Drive-thru holiday lights in Houston: Check out these displays from the comfort of your car

There are several neighborhoods around the region that offer dazzling, decorative displays, along with a few locations that sell tickets for drive-thru lights shows synched with Christmas music.

River Oaks Holiday Lights
Emmalee Cochrane
Holiday lights on a home in River Oaks.

Winter weather is typically mild in Southeast Texas, where shorts and T-shirts can sometimes be worn comfortably on Christmas, but it also can get cold in the Houston area. And it's a sprawling region that is easiest to navigate by automobile, with many residents accustomed to lengthy commutes during all times of the year.

With those things in mind, and as November gives way to December, here is a rundown of places where Houstonians can enjoy dazzling holiday lights displays without needing to leave the comfort of their car or truck. Even better, many of these locales can be enjoyed at no cost – beyond fuel – on just about any night before the start of the new year.

West Houston offers some thoroughfares that are close in proximity and typically go all out with holiday-themed lights: Post Oak Boulevard in The Galleria area and, on the opposite side of West Loop 610, Highland Village along Westheimer Road. The following neighborhoods, including nearby River Oaks, also are among the brightest and best-decorated during the holiday season, when all Houston-area residents are free to explore them while being respectful of those who live there and their properties:

Candlelight/Shepherd Park Plaza: As part of a decades-long tradition, residents of these adjacent subdivisions in north Houston put up decorative, holiday-themed arches that tower above their streets and create the appearance of tunnels. Many roads in the neighborhoods have decorating themes, and front yards are decked out as well.

Pecan Grove: Along with Quail Valley in Missouri City, this enclave in Richmond warms the hearts of Fort Bend County residents. Residents typically put up elaborate lights displays and lawn decorations.

Prestonwood Forest: The annual "Nite of Lites" competition in this Willowbrook-area neighborhood is scheduled for Dec. 9, but residents and visitors alike can enjoy the lights throughout the holiday season. Blocks in Prestonwood Forest are encouraged to come up with their own themes, so make sure to check out the entire neighborhood.

River Oaks: Some of the largest, swankiest homes in Houston can be found in River Oaks, which is between Memorial Drive and Westheimer Road to the south. So as one could imagine, holiday lights displays in the neighborhood tend to be just as grand and extravagant.

Woodland Heights: The annual "Lights in the Heights" event is scheduled for Dec. 9, when several streets in this affluent Central Houston neighborhood will be closed off to vehicles so residents and visitors can walk up and down lit-up blocks. The streets and their elaborate decorations can be accessed by vehicle on most other nights.

There also are four places in Greater Houston that are dedicated to drive-thru lights displays: one in the city as well as in Katy, New Caney and Spring. More information about these locales, which require tickets, is below.

Dasher's Lightshow (Northwest Houston and New Caney)

Houston-area residents have two options to check out drive-thru displays put on by Dasher's Lightshow, which this year is operating at Sam Houston Race Park as well as Big Rivers Waterpark & Adventures in New Caney. Both locations are open daily through Dec. 31 and feature lights that are synched with Christmas music playing on the radio. Children ages 2 and younger get in free.

Sam Houston Race Park, 7575 N. Sam Houston Pkwy. W.: This location is open daily from 6-9 p.m. Tickets start at $9.95 per person for a lights display that takes approximately 25-30 minutes to navigate in a slow-rolling vehicle. On-site hayrides also are available for $20 per person.

Big Rivers Christmas at Big Rivers Waterpark & Adventures, 23101 SH 242 in New Caney: Tickets start at $10 per person for the drive-thru lights show at Big Rivers, which is open from 6-10 p.m. through Dec. 31. There is an additional cost for admission into the park, where there also are hayrides, amusement rides, a petting zoo and "Santa's Walk of Lights," among other attractions.

The Light Park (Katy and Spring)

The parking lots for two Houston-area waterparks, Hurricane Harbor in Spring and Typhoon Texas Waterpark in Katy, are transformed every winter with millions of holiday-themed lights. The Light Park displays are open daily through Jan. 1, with operating hours of 5:30-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5:30-11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays as well as from Dec. 20-26.

Tickets cost $39 per vehicle when purchased online in advance or $50 at the gate. A DJ will be playing Christmas music at both locations – 555 Katy Fort Bend Rd. in Katy and 213000 Interstate 45 North in Spring – which are pet-friendly and offer food and drinks for purchase.