Experience Texas' Winter Wonder Island in Galveston This Holiday Season

This year, the beloved Victorian festival, Dickens on the Strand, celebrates its 50th anniversary. It’s no wonder Galveston is the Winter Wonder Island of Texas!

There’s no shortage of holiday destinations in Texas, but historic Galveston Island is the only one where you can experience tropical weather and a 32-mile-coast with traditional Victorian charm and light shows – all within a close drive from the state’s largest city.

Trees lit up with Christmas lights at Festival of Lights Galveston TX

pictured: Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens

Winer Wonder Island

Located just 50 miles south of Houston, Galveston is bringing exciting events to its holiday lineup this year with a highlight being the 50th anniversary of Dickens on The Strand and the return of the POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride.

WATCH: 'Tis The Season to Experience the Winter Wonder Island
Holiday Events in Galveston, Texas:
Participants in holiday clothing at the Dickens on the Strand parade in Galveston, TX.
Holiday Events
50th Annual Dickens on The Strand

The first weekend in December, Dec. 1-3, the majestic iron-front buildings found in Galveston’s historic downtown district will make the perfect backdrop for the 50th annual Dickens on The Strand. This holiday street festival transforms the area, particularly Strand Street, into the Victorian London of Charles Dickens complete with costumed characters, street performers and vendors, bed races, parades, holiday food and drink, Victorian-inspired crafts and more. Attendees are encouraged to join in the fun by dressing in period costumes.

Holiday Events

All aboard! Galveston will again welcome the POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride to its lineup of holiday attractions in 2023. Set to the soundtrack of the motion picture, The Polar Express will be theatrically recreated to immerse passengers in the sights, sounds and intrigue of this classic children’s tale while they are whisked away for a magical one-hour trip to meet Santa.

The POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride in Galveston consists of six separate cars pulled by vintage locomotives from the Galveston Railroad Museum’s collection. The attraction will be open on weekends and select dates Nov. 10 through Dec. 23.

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Holiday Events

More than two million pounds of ice will be carved into a colorful world for visitors to ICE LAND: Rainforest Holiday. It’s just one of the fun attractions at Moody Gardens Holiday in the Gardens, taking place Nov. 18 through Jan. 6. Visitors can stroll through Festival of Lights, a mile-long trail of illuminated holiday displays, music, festive food and more. Other attractions include an Arctic Ice Slide, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 4D experience, Holiday 3D films, train rides, pictures with Santa and a family-friendly New Year’s Palooza.

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Holiday Shows

For holiday entertainment, Galveston certainly won’t disappoint. The Grand 1894 Opera House, which is a gem in the island’s historic downtown district, offers no seat further than 70 feet from the stage for its exciting lineup of live holiday shows happening Nov. 19 – Dec. 16. Here you can catch shows like Annie, Jesus Christ Superstar!, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Galveston Symphony Orchestra and An Evening with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

For a schedule, visit www.thegrand.com.

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Festive drinks are served at Miracle Pop Up Bar in Galveston, TX.
Holiday Happenings
Miracle Pop Up Bar at Daiquiri Time Out

Miracle is a Christmas-themed pop-up cocktail bar that serves holiday cocktails in a festive setting. With kitschy holiday décor, professionally developed cocktails and the nostalgic energy of the best office party you’ve ever been to, Miracle is sure to get even the grouchiest grinch in the holiday spirit. Galveston’s Daiquiri Time Out (DTO) will host a Miracle Nov. 21 - Dec. 28. The speakeasy serves up imaginative, craft cocktails using fresh-squeezed juice and house-made spirits. While DTO certainly creates a memorable daiquiri, patrons will also enjoy an array of other adult beverages, especially those of the holiday-themed variety.

Holiday Shows
Holiday Delights at The Bryan Museum

Holiday Delights: A Step Back in Time will take place at The Bryan Museum Dec. 3 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Enjoy holiday delights for the whole family. This free event includes pictures with and letters to Santa, a petting zoo, an elf hunt, food trucks, crafts and music.

Holiday Happenings

For a unique holiday experience, join the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council for Holiday with the Cranes. This annual birding event will be held Dec. 9-10 as outdoor enthusiasts celebrate the arrival of these large, majestic birds of ancient origin. Events include indoor and outdoor nature activities and presentations combined with the ambiance of historical Galveston Island.

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Crowd of people wearing Santa-style shirts run in the Santa Hustle 5K
Holiday Events
Santa Hustle 5K, Half Marathon and Kids Dash

If you’re a runner and like to dress up, you’ll get a kick out of the Santa Hustle, one of Galveston’s wackiest events. More than 5,000 half-marathon and 5K runners are expected to convene in Galveston Dec. 17 for this jolly race where participants are provided Santa attire – including a Santa suit shirt, Santa hat and beard – to wear along their journey. The route is lined with speakers playing holiday tunes and fuel-up stations serving cookies and candy.

Holiday Tree Lightings
Holiday Events
Galveston’s Official Tree Lighting in Downtown Galveston

Santa will be a special guest at downtown Galveston’s tree lighting ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 25 at 7 p.m. Galveston’s police and fire departments will provide a special escort for the man in red. The tree lighting coincides with Galveston Art Center’s ArtWalk, a community-wide event that takes place every six to eight weeks. During ArtWalk, shops, boutiques and galleries remain open later into the evening and feature live entertainment at several venues throughout the downtown district.

Holiday Events
Christmas Tree Lighting at the Grand Galvez

On Friday, Nov. 24 at 6 p.m., the Grand Galvez continues its annual Galveston Holiday Lighting Celebration to bring in the holiday season with an appearance from Santa Claus and the lighting of the hotel’s 35-foot Christmas tree. The event takes place on the grand palm tree-lined front lawn of the hotel. Following the tree lighting, Galveston Ballet will perform a medley of variations from the ballet, “The Nutcracker” and the Galveston Symphony Brass Ensemble will perform holiday classics.


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