The Holidays At Moody Gardens Are What Christmas Dreams Are Made Of

The Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens features plenty of kid-friendly light exhibits featuring characters like Spongebob.
The Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens features plenty of kid-friendly light exhibits featuring characters like Spongebob.

Celebrating the holiday season with kids in Houston can be truly magical. Between seeing Christmas shows on stage, riding Christmas-themed trains, and breakfasts with Santa himself, Houston has no shortage of family holiday fun. Neighborhoods are decked out in twinkling lights and the entire city has public light displays galore, but some of the most brilliant of all of the holiday lights in the greater Houston area are at the Moody Gardens Festival of Lights.

When you and your family visit Moody Gardens this holiday season, you can not only see more than one million twinkling Christmas lights on display but can take advantage of the plethora of activities happening as part of Moody Gardens Holiday in the Gardens

My family recently got to experience the joy of exploring the holiday attractions at Moody Gardens, and I am here to tell you that there is absolutely plenty of fun to be had if you visit with your family. From the moment we stepped foot out of the parking lot, we were greeted with holiday decorations galore, including a massive Christmas tree and an adorable clan of lighted panda bears waiting to welcome us to the winter wonderland adventure that is Holiday in the Gardens. 

Getting ready to see, hear, smell, and feel Rudolph. 

First up on our Moody Gardens holiday adventure was seeing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in the Moody Gardens 4D theater. My kids laughed ridiculously hard as water was lightly spritzed over the top of us when the abominable snow monster fell into the arctic waters, and seeing a version of this classic film brought to life with enhanced 3D graphics, scents, and sensations was just so endearing. The entire experience only lasted about 15 minutes and included a fun sing-along at the end, which was just perfect for my little ones. If your kids have a little longer of an attention span, I would highly recommend checking out the MG 3D Theatre's showing of The Light Before Christmas to see a holiday film on the largest screen in Texas. 

This towering tree with dancing lights was a hit with my kids. 

By far our favorite attraction at Holiday in the Garden at Moody Gardens is the Festival of Lights. It's the main draw for folks from all across Houston to make the trek into Galveston and it does not disappoint. The walking light tour winds around the Moody Gardens waterfront property and displays an impressive amount of lighted displays with themes that please kids and adults alike. Welcoming us to the trail were giant ballerinas balancing beautifully on one leg and massive Nutcrackers lining either side of the walkway, the sheer size of which had my boys in absolute awe. We also got to see the holiday train — an optional add-on to your Festival of Lights experience — filled with passengers viewing the lights and listening to Christmas tunes chug by us as we entered the trail, which looked like a ton of fun. 

We then came upon an extremely tall cone-shaped tree that featured dancing lights up and down its screened facade where my boys decided to have their very own dance party as the Trans-Siberian Orchestra blasted a holiday classic over nearby speakers. Bribing my kids with roasting marshmallows over an open flame to make s'mores was the only way I was able to pull them away from continuing to dance the night away. I highly recommend using this tactic if you're needing to distract your kids from gazing too long the mesmerizing lights. 

Roasting s'mores was one of my family's favorite activities of the night. 

As we continued our journey along the trail, we encountered countless light displays — frogs, gingerbread men, toys, sea creatures, pirates, dinosaurs, flowers, spiderwebs, and more. Walking through the Festival of Lights is such an immersive way to experience the sights and sounds of the season as different music plays throughout the duration of the walk to match each of the scenes lit up along the walkway. In several different areas, lights are strung up above the walkway to create the illusion that you're walking within the light display. The dazzling lights overhead will make you feel like you're walking in a winter wonderland. These are the perfect spots to take as many selfie's as your heart desires. My boys also seemed to think these areas were prime spaces for more impromptu dancing.

One of the major highlights of the trail included seeing the pyramids lined with lights, lit up with what appears to be a lighted waterfall cascading down the side of one of the pyramids. My kids loved posing with Spongebob and Patrick Star, but seemed to equally enjoy singing along with the 12 Days of Christmas song at the end of the trail as the song played and each of the 12 items mentioned in the song lit up in sync with the song. We also thoroughly enjoyed watching the entire Christmas story play out as the giant Nativity scene lit up as the story was being narrated over the speakers. 

Dancing through one of the light displays along the Festival of Lights trail. 

One of the reasons why the Festival of Lights is one of the top holiday attractions at Moody Gardens is because in addition to seeing all of the fantastic light displays, your family can enjoy a plethora of snacks, shopping, and more along the way. At various points along the trail, concessions are set up with picnic tables where patrons can purchase treats like hot cocoa, turkey legs, corn dogs, flavored popcorn, and even adult beverages. There are great places to stop and rest if you're pushing a stroller through the trail — something that is totally do-able, by the way. Also nestled among the twinkling light displays is Santa's Workshop where families can visit the big guy himself and get holiday photos taken. Another fun activity to try while you're making your way through the displays is the outdoor ice skating rink. Grabbing a pair of skates and racing your kids around the rink is some of the most holiday fun you can have this season. 

If you're looking for a more unique holiday experience, Moody Gardens has you covered there too with their signature ICE LAND exhibit, running for it's sixth consecutive year. This year's theme, Christmas Around The World, takes vistors on a journey to see different landmarks from across the globe carved out of 2 million pounds of ice. You can see the Eiffel Tower, The Alamo, Sydney Opera House, Big Ben, The Great Wall of China, and more in the 28,000 square foot tent. Despite the complimentary parkas Moody Gardens provides, just be prepared to be a bit chilly — the entire tent stays at a temperature of nine degrees in order to keep the sculptures intact and looking as glorious as they do. You can even slide down a giant ice slide inside of the tent. 

One of the landmarks carved out of ice that you can view within ICE LAND. Photo courtesy of Moody Gardens via Facebook. 

The amount of things to see and do when you visit Moody Gardens this holiday season is truly unmatched anywhere else around town. Between gliding down the giant Arctic Slide, strolling through the seemingly endless displays of holiday lights, and gazing at the intricate ice sculptures, there is an activity to please just about every member of your family when you visit Holiday in the Garden this Christmas season.

The holiday attractions at Moody Gardens are open daily through January 12, including hours of operation on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Please be advised that some days leading up to Christmas, as well as the weekends, can get crowded. Taking a look at this handy chart Moody Gardens provides with expected crowd levels can be an insightful way to try and visit during an off-peak time if you're able. Ticket prices vary based on which attractions you choose to do and when you plan to visit, but combination tickets and value days offer you the most bang for your buck, so be sure to check out those options when planning your visit. You can find a complete list of detailed admission information, as well as hours of operation on the Moody Gardens website

All photos by the author unless otherwise noted.

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