Cher has released her holiday album, Mariah Carey has begun her “Queen of Christmas” duties, and Houston is illuminated with twinkle lights around the city. That can only mean one thing—the holiday season has officially arrived!

Strolling about and enjoying holiday lights is a perfect and affordable way to soak up the magic of the city, all while making the yuletide gay. City Lights Downtown Holiday Magic, presented by Shell Energy, invites guests to celebrate the holiday season in Downtown Houston with friends, romantic partners, family, and chosen family.

Houston First Corporation has partnered with Downtown Houston+ for a second year to celebrate the holidays in the heart of downtown. The larger-than-life experience is open to all and is mostly free of charge. The event, which runs throughout December, features 11 themed villages covering dozens of blocks throughout the city’s central business district.

Ice Discovery Green

Grab your squad and embrace your inner Kristi Yamaguchi on the ice skating rink, lock arms with your significant other and gaze at the stunning light displays, stand under the mistletoe and hope for the best, and more! Whether you’re visiting Houston or call H-Town home, this is a wonderful way to get outside and soak up some festive holiday vibes.

Particularly enticing for LGBTQ+ visitors is the ‘Pride Tree’, courtesy of the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce. The tree is illuminated and on view at George R. Brown Convention Center as part of Alley Theatre’s “Deck the Trees” Celebration. Selfies are encouraged! See a full map of locations and activities HERE

Deck The Trees

Walking not your style? Is your Uber budget drained? We’ve got you covered! Hop on and off the Downtown Holiday Trolley to explore all the City Lights Downtown Holiday Magic villages this season. Purchase your ticket-to-ride and hop on at Sam Houston Park at The Heritage Society's holiday hub and enjoy some hot chocolate. Seeing is believing, so enjoy taking free pictures with Texas Cowboy Santa while you’re there! Tickets can be purchased by scanning the QR code at any of the villages. Once purchased, each ticket is valid to hop on and off at any village for the evening the ticket was purchased ($15 for adults, $10 children).

Addresses for Heritage Society Bus Hub:

  • 1100 Bagby Street,  Houston, TX 77002
  • 211 Crawford Street, Houston, TX 77002 (near Pappasito's Cantina)
  • 212 Dallas Street, Houston, TX 77002 (free parking, limited)
  • 1200 Bagby Street, Houston, TX 77002 (additional parking at Heritage Clay Street Garage for a fee)

There is no better way to get around Downtown than in a pedicab! Catch a free ride from village to village with the holiday pedicabs provided by Downtown Houston+. Locate the holiday pedicab stations at Discovery Green, Lynn Wyatt Square, POST Houston, Trebly Park and Market Square Park for an easy way to navigate the neighborhood.

City Lights

After taking in the festive holiday magic, let the spirits make you bright! You may be chilly after your walk around Downtown, so it’s time for a cocktail that will have you feeling toasty. Here are a few of our recommendations:

The Grove - Did you end your holiday tour at Discovery Green? You’re in luck! Head over to The Grove, a modern and elegant urban dining experience unlike anything else in downtown Houston, to sample their seasonal holiday cocktails. Cheers with your fellow queers with The Great Pumpkin Espresso Martini or the Cinnamon Whiskey Sour.

Michael’s Outpost - If you’re looking for a casual bar with a cozy lounge vibe to grab a post-Holiday Magic cocktail, look no further than Michael’s Outpost on Richmond Avenue. Depending on what night you visit, you could be in store for a drag show or a sing-a-long around the piano, all in an intimate, casual setting. The fully stocked bar ensures you’ll be able to warm up with the libation of your choice, served with a smile.

Side Peace
Photo: Courtesy Side Peace

Pearl Bar Houston & Side Peace - Keep the party going at one of the country’s few lesbian-specific bars! Located near Downtown on Washington Avenue, Pearl Bar Houston and sister bar Side Peace each offer warm vibes and bars that will warm you up after your cool stroll throughout the central business district. Want to enjoy even cooler, crisp air? Head to their back patio for plenty of seating space and even more lights to enjoy!

JR's Bar & Grill
Photo: Courtesy JR's Bar & Grill

JR’s Bar & Grill  - Craving a change of scenery? Hop over to the Montrose Gayborhood for a gay old time! JR’s Bar & Grill is the perfect spot to kick off the evening before bouncing from bar to bar. Here, you’ll find multiple fully stocked bars, indoor and outdoor hangout options, as well as wood paneling that makes you feel like you’re in the gayest little Christmas cabin ever! The bar is a short walk to Eagle Houston, BUDDY’S, RIPCORD, and more!

City Lights Downtown Holiday Magic is currently open and runs through December 31. Put on your cozy shoes and get ready to strut through the most fabulous light show Houston has to offer!