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!
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?
*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.
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?
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.
There are also shops spread throughout to get some trinkets for the holidays.
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.
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.
There are also carnival rides, food & games section to keep everyone in the family entertained.
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!
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…
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!
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.
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.