From tree lightings to Santa sightings, the Lone Star State is aglow with holiday magic this time of year. Saddle up your sleigh — here’s your comprehensive guide to yuletide fun found in more than 30 Texas towns this season.
Discover Christmas charm in downtown Abilene at the 31st Annual City Sidewalks Celebration from Dec. 2-7. Merchants, museums and galleries will open their decorated doors for a full week of holiday cheer, fun activities and shopping. Highlights of the free, family-friendly event include the lighting of a 62-foot-tall tree, the FOX West Texas Christmas Lights Parade featuring more than 100 festive floats, a Holiday PetPawlooza, caroling and more. More at abilenedowntown.com/city-sidewalks.
From an old-fashioned Main Street Christmas to a dazzling holiday parade, the annual Lost Pines Christmas brings five family-friendly weekends of small-town traditions to historic Bastrop. Don’t miss the Bastrop River of Lights in Fisherman’s Park, now through Jan. 3 from dusk until 10 p.m., featuring sparkling lighted displays lining Bastrop’s scenic June Hill Pape River Walk. Catch the funny and touching holiday classic "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever – The Musical" at Bastrop Opera House Dec. 6, 7, 8, 13, 14 and 15. On Dec. 14, book it to Bastrop for Lost Pines Christmas Snow Day in Fisherman’s Park (12-5 p.m.), the Holiday Homes Tour (12-6 p.m.) and downtown’s famous Lighted Christmas Parade featuring more than 100 fanciful floats lighting up Main Street. More at lostpineschristmas.com.
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Christmas in Beaumont means live music, lots of shopping and plenty of twinkling lights. Bring the whole family out for the free Holiday Tree Lighting from 4 to 6 p.m Dec. 5. The event features holiday activities, pictures with Santa and more. Check off the names on your list at Main Street Market of Beaumont, the Junior League’s three-day, one-stop holiday shopping extravaganza featuring more than 100 vendors (Dec. 5-7, tickets $10). Stick around for the annual Christmas in Boomtown at the Spindletop Gladys City Boomtown Museum on Dec. 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. More at beaumontcvb.com/event-calendar/annual-events/christmas.
Take a stroll while sipping cocoa and seeing Santa at Buda’s 11th annual Trail of Lights (Dec. 6-8, 13-15 and 20-22 from 6 to 10 p.m.), a free event held at Historic Stagecoach Park. More at ci.buda.tx.us/525/Trail-of-Lights.
The annual Whistle Stop Christmas glitters with millions of lights every evening now through Dec. 31 at Hulen Park in Downtown Cleburne. Don’t miss the Lighted Christmas Parade on Dec. 6, the 42nd Annual Candlewalk Tour of Homes from 1 to 8 p.m. Dec. 7, and the Brazos Chamber Orchestra Christmas Concert at 7:30 p.m Dec. 19. More at whistlestopchristmas.org.
A Texas-size Christmas unfolds at Santa’s Wonderland each evening now through Dec. 30. Experience everything from nightly Texas snow and Santa’s Hayride Tours through a sparkling Trail of Lights to a Gingerbread Village and Snow Globe. More at santas-wonderland.com.
Kick off the holiday season at Deck the Plaza (Dec. 6) with the 40-foot tree lighting and Christmas-themed celebration brimming with music, holiday snacks and vendors at City Hall Plaza. Stay the next day for one of the biggest holiday events in the city — the 32nd annual Dallas Holiday Parade, which marches through Commerce Street in Downtown Dallas on Dec. 7 at 10 a.m. The Trains at NorthPark, the largest miniature train exhibit in Texas, returns for a seven-week run through Jan. 5 with 1,600 feet of track rolling from coast to coast on a whimsical journey across America benefiting Ronald McDonald House Charities of Dallas. The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is brightening the holidays with its annual Holiday at the Arboretum now through Dec. 31. The beloved "12 Days of Christmas," which depicts each day in the beloved carol with 12 Victorian-style gazebos, returns to delight guests of all ages with more than 1 million lights adorning the garden and a 30-foot-tall spruce tree. More at visitdallas.com, thetrainsatnorthpark.com and dallasarboretum.org.
