10 Best Things to Do in the Dallas Area this December

December in the Dallas area might not be a winter wonderland, but what we lack in snow we make up with loads of activities and plenty of seasonal cheer.

Feeling Festive? Then you’re in luck. In addition to Dallas’ other holiday attractions, you can check out the city’s impressive light displays and score scrumptious sweets from a slew of delicious dessert destinations with Dallas By Chocolate Tours. There’s also Texas Christkindl, a traditional German-themed holiday market at Arlington’s Texas Live Plaza, and ICE!–a walk-through winter wonderland of hand-carved ice sculptures at the Gaylord Texan.

Oh, and we’ve got the lowdown on a few less traditional things to do too. Running until the end of December is the immensely popular Sweet Tooth Hotel. No, it’s not really a hotel, it’s a totally immersive art exhibition in which Instagram dreams are made of. And for something even more offbeat, how about taking your holiday to new frights at Dark Hour’s Christmas-themed haunted house?

Still looking for more things to do? Then be sure to check out the rest of these activities, events and attractions happening in the Dallas area throughout December 2018.


George W. Bush Presidential Center
Photo courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Center

The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum is giving visitors a chance to celebrate the holidays like the First Family with a recreation of Deck the Halls and Welcome All Exhibit, the Christmas theme Laura Bush selected for the White House in 2006. The dazzling exhibit includes garlands with brightly colored glass ornaments cascading over doorways, topiaries, behind-the-scenes photos, and a replica of the Blue Room White House Christmas tree. Also on offer will be musical performances, fun activities and photo-ops with Santa in the Oval Office. The event kicks off on Tuesday, November 27, 2018 at 6 p.m. with a tree lighting ceremony in the courtyard and runs through January 6. General admission tickets are priced at $10-$16.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: The George W. Bush Presidential Center is a terrific place for all ages to learn about history and Bush's experiences during his presidency.

Ilene's expert tip: There is a parking lot adjacent to the library or if it's full there is a parking garage located down the street on the SMU campus. This venue is included in Dallas CityPASS.

Read more about George W. Bush Presidential Center →

Dallas Symphony Orchestra
Photo courtesy of Dallas Symphony Orchestra

'Tis the season for carols and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra has that all covered with its annual Christmas Pops concert at the Meyerson Symphony Center. Running December 7 through 16, 2018, the show features all your favorite yuletide staples and sing-along carols with the Dallas Symphony Chorus. Don't be surprised if Santa makes an appearance too. If Christmas music is not your thing, the DSO is also performing the Oscar-winning music of John Williams in 'Star Wars: A New Hope Movie in Concert,' December 20-22. And if you're looking for something simply sensational to do for New Year's Eve, the symphony's evening of Strauss waltzes may be right up your alley. Did we mention that there will be a champagne toast at intermission?

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: The DSO's Christmas Pops is the symphony's most popular family event.

Ilene's expert tip: Look for discounted tickets on sites like Groupon.

Read more about Dallas Symphony Orchestra →

NorthPark Center
Photo courtesy of NorthPark Center

You need to pick up some last-minute gifts, but your kiddos want to be entertained too, so what better place to get it all in than at a shopping center, right? And as far as shopping centers go, NorthPark has got to be one of the most festive ones during the holidays. Expect to find opulent decorations along with a sleigh-full of events which include everything from free marionette shows, live musical performances and an elaborate model train exhibit to a Santa meet and greet. The holiday fun begins on Black Friday with a reindeer festival at 10:30 a.m. in the Centerpark Garden and continues through Christmas Eve.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: NorthPark Center is the best place to go when you want to keep everyone in the group happy: There's something to do for all ages.

Ilene's expert tip: Score free valet parking when you dine at the Theodore. Note that the NorthPark Santa is ultra-popular and wait times for photos can be hours. The best option is to go on a weekday when the center opens and put your name on the list.

Read more about NorthPark Center →

Perot Museum of Nature and Science
Photo courtesy of Perot Museum of Nature and Science

The Perot is decking the halls with luminous dinosaurs for its dazzling, light-themed science exhibition--"Illuminate." From November 3, 2018 through January 6, 2019, visitors can see the likes of T. rex, Frenelopsis (a 110-million-year-old tree) and Alamosaurus transformed with elaborate light projections plus view an Aurora illumination installation and the Aurora Butterfly of Peace. This is also the time to get in on the final weeks of the popular 'Ultimate Dinosaurs,' an interactive exhibit which uses cutting-edge technology to bring to life the dinosaurs that once roamed the southern hemisphere. Look out for a winter solstice celebration on December 21, along with flashlight dinosaur scavenger hunts, dino dance parties and pop-up science demonstrations. Oh, and guests are encouraged to don glowing or light up attire too.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is one of the best science museums in Texas.

Ilene's expert tip: Avoid the long lines by securing your tickets online beforehand. You can also save on admission to the Perot Museum with Dallas CityPASS. Check the website for more details.

Read more about Perot Museum of Nature and Science →

Dallas Theater Center-Wyly Theatre
Photo courtesy of Paxton Maroney

There's nothing more quintessentially Christmas than A Christmas Carol, the beloved holiday classic about a cantankerous loner who discovers the meaning of Christmas with the help of three mysterious apparitions. And no place puts on a more delightful performance of it than the Dallas Theater Center, which has been doing it now for over three decades. But if you thought this was just another bah humbug production of the same fable, then fear not, this one takes the Dickens' tale to another level with spectacular special effects, songs, laughter and a talented cast of actors. Tickets start at $25 and the show runs from November 21 through December 30, 2018 at the Wyly Theatre. Note that the production is best suitable for children elementary school age and up.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Dallas Theater Center always puts on the best version of A Christmas Carol.

