11 Fun Things to Do on Christmas Eve With Kids in Houston

Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the Christmas season. I know a lot of people have holiday traditions that they enjoy throughout the month of December, like seeing a favorite play or visiting the same Santa for photos each year, while others have special activities reserved for Christmas Day, like enjoying a meal out with family or driving around to see the holiday lights and displays one last time. But to me, there's always been something magical about the night before Christmas. Growing up, that was the day we opened all of our presents from family members, attended the candlelight church service, and listened to Christmas carols while sipping hot chocolate and eating holiday treats, so I guess it's no surprise that I find myself wanting to make the day just as special in our house now that I have my own family. Luckily, there is no shortage of fun things to do with the kids on Christmas Eve.

This post is currently being updated for 2017

1. Bake and Deliver Christmas Cookies to Civil Service Personnel
There are many police officers and firefighters who work throughout the holiday to ensure our continued safety, even when they'd like to be home with their families. As a thank you for their service, spend the morning baking cookies and other holiday favorites with the kids, then deliver them to the local fire station and police department. The firefighters and officers on duty will appreciate the Christmas goodies, and you'll show your kids the true meaning of the season by giving back to those who routinely put their lives on the line for others. 

2. See a Holiday Show
If you still haven't found time to catch a holiday-themed show, don't fret - there are several options on Christmas Eve, including the classic "A Christmas Carol" at the Alley Theatre or "Sleeping Beauty and Her Winter Knight" at Theater Under the Stars.

Photo courtesy of Downtown Aquarium

3. Breakfast with Santa: Downtown Aquarium
410 Bagby St., Houston
Kick off Christmas Eve with a special breakfast buffet at the Downtown Aquarium. In addition to a delicious spread of food, the kids will be able to take photos with Santa and may even get to see him swim with the fish! Pricing for the buffet is $19.99 for adults and $13.99 for children ages 3-10. Seating begins at 8 a.m. Reservations are required. 

4. The Ice at Discovery Green
1500 McKinney St., Houston
Houston may not be known for its white Christmases, but you and the family can still take advantage of a cold-weather favorite this Christmas Eve when you go ice skating at Discovery Green. The 7,716-square-foot ice rink is the largest outdoor ice skating rink in the Southwest, and it offers an active alternative to spending the day indoors. The ice skating rink is open from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Tickets are $14 on-site and $17 online, and admission includes tax and skate rental. Various discounts are available and can be found here.

5. Go Christmas Caroling
Spread some extra holiday cheer by taking the kids around the neighborhood to sing Christmas carols. You just might pick up a neighbor or two along the way who wants to join in the Christmas fun as you go door to door singing holiday favorites like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. End the night by gathering around the fire and sipping hot cocoa. 

6. Photos With Santa at Traders Village
7979 N. Eldridge, Houston
Take photos with the big man in red and enjoy activities and shop from the regular hundreds of vendors at Traders Village in northwest Houston. Admission is free, but parking is $4.

7. Festival of Lights: Moody Garden
1 Hope Blvd., Galveston 
Over one million lights in 100 animated light displays, live entertainment, ice skating, and the Arctic Slide are just some of the attractions that make visiting the annual Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens an activity that's sure to make this Christmas Eve a memorable one.

8. Attend a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service
Many churches offer a Christmas Eve service that includes telling the story of the birth of Christ and singing Christmas carols. The message typically concludes with each person receiving a candle, lighting the candles, then exiting the church by candlelight to signify taking the light of Christ out to the world. This unique church service has become a Christmas Eve tradition for many and is a special way to celebrate the religious side of the season. 

Photo courtesy of John Everett

9. "A Christmas Carol"
615 Texas Ave., Houston
Much like "The Nutcracker Ballet", seeing "A Christmas Carol" performed live is a hallmark of the holiday season. Head to the Alley Theatre on Christmas Eve for an afternoon showing of this Christmas classic, and watch as Scrooge and his ghosts come to life on stage, imparting a message of hope even the youngest playgoers can appreciate and understand. The Christmas Eve performance of "A Christmas Carol" is at 2:30 p.m. Tickets prices vary based on seating. 

10. Drive Around Looking at Christmas Lights
Whether you are taking a jaunt around your neighborhood or venturing out to neighborhoods known to go all-out with their Christmas displays, like River Oaks or The Heights, looking at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve is something that is sure to become a favorite holiday tradition. Throw on your favorite Christmas sweater, hop in the car and turn up the holiday tunes, and spend the evening checking out all the different displays people put up to celebrate the season. This is also the last year to see the Franck Christmas Light Show.

11. See Some "Snow"
The Square at Memorial City features "snowfall" from 4-4:30 p.m. The timing is perfect for an early dinner at nearby CityCentre.

Top image courtesy of Moody Gardens

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