EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 2017 version of our annual Christmas list, which probably isn’t the edition you want. Here is our take on 101 things to do for Christmas in 2018. (That is, unless your purpose of being here is nostalgic, in which case you can read the below to your heart’s content.)
We seem to start celebrating Christmas a little earlier every year. Not that we’re complaining. Our calendar is already full with holiday displays, light shows, carriage rides, Christmas carols, and performances of The Nutcracker. We could use even more time to get to all the ice rinks, movies, and tree lightings.
We don’t expect you to do all 101 things on this list. We also don’t expect you to count them—truthfully, it’s more like 115 things, and we reserve the right to add more. We do expect you to take advantage of some of the many wonderful holiday offerings in North Texas this year, and to have a merry Christmas.
Christmas Lights & Holiday Displays
Fair Park becomes a Holiday Wonder from Nov. 21 through Jan. 7, the fairgrounds filled with Christmas-themed Chinese lanterns, illuminated for the holidays. Santa’s scheduled to be on site, along with an impressively sized Christmas tree and glowing swans in the Fair Park pond. Activities include a “snowball throw,” a slide, food, and a holiday market. Tickets are $12 for kids, $20 for adults. (Squarebody Saloon, a bar near Fair Park, has installed an “outdoor ice skating rink” that will remain open through the end of the year.)
To see Highland Park’s finest homes gussied up for Christmas, hop in the car and drive into the neighborhood at Armstrong and Preston. Alternately, book a carriage ride (starting at $175) that loads up at Knox and Cole and takes you to see the HP lights. Highland Park Christmas carriages run from Nov. 24 through Dec. 31.
Speaking of carriage rides, the same company offers tours of Deerfield, a Plano neighborhood known for its Christmas lights, and downtown Dallas, which is presently sparkling for the holidays.
From Nov. 17 through Jan. 7, Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie flips the switch on its Magical Winter Lights, a “multicultural” holiday festival full of themed lighted and lanterned areas including “Dionsaur Land,” “Christmas Candy Land,” and “Mystery of the East.” When you’re not walking around and marveling at the decorations, you can catch a Chinese acrobatic show or hit the carnival at this big celebration, a sort of wintery State Fair. Tickets are $13 for kids, $1 for adults.
The Gaylord Texan resort and Convention Center in Grapevine has already kicked off its Lone Star Christmas, which runs through Jan. 1. This covers an outdoor ice skating rink, indoor snow tubing (yes, really), Santa Claus appearances, a build-a-bear workshop, and other Christmasy activities. But the main highlight, as always, is ICE!, a refrigerated walkable attraction featuring lots of fun, vibrant, and brilliantly colorful ice sculptures. This year’s ICE! theme is “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” which is fitting. Tickets range from $20 to $30.
Your favorite flowers may not be in bloom, but the Dallas Arboretum is as beautiful as ever decorated for the 12 Days of Christmas, with exhibits in gazebos mirroring the action of the holiday song. Those exhibits are up through Jan. 7. And from now through Dec. 30, on evenings Wednesday through Sunday, the Arboretum will be open at night so you can see the botanical gardens illuminated by Christmas lights.
Vitruvian Park in Addison gets distinctly more magical starting on Nov. 24 (through Jan. 1) with the Vitruvian Lights, a rainbow of Christmas decorations to turn your walk through the park into something wonderful. Special musical performances at the park fall on Nov. 24, Dec. 2, and Dec. 9. Entry is free.
From Nov. 17 through Jan. 2, on weekend nights and certain weeknights, the Dallas Zoo celebrates the holidays with Dallas Zoo Lights. Once the animals turn in for the evening, a switch is flipped, illuminating overhead lights and custom-made 3D light sculptures. A special music-set holiday light show is planned, as well as live entertainment. The holiday festivities are from 5 to 9 p.m. on certain nights.
Six Flags goes big on the lights and decorations, and probably throws a Santa hat or something on Yosemite Sam, for its Holiday in the Park on select days from Nov. 17 through Jan. 7.
Drive through more than 4 million lights in Grand Prairie with Praire Lights, a wonderful Christmas course at Lynn Creek Park by Joe Pool Lake. Halfway through, park and hop out to go get a pic with Santa at the holiday village, stroll through the “lighted walk-thru forest,” and mosey through the snow maze. Prairie Lights runs from Thanksgiving through Dec. 31. Tickets range from $30 to $40 a car.
With Enchant, the “world’s largest outdoor Christmas light maze” and market fill Lot F of Globe Life Park in Arlington from Nov. 24 through Dec. 31.
The Farmers Branch Tour of Lights is a drive-through display in Farmers Branch, with lights on every night between Nov. 24 and Dec. 30. Cars should start the tour at I-35 and Valley View Lane. A suggested $5 donation is welcome.
