Are you one of those people who jumps headfirst into the deep end of the Yuletide pool? Do you love being part of the holiday light show? Is being a strolling Dickens caroler on your bucket list? Is getting a selfie with Rudolph at the top of your holiday to-do list?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you’re going to want to check out these immersive and Instagrammable holiday events happening around the North Texas area.
The unique and genuine small-town celebration happens Friday night, Dec. 3. Traditionally, the Tree Lighting Festival takes place in Denton’s Historic Square, but this year there’s a twist. Rather than one tree lighting, there will be five different zones filled with fun, including five large trees spread across downtown. Activities include live music and performances, carriage rides, vendor booths, carolers, and even a twelve-foot snow slide. Admission is free to the festival, but you can purchase a wristband for additional activities such as the carriage rides and the snow slide.
The Holiday Lighting Festival coincides with another Denton holiday tradition–Wassail Weekend. That’s when downtown merchants stir up their favorite Wassail recipe (a fancy word for hot cider) and serve it to tasters on Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Tasting is free and open to all.
Instagram-worthy notes: The event is spread out in five different locations which means multiple opportunities for fun and photos. Get a photo with Santa and a rein-STEER on the Courthouse lawn. Take the trackless train around Who-ville Hollow at the Denton Historical Park. Pose for a photo with the Elf on the Shelf at Peppermint Park. And join Krampus in an impromptu parade through Downtown Denton Square on Dec. 4.
Pro-tip: Even though the event is spread out this year in 5 different locations, there will be A LOT of traffic. Instead of driving and looking for parking, consider using DCTA’s GoZone on-demand vanpool to get around to all of the different activities.
Fair Park, 3809 Grand Ave. Dallas | Select days through Jan. 2 |Tickets: Adult $20-35; Child $20
Enchant Dallas is a mega nighttime light display situated along the Esplanade at Dallas’ Fair Park.
As you make your way inside the main gate you’ll immediately be struck by the sheer number of different light features, installations, and experiences that lead you into the main event–a giant light maze that sends you on a hunt for Santa’s reindeer.
Enchant runs select days through Jan. 2. Your general admission ticket gives you access to a merchant’s village, the light maze, and a play area for little ones. For an additional fee, you can add on experiences like ice skating, visits with Santa and an adult’s only Polar Bar where you don coats and step into a 19-degree tent for a unique vodka tasting.
Instagram-worthy notes: Enchant is jam-packed full of opportunities to snap the perfect Instagram selfie, but more than that, it features artistry you’ll really want to stop and take in. For instance, the reflecting pool that runs the length of the Esplanade is decked out with hundreds of tiny lights on bendy wires. The effect makes the giant pool look like it’s full of sparkly fireflies.
Pro tip: Traffic to get inside the venue is challenging, so you might want to take a Uber or DART. Also, just like the State Fair of Texas, there’s A LOT of walking involved so be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
Holiday at the Dallas Arboretum
8525 Garland Rd. Dallas| Through Dec. 31 |Tickets: $10-$35
One place that’s rolling out the holly in a big way is the Dallas Arboretum. Their annual Holiday at the Arboretum lets visitors escape to Christmases old, new, and faraway.
The classic 12 Days of Christmas display returns to the garden again this year. The famous carol is depicted in twelve, 25-foot glass gazebos. Each display is filled with festive mechanical mannequins, holiday music, and elaborate props. The gazebos are situated throughout the garden and the decorated paths make for a festive walk and a pretty backdrop for photos.
Also returning this year is the Neuhoff Christmas Village. The European-inspired Christmas Market is made up of 14 shops and façades in the style of a European hamlet.
New this year is a 50-foot tall tree that sports 42,000 lights and plays holiday tunes. It sits at the bottom of a hill near the banks of White Rock Lake with a perfect view of downtown Dallas.
Holiday at the Arboretum is on display through Dec. 31. Reservations for timed tickets are required for both members and nonmembers. They can be purchased online at the Dallas Arboretum website
Instagram-worthy notes: The cute Christmas Village will make you feel like you’ve taken a trip to Bavaria. Pop into the Edelweiss Haus for a beer and stop by each of the tiny themed buildings for trinkets. Say hello to Santa in his house and jump on the sleigh for photo opportunities.
Pro-tip: Holiday at the Arboretum offers both daytime and nighttime experiences. There are benefits to both, but with over a million lights decorating the garden you owe it to yourself to go at night. If you can, go during the week to avoid the crowds–the closer we get to Christmas, the larger they’ll be.