The 3rd Annual Yoakum County Tamale Festival (Dec. 5-7) kicks off with dinner Thursday and continues with a Friday night Christmas Parade that leads to Stuffy Moorehead Park, where you’ll find live music, Santa and food and drinks. Saturday brings more bands, food, tamale contests, live dancers, kids activities, Santa and more. More at facebook.com/DenverCityEDC.org.
Gaze at Fort Worth’s towering 65-foot-tall spruce lighting up Sundance Square now through early January and snap pictures with Santa ($20). Head to the Texas Motor Speedway for the largest holiday lights display in Texas — Gift of Lights is a 2-mile joy ride running now through Dec. 30. Find more holiday events worth checking out at fortworth.com.
German holiday traditions, timeless décor and limitless Christmas cheer are flourishing in Fredericksburg. Go ice skating on real ice in the Texas Hill Country at the Eisbahn Outdoor Ice Skating Rink now through Jan. 5 — an all-day pass is just $15 and includes skate rentals. Soak in the twinkling sights at the Chamber Light the Night Christmas Parade & AfterGlow on Main Street (Dec. 6). Tour the 62nd annual Christmas Home Tour and Market on Dec. 7, or head to Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site for the 50th Annual LBJ Christmas Tree Lighting on Dec. 15. More at visitfredericksburgtx.com/events/holiday.
Known as the Winter Wonder Island of Texas, Galveston offers an island holiday that combines tropical weather and a 32-mile coast with traditional Victorian charm, a 2 million-pound ice land and spectacular light shows through early January. Don’t miss the 46th annual Dickens on the Strand (Dec. 6-8), which transforms historic Strand Street into the Victorian London of Charles Dickens as characters walk the streets and strolling carolers and roving musicians fill the air with sounds from the era. The Polar Express Train Ride is rolling into Galveston to whisk passengers away to the North Pole for a magical one-hour trip to meet Santa during weekends and select dates through Dec. 29. Ice Land at Moody Gardens brings a 28,000-square-foot ice sculpture wonderland to Galveston with 2 million pounds of ice through Jan. 12. Have a jolly workout while sporting Santa attire during the Santa Hustle 5K and half-marathon (Dec. 15). More at galveston.com/holidaymagic.
Garland's Christmas on the Square kicks off Dec. 5 with the tree lighting ceremony and choreographed show of 100,000 twinkling lights set to holiday music that will make the historic downtown square one of the most colorful and sparkly spots to celebrate the season through Dec. 31. In addition to the tree lighting and light show, expect snow hills, choir performances, food vendors, fireworks and, of course, an appearance by Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Admission to this family-friendly festival is free and festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. on the Square at 520 W. State St.
Jingle to Georgetown for the 39th Annual Christmas Stroll on Dec. 6 from 5 to 9 p.m. and Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. to watch a hometown holiday parade, enjoy live entertainment, shop from 150 vendors, visit Bethlehem Village, Winter Wonderland and Santa’s Village and more. Go swimming with Santa himself Dec. 13 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Georgetown Recreation Center Indoor Pool, or have breakfast with the big guy on Dec. 14 from 7:30 to 11 a.m. at the Georgetown Community Center. More at visit.georgetown.org.
Winterfest in Gonzales (Dec. 6-8) kicks off on Friday with a Jingle Mingle of shopping in historic downtown while Saturday festivities include Breakfast with Santa, a chili, bean and stew cookoff, Santa’s Market, a snow patch and snow slide, the Historic Homes Tours and a Lighted Christmas Parade. More at gonzales.texas.gov/events/2019/city-wide-winterfest.
Feel the magic of Christmas at the interactive Granbury Santa House, located on the grounds of the historic Hood County Courthouse, where children can chat and pose with Santa for free (Dec. 6-8, 13-23). The Granbury Candlelight Tour of Homes is an assemblage of lights, carols and Christmas treats with tours through private, historic homes and sites Dec. 6-8. More at visitgranbury.com/events/annual-events/christmas-in-granbury.
