Take a Christmas light driving tour through key Houston neighborhoods

christmas-lights-houston-neighborhoods-river-oaks-woodland-heights-prestonwood-forest
Photo: 365 Houston

Pile in the car for a leisurely holiday drive and ooh and ah at Houston’s most popular Christmas light displays – in residential neighborhoods and at city landmarks alike.

Once the holiday season has calmed down and gifts have been bought, parties attended and holiday specials watched, it’s great to get in the car with a special someone or the whole family and just drive.

In most cases, checking out some of Houston’s best neighborhood Christmas light displays won’t cost you anything more than the gas it takes to get there. Just be sure you respect the neighborhoods.

In most cases, the appropriate hours to do Christmas light drive-bys are from 7pm to 10pm. Most lights start coming down the weekend following New Year’s Day.

  • River Oaks – You’re not likely to find holiday light displays that are any grander than what you’ll discover inside Houston’s most established and prominent neighborhood. Enter River Oaks from Kirby – either from Shepherd or Westheimer – and begin winding your way through the neighborhood. You’ll uncover enclave after enclave of bright holiday lights and tradition. Mind the rules of the road. Everyone is welcome to look, but River Oaks maintains its own security force and you’re likely to pass their patrols once or maybe ten times. Click here to see River Oaks on Google Maps.
  • The Heights & The Woodland Heights – For more accessible neighborhood charm, take a drive through the hood that hosts the annual Lights in the Heights event as well as the annual Heights Holiday Homes Tour. You’re certain to find some award-winning light displays in and near the core streets (Bayland and Highland) that made up the block party. Drive within the area bordered by I-10, Heights Boulevard and 19th Street I-45 and you’ll find much to please the eye and the camera. Click here to see The Woodland Heights on Google Maps.
  • Prestonwood Forest – This northwest subdivision is routinely voted and cited as Houston’s top neighborhood to experience a full Christmas light phenomenon. During Prestonwood Forest’s annual Nights of Lights Christmas light season, entire streets are decorated around a theme, many featuring large wooden cutouts and lawn displays. The neighborhood requests that visitors limit their Christmas light drive time to 6pm to 11pm. Click here to see Prestonwood Forest on Google Maps.
  • The Woodlands – Most neighborhoods in The Woodlands feature homes, if not whole streets, that are Christmas light showstoppers. However, you’ll find that the Panther Creek and Alden Bridge neighborhoods are best known for setting the bar high. Both feature over-the-top Christmas light displays, some that are choreographed to music. Click here to see Panther Creek and click here to see Alden Bridge on Google Maps.
  • Downtown Houston | City Hall & Discovery Green Park – Houston’s formal front yard at City Hall and open back yard at Discovery Green may not present your traditional residential Christmas light displays, but they are also not to be missed. Each year, the City of Houston lights the mayor’s official Christmas tree in front of City Hall to kick off the season. But with the ever-changing light show on the art deco City Hall building behind it, the classic tree is worth a drive-by any night of the holiday season. Likewise, the annual holiday light art installations at Discovery Green are almost more captivating than the much more celebrated (and super fun) The ICE at Discovery Green. Click here to see City Hall and click here to see Discovery Green on Google Maps.
  • The Museum District | Zoo Lights – Although the Houston Zoo is not a neighborhood, and you’ll need to pay to get in, a Houston Christmas lights connoisseur would find his or her holiday incomplete without taking in the zoo’s ever-growing Christmas light display. Plan an evening visit to the zoo while the animals are sleeping for an entirely new viewing experience. Click here to see the Houston Zoo on Google Maps.
  • Houston’s Shopping Districts | Post Oak Boulevard and Highland Village – These strips may not be residential, but they are pretty spectacular to drive down during a December evening. You can catch them both in less than ten minutes. From Loop 610, take San Felipe west into Post Oak. Turn left onto Post Oak and drive south towards the Galleria, taking in the white lights on the Christmas trees lining Uptown’s main holiday thoroughfare. When you arrive to Westheimer, take a left and cross under the Loop to head towards Highland Village. You’ll know you’ve arrived thanks to the glowing white palm trees lining either side of the road. If you’re just starting your Houston Christmas light tour, carry on to Kirby and turn left, taking yourself up into the heart of the grandiose River Oaks discussed at the top of this list. Click here to see Post Oak Boulevard and click here to see Highland Village on Google Maps.