We’re also fond of the neighborhood decorations of the Interlochen Lights (Dec. 15-25) in Arlington.
Drive slow at Texas Motor Speedway to appreciate the Gift of Lights, the drive-through light park that begins Nov. 23 and continues through Dec. 30.
Fort Worth’s most popular, and as far as we know, only outdoor ice skating rink opens at Panther Island Pavilion on Nov. 17. Panther Island Ice runs through Jan. 15.
The Trains at NorthPark are back for the popular exhibition’s 30th anniversary. The exhibition, raising money for the Ronald McDonald House of Dallas, runs from Nov. 18 through Jan. 7 on NorthPark’s second level, between Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus.
NorthPark has a dizzying number of other events on deck for the holidays. Santa’s posted up in his cottage for photos from Nov. 24 through Dec. 24. Scheduled performances feature the Turtle Creek Chorale (Nov. 30), Bruce Wood Dance (Dec. 2), the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Christmas Pops (Dec. 7), the Metropolitan Winds (Dec. 9), and the Dallas Ballet Center (Dec. 16). Make a donation at the Salvation Army Angel Tree (through Dec. 6), meet Rudolph at the Reindeer Park and Festival (Nov. 24), watch the Scrooge Puppet Theatre (Nov. 24-Dec. 24), or try one of these other activities.
The Galleria’s Christmas tree, apparently the tallest indoor Christmas tree in the U.S., is already standing tall at the mall’s skating rink. A “grand tree lighting celebration” will take place Nov. 24, and then every Saturday through Dec. 16, each featuring Olympic gold medalists or other incredible nationally recognized skaters. A light show, synchronized to music, flits across the tree every day (Nov. 24 through Dec. 24) at noon, 2, 4, 6, and 8 p.m. Elsewhere at the Galleria, Slappy’s Holiday Circus has several carnival-esque family-friendly shows on Nov. 24 and then every Saturday through Dec. 23. Live shows are scheduled through Christmas, and from Dec. 12 through 20, every day another candle is lit on a large Menorah for Chanukah. (A full accounting of holiday events at the Galleria can be found here.)
Parades & Tree Lightings & Festivals
Klyde Warren Park lights its tree after a day of live holiday music, a Santa and Mrs. Claus joint appearance, and other activities on Dec. 2. Once the tree is lit, walk around the Arts District for the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Reliant Lights Your Holidays, a concert, light show, and then fireworks from Sammons Park.
After Toyota stepped in at the last moment with a Christmas-saving sponsorship, the Dallas Holiday Parade is set for the morning of Dec. 2 through downtown.
On Dec. 10, the Latino Cultural Center will host a posada, a Mexican tradition that reenacts Mary and Joseph’s trip to Bethlehem and their search for an inn. Live entertainment will follow the procession for Posada Dallas.
The Denton Holiday Lighting Festival brings Christmas to that city’s square on Dec. 1.
Fort Worth celebrates Christmas in the Stockyards on Dec. 2 with a cattle drive and gunfight show, as well as some less-cowboy-oriented holiday activities.
Fort Worth lights up the big Christmas tree at Sundance Square on Nov. 18.
Fort Worth’s downtown Parade of Lights is Nov. 19.
The Shops at Legacy lights its tree on Nov. 19.
Grapevine, self-proclaimed Christmas capital of Texas, goes big for the holiday. Downtown alone, there’s the Carol of Lights on Nov. 20, the Parade of Lights on Dec. 7, and a nightly light show spectacular from Nov. 22 through Jan. 7.
Downtown McKinney’s Home for the Holidays festival runs from Nov. 24 through 26.
Frisco lights up its downtown tree on Dec. 2. And Frisco’s Christmas in the Square keeps the holiday cheer in the city from Nov. 24 through Dec. 31, with manufactured “snow flurries” on Fridays and Saturdays, an outdoor ice rink, and neat Christmas lights.
Light Up Lowest Greenville on Nov. 25 with a tree lighting, drink samples, and a Santa appearance.
Christmas revelers will Light Up Oak Lawn Park (FKA Lee Park) on Nov. 28.
The Plano Lions Christmas Parade is on Dec. 9.
Arlington’s Holiday Lights Parade glows through downtown Arlington on Dec. 9.
The DFW Tamale Festival is Dec. 2 at the Dallas Farmers Market.
Dallas Heritage Village is lined with candles, the historic buildings are decorated in (time period accurate?) holiday dress, carolers and performers walk the grounds, and other activities are planned for Candlelight on Dec. 9 and 10.
McKinney’s Parade of Lights is Dec. 9 in the city’s downtown.
