An old-fashioned Christmas party at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park and Historic Site. Photo by Will van Overbeek

From Santa’s arrival by airboat at the coast to a traditional Mexican posada out west, Texas state parks are inviting Texans to celebrate the holiday season outdoors.

State parks and historic sites have lined up dozens of special events during December. We’ve highlighted a few here, but for a complete schedule, check the Texas State Parks Holiday Guide, which is also available in print form at state park offices.

Goliad State Park, Goliad: The park, home of Mission Espiritu Santo, established in 1749, presents a “History in Lights” display from Dec. 1-31. Shadows cast by wooden cutouts on the mission’s thick, white-washed walls will tell the area’s history. On Dec. 6, the Beeville Community Chorus performed traditional holiday music inside the chapel. “The concert is beautiful,” says park Superintendent Brenda Justice. “The sound echoes inside the chapel, creating a unique experience.”

Falcon State Park, Roma: Boat owners will string lights on their boats, then motor toward the dam and back during the Falcon Lake Christmas Boat Parade, set for 7-10 p.m. Dec. 14. “Our park is known for bass fishing, picnicking, bird watching and butterflies,” said park Superintendent Carlos Rivas, who encourages visitors to gather along the shoreline to watch the procession. “If you get here early enough, you’ll get to see a beautiful sunset and the Sierra Madre mountains to the southwest of us in Mexico.”

Barrington Plantation State Historic Site, Washington: Walk a candlelit path and hear from costumed interpreters to experience a pre-Civil War Christmas at a Texas farm from 4:30-8 p.m. Dec. 6-7. Highlights include music, musket fire, dancing, and tours of the historic home of Dr. Anson Jones, the last president of the Republic of Texas.

Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site, Johnson City: Half a century has passed since the President and First Lady started this annual tree-lighting ceremony. This year, for the 50th anniversary, expect carolers, a live nativity, and a visit from Santa Claus. The Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm will be decked in early German decorations. The event begins at 4:30 p.m., with the tree lighting at 5:30 p.m Dec. 15.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Canyon: Characters from the canyon’s past, from Charles Goodnight to a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps, come to life during this live history hike. Tours begin at 6 p.m. Dec. 14 at Soapberry Day Use area.

Sea Rim State Park, Sabine Pass: Santa arrives by airboat to visit with children at this coastal park on Dec. 14. Kids get hot chocolate and cookies, plus a chance to make ornaments and have their picture taken with Santa.

The June 2024 cover of Texas Highways: Treasures from the Coast

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