Galveston Island, just an hour outside of Houston, takes Christmas to a whole new level. Called the Winter Wonder Island of Texas, this historic beach town offers a host of special holiday celebrations along its 32-mile coastline. Where else can you enjoy tropical weather with traditional Victorian charm, a world-renowned Dickens festival, and light shows — all within a close drive from the state’s largest city?
There’s something in the air in Galveston that makes Christmastime even more special. Maybe it’s the way the community comes together to celebrate the season, welcoming locals and visitors alike. Galveston is just like that. No matter where you come from, spending the holiday on island time will evoke a warm, holiday spirit to share with your family. Here are the best things to do in Galveston during a holiday visit.
1. Dickens On The Strand
Experience The Holidays Of Yore
This is the grandfather of Christmas celebrations in Galveston, inviting you to take a step back in time to Victorian England, where Charles Dickens wrote his beloved A Christmas Carol. Taking place December 2 to 4, 2022, the 49th annual Dickens on the Strand festival is Galveston’s most beloved event.
Watch for costumed interpreters in their finest Victorian ensembles, spirited parades, four stages of live entertainment, Shopkeeper Skills Village, and roaming characters throughout the festival. New this year is Tiny Tim’s Play Land for the little ones.
If you’re looking for that perfect holiday gift, check out vendors selling their wares from street stalls and rolling carts laden with holiday food and drink, Victorian-inspired crafts, clothing, jewelry, holiday decorations, and gift items.
Everyone planning to attend is encouraged to dress up in their Victorian finest. You’re destined to find other characters from the novel wandering the streets to greet you.
2. Moody Gardens
Where The Holidays Are Cooler Than Ever
Moody Gardens is the place to be this holiday season with “Ice Land” coming back once again to delight holiday celebrants of all ages. From November 18 to January 7, Moody Gardens turns into an Island Christmas where the North Pole meets the Caribbean Islands. More than two million pounds of ice will be carved out to create a spectacular visual display of colors.
Enjoy the Festival of Lights, where you can walk through a mile-long trail and ooh and ahh at more than two million lights. Listen to the holiday music as you gaze out to Galveston Bay. Or, take a magical train ride through the trail.
Check out the ice skating, Arctic Slide, 3D holiday films, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 4D experience, Cirque Joyeux Holiday Show, and New Year’s Palooza celebration. Have the grandkids enjoy Breakfast with Santa.
Don’t miss the Star, the Dancing Tree of Light. Measuring four stories tall, this magnificent digital dancing tree of light shines brighter than any Christmas tree in Texas! There’s also hot chocolate, fireside s’mores and other festive foods, mistletoe, and lots of chances to take selfies!
3. The Grand 1894 Opera House
The Place To See A Holiday Performance
Named The Official Opera House of the State of Texas, this beautiful performance venue hosts musical events all year long. For the holidays, they offer shows like A Charlie Brown Christmas Live on Stage, The Gatlin Brothers — Country and Christmas, and A Christmas Carol. This year, Midtown Men — Holiday Hits will feature stars from the original Broadway cast of the smash hit musical Jersey Boys.
4. Moody Mansion
Decked Halls (And Free Admission)
Christmas at the Moody Mansion comes to life with vintage Christmas trees and decorations all season long. On January 6, the Moody Mansion hosts its 12th Night of Christmas, celebrating the end of the Christmas season with free admission, Christmas treats, and music.
5. The Bryan Museum
For A Texas-Sized Christmas
Holiday Delights: A Texas Size Christmas takes place at the Bryan Museum on December 2 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Join the fun for an evening of family cheer. Take pictures and write letters to Santa. Bring the kids for the petting zoo, an elf hunt, food trucks, free books, and the Christmas tree lighting.
6. La King’s Confectionery
Sweet Treats, Soda Jerks, And Superb People Watching
Don’t miss La King’s Confectionery for delicious holiday treats. Located in the heart of the historic Strand district, La King’s Confectionery is an old-fashioned candy shop and ice cream parlor. Featuring a 1920s soda fountain staffed with real soda jerks, this lively and spacious candy factory is a great spot for people-watching and getting a sweet treat during your visit. Savor their homemade chocolates, salt water taffy, and Purity Ice Cream, the oldest ice cream in Texas, started in 1889 in Galveston.