For holiday magic 24/7, the Christmas Capital of Texas is the place to be thanks to 1,400 holiday events in 40 days spanning millions of twinkling lights, 2 million pounds of carved ice, a journey to the North Pole on the North Pole Express and more. Kick off the holiday season with two free events — the Parade of Lights at 7 p.m. Dec. 5 featuring more than 100 lighted floats and marching bands and Santa Clause himself, and the Twinkle Light Boat Parade, which brings a floating festival of lights on Lake Grapevine from 6 to 9 p.m Dec. 7. Discover the magic of Christmas aboard the North Pole Express, presented by Great Wolf Lodge, and journey to the North Pole along with Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves (Dec. 1, 6-8, 13-23). Need a festive place to rest your head? Celebrate the "howlidays" at Great Wolf Lodge when the year-round indoor water park resort transforms into Snowland with a life-size gingerbread house, nightly snow showers and festive events for the whole family (now-Jan. 5), or soak in the magic of the Gaylord Texan Resort’s Lone Star Christmas (now-Jan. 5). Find more Grapevine merriment at grapevinetexasusa.com/christmas-capital-of-texas.
The holidays are big in tiny Gruene. On Dec. 7, start the day with the 18th Annual Gruene Pony Express Ride at 10 a.m. and end it with Cowboy Kringle riding into town on horseback for the annual Gruene Town Lighting at 5 p.m. Put a Texas twist on this year’s holiday cards and pose with Cowboy Kringle, the town’s own brand of Santa (weekends through Dec. 22). Get a head start on your holiday shopping at Gruene Christmas Market Days (Dec. 7-8), which boasts 100 vendors selling unique Christmas gifts, crafts and foods. Work off holiday treats at the 27th annual Jingle Bell 5K run/walk on Dec. 14. Or check out Gruene Hall’s live holiday-themed lineup including Wynonna & The Big Noise Rockin’ Roots Christmas (Dec. 4-5), Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison Holiday Shindig (Dec. 7), Kevin Fowler: Deck the Dancehalls (Dec. 19), and New Year’s Eve with Charley Crockett (Dec. 31). More at holidaysingruene.com.
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The Hill Country shines the brightest during the holidays, and there’s no better way to experience it than by taking a self-guided evening drive along the Texas Hill Country Christmas Lighting Trail, which stretches north from the city of San Antonio to tiny towns including Boerne, Burnet, Dripping Springs, Fredericksburg, Goldthwaite, Johnson City, Llano, Wimberley, Marble Falls, Round Mountain and New Braunfels. Get tickets to the Christmas Wine Affair, now through Dec. 15, to sip and sample award-winning wines at nearly 50 Hill Country Wineries during this 17-day self-guided wine trail. Tickets are $65 per couple/$45 individual and include a full complimentary tasting at 48 participating wineries (limit four wineries per day) and a 15 percent discount on three-bottle purchases from each winery. More at texaswinetrail.com/trails.
Holidays in Houston means 12 evenings of festive fun at Christmas Village at Bayou Bend with Santa and his reindeer, a trail of sparkling lights, animated projections and performances from Dec. 12-30; the Houston Ballet’s timeless production of the classic holiday tale "The Nutcracker" now through Dec. 29; Zoo Lights, which transforms the Houston Zoo into a winter wonderland illuminated by LED lights now through Jan. 12; and Magical Winter Lights — a 52-day holiday lighting festival taking place through Jan. 5. More at visithoustontexas.com/events/holidays-in-houston.
Llano’s Starry Starry Nights brings unique Christmas displays to Badu Park from 6 to 9 p.m. nightly through Dec. 31 as visitors stroll along the Llano River, enjoy thousands of sparkling lights, sip hot chocolate and roast marshmallows each night. On weekends, bring your wish list and get your picture taken with Santa from 6 to 8 p.m. Be sure to bundle up for Snow Day (Dec. 14), taking place from 1 to 9 p.m., when Badu Park transforms into a winter wonderland. More at llanostarrystarrynights.com.
During the annual A Dickens’ Christmas in Lockhart Dec. 6-7, this tiny town transforms into a Dickens-style Christmas of yesteryear beginning with the Lighted Christmas Parade Friday evening and continuing Saturday with authentic Victorian decorations, costumed characters from Charles Dickens’ classic novels, choirs, jugglers, bagpipers, carriage rides and the lighting of the Yule Log, which signifies that Christmas has come to Lockhart. More at lockhartchamber.com/pages/DickensChristmas.
On Dec. 7, bring the whole family out to Luckenbach’s 2nd Annual Christmas Bazaar featuring live festive music all day, photos with Santa (2 to 5 p.m.), Hondo Crouch’s birthday celebration, Christmas shopping and crafts and a 6 p.m. tree lighting ceremony. The free, no-cover event takes place from 1 to 9 p.m. More at luckenbachtexas.com.
