Holiday at the Arboretum- A Guide to this Dallas Christmas Favorite

It’s no surprise that the Dallas Arboretum goes all out for Christmas and the holidays each winter. Holiday at the Arboretum kicks off the winter festivities in late November. Here you can enjoy a variety of activities from the 12 Days of Christmas exhibit to the Dallas Arboretum Christmas Village, and other holiday events and exhibits in between.

Ready to indulge in a holiday-themed light display, a variety of food and beverage options, and a charming little village inspired by European Christmas Markets? Holiday at the Arboretum is for you!

Here we’ll share what you can expect, when to visit, where to find the best photo spots, and more.

Read on to see what you’ll find during Christmas at the Dallas Arboretum!

Holiday at the Arboretum: An Overview

The Dallas Arboretum is a 66-acre botanical garden that truly is a local favorite. And the Holiday at the Arboretum is one of the premier holiday events in Texas. With over a million lights, the gardens are transformed into a magical winter wonderland that is sure to bring joy to all who visit. For the last eight years, the Arboretum has been hosting the 12 Days of Christmas exhibit. In more recent years, they have added two new exhibits: the Pauline and Austin Neuhoff Christmas Village and the Artistry of Faith & Culture.

To top it all off, the Arboretum fills its nights with live music, epic lights, and a variety of festive food and drinks. This year’s event is sure to be bigger and better than ever! With the addition of holiday-themed shows and activities, the Dallas Arboretum Christmas experience is sure to provide a memorable experience for all who attend.

It’s truly fun for the entire family, fantastic for couples (a perfect Dallas date idea… here are more!), perfect for friends, and great if you’re solo!

And it opens before Thanksgiving in early November (it opened November 10th in 2022), so if you’ve got out-of-town relatives visiting for Thanksgiving, this is a perfect way to show off the best of Dallas!

The Dallas Arboretum Christmas Village

The Dallas Arboretum Christmas Village is the Dallas Arboretum’s answer to charming Bavarian Christmas markets halfway around the world. So if you can’t make it to a charming European town this winter (and even if you can), this Christmas Village is for you!

Last year, Santa Claus was given his own house and a sleigh for photo opportunities. This will hopefully be available during the next holiday season! We’ll provide more updates on that as soon as the Arboretum releases information for the 2023 season!

For entertainment, visitors can enjoy a German-built authentic Christmas Pyramid with animation on every level, charming Bavarian-style shops, and a tavern and biergarten serving up festive food and drinks.

Don’t miss the Dazzling Musical Tree with over 42,000 lights; it’s a fifty-foot-tall tree made even more festive with merry holiday tunes on the Martin Rutchik Concert Stage. And they don’t skimp on music either, from live ensembles to local choirs- check out what music you can find here!

Visiting the Dallas Arboretum Christmas Village at Night

From 6-9pm, the Christmas Village lights up with more than a million lights, making it a truly magical experience. While Dallas Arboretum members get free entry to the Arboretum during the day, everyone has to pay an entrance fee at nighttime. However, it’s an experience that is totally worth it! (And there is still a bit of a discount for members. I list admission info at the end of this post.)

The shops and trees are aglow with festive decorations and visitors can explore the various shops and attractions.

On the weekends and evenings, volunteers dress as shopkeepers and are available in each store, passing out samples of their goods. The candy shop, in particular, is a favorite of children and adults alike! You can enjoy a complimentary sample of candy while you explore.

The Christmas Village also offers a range of activities and attractions as you can stop in each shop, learn about how things are made (like how shoes are repaired or how candy is made), listen to music at the Band Stand, and drop off a letter to Santa in the Post Office. Visitors of all ages can make lasting memories while strolling through the village and enjoying the holiday.

While daytime at the Dallas Arboretum is better for families with small children who have early bedtimes, nighttime is when the Christmas Market comes alive and feels even more magical.

(Another thing to note if you have children- the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden is a must! It’s a permanent fixture at the Arboretum that kids absolutely love. Note that it closes after the Christmas holidays for winter maintenance until February.)

