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Written by Jane Kellogg Murray

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Start a new family tradition this holiday weekend—listen to carolers on the San Antonio River Walk or underground at Natural Bridge Caverns, or do some last-minute gift shopping at markets like Austin's Armadillo Christmas Bazaar.

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Enjoy the holiday season in true Texas fashion, with made-in-Texas gifts at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, special holiday concerts from Asleep at the Wheel and Bruce & Kelly, and the annual tree lighting at the LBJ State Park & Historic Site.

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 The weekend lights up with holiday events galore—a lighted boat parade in Rockport, a historic Christmas at Lubbock's Candlelight at the Ranch, and Austin's annual favorite, Trail of Lights, debut this weekend.

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While it may be challenging to have a true "White Christmas" in the Lone Star State, at least you can experience a cool one this weekend, with events like Galveston's Dickens on The Strand, Natural Bridge Caverns' annual underground Christmas at the Caverns, and Frost Fest in Palestine.

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There's so much to be thankful for this weekend—including Holiday Wonder, a new, family-friendly holiday lights display in Dallas; San Antonio's Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza, the largest and longest-running mariachi music festival in Texas; and Galveston's Brewmasters Craft Beer Festival, rescheduled to this weekend after Hurricane Harvey.

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The parades, marches, and celebrations surrounding Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 15, honor the man and his nonviolent approach in the civil rights movement. Here are just a few of the events scheduled across Texas.

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From its humble beginnings in 1932 as a cattle showcase, the Houston Rodeo (Feb. 27-March 18) has evolved into a 20-day bonanza filled with the usual rodeo offerings like bull riding and steer roping, but with the addition of amusement park rides, deep-fried treats, shopping, and big-name headliners—this year, two-time Grammy winner Garth Brooks performs on opening night. The event ropes in big-city folk with a spirited parade featuring marching bands and floats through downtown Houston on Feb. 24.

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Rock climbers from all over the world will head to Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site in El Paso Feb. 16-18 to dangle from the rocky hills during its 25th annual Hueco Rock Rodeo, an outdoor bouldering competition. Participants climb without the use of traditional gear—that means no ropes and harnesses—as they scale the sides of the park’s enormous boulders by gripping on to naturally occurring holes and ledges. If you prefer your feet firmly on the ground, the event features several non-bouldering events, including a dance party, a food truck circus, and tons of outdoors and fitness vendors.


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Since starting in 1975 as a way for homesick Brazilians studying at the University of Texas at Austin to get a taste of home, Carnaval Brasileiro—which will be held this year on Feb. 10—has recreated the joyous, rowdy, and energetic street parades that Rio de Janeiro is famous for. The main event of the evening is a performance by Maracatú Texas, in which dancers and musicians stage a roving musical theater production. Austin’s Carnaval Brasileiro has become the largest indoor carnaval celebration in the United States, with 4,000 attendees packing into the Palmer Events Center to get lost in the intoxicating rhythms of samba drums.

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Can’t make it east to Louisiana for the wild, raucous Mardi Gras festivities? The Cowboy Mardi Gras bash in BanderaFeb. 1-3, features the traditions you know and love—like zydeco bands; Cajun food; and plenty of purple, green, and gold beaded necklaces—but with a distinct twist that only the Cowboy Capital of the World can provide. The 13th annual event is a great excuse to don your mask and boots for three days of dining, dancing, and merriment. Eat to your hearts’ content at the gumbo cookoff, dress your canine to the nines for the dog costume contest, and cheer on floats as they make their way down the parade route.

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For five days in January, in the recuperative lull between New Year’s and Valentine’s Day, San Antonio hosts a smashing soiree that both raises money for children’s charities and celebrates the craft cocktail movement. Founded by Mark Bohanon (whose namesake steakhouse may be the swankiest spot in San Antonio to sip a daiquiri) and the late Sasha Petraske (the New York bartender widely credited with kick-starting the modern cocktail revival), the San Antonio Cocktail Conference (Jan. 10-14) makes it easy to duck in for a quick nip of cocktail culture or stay for a weekend-long eye-opener. The conference sells individual tickets to seminars, tastings, and events, so you can join in on a little, or a lot.

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Even if winter doesn’t bring snow to the Texas Gulf Coast, Edna’s Brackenridge Park will on Jan. 20 for the eighth annual Brackenridge Winter Carnival and Snow Day. Every year, the city hosts a day of winter wonder for residents who wouldn’t normally get to experience the icy thrill of the season. The forecast predicts 80,000 pounds of snow—enough to make plenty of snowballs, snowmen, and snow angels in the park’s two snow play areas. Additionally, guests can experience two snow slides (a 30-foot slide provides sledding experience for kids of all ages, but the younger crowd can also enjoy a tamer 20-foot slide), carnival games, inflatables, a s’more-making station, face painting, hayrides, and concessions. Camp on-site the night before for half-off admission.

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