Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from the opera in Houston and Friday night lights in Odessa to surfing along the coast and hiking in the mountains. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
[DEC 24–DEC 30]
The Mesquite Championship Rodeo is one of the sport’s most accessible events. Thanks to brand new management of the 53-year-old affair, there’s plenty to take in besides actual rodeoing, including laser light shows, pyrotechnics, and Jumbotrons. There’s even a swanky bar, the 8-Second Club, where you can order more than just canned beer. At the heart of the spectacle, though, is some rough-and-tumble competition between the best in the business. The rodeo tests cowboys’ touch with roping, agility with barrel racing, and fearlessness in confronting two-thousand-pound raging bulls. Your heart will skip a beat at the feats of the clowns working the pale horses and pale riders. Their brushes with catastrophe are part of the fun—but if you think they’re brave, wait till you catch the Mutton Bustin’ competition, wherein boys and girls four years and older, and weighing no more than 55 pounds, hang on for dear life atop unruly sheep.
Resistol Arena, Dec 28 & 29, 7:30 p.m.
It took the movie Crazy Heart to thrust Ryan Bingham into the mainstream with his Academy Award–winning song “The Weary Kind.” Now Mr. Bingham’s buddy, Texas troubadour Hayes Carll, will have the same opportunity when two of his songs appear in Country Strong, the forthcoming singer-songwriter flick starring Gwyneth Paltrow and real-life country musician Tim McGraw. “Hard Out Here” and “Hide Me” reinforce an Americana equation of blues, folk, and country that worked well for Mr. Carll on his previous album, Trouble in Mind. The two songs are also on the Woodlands native’s forthcoming album, KMAG YOYO (& other American Stories), out February 15. The title is military speak for “kiss my ass, guys, you’re on your own,” but the opposite is true: Mr. Carll traded in his solo act for a four-piece band this time around. Tuesday night’s show is one of the first chances to hear the new songs live, as well as the album’s title cut, about a soldier in over his head in Afghanistan.
Warehouse Live, Dec 28, 9 p.m.
Check out the dossier on Remington when you go to the Belle Starre Carriages website to reserve a holiday carriage ride through tony Highland Park. He’s no ordinary Clydesdale: He reigned for a period as the world’s tallest living horse, measuring just over twenty hands—that’s about 6 feet, 8 inches tall. Weighing nearly three thousand pounds, he’s able to lug up to ten people on his “H.U.V.” (horse-drawn utility vehicle). But if Remington is an intimidating beast, he will guarantee that the well-to-do envy you more than you do them, especially after your tour guide dishes, as advertised, on all the juicy details of the Highland Park elite. Be prepared to do goofy stuff like wear foam rubber antlers and sing “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” the 1979 Elmo Shropshire classic.
Highland Park, Dec 25–30, various times.
Bucks Burnett knows what he’s asking Santa for: $2,000. As of press time, that’s how much he still needed to raise to ensure the opening—on Christmas Day—of the Eight Track Museum, the home for his personal collection of more than three thousand of the clunky, bygone cartridges, including complete collections of Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and the Beatles. About one thousand of his prized relics will be on display during the opening exhibit, “Conceived in Cars: Birth of the Eight Track 1965,” which comes fully equipped with vintage car stereo decks. Mr. Burnett, a 52-year-old Renaissance man who is president of the Tiny Tim Fan Club and formerly editor of the Mr. Ed Fan Club newsletter (as in the talking horse), remains optimistic Santa will deliver. “It’s sort of like Woodstock, where the festival nearly falls apart every ten minutes but somehow happens,” he said.
Eight Track Museum, Dec 25, 1 p.m.
The more people who attend “Fronterizos in Exile: A Reading of Border Writers and Expatriates,” the better the chance that it will turn into a full-on demonstration of the injustices of life on the U.S.-Mexico border—and that it could lead to actual change.
Loft Light Studio, Dec 29.
A three-course, wine-paired dinner and the Napa-esque ambience of cold, rain, and maybe even snow await as part of Christmas in the Vineyard at Flat Creek Estate, home to one of Food & Wine magazine’s 50 Most Amazing Wine Experiences in America.
Flat Creek Estate, Dec 24 & 26.
• • • • •
Eight more gotta-see, gotta-do events that you can’t afford to miss.
By Melanie Gasmen
Turner to Monet: Masterpieces From the Walters Art Museum
Forty works by nineteenth-century Impressionist artists such as Claude Monet and Edgar Degas and British and American masters like J.M.W. Turner and Asher B. Durand will be on display. Be sure to see Manet’s Café-Concert and Eugène Delacroix’s Christ on the Sea of Galilee.
The Blanton Museum of Art, Dec 21–Jan 2, various times.
For 25 years the music group has reinvented traditional Christmas tunes with synthesizers and New Age elements, making its annual tour a holiday favorite. The Meyerson Symphony Center, Dec 26, 8 p.m.
Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker Masha and her magical toy take center stage in this rendition of the classic holiday favorite.
Pioneer Plaza, Dec 23, 4 & 8 p.m.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
The whole family will enjoy this adaptation of the stop-motion TV movie about Santa’s ninth reindeer. Favorite characters, such as Yukon Cornelius, Hermey the Elf, Santa, and Rudolph himself, will be live onstage.
Casa Manana Theatre, Thru Dec 23, 7 p.m.
After feasting on a holiday dinner buffet, enjoy a performance that retells the story of the birth of Jesus through music, dance, and aerial acrobatics.
Moody Gardens Convention Center, Thru Dec 26, 7–10 p.m.
In this juried exhibition showcasing the best Texas-made contemporary crafts, 73 works were selected from more than 460 submissions and range from metal and glass pieces to recycled materials.
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, Dec 21–Dec 30, various times.
A Tuna Christmas
Joe Sears and Jaston Williams play all 24 citizens of Tuna, the third smallest city in Texas, and have a laugh or two along the way.
Majestic Theatre, Dec 21–26, various times.
Rail of Lights Christmas Train
Ride on an old-fashioned steam train along the Cypress Bayou River, which will be illuminated with lights, while celebrating the history of the Christmas tree.
Rail of Lights, Thru Dec 25, various times.