scheduled for November 29-December 29 at 7:30 p.m. (November 29 and December 11-13 and 17-20), 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and December 8, 15, 22-23, 26-29) and 2 p.m. (December 1) at Wortham Theater Center, 500 Texas. For information, call 713-227-2787 or visit houstonballet.org. $35 to $180.
City Hall's classic architecture, faced with Texas Cordova limestone, serves as the perfect blank canvas for colorful light projections, something that becomes truly evident this time of year. It's hard to believe this will be the 100th Annual Reliant Lights Mayor's Holiday Spectacular, and there's no reason to mess with a winning formula: a lighting of the official tree using energy efficient LED lights and holiday music. Look for a performance by the Grammy-nominated duo Chloe x Halle showcasing hits from their debut album, "The Kids Are Alright," and a performance by Houston singer Uché who made it into the top ten on American Idol, season 17. Pay it forward by bringing a new, unwrapped toy for the World's Ultimate Toy Drive that benefits Toys for Tots, and stop by The Gingerbread Village for free children's photos with Santa.
The 100th Annual Reliant Lights Mayor’s Holiday Spectacular is scheduled for November 30 at 5 p.m. Saturday at City Hall, 901 Bagby. For information, visit houstontx.gov/mayorsholiday/index.html. Free.