GALVESTON, Texas, Nov. 10, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Santa Claus opened the holiday season at Moody Gardens®, flipping the giant electrical switch to turn on more than one million lights at the 11 th annual Festival of Lights. (Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20121110/DC10529-a)(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20121110/DC10529-b)(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20121110/DC10529-c) More than 8,000 guests, the largest in the history of the Festival, visited Moody Gardens to watch Santa drop in and kick off the largest holiday light display on the Gulf Coast. The festivities began at 4 p.m. with live entertainment from Galveston Ballet, the Salvation Army Harbor Light Choir, Vibe Dance Company, Amy's Dance Academy, and the St. Ignatius Choir with the Archdiocese of Galveston- Houston. Santa was to parachute down to Moody Gardens halfway through the event, but windy conditions forced him to arrive via golf cart from the airport instead. Still as jolly as ever despite his change in travel plans, he flipped the switch just after 6 p.m. to officially kick off the holiday season on Galveston Island. "Festival of Lights has become a holiday tradition for families throughout the region," Moody Gardens president and CEO John Zendt said. "It was a special treat to see the kid's faces light up when Santa came driving up in the golf cart from the airport." Zendt added that new attractions such as the Snow Tubing Arctic Ice Slide and additional light displays continue to provide new guest experiences. The mile-long trail features over 100 lighted scenes themed to holiday music with an outdoor ice rink. Holiday films are featured at three types of theaters. The family-friendly Moody Gardens Hotel also offers spectacular views of the destination's iconic pyramids dressed in holiday lights.