The Richardson Christmas Parade is Dec. 2, starting at the Richardson Square shopping center and ending at Huffines ballfield.
The city of Garland presents Christmas on the Square on Dec. 7.
At McKinney’s Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary on Dec. 15 and 16, lights and decorations bring some holiday cheer to the beautiful nature path.
Mannheim Steamroller pushes its Christmas tour through the Toyota Music Factory in Irving on Dec. 28.
It’s Jingle Bell Rock, or maybe Jingle Bell Pop, at 106.1 KISS FM’s Jingle Ball on Nov. 28 at the American Airlines Center. Performers include The Chainsmokers, Kesha, and Niall Horan, and we imagine they’ll sprinkle their sets with some Christmas carols.
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra dusts off the awe-inspiring Lay Family Organ at the Meyerson as members of the DSO’s brass and percussion sections perform Christmas music for a Big Brassy Christmas & Organ Extravaganza on Dec. 4. The same show, minus the organ, is at the Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco on Dec. 13.
The Preservation Jazz Hall Band, straight out of New Orleans, brings its snappy takes on Christmas music to the Meyerson on Dec. 6 and 7.
The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Master Chorale team up for Handel’s Messiah on Nov. 30 at Bass Performance Hall.
The Polyphonic Spree, as the joyous Dallas choral pop band has done now for many moons, has its annual Holiday Extravaganza, this time on Dec. 9 at the Majestic Theatre. Bring a toy (for Toys for Tots) and a can of food (for the North Texas Food Bank) to the family-friendly event.
Country singer and bona fide cowboy Michael Martin Murphy has a “Cowboy Christmas” show on Dec. 18 at Bass Performance Hall.
The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra plays the Christmas music you crave with “Home for the Holidays,” its program running Nov. 24-26.
Viral YouTube violinist and former Dancing With the Stars contestant Lindsey Stirling plays Christmas music at the Majestic on Dec. 1.
Tommy Emmanuel, the fast-fingered guitarist from down under, plays Christmas tunes at the Majestic on Dec. 16.
Local Honey’s Holiday Mix, a lineup of all-star local musicians playing Christmas tunes to an audience that often gets into the holiday spirit by donning full holiday costumes, returns to the Granada Theater on Dec. 10. Also at the Granada, on Dec. 16, Sinatra-esque crooner Ricki Derek invites you to A Merry Little Christmas Show.
R&B and soul singers, including Grammy-minted host Peabo Bryson and American Idol winner Ruben Studdard, sing holiday favorites for The Colors of Christmas at the Majestic on Dec. 17.
A Christmas twist on West Side Story, North Side Story is a Vocal Majority musical (Dec. 21-24 at the Eisemann Center) that throws in some traditional holiday music for good measure.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s famously bombastic Christmas music can be heard in two performances at the American Airlines Center on Dec. 22.
For this Hair Metal Holiday at the Bomb Factory on Dec. 16, we hope Ace Frehley, Dokken, and L.A. Guns will regale us with some heavy-duty renditions of “Jingle Bells.”
The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and Dallas Chamber Choir perform the soundtrack during a screening of It’s a Wonderful Life at Bass Performance Hall on Dec. 1.
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Christmas Pops concerts at the Meyerson, running Dec. 1-17, features the Dallas Symphony Chorus and some of the city’s best musicians performing holiday jams.
The Dallas Bach Society brings those German Baroque Christmas bangers to Zion Lutheran Church on Dec. 2.
Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant get a full orchestra to back them up for their renditions of Christmas songs at Verizon Theatre on Dec. 2.
The Turtle Creek Chorale sings Christmas music at Moody Performance Hall, with four shows from Dec. 7-10.
Jewel’s Handmade Holiday Tour, in which the Grammy-winning singer plays Christmas music, is at the Toyota Music Factory on Dec. 7.
It’s TubaChristmas once again, as players of the brassiest of instruments gather at Thanks-giving Square downtown to perform. The show is at noon on Dec. 22.
A full orchestra is on hand at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church in Plano for “Christmas Carols from the Aspen Grove” on Dec. 10.
The Brian Setzer Orchestra gets an assist from the Texas Gentlemen to prove that Christmas Rocks! with a Dec. 12 performance at the Allen Event Center.
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra provides the live soundtrack to a screening of Home Alone at the Meyerson. Performances on Dec. 21 and 22.
Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis have a pair of holiday shindigs at the Kessler Theater in Oak Cliff on Dec. 15. Also at the Kessler, on Dec. 23, a TexMex Holiday Fiesta featuring Los TexManiacs, with Flaco Jimenez, Peter Rowan, and Rick Trevino.