The Shops at the Christmas Market

While parts of the Christmas Village are purely aesthetic, others are more interactive.

At the heart of the Christmas Village is Pyramid Square, featuring the 23-foot-tall Marilyn and Ben Weber Family Christmas Pyramid. It’s a hand-carved German-built structure with moving parts and beautiful details.

Also in the Christmas Village, the gorgeous clock tower and bandstand are surrounded by almost 20-foot tall houses that you can stop into.

Enjoy a sample of baked goods from the bakery, while peering at the festive window display. Then head over to the candy shop and sample a stick of peppermint, while learning firsthand from the candy striper how they create this delectable candy!

Here are the twelve Christmas Village shops you’ll find:

  • Santa’s House
  • Post Office
  • Candy Shop
  • Bakery:
  • Bookstore
  • Flower Shop
  • Music Shop
  • Doctor’s Office
  • Cobbler
  • Butcher
  • Hat Shop
  • Carpenter

Getting Photos with Santa

A photo with Santa is a great way to celebrate the holiday season!

Thankfully a visit with Santa at the Dallas Arboretum Christmas Village is included with garden admission.

You can share your Christmas wish with Santa in Santa’s house and take a photo with him to commemorate the occasion.

Keepsake family photos are available for a donation to the Volunteer Advisory Board on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 12-3pm beginning November 25 through December 24.

The Santa line closes to guests based on expected wait time, so it is best to arrive early. If time remains prior to the end of Santa’s visit time, last minute guests will be permitted to see Jolly Old Saint Nick before he flies home for the evening!

Can you buy things at the Dallas Arboretum Christmas Village?

As charming as it is, the Christmas Village isn’t a traditional Christmas Market like you’d find in European cities- the little shops in the Village don’t sell things. However, you can purchase a few things like hot chocolate or biergarten items in the Christmas Village.

Additionally, you can get some free samples as you explore the Christmas Village like seeds to grow your own plants, a piece of candy, a specially designed bookmark, small bakery samples, a pencil, a jingle bell, and more.

However, if you’re looking for a festive market at the Arboretum where you can shop, one weekend in November offers just that at the Holiday Goods & Décor Vendor Market.

More than 20 local vendors sell handmade gifts, decorations, and more. You can find a wide variety of items at this market, ranging from jewelry and art to clothing and home décor.

You can also purchase freshly made treats, such as cookies, fudge, and candied apples, as well as hot cider and cocoa. If you’re looking for something a bit more special, you can also find unique gifts, such as hand-blown glass ornaments, candles, and locally made pottery.

You’ll find it in the Main Entry Plaza; check out full information here!

The 12 Days of Christmas at the Dallas Arboretum

While you’re at the Dallas Arboretum, you can’t miss the 12 Days of Christmas gazebos which come to life and feature over a million lights throughout the Arboretum!

The 12 Days of Christmas at the Dallas Arboretum is an annual event that celebrates the holiday season. Visitors to the arboretum can take in the sights and sounds of the season with live entertainment, festive decorations, and much more.

The 12 Days of Christmas exhibit features 12 life-size (we’re talking 25-foot-tall!) Victorian style gazebos featuring characters from the beloved Christmas carol.

You know the one:

Twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords a-leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a-milking, seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle-doves, and a partridge in a pear tree!

Each gazebo has exquisite details, from rhinestone-encrusted pears hanging from gold branches to feather-tailed turtle doves sitting on an arrow. You’ll find a beautiful Victorian circus with a white bear surrounded by gold rings, ladies in beaded Victorian garb, and ice-skating lords on a mirrored floor as a frozen pond.

The gazebos are relatively spread out throughout the park, so keep that in mind and wear some comfortable shoes for strolling!

The Artistry of Faith & Culture

The Artistry of Faith and Culture exhibit, focusing on world holidays, comes to life in the historic DeGolyer House. You’ll find a beautiful blend of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa decorations up in this historic home. You’ll also see a bit about Diwali, the festival of lights, even though it is celebrated in late October.

This relatively new exhibit really embraces the diversity of the holiday season. It’s available on the weekends from 10am to 4pm and on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings from 6pm to 9pm.

