It’s easy to find fun ways to enjoy the holidays in Houston with family and friends. Here is a snapshot of activities a week before Christmas that are catching our eye:

1) Free performances of Handel’s Messiah: Enjoy this classical holiday showcase of Handel’s Messiah in its 12th season. Free tickets will be distributed at 7 pm each evening, first-come first-serve.
Dec. 17-19, 8 pm; Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church
8300 Katy Freeway

santa skating2) Skate with Santa: Kids will enjoy skating with Santa Claus at Discovery Green’s outdoor ice rink. Daily ice skating is open through February 7, 2016.
Dec. 19, 4-5 pm; $14 to ice skate but watch for free
1500 McKinney  photo: Tina Mathis

3) Free and cheap winter movie favorites: Catch a movie outdoors for free — or $1 at Alamo Drafthouse.
Dec. 17, 7 pm; National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Discovery Green; free
Dec. 19, dusk; Miracle on 34th Street, Central Green Park; free
Dec. 21-24, (10 am); How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Alamo Drafthouse; free + $1 donation

Houston Zoo Lights4) Houston Zoo Lights: Wander the winter wonderland at TXU Energy Presents Houston Zoo Lights with 2 million lights on more than 50 animal-themed light displays and miles of tree lighting. Sip hot chocolate, make S’mores over a firepit, listen to holiday music and jam to the glowing, musical art car!
Nightly through Jan. 9, 6 pm – 10 pm weekdays and open till 11 pm weekends; Pricing varies based on Value Night & Prime Night –$14.95-$19.95; Zoo members pay $9.95-$14.95
Houston Zoo, 6200 Hermann Park

5) Family Day at Bayou Bend: Enjoy a Sunday afternoon featuring free holiday fun making crafts, touring the house, indulging in cookies and wassail, and singing your favorite holiday songs with carolers. Take part in holiday traditions from many cultures.
Dec. 20, 1 pm – 5 pm; free
Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, 6003 Memorial Drive

6) Dickinson Festival of Lights: Don’t miss Dickinson Festival of Lights celebrating its 18th year. This amazing walk-through event is open Fridays – Sundays , 6 pm – 9 pm, and nightly December 21-31 at Paul Hopkins Park. Free admission, free parking, and free shuttle. Santa arrives beginning December 18!
Dec. 18-20 21-31, 6 pm – 8:30 pm; Free parking courtesy Dickinson Plaza Shopping Center, exit 19 (HWY-517) I-45N feeder Rd.

George Ranch Historical Park at Christmas7) Christmas in the Park: Explore and learn how Texas’ first settlers celebrated Christmas, tour a Victorian home with holiday decorations, enjoy a festive hayride and special activities at George Ranch Historical Park. Christmas in the Park is Saturdays in December. Don’t miss Treehouse Storytime with Santa at 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm. Historic activity classes, held at 11 pm, 2 pm, are $3.
Dec. 19, 22-23; Park admission is $10 adults, $5 children age 5-15, free 4 and under
George Ranch Historical Park, 10215 FM 762, Richmond (30 miles SW of downtown Houston)  photo: Roy Kasmir Photography

8) Live Nativity: Experience the story of Christmas at a Live Nativity at Sugar Land First United Methodist Church. The event will be on the front lawn. Guests are invited to pet the animals and visit the manger after each showing. Starts at 6 pm, 6:30 pm, 7 pm, 7:30 pm.

Dec. 20, 6 pm – 8 pm; 431 Eldridge Rd., Sugar Land