Houston traditionally celebrates the typical U.S. holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. As an expat, you will find that Thanksgiving is a big holiday in the U.S. and Houstonians celebrate it with a big parade downtown and private dinners or assisting in public dinners at hospitals, homeless shelters, women shelters and other needy institutions. There is also a parade for MLK day. Freedom Over Texas is a big festival and fireworks celebration downtown on the 4th of July holiday. In addition to these official holidays, Houston’s own tradition is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Nearby Galveston celebrates Mardi Gras during carnival time which is a big tradition on the island. In Fall, the Houston area celebrates the Texas Renaissance Festival northwest of Houston.
Here is more info on each holiday and/or event:
MLK Grande Parade – http://www.mlkgrandeparade.org/
Celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King and racial harmony by leading a parade through downtown with music and dance.
Occurs: Every year at Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the 3rd Monday in January, in downtown Houston.
Galveston Mardi Gras – http://www.galveston.com/mardigras/
Being near to New Orleans, Galveston hosts a local version of the world famous Mardi Gras celebration each year in Spring. The carnival-like celebration if characterized by a very outgoing and open-minded crowd and parades, galas, beads throwing, exhibitors, and local entertainment.
Occurs: End of February/Beginning of March on Galveston Island
Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (HLSR) – http://www.hlsr.com/
The HLSR or short ‘Houston Rodeo’ is a popular and famous event! The event is over three weeks long, and starts end of February with a BBQ contest cook-off, then horse and wagon trail rides leading to the Downtown Parade following with live Rodeos for the next three weeks. Concerts with top bands and singers (mostly country but also stars from other genres) are spotlighted during half times. There is also an ongoing horse and live stock show with elite auctions and an amusement park area offering entertainment for the entire family. The HLSR is an educator for the youth and a sponsor for scholarships for students participating in the Livestock Show with their animals. Make sure to check the newspaper and tune into the daily news to purchase tickets once the lineup of stars is announced and to follow daily rodeo action.
Reliant Park Admission: $ 7 (amusement park area with carnival, food vendors , shopping and access to the horse and livestock shows)
Concert Tickets: $ 18 – 300
Freedom Over Texas – http://www.houstontx.gov/july4/index.html
An annual Independence Day Celebration highlighting a concert with a popular band or singer. There are many booths and vendors with entertainment, games, drinks and food. 4th of July is celebrated with fireworks, so this festival is followed by a spectacular fireworks show starting after dark, usually around 9:30 pm.
The admission is $8 or bring a canned food donation for free access. (Check the newspaper and radio for details.)
Occurs on July 4th from 4 – 10 pm, downtown inside Eleanor Tinsley Park at the Buffalo Bayou.
H-E-B Holiday Parade – http://www.hebparade.com/
The Thanksgiving Parade in Houston is a great tradition for Houstonians and is televised on TV live.
Admission: General admission is free but there is a cost for Grandstand Seating starting at $12 up to $25 depending on when you purchase.
Occurs: Every year on Thanksgiving Thursday (3rd Thursday in November) morning in downtown Houston.
Texas Renaissance Festival – http://www.texrenfest.com/
A theme park-like festival celebrating the 16th Century in an 8-week long event.
Admission: Children $6 – $9, Adults $12 – $32.
Occurs: Every year from October – November in Plantersville, TX (north-west of Houston)
Houstonians like to be outside during the warmer months, specifically in the nice spring-time and fall-time and there are also several other events worth mentioning to expats that are happening in Houston:
Texas Home and Garden – http://www.texashomeandgarden.com/
Celebrating its 25th Anniversary in Houston in 2011, this event takes place every year at the Houston Reliant Center around February. This sprint-time show features trends and new designs for garden and interior home and can give great inspirations when getting ready for summer and renovating or building a new home or just enhancing an existing home.
Tickets: less than $10
Shell Houston Open – http://www.shellhoustonopen.com
Professional golf tournament.
No admission on Mondays and Tuesdays. 1 day pass starting at $25, 6-day pass starting at $100.
Occurs end of March/beginning of April, at the Redstone Golf Club in NE Houston, off Beltway 8 near Hwy 59.
International Festival – http://www.ifest.org/
A great fun summer festival featuring a specific part of the world each year. For 2011, it will spotlight Asia. The festival offers dances, food and other traditions from the featured country. In addition, it celebrates different cultures and is characterized by many vendors offering different kinds of food, music and art.
Admission is $ 18 or $10 for advance tickets.
Occurs April/May in downtown Houston by City Hall and Tranquility Park and Sam Houston Park.
Houston Art Car Parade
Houston is a very popular city for art cars and this parade features cars that have been rebuilt, redesigned, repainted and converted in any artsy fashion.
Occurs in May. It takes place on Allen Parkway.
Houston Hot Sauce Festival – http://www.houstonhotsauce.com/
An annual festival to honor the preference for hot peppers with a great opportunity to sample many spicy sauces.
The admission is $5.
Occurs end of September SW Houston at the Stafford Center at 10505 Cash Road.
Italian Festival – http://www.houstonitalianfestival.com
The Italian Festival celebrates the Italian culture and features the Italian traditions such as Italian food, dances, cars and bikes and music. There are many vendors and many entertaining activities, especially for children.
Admission: $ 6
Occurs in October downtown at the University of St. Thomas on the Campus Life Mall
Bayou City Art Festival – http://www.bayoucityartfestival.com
This festival celebrates music and art and is characterized by an enormous number of vendors offering painting, hand-made jewelry and sculptures.
Downtown: Admission is $ 10.
Occurs around the second weekend in October, downtown, in front of Cityhall off Bagby.
Houston Greek Festival – http://www.greekfestival.org/
Festival celebrating the Greek culture with a lot of food and highlighted by a show featuring talented dancers presenting the traditional Greek dances.
Admission is $ 5.
Occurs in October, near downtown and Museum District at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral at 3511 Yoakum Boulevard.