Special Events

The Dallas Arboretum is the place to be come wintertime for beautiful sights and free and repeating events. From Holiday Tea at Restaurant DeGolyer and CC Young Senior Living Thursdays to the Artistry of Faith & Culture Exhibit and Learn to Grow Fridays, there is something for everyone.

Starting in November, every Monday at 11am, Chef Chastity Alexander from Hardwood’s Dolce Riviera will demonstrate how to create healthy and delicious seasonal dishes.

Every Tuesday at 11am you can check out Tasteful Tuesdays Floral Demos where a local floral expert demos a design inspiration. At 1pm, Daily Tastings Demos features Resident Chef Isabel Snetsinger; she shows you how she creates her seasonal recipes.

Finally, on Fridays at 11am, You’ve got Learn to Grow Fridays. Here the Dallas County Master Gardeners, the Dallas Arboretum Horticultural Staff, and local experts will provide special tips and presentations on summer plants and gardening topics.

And don’t miss out on the Holiday Goods & Décor Vendor Market in November.

You can see the full calendar of events here.

Food at the Dallas Arboretum

Visiting the Arboretum during mealtime or snack time? There are several great food options available for you!

Dallas Arboretum Christmas Village Treats

We’ve mentioned the bakery and candy shop as popular attractions in the Christmas Village where you can get some small samples. But if you want something warm to sip on while exploring the Christmas Village, stop at the hot chocolate stand!

Henry and his team at Lucca & Livvy serve up delicious hot chocolate and spiced cider out of a cute bike cart decked out for Christmas. (They’re the ones behind Nitro Press Infusions as well, which you may have seen in Central Market!)

You can also visit the biergarten and Edelweiss House tavern in Pyramid Square within the Christmas Village for festive food and drinks.

Restaurants

From sit down restaurants to casual cafes, visitors have a few dining options to choose from.

Café on the Green and Restaurant DeGolyer are the two most popular spots. Enjoy classic dishes like crab cakes, pan-seared salmon, and steak frites, all with a beautiful view of the gardens.

You can get casual fare at the Grilled Cheese Kiosk, which is open weather permitting.

The Lula Mae Slaughter Dining Terrace is great for quick bites with a view of White Rock Lake (and if you look carefully, you’ll even see downtown Dallas in the distance).

You can find full restaurant details here.

Photography

The Dallas Arboretum at Christmas is full of great photo opportunities! Here are answers to some popular questions regarding photography at the Dallas Arboretum:

Is photography allowed at the Dallas Arboretum Christmas exhibits?

Yes, they permit photography at the Dallas Arboretum Christmas exhibits and in the park as a whole. The Arboretum encourages visitors to take photos of their holiday decorations and displays, so long as you take photos without flash and respect other visitors.

In fact, the Arboretum is a spectacular choice for photos- it’s one of my favorite Dallas photo locations. You can see my favorite Instagrammable Dallas spots here!

Do you have to pay extra if you bring a professional photographer?

Yes, there is an additional charge for commercial photography. Commercial photography is defined as photography within the gardens to promote or sell a product or service.

Examples include photos intended for product placement, advertisements and merchandising purposes.

Photographers wishing to arrange a photo shoot should contact [email protected] or 214.515.6512. Additionally, the Arboretum offers a VIP room that you can book for private dressing rooms.

How much is it to get a photo with Santa at the Dallas Arboretum Christmas Village?

Photos are available for a donation to the Volunteer Advisory Board. The exact amount of the donation is up to you, but it is recommended to donate at least $10 per family photo.

Photos with Santa occur on December 9th and 10th (12–3pm & 6–9pm), December 16th to 23rd (12–3pm & 6–9pm) and December 24th (12–3pm). 

If you want to book a private session with Santa (called a Believe! session), you can do so for an additional cost. There is a 15-minute option (starting at $99 per family) and a 30-minute option (starting at $249 per family). You’ll get an exclusive Santa encounter in his North Pole workshop where your children can interact with Santa. These Santa visits are complete with professional photography, hand-finished digital art, and an online ordering gallery. Learn more about the Believe! experiences here!

