houston holiday lights; magical winter lights
[ Destinations ][ Houston ][ USA ]

Houston Holiday Lights: Magical Winter Lights & Lantern Festival

After our botanical garden visit last week while in Pittsburgh, we decided to do a little research online to find a holiday light event in Houston.  We were lucky to find a unique Houston holiday lights event that would capture the holiday spirit and fulfill our desire to find more lights!

magical winter lights, houston holiday lights

We made our way over to the Sam Houston Race Park who is hosting the Magical Winter Lights: Houston Lantern Festival & Holiday Celebration. It is a huge outdoor display of holiday lights and hand-made lanterns (inspired by Chinese lantern designs) to recreate the world’s landmarks and landscapes.  It is the largest lantern festival in the USA – how cool is that?

magical winter lights, houston holiday lights

*Tip* Arrive to the Houston holiday lights festival early – The lights go on at 5:00 pm, so it is a great time to capture the lanterns with the sun setting in the background! Additionally the crowds are low so you get clear views of the displays.

magical winter lights, houston holiday lights

magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
magical winter lights, houston holiday lights

We spent about 3 hours there viewing all of the spectacular lanterns and Houston holiday lights while capturing as many photos as possible.  It was like going on a tour of the world in one evening.  Can you recognize some of the iconic structures?

magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
magical winter lights, houston holiday lights

Multiple food trucks (The Waffle Bus! One of my favorites in Houston) and beverage stations (wine, beer, pop/soda, water, hot drinks as well) are there to feed your appetite while you admire the Houston holiday lights. We had the Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Waffle + Waffle Fries!  Amanda also grabbed a wine to wash down our waffle feast.

magical winter lights, houston holiday lights

magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
magical winter lights, houston holiday lights

There are also shops spread throughout to get some trinkets for the holidays.

magical winter lights, houston holiday lights

There is an enormous Christmas Tree lantern in the center of the park.  It can be seen from everywhere.  Just look up and you will see it.  This is where Mr. & Mrs. Santa Claus are located to visit with and take a picture.

magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
There is also a 30-45 minute show that began at 7:00 pm which featured Chinese acrobatics. It was a great variety show and display of the Chinese culture (balancing, strength and coordination).  It was quite impressive to see the skill they displayed during the multiple phases of their act.  Definitely make sure to plan on attending this show.  According to the website, there is a second show at 9:00 pm.

magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
There are also carnival rides, food & games section to keep everyone in the family entertained.

magical winter lights, houston holiday lights

It is an outdoor activity, so use some common sense and wear a jacket during the cooler evenings. Also, don’t wear your best pair of shoes. Plan on taking a little dirt and dust back home with you as a souvenir, it’s outdoors after all! Ample amounts of hay and rocks have been laid down to create a pathway to lead you through all of the light displays. This also addresses any water concerns from rainy weather that will be experienced during the 52 day holiday festival. We used the puddles to our advantage and got some great reflection shots of the Houston holiday lights!

magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
magical winter lights, houston holiday lights

magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
There is also a dinosaur area that the kids will really enjoy.  The dinosaurs were life size!  Well, I am guessing there were life size, I never experienced a real life dinosaur before…

magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
magical winter lights, houston holiday lights

Everything is well lit because of the sheer size of the lanterns that fill up the park. We found it very easy to get some great pictures and have a fun time. It is definitely a unique night out for families, kids or even date night to celebrate the holidays!

magical winter lights, houston holiday lights

magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
magical winter lights, houston holiday lights

Our only minor critisism was the music.  While they tried to pair themed music with specific lanterns, the volume was loud in several areas and it seemed the music was competing with the surrounding displays.  Also keep in mind this is a lantern festival therefore not everything is Christmas or holiday themed – it’s meant to be a global lantern representation and experience.

magical winter lights, houston holiday lights
Have you been to a lantern festival?  Do you plan on checking out this Houston holiday lights festival?  If so, let us know in the comments section.

houstonholidaylights

 

Sharing as part of #weekendwanderlust.

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15 Comments

  1. Whoa those are some pretty awesome light displays! It’s like taking a neon coloured trip around the world. And I guess back in time with those dinos too 😉 very cool!

    1. Thank you, they truly are larger than life!

  2. Wow, that is a huge display of lights! I had know idea Houston put on something like this (and admittedly, I did catch myself asking about dinosaurs during the holidays until you reminded us it was a lantern festival). How did you capture the photos so perfectly? You had some really great shots and not a lot of people standing in the way 🙂

    1. Thank you!! This is the first year for the event. Key to great photos is a tripod and going early before the crowds arrive 🙂

  3. This looks awesome; beautiful lights and yummmm to food trucks

  4. That’s incredibly bright! We don’t have anything like this in Santa Barbara.

  5. Thanks for the tip on leaving home your best pair of shoes. A little bit of dust road dirt never hurt anyone and wouldn’t deter me from visiting this place. Looks like a fun experience, like a mini trip around the world. Good to know there are food trucks, and of course I’d love to see the Chinese acrobatics. I always love seeing what amazing things people can do.

  6. Wow! What an incredible festival, it looks more like Vegas than Houston. And I agree with Becky, you have captured it beautifully. Gorgeous!

  7. Those lanterns were STUNNING! I have a love affair with lighting in general so seeing this kind of festival would be exactly why I need to go to Texas ASAP! I kept thinking each picture was my favourite until I saw the next, finally I think the bowl of noodles was hilrious and the Christmas tree was incredible!

    1. Thank you! We had quite a laugh as we stood in front of the giant bowl of noodles as well! We hope you get the opportunity to come while this festival is going on, it’s worth it!

  8. Wow! Those are absolutely beautiful! Perfect to get us all in the holiday spirit!

  9. Wow!! I didnt know about this! looks awesome

  10. What great photo’s – sadly here in Australia such a display would most definitely be a one off – even houses decked out with lights are few and far between!
    I blame the weather/hemispheres: wrapping up warm to walk around a light display really feels christmas-sy – and with days at 38 degrees c coupled with late sunsets mean that its not quite the same! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  11. Oh wow… that looks SO amazing and you captured it all so perfectly — the colors, the scenes… ahhh. I’d love to see this with my own eyes! but for now, your post should suffice.

  12. Wow! I had no idea there was a lantern festival in Houston! It looks amazing.

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