Galveston, the Winter Wonder Island of Texas, continues its national reputation for wowing visitors, this year hosting 50 days of holiday events and activities.
Widely hailed as a Texas holiday destination, Galveston hosts popular annual events like Dickens on the Strand. But the island is not one to rest on its laurels. Every year, something amazing and new is added to the destination’s lineup of yuletide magic.
November is just about the right time to start planning for holiday memories that will last a lifetime. Here’s a look at just a few of the magical events happening in Galveston this holiday season:
Moody Gardens Ice Land
This holiday season, Moody Gardens will be home to the coolest new experience on the Gulf Coast where visitors can explore 20 large ice sculptures in a 25,000-square-foot exhibit. A skilled team of professional ice carvers has transformed 6,000 300-pound ice blocks into majestic displays ranging from holiday sculptures to undersea characters from SpongeBob SquarePants. Chilled and held at a temperature of nine degrees, guests can witness these works of art daily from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Nov. 15 through January 4, 2015 at Moody Gardens. Visit www.moodygardens.org for details.
Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens
Brighten up the wintry season at the 13th annual Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens. Open Nov. 15 through Jan. 3, 2015, guests can enjoy the largest holiday lighting event on the Gulf Coast, featuring a mile-long trail of more than 100 sound-enhanced animated light displays. Visitors to the festival can also go ice-skating at the Moody Gardens outdoor ice rink or snow tubing on the Arctic Ice Slide. Festival of Lights will be open nightly from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Visit www.moodygardens.org.
Hotel Galvez Holiday Lighting Celebration
The historic Hotel Galvez & Spa invites guests to celebrate the start of the holidays with the official City of Galveston Holiday Lighting Celebration Nov. 28. Festivities will begin at 6 p.m. and include a special appearance by Santa Claus; live holiday entertainment by local performers, including the Galveston Ballet; and the lighting of the hotel’s 35-foot Christmas tree. The hotel will offer a special weekend package as part of the event. Visit www.WyndhamHotelGalvez.com.
Home for the Holidays Gift Market
Taking place Nov. 28 and 29 at the Moody Gardens Convention Center, the gift market will feature more than 150 of the region’s most unique gift vendors offering distinctive home decor, candles, craft foods, accessories and more. For details, visit homefortheholidaysgiftmarket.com.
Holiday Performances at The Grand
The Grand 1894 Opera House will kick off the holiday season with a variety of exciting performances, including The Phantom of the Opera (1925) silent film Nov. 1, Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo Nov. 15, An Irish Christmas Nov. 22, Maid Marian in a Stolen Car starring Jaston Williams Nov. 28 and 29, and The Irish Tenors Nov. 30. Throughout December, the historic theatre will offer a variety of shows to put you in the holiday spirit, including: Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol Dec. 5, Michael Martin Murphey’s Cowboy Christmas Dec. 16, Robert Earl Keen’s Merry Christmas from the Fam-O-Lee Dec. 20, a holiday performance by the Houston Children’s Chorus Dec. 21, Jerry Jeff Walker Dec. 27 and The Manhattan Transfer Christmas Show Dec. 28. For details, visit www.thegrand.com.
Surf with Santa at Schlitterbahn
Guests at the Schlitterbahn park get to see and surf with Santa on the ocean-like waves of the Boogie Bahn ride. Surf with Santa will be offered several times daily Nov. 28 through Dec. 23. Schlitterbahn also will feature other holiday festivities including ornament-making contests, artificial snow and a chance to meet and greet holiday-themed costume characters on operating days Nov. 28 through Jan 4. For details, visit www.schlitterbahn.com/gal.
41st Annual Dickens on the Strand
The first weekend in December, Dickens on The Strand transforms Galveston’s historic Strand Street into the Victorian London of Charles Dickens. Dec. 5-7, characters from Dickens’ novels walk the streets, and costumed vendors peddle their wares from street stalls and rolling carts laden with holiday food and drink, Victorian-inspired crafts, clothing, jewelry, holiday decorations and gifts. Strolling carolers and roving musicians will fill the area with enchanting sounds from another era as steam punks entertain the crowds. Visit www.dickensonthestrand.org.
Sunday Brunch with Santa at Hotel Galvez
Hotel Galvez’ famous Sunday brunch will be full of cheer this holiday season with visits from Santa from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec. 7, 14, and 21. Brunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and children are invited to visit with Santa to share their Christmas list. Advance reservations are recommended. For more information and to make a reservation, call 409-765-7721.
Santa Train at the Galveston Railroad Museum
Santa is coming to town aboard the Galveston Railroad Museum’s Harborside Express train! The museum’s annual Santa Train event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m on Dec. 13. Bring your wish list to visit with Santa, stroll through the museum’s Garden of Steam and enjoy festive holiday lights, decorations, games and crafts. For details, visit www.galvestonrrmuseum.com.
Breakfast with the Sandhill Cranes
This annual birding event will be held Dec. 13-14 as outdoor enthusiasts await the arrival of these large, majestic birds of ancient origin. Enjoy breakfast and hear educational lectures by expert birders. See the birds for yourself during a convoy by car to island crane hot spots after the presentation. For more information, visit www.galvestonnaturetourism.org.
Holiday Lights and Magic in the Park
Santa will make special appearances from 1-5 p.m. on Dec. 13, 14 & 20 and will take photos with children in front of the downtown Christmas tree. Guests can also enjoy a weekend filled with festive holiday tunes from area choirs and bands from 12-6 p.m. Dec. 13 & 14. Saengerfest Park is located at the corner of 23rd and Strand streets. For details, visit galvestonholidayinthepark.com.
A Magical Christmas Dinner & Show Starring Curt Miller
Moody Gardens hosts A Magical Christmas Dinner and Show starring master illusionist Curt Miller and Friends. This performance will combine dazzling magic, family comedy, music and dance to celebrate the wonderment of Christmas. Witness people floating and vanishing right before your eyes, and enjoy many of your favorite Christmas songs performed by singers and musicians. Shows will be held Dec. 18-27. For details, visit www.moodychristmasshow.com.
Santa Hustle Half Marathon & 5K
Runners will have a jolly good time Dec. 21 in Galveston at the third annual Santa Hustle! All event participants will receive a Santa suit long sleeve t-shirt, a free Santa hat and beard to wear while running, and will be able to stop at cookie and candy stations along their routes. For details, visit www.santahustle.com.