When is the best time to visit for photos?

If you can swing a weekday visit, this is the best time to take photos while avoiding bigger crowds. Typically, the earlier in the day, the better.

If you’re a member of the Arboretum, you can come before it opens at 9am as part of the “member walks” perk. Though the Arboretum doesn’t allow photography until 9am, you can find all of your photo locations and get ready before the general public arrives.

However, if you want photos with Santa, you’ll have to come on a weekend or the week before Christmas.

What are the best Dallas Arboretum Christmas photo spots?

From the 30-foot-tall spruce tree in the Christmas Village to the beautiful Christmas Market store fronts, there’s no shortage of photo opportunities here. And I hope you’ve gotten some photo inspiration from the photos throughout this article!

But for some more ideas, here are some specific photo locations at the Dallas Arboretum Christmas exhibits that are great for photos.

Sitting in Santa’s Sleigh
In front of the Christmas Tree
In front of the clock tower
Framed by fir branches
By the Christmas Village store fronts
With any of the 12 Days of Christmas gazebos

Hours and Pricing

You need to reserve your spot here before visiting the Arboretum. Since tickets are limited, make sure you reserve before going! Both non-members and members are required to reserve tickets in advance.

Holiday admission goes from November 10th till December 31st. General admission is $20 (adult), $16 (senior), $12 (child), and members are free.

Nighttime admission is cheaper for non-members. From Sunday to Tuesday (6–9pm) the price for general admissions is $12 (member adults), $10 (member child/senior), $15 (non-member adult), $13 (non-member child), $15 (non-member senior).

From Wednesday to Thursday (6–9pm) the price for general admission is a bit more expensive, at $13 (member adult), $11 (member child/senior), $25 (non-member adult), $13 (non-member child), and $18 (non-member senior).

Finally on Fridays and Saturdays (6–9pm) the price for general admission is $15 (member adult), $11 (member child/senior), $35 (non-member adult), $15 (non-member child), and $18 (non-member senior).

You can visit the Dallas Arboretum website here for more visitor information.

Is the Dallas Arboretum membership worth it?

If you plan on visiting the Dallas Arboretum twice with at least one other person, the membership is worth it since it’ll essentially pay for itself in two visits! I highly recommend visiting their Pumpkin Village– so if you do both the Pumpkin and Christmas Villages, then the membership is worth it. And the Dallas blooms that happen in the spring is also another must- I’m talking half a million tulips!

With the basic membership, there is free parking and they let you bring a guest for free as well.

Just keep in mind that even if you are a member, you’ll need to pay admission to experience the arboretum at night.

In conclusion…

I hope you see just how special Christmas at the Dallas Arboretum really is! If you haven’t visited the quaint European hamlet of the Christmas Village or the exquisite Victorian 12 Days of Christmas gazebos, you definitely should! Exploring Dallas’s version of the European Christkindlmarket is a spectacular way to experience the magic of the season.

As for things to bring, don’t forget your camera and a letter to Santa to drop in the mailbox!

And if you have questions about Holiday at the Arboretum, drop them in the comments!

Also, while you’re exploring Dallas, check out these posts:

Happy exploring,

Jasmine

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Picture of Jasmine Alley

Jasmine Alley

I'm a Dallas-based, full-time travel blogger with a serious case of wanderlust! Through my website and Instagram, I hope to help others plan picture-perfect trips to the most beautiful places in the world! When I travel, I like to emphasize nature, hidden gems, and unique places.
Picture of Jasmine Alley

Jasmine Alley

I'm a Dallas-based, full-time travel blogger with a serious case of wanderlust! Through my website and Instagram, I hope to help others plan picture-perfect trips to the most beautiful places in the world! When I travel, I like to emphasize nature, hidden gems, and unique places.

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Hi, I’m Jasmine! I’m a nature-obsessed, beauty-finding, Jesus-loving dreamer with a serious case of wanderlust. I love to create photo-worthy travel content and hope to fill your travel plans with incredible beauty and breathtaking views! Thanks for following along on my adventures!

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