Ilene's expert tip: Come early or stay late to enjoy a 30-minute informative talk by one of the show's cast members.

Read more about Dallas Theater Center-Wyly Theatre →

Dark Hour Haunted House
Photo courtesy of Dark Hour Haunted House

If you thought haunted houses were only for Halloween, think again. This 30,000-square-foot house of horrors has switched out the goblins for evil elves this holiday season with its special attraction, "Wreck the Halls: The Christmas Wars." Taking place December 14, 15, 28 and 29, 2018, the yuletide thriller features Jack Frost and Carl the low rent Santa as well as a host of sentient toys in an epic battle against Krampus and his army of elves. And with elaborate sets, high-tech special effects and professional-grade actors, it's no wonder this haunt is consistently ranked as one of the nation's scariest. As an added bonus, you can also tour Dark Hour's second attraction, Carl's Playhouse, which takes place in a themed children's pizza parlor. Tickets for the holiday haunt start at $29 and can be purchased online through the website.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: USA Today ranked the Dark Hour as one of the nation's scariest haunted houses.

Ilene's expert tip: Check for discounted tickets through sites like Groupon.

Read more about Dark Hour Haunted House →

Dallas By Chocolate Tours
Photo courtesy of Dallas By Chocolate Tours

We can't think of a more surefire way to get in a festive mood than by seeing holiday lights while indulging in hot cocoa and premium chocolates. Between November 30 and December 30, Dallas by Chocolate offers a Christmas Lights, Chocolate and Sips tour package that kicks off with a visit to a variety of top local dessert venues before continuing on to view some seriously decked out 'hoods. The excursions last from three to four hours and include transportation via private bus, dessert samples, beverages and a tour guide. Other tours on offer include a pizza and chocolate experience as well as a taco and margarita tasting. The holiday light tours are held every evening except Christmas Eve and Christmas and start at $43.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Dallas by Chocolate is an ultimate foodie excursion at any time of the year.

Ilene's expert tip: Tickets can be purchased online. Save $4 on 4 or more tickets by entering the code CHRIS. Save $5 on 5 or more tickets by entering the code CHRIS5.

Read more about Dallas By Chocolate Tours →

ICE! at Gaylord Texan Resort
Photo courtesy of Gaylord Texan Resort

The Gaylord Texan always pulls out all the stops for the Christmas holidays—think 1.5 million holiday lights, a 52-foot rotating Christmas tree, 12,000 ornaments, a life-sized gingerbread house plus ice skating, scavenger hunts, games, build-a-bear workshops, Santa sightings and cookies with Mrs. Claus. But wait, there's more-including the resort's signature holiday attraction, 'ICE!'-- a walk-through winter wonderland featuring two million pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures showcasing favorite scenes from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. As if that's not enough, there's also five, two-story tall ice slides and an indoor twelve-lane tubing hill covered in real snow. Admission to ICE! starts at $13.99 child/$22.99 adult; combo tickets begin at $35. The festivities run from November 9, 2018 to January 1, 2019.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: The Gaylord offers an enormous amount of family-friendly, Christmassy things to do.

Ilene's expert tip: You can find discounted tickets available on Groupon. Marriott Rewards members can also score 25% discounts on ICE! Tickets by using the promo code MRICE18.

Read more about ICE! at Gaylord Texan Resort →

Texas Christkindl Market
Photo courtesy of Peter Mayer

One of area's largest German-themed holiday markets is back this year at Arlington's new entertainment venue, Texas Live. And with it comes brats, potato pancakes, German beer and gluhwein plus plenty of polka dancing and live music too. Need to do some last-minute shopping? Then you're in luck—the market features a slew of stalls peddling everything from handcrafted gifts to decorations and one-of-a-kind finds. Speaking of handcrafted gifts, keep an eye out for exclusive Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas decorations and designs from the renowned Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas Village in Germany. Best of all, there's no admission charge to get in. Christkindl takes place daily, from November 23 to December 23, 2018.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Christkindl Market is ideal for those looking for festive food, classic decorations and family-friendly fun.

Ilene's expert tip: Try to go during the week when it is less crowded.

Read more about Texas Christkindl Market →

Victory Park
Sweet Tooth Hotel
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Zizzo

Dallas' most Instagram-worthy dessert-themed art and retail pop up, which made its debut this past summer-- is back with a new psychedelic space-centric adventure titled "1955." On display from November 2 through December 31, 2018--the exhibition features five interactive spaces exploring the theme of retrofuturism (think: a rainbow fueled rocket ship, a pastry laced galaxy and alien snowmen). Oh, and in case you're still working on your holiday gift list, the venue also houses an awesome gift shop filled with limited edition products and artist works. Tickets are priced at $20 (children under 2 admitted free) and are only available online through the website. But hurry, time slots are selling out fast.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: The Sweet Tooth Hotel is one of the city's hottest attractions right now.

Ilene's expert tip: The exhibit is open weekdays from 10am - 7pm and weekends from 9am - 7pm. Victory Park offers free 2-hour retail parking at a number of garages and parking lots with validation. So be sure to get your parking ticket validated at the exhibit.

Read more about Sweet Tooth Hotel →


Meet Ilene Jacobs

As a perpetual wanderer, foodie freak and wannabe chef, Ilene is always on the lookout for the best places to see, eat, drink and sleep. When she's not writing about the latest happenings in...  More About Ilene