Dallas Zoo, 650 South R.L. Thornton Freeway, Dallas | Through Jan. 2 |Tickets: $50-$65
Want to shake up your holiday light viewing a little bit? Take a ride through the Dallas Zoo and experience a yuletide safari. The one-mile route through the zoo is draped in over a million lights and features 3-D lighted sculptures, larger-than-life animal lanterns, and multi-colored tunnels so brilliant you’ll feel as if you’re driving through a kaleidoscope. And new this year, video light projections. These displays, which were created especially for the Dallas Zoo, look like animated animals running across the plains. To put you in an extra festive mood, tune into the zoo’s local AM station for holiday music.
You can tour Zoo Lights on select nights through Jan 2. Reservations for timed tickets are required for both members and nonmembers. They can be purchased online at the Dallas Zoo website.
Instagram-worthy notes: At the end of your tour be sure to stop by the Holiday Village for some hot chocolate and a visit with Santa. You’ll also find plenty of holiday displays perfect for selfies.
Pro-tip: The driving path created for Zoo Lights is fun and hilly (you’ll feel like you’re on a real safari) but it’s not designed to accommodate extra-large vehicles. The maximum size is a full-sized Suburban or a Ford F250. Vehicles need to fit in a standard size parking space, so you’ll need to leave the monster truck and grandpa’s RV at home.
Holidays at the Heard
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary, 1 Nature Place, McKinney
Dec. 17 & 18 |Tickets: $0-$10
For another unique spin on the traditional holiday light display, head to the Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary in McKinney for Holidays at the Heard.
You’ll see twinkling displays along a half-mile nature trail that fits in perfectly with the sanctuary’s natural beauty. But if you’re thinking this is an ordinary nature trail you’d be wrong, because situated along the path are the museum’s famous life-size dinosaurs. If a T-Rex draped in holly and twinkling lights doesn’t put you in the Yuletide spirit, nothing will! Besides the festive décor, you can also enjoy live music in the outdoor amphitheater and Father Christmas and Mother Nature will be on hand for photo ops.
This is a very popular event and it’s only two nights so be sure to reserve your tickets in advance.
Instagram-worthy notes: It goes without saying that you’re going to win the internet when you post a selfie with a holiday-themed dinosaur.
Pro-tip: A mile walk might not seem like a long distance, but if you’re wearing the wrong shoes or not dressed for the weather it can seem like 10 miles. Remember, this is a nature trail, so leave the suede boots with the spikey heels at home, check the weather before you leave the house and make sure everyone is dressed appropriately.
Galleria Dallas – 13350 Dallas Pkwy. Dallas| Through Jan. 17| Tickets: adults $27-$65, children 4-12 $12.
Brought to you by the same people who did last summer’s Instagram factory POP!, SNOWDAY is a combo experience that includes a visit with Santa and additional holiday photo set-ups. You can do both, or purchase them individually.
For the Santaland experience, visitors enter a room that is decked out to resemble a train bound for the North Pole. As the “train” departs, the scenery in the windows begins to move and a conductor elf chats up the room. The doors open to a snowcapped woodland trail that offers several photo opportunities with polar bears and Santa’s reindeer. The trail leads you to Santa’s house where you can get a socially-distanced photo snapped with the jolly old elf.
After you get your picture, walk through Santa’s closet and the SNOWDAY experience begins. It features 20+ rooms/photo ops that range from a mirror maze full of dangling colored lights, to driving a 1970s RV, to an all-white holiday living room. It takes about an hour to wind your way through the event. Expect some wait time for the more popular setups like the RV.
Santaland ends its run Dec. 24 (Santa has to go back to the North Pole) but you can catch SNOWDAY through January 17. Entry to Santaland and SNOWDAY are by reservation only. You can get tickets to both on the SNOWDAY website.
Instagram-worthy notes: This place is one-stop shopping for those who love posting the perfect selfie. The lighting and the set-ups make it easy to get a great shot and your ticket includes 5 photo experiences with integrated cameras and lighting that download directly to your device.
Pro-tip: The space is laid out as separate rooms with hallways connecting the experiences, so it’s a little difficult to stay socially distant. Book your time for the first appointment of the day to avoid the crowds.
For a complete list of all the fun happening this season, check out Art&Seek’s Holiday Events Theme.