7. The Annual Santa Hustle
On The Beach At San Luis Resort
Get ready to run this Christmas season at the annual Santa Hustle 5K, Half Marathon, and Kids Dash. The event will take place Sunday, December 18 at the San Luis Resort on the beach, starting at 7:30 a.m.
More than 5,000 runners are expected, all decked out in Santa attire, including Santa suits, hats, and beards that will be worn for the duration of the race. Hear holiday tunes as you run and enjoy fuel-up stations serving cookies and candy. The 2022 Santa Hustle Galveston will raise funds for the Galveston County Food Bank.
8. Holiday With The Cranes
Perfect For Birdwatchers And Nature Enthusiasts
Join the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council for Holiday with the Cranes — named one of the quirkiest events in Texas by The New York Times — on December 10 and 11 as outdoor enthusiasts celebrate the annual return of these large, majestic birds. Events include interpretive birding talks and other nature activities and presentations combined with the ambiance of historical Galveston. Bring binoculars!
9. Galveston’s Official Tree Lighting
And Galveston Art Center’s ArtWalk
Ring in the season with Santa as the special guest of honor at downtown Galveston’s tree lighting ceremony on Saturday, November 26 at 7 p.m. Escorting the big man in red will be Galveston’s police and fire departments.
The tree lighting coincides with Galveston Art Center’s ArtWalk, a community-wide event that takes place every six to eight weeks. During ArtWalk, shops, boutiques, and galleries remain open later in the evening. Live entertainment will be featured at several venues throughout downtown.
10. The Polar Express
At The Galveston Railroad Museum
Your grandkids will love this imaginative train ride to meet Santa (based on the beloved holiday tale), complete with cookies and hot cocoa. Everyone is encouraged to wear their pajamas as they listen to the story in the station and then board the train for a one-hour ride to the North Pole.
The POLAR EXPRESS Train Ride in Galveston makes use of six separate cars pulled by vintage locomotives from the Galveston Railroad Museum’s collection. The event runs from November 11 through December 23. Reservations are highly recommended.
11. Miracle Pop-Up Bar
At Daiquiri Time Out
Miracle is a Christmas-themed pop-up cocktail bar that serves holiday cocktails in a festive setting from November 22 to December 29. With kitschy holiday decor, professionally developed cocktails, and plenty of holiday spirit, Daquiri Time Out is located in historic downtown Galveston. Cheers!
12. Washed Ashore Art Installation
For A Limited Time Only
Galveston has partnered with the Washed Ashore Project to offer 21 larger-than-life exhibits for display throughout the island from December 10 to March 5. Made up of marine debris collected from beaches, these beautifully designed, giant sealife sculptures are breathtaking. Take a self-guided tour to discover these works of art.
13. Christmas Done Right At Galveston Hotels
Tremont House Hotel
Extend the magic of the holiday season at the luxurious Tremont House Hotel. Enjoy the festive atmosphere with Christmas decorations, live music, and Christmas carolers.
Pro Tip: Don’t miss the delightful gingerbread house on display. It’s a must for your Christmas in Galveston selfie or a family photo.
On Friday, November 25, the Grand Galvez is bringing back its annual Galveston Holiday Lighting Celebration, which features the lighting of the hotel’s 350-foot Christmas tree and a visit from Santa. Look for the event on the grand palm tree-lined front lawn of the hotel.
Following the tree lighting, enjoy the Galveston Ballet performing variations from The Nutcracker and the Galveston Symphony Brass Ensemble’s take on holiday classics.
Moody Gardens Hotel
Check out Moody Gardens Hotel for special holiday offers. Enjoy their Breakfast with Santa Package, which includes breakfast for two adults and two children, a luxurious guest room, and a souvenir photo with a costumed character meet and greet.
For those wanting to visit Moody Gardens at Christmas, this upgraded package includes four tickets to Ice Land and the Festival of Lights with ice skating, holiday kids’ activities, and a $100 breakfast credit.
Make this holiday season the most memorable ever by joining in the Christmas festivities in Galveston. This is holiday magic at its best. For more information about Galveston Island, go to visitgalveston.com.