Theater & Dance & The Nutcracker
Texas Ballet Theater has The Nutcracker at the Winspear from Nov. 24 through Dec. 3, and at Bass Performance Hall from Dec. 8-24. Show up an hour early for Saturday matinee performances, which will include stories and crafts for kids. If you’re looking for something a little more irreverent and wild, Texas Ballet Theater’s parodic take on the holiday staple, The Nutty Nutcracker, is performed Dec. 15 at Bass Performance Hall.
Brad Leland, of television’s Friday Night Lights (he played Buddy Garrity), has been cast as Scrooge in this year’s Dallas Theater Center production of A Christmas Carol. The show runs from Nov. 22 to Dec. 28 at the Wyly.
If you’re looking for a little bit of Radio City Music Hall in Dallas, go no further than a Rockefeller Christmas at the Majestic Theatre on Dec. 3.
From Nov. 17 through Dec. 23, Dallas Children’s Theater has performances of A Charlie Brown Christmas, fit for kids and their Peanuts-loving parents. Through the same timeframe, DCT is also hosting the Kathy Burkes Theatre of Puppetry Arts and its string-pulling production of the snappy musical Frosty & Friends.
On Dec. 3 at Grapevine’s Palace Theatre, it’s an Elvis Christmas Classic featuring one of the best Presley impersonators in the business.
The Arts Centre Theatre in Plano has a live theatrical adaptation of It’s a Wonderful Life on stage, Dec. 8-23.
TeCo produces the Langston Hughes classic Black Nativity at the Bishop Arts Theatre Center from Dec. 1-17.
The Ballet Ensemble of Texas’ The Nutcracker is at the Irving Arts Center, Dec. 1-3.
Avant Chamber Ballet’s “short and suite” take on The Nutcracker is on Nov. 16 at Whites Chapel in Southlake. The company’s Ballet Christmas Carol, a dancing interpretation of the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, has performances on Dec. 14 & 15 at Moody Performance Hall.
Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Gift of the Magi is a funny and sharp Broadway-style production that brings a ton of humor to the holiday. It runs from Dec. 13 through 17 at the McDavid Studio at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth.
Pocket Sandwich Theatre’s Ebenezer Scrooge, a musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol, runs from Nov. 24 to Dec. 23.
Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker is at McFarlin Auditorium on Nov. 18.
Jubilee Theatre in Fort Worth debuts A Motown Christmas, a musical production running from Nov. 24 through Dec. 24.
Chamberlain Performing Arts’ The Nutcracker is at the Eisemann Center in Richardson, Nov. 24-26.
Momentum Dance Company’s The Nutcracker is at the Irving Arts Center, Nov. 24-26.
Dallas Summer Musicals presents Irving Berlin’s White Christmas at the Music Hall at Fair Park, Dec. 5-10.
The wacky play The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is back at the Eisemann Center, from Nov. 24-28.
A ribald and hilarious spin on the holiday classic, A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker (Nov. 24-Dec. 26 at Addison’s Studio Theatre) follows a burlesque troupe enlisted to perform the ballet for a Baptist book club’s fundraiser.
Familiar faces from RuPaul’s Drag Race are at the House of Blues for A Drag Queen Christmas on Dec. 14.
The Ameristage Players present their theatrical adaptation of It’s a Wonderful Life at Plano’s Rover Dramawerks, Dec. 14-24.
Cirque Dreams Holidaze, a holiday-themed musical-circus family-friendly hybrid, is at the Verizon Theatre on Dec. 15 and 16.
Tuzer Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker is at the Eisemann Center on Dec. 16 and 17.
The Angelika plays Home Alone on Dec. 9, and the Jim Carrey live-action How the Grinch Stole Christmas on Dec. 2.
The Alamo Drafthouse theater in Richardson has:
- Die Hard (Dec. 4 and 24)
- Elf (Nov. 27 & 28; Dec. 4, 7, 18, 19, 20, 21)
- Gremlins (Dec. 13)
- Christmas Vacation (Dec. 2 and 20)
- White Christmas (Dec. 9 and 10)
- The Polar Express (Dec. 10)
- Jingle All The Way (Dec. 9)
- Home Alone (Dec. 2 and 18)
- Krampus (Dec. 5)
- Miracle on 34th Street (Dec. 3)
The Alamo Drafthouse theater in the Cedars has:
- Love Actually (Dec. 6, 13, and 23)
- Elf (Nov. 27 and 28)
- Gremlins (Dec. 8)
- Christmas Vacation (Dec. 1 and 3)
- White Christmas (Dec. 3)
- Home Alone (Dec. 7)
- Krampus (Dec. 5)
Grapevine’s Palace Theatre has a loaded schedule of Christmas movies throughout December, including It’s a Wonderful Life, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and A Christmas Story.