Editor’s note (11/28/16): For an updated list of Christmas things to do in Dallas, go here.
Christmas is coming, and the holiday season is in full swing in Dallas. That means there are a whole slew of holiday events throughout North Texas, from Christmas concerts to Santa sightings, light displays to holiday movies. Whatever you’re looking for to get in the spirit this year–whether it’s The Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol, a tree lighting festival downtown or a train track at NorthPark–our guide has you covered.
Lights and Displays
Texas Motor Speedway’s Gift of Lights is a drive-through holiday light show on the track. Take it easy, though, Mario Andretti–You’ll want to cruise slow to appreciate the hundreds of LED light displays. Through Dec. 31 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Six Flags Over Texas’ Holiday in the Park will have light shows, costumed Clauses, and other holiday activities to put a Christmas spin on the amusement park’s usual assortment of rides and games. Through Jan. 3 at Six Flags Over Texas.
Addison’s Vitruvian Lights make the park one of the most colorful winter wonderlands in North Texas, with brilliant displays lighting up the trees and walking paths every night. Through Jan. 1 at Vitruvian Park in Addison.
The overall effect of Prairie Lights in Grand Prairie is a “tunnel of light,” with near-wraparound LED displays lighting your vehicle’s path. Look at some of the best holiday light displays in North Texas from the warmth of your vehicle, with the option to get out and play at a holiday village about halfway through. Through Jan. 3 at Lynn Creek Park in Grand Prairie.
Frisco Square hosts a nightly light and music show to go with a temporary outdoor ice rink. On weekends, snow machines send flurries blasting across the square. Visitors can enjoy the wintry effect during a carriage ride. A big bash on Dec. 19 will feature Santa, “holiday treats,” and a snow slide for inner tubes. Through Jan. 2 at Frisco Square.
The trains at NorthPark return. You’ll find the holiday institution, with its extensive winding tracks and elaborate backdrops (added bonus: it’s all for charity) on the second level of the mall near Nordstrom’s this year. (For a full schedule of holiday events at NorthPark–there are many, including the daily Scrooge Puppet Theatre and photo ops with Santa Claus—go here). Through Jan. 3 at NorthPark Center.
Two million pounds of colored ice sculptures dominate the ICE! exhibit at the Gaylord Texan resort and convention center in Grapevine. This year’s theme is “Christmas Around The World,” featuring sculptures and other displays showcasing how various cultures celebrate the holidays. Plus: Ice slides. There are also other holiday activities at the center throughout the season. Through Jan. 3 at the Gaylord Texan Convention Center in Grapevine.
The self-described “Christmas capital of Texas” puts its money where its mouth is not only at the Gaylord Texan, but also in historic downtown Grapevine, which will be brilliantly illuminated throughout the season. Through Jan. 3 at downtown Grapevine.
The Arboretum is filled with holiday decorations and displays themed to the 12 Days of Christmas, which, fortunately for us, last longer than 12 days at Dallas’ renowned botanical gardens. Through Jan. 3 at the Dallas Arboretum.
An outdoor ice rink in North Texas is something of a minor miracle. Nevertheless, Panther Island Ice has become a Fort Worth holiday staple since opening just a few years ago, bringing in tons of visitors to the rink kept frozen by a 150-ton mechanical chiller. The Coyote Drive-In is right next door if you want to catch a movie while you’re at it. Through Jan. 18 at the Coyote Drive-In in Fort Worth.
Take a Wander Walk through downtown Dallas, which every Thursday through Christmas will transform into a “winter Wanderland” with pop-up shops, live music, cocktail specials, and art. Light displays and other decorations make it a charming place for a stroll or some holiday shopping. Thursdays through Dec. 25 in downtown Dallas.
Festivals and Parades
There are enough free tree-lighting festivals and celebrations around town that we felt they justified their own guide, which you can find right over here. For good measure, here are a few of the big ones we’re really looking forward to:
- Fair Park’s holiday tree lighting festival includes the theatrical stylings of Denise Lee, Victorian carolers, a light show on the Esplanade, carriage rides, reindeer petting, Santa, and, of course, the all-important tree lighting. Dec. 3 at Fair Park
- Celebrate the holidays with a tree lighting celebration at Klyde Warren Park and then walk to the AT&T Performing Arts Center for the light displays, fireworks, and live music of Reliant Lights Your Holidays. Dec. 5 in the Dallas Arts District.
- The Galleria enjoys lighting its massive indoor Christmas tree so much that the mall is going to celebrate it several times, with each occasion featuring Olympic-level skaters and a “pyrotechnic Santa.” Saturdays through Dec. 20 at the Galleria Dallas.
The devil to Santa’s angel, Krampus is a legendary creature who punishes naughty children come Christmas time. The Krampus Walk in Deep Ellum celebrates this fiendish character by encouraging people to dress up like this and act evil. Dec. 5 at Wits End.
Celebrate Christmas cowboy-style with this holiday festival and parade at the Fort Worth Stockyards. Dec. 5 at the Fort Worth Stockyards.
Theater and Dance (and The Nutcracker)
We found more than a dozen Nutcracker productions in North Texas while putting together this year’s guide to the popular holiday ballet. However, we neglected to include Avant Chamber Ballet’s Holiday Celebration, which was a significant oversight — it’s one of the best companies in North Texas. The company will perform a new one-act take on The Nutcracker along with Katie Cooper’s Sleigh Ride at Dallas City Performance Hall on Dec. 10. If you’re overwhelmed by all the Nutcrackers in the guide, we’d also recommend Texas Ballet Theater’s production, running from Dec. 11 to the 27 at Bass Performance Hall.