MARBLE FALLS/LAKE LBJ
The historic and highly anticipated 29th Annual Walkway of Lights is open from 6 to 10 p.m. nightly now through New Year’s Day. This annual holiday spectacle symbolizes a continuous joint effort between the city’s community and local nonprofits who bring the event to life each year. This holiday attraction will hold 2 million twinkling lights arranged on more than 130 sculptures, and children can visit with Santa and his elves at Santa Land on weekends and holidays. More at marblefalls.org/walkway.
NATURAL BRIDGE CAVERNS
Christmas at the Caverns (Dec. 7-8, 14-15, 21-23) transforms this geographical gem into a next-level Christmas experience featuring your favorite carols echoing through Texas’ largest underground cavern, photos with Santa "Spelunker" Claus, a 30-foot-tall Christmas tree, hayrides, family s’mores roasts, a giant snow globe, ice skating and more. More at naturalbridgecaverns.com.
On your way to town, pull over at the popular Santa’s Ranch santasranch.net, featuring more than 1 mile of dazzling lights, animated Christmas displays, a 50-foot Christmas tree and more now through Jan. 4. In town, attend the annual Wassailfest celebration from 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 5 and stroll through the streets of downtown New Braunfels sipping warm wassail while shopping for holiday gifts. On Dec. 6, attend Christkindlmarkt, a German-inspired open-air Christmas Market with shopping, food, drinks, craft beer, gluehwein, German music and dancing at Schlitterbahn Resort. Enjoy the magic of the fourth annual Hometown Holiday Christmas Parade (Dec. 7) unfolding in downtown New Braunfels at 6 p.m. More at innewbraunfels.com.
Climb aboard the "Polar Express" in your pajamas to hit the tracks to the North Pole, the quintessential Christmas journey that departs Palestine station now through Dec. 28. Aboard the "Polar Express" at Texas State Railroad, children of all ages can look forward to a one-on-one experience with the cast, conductors, elves, waiters and chefs and Santa Claus. More at texasstaterailroad.net.
Elf the Musical brings the modern-day holiday classic to life Dec. 5-8 at Plano’s Courtyard Theatre. On Dec. 6, step back in time at Dickens, a free annual event in the heart of the Historic Downtown Plano Arts District with live entertainment, tasty treats, a real snow slide, ice wars, a Victorian Santa, Vendor Village and Tree Lighting at 7 p.m. in Haggard Park. Find more holiday events at visitplano.com/events.
From twinkling thrills to glowing sights, San Antonio shines bright during the holidays. The Ford Fiesta de las Luminarias lights up the River Walk with more than 2,000 traditional Mexican luminarias (Dec. 6-8, 13-15, 20-21). Thrill-seekers can get into the holiday spirit with seasonal experiences at Morgan’s Wonderland (now-Dec. 23), SeaWorld San Antonio (now-Jan. 5) and Six Flags Fiesta Texas (now-Jan. 5). More at visitsanantonio.com. Ring in the New Year at Celebrate San Antonio, the city’s official New Year’s Eve Celebration, on Dec. 31 at Hemisfair from 6 p.m. to 12:15 a.m. More at saparksfoundation.org/event/celebrate-sa.
Experience the "Sights and Sounds of Christmas," which brims with holiday cheer in the form of Santa Claus, festival food, carnival rides, a petting zoo, pony rides, ice skating, live performances and a sea of Christmas lights from 5-11 p.m. (Dec. 4-7; 11-14). More at sights-n-sounds.org.
Sail away to South Padre Island to celebrate the season at the Holiday Sandcastle Village featuring unique holiday sand sculptures built by incredibly talented sand artists who have created everything from Sand-ta to a Sand Snowman (now-Jan. 13). An island tradition, the free public Tree Lighting Ceremony and Annual Christmas Parade is a fun-filled event featuring lighted floats, special guests and live music on Padre Boulevard taking place on Dec. 6. Stick around for the free Annual Lighted Boat Parade launching from South Point Marina in Port Isabel on Dec. 7 with a bevy of boats decked out from stem to stern starting at 6 p.m. On Dec. 8, have breakfast with Santa himself at the Hilton Garden Inn from 9-11 a.m. More at sopadre.com/events.