The Dallas Opera premieres Becoming Santa Claus, an origin story for the jolly bearded fellow that follows his early days as a young prince at the North Pole. When he hears a hubbub about a birth out Bethlehem way, the 13-year-old Santa decides to get involved. Dec. 4-12 at the Winspear Opera House.
The Dallas Theater Center’s traditional production of A Christmas Carol has once again partnered with the North Texas Food Bank — according to DTC, it helped provide more than 225,000 meals to North Texas families last year. Dallas’ largest theater company regularly manages to put a fresh spin on the holiday classic, and this year shouldn’t be any different. Through Dec. 26 at Wyly Theatre.
Hijinks ensue in this irreverent play off of the holiday popularity of the The Nutcracker. A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker follows a Baptist church that accidentally hires a burlesque troupe to put on the ballet. Through Dec. 27 at Addison Theatre Centre.
A Christmas Carol: The Radio Show is a one-man re-telling of Dickens’ story starring a radio host who must perform the play by his lonesome when his co-hosts fail to arrive at the station during a winter storm. Dec. 3-20 at Theatre Three.
Based on the television movie that was a childhood staple in many households, this colorful musical adaptation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer returns to the Majestic for the third year running. Dec. 3-6 at the Majestic Theatre.
The Will Ferrell film Elf can maybe make a claim to the elusive “holiday movie classic” staple now that it’s been adapted into a successful musical production. Dec. 8-20 at the Music Hall at Fair Park.
TeCo puts on Black Nativity, Langston Hughes’ take on the biblical Nativity story, which blends African-American cultural traditions with the Christian tale. Dec. 10-20 at Bishop Arts Theatre Center.
The Naughty But Nice Christmas Cabaret is an adults-only show set in a “South Dallas hole-in-the-wall.” Dec. 11-13 at South Dallas Cultural Center.
It’s a circus/symphony when Cirque Musica puts on its holiday spectacular. Dec. 13 at the Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco.
In the December issue of the magazine, we posed the question: which local radio station brings the most cheer with its holiday concert? Despite some frosty competition, KISS FM’s Dec. 1 Jingle Ball, which landed One Direction as a headliner, seemed to be the clear winner. Dec. 1 at American Airlines Center.
It’s a Chrismukkah celebration when JEFF The Brotherhood and Diarrhea Planet, two of Nashville’s finest, rowdiest rock acts, come to town. Dec. 4 at Club Dada.
Great White, Slaughter, and L.A. Guns pretend their era never ended in this throwback Hair Metal Holiday show thrown by 97.1 The Eagle. Dec. 4 at the Bomb Factory.
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Christmas Pops concert brings together some of North Texas’ best choral groups for renditions of holiday classics old (“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”) and new (songs from Home Alone). Dec. 4-6 at the Meyerson Symphony Center.
Jackopierce, the much-loved Dallas acoustic duo (the fellows met while attending SMU) works an extra helping of holiday songs into its setlist for this show. VIP tickets include “after-show cocoa” on stage. Dec. 6 at McFarlin Auditorium at SMU.
Traditional Christmas songs get a bombastic treatment courtesy of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s brass and percussion and the impressive Lay Family Concert Organ for this Organ and Brass Spectacular. Dec. 7 at the Meyerson Symphony Center.
The Singapore Slingers, Dallas’ best retro big swing jazz act, gets in the holiday spirit with its Winter Revue. Dec. 8 at Pocket Sandwich Theatre.
The Arts District Chorale, the Children’s Chorus of Greater Dallas, and Brookhaven Handbell Ensemble take on the most bell-ringing Christmas tunes with Jingle Bells, Jingle All The Way. Dec. 8 at Dallas City Performance Hall.
Of Monsters and Men and Panic! At The Disco get top billing for How The Edge Stole Christmas, our alternative rock radio station’s entry to the holiday concert calendar. Dec. 9 at Verizon Theatre.
The Women’s Chorus of Dallas does the Christmas staples at its Voices of Winter concert. Dec. 12 at Dallas City Performance Hall.
The Polyphonic Spree’s annual Christmas show keeps the formula intact–charity-fundraising, kid-friendly activities and shows, a mix of Christmas tunes and other material–for its 13 edition. Dec. 12 at the Majestic Theatre.
The Turtle Creek Chorale performs Christmas tunes from several eras. Dec. 17-19 at Dallas City Performance Hall.
Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis’ Holiday Shindig, which should be a fun performance from the unofficial first couple of Texas roots music, includes an early show and a late show. Dec. 18 at the Kessler Theater.
To the best of our knowledge, there’s no obvious holiday hook for Rick Ross’ after-Christmas performance in Dallas. But who wouldn’t want to celebrate the holidays with the boss? Dec. 26 at the Bomb Factory.
Robert Earl Keen is a man who understands Christmas in Texas. So it’s appropriate he’ll be here to perform “Merry Christmas From the Family” and more. Dec. 27 at House of Blues.
Audience props and a festive atmosphere turn the movie theater into a party for two screenings of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Dec. 3 and 12 at Alamo Drafthouse.
Catch a free screening of the Muppet Christmas Carol at this Arlington amphitheater. Dec. 5 at Levitt Pavilion in Arlington.
All-you-can-eat cheese pizza and Home Alone. We can’t sell this any more than that sentence. Dec. 5 at Alamo Drafthouse.
This screening of A Christmas Story will not put your eye out. Dec. 17 at the Granada Theater.
We can think of no better venue than the Majestic for a screening of It’s A Wonderful Life, a Christmas movie that brings out the nostalgia in all of us. Dec. 20 at the Majestic Theatre.
For more things to do in Dallas this holiday season, go here.