Houston’s Zoo Review. (Photo by Michael Amador)

The Christmas spirit isn’t found wrapped beautifully underneath a holiday tree. While those gifts definitely bring some happiness, the true joys come from time spent with loved ones and creating new memories.

Here are a few holiday experiences for you to enjoy.

Read more about the Houston Zoo and its holiday offerings from our story in the December 2016 issue.

A Holiday Stroll

Ford Fiesta de las Luminarias, San Antonio: Stroll along the banks of San Antonio’s No. 1 attraction, the River Walk, for more than 60,000 luminarias, which symbolize the lighting of the way for the Holy Family. At dusk Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 18. As you stroll along the River Walk, your ears will be rewarded by Ford Holiday Boat Caroling featuring carolers from more than 185 school, church, company and civic choral groups nightly though Dec, 18. 

Sugar Land Holiday Lights: Head to Sugar Land’s Constellation Field and score a close-up glimpse of the state’s largest inflatable snow globe and Santa, along with more than 100 walkthrough displays lit by 2.5 million lights. Through Dec. 23.

Trail of Lights, Austin: Austin’s beloved Zilker Park is the seasonally transformed into a festive, wonderland with its Trail of Lights. A Ferris wheel, Yule Log, hot chocolate and other treats round out the experience. Dec. 10-23.

Zoo Lights, Houston: The Houston Zoo gets a holiday makeover, and the joyful experience includes colorful light displays, festive music, animated animal sculptures and more. Enjoy hot chocolate while taking it all in. Through Jan. 14.

Magical Winter Lights , La Marque: Houston’s Gulf Greyhound Park becomes the city of Magical Winter Lights, the massive lantern festival that takes visitors across the globe in one place – a larger version of “It’s a Small World,” perhaps? There are acrobatics, too! Through Jan. 8.

Prairie Lights, Grand Prairie: Take a drive through Lynn Creek Park on Joe Pool Lake to see it has been magnificently reimagined as a holiday wonderland. About halfway through the drive, stop to visit the Holiday Village for shopping, Christmas concessions, a laser show, and of course a visit with Santa. There also is the Holiday Magic Lighted Walk-Thru Forest.

Merriment on Main Street

Dickens on the Strand, Galveston: Dickens on the Strand: Galveston Historical Foundation’s Dickens on the Strand has established a holiday tradition that brings the streets of Victorian London to life, complete with bobbies, Beefeaters and the Queen, herself! Stroll the streets, alongside characters from Dickens’ novels, to take in the merriment, foods and live music. Dec. 9-10

Christmas in the Square, Frisco: More than 175,000 lights brighten Frisco’s Christmas in the Square to create a choreographed lights and music show. And there’s snow (yes, snow!) every 15 minutes on Fridays and Saturdays. There also is an outdoor ice skating rink, carriage rides and more. On Special Event Night, Dec. 17, also expect Santa and his workshop, inflatables, and a four-lane inner tubing snow slide. Through Jan. 1.

Lost Pines Christmas, Bastrop: Head for Historic Downtown Bastrop for old-fashioned Christmas festivities including a nighttime lighted parade, food and wine events and more. Dec. 9-10.

Deck the City Hall, Dallas: Dallas’ City Hall is transformed into a jolly holiday hangout with ice skating, Santa and his workshop, a live snow globe, hayrides and live reindeer. Dec. 10

North Pole Neighborhood, Grapevine: Find your holiday happy place at Grapevine’s North Pole Neighborhood. The North Pole Neighborhood helps Grapevine own its Christmas Capital of Texas title. Be awestruck by the nightly twinkling Magic of Christmas Light Show in Historic Downtown Grapevine through Jan. 8. Take photos with Santa at the North Pole General Store. Ride the North Pole Express or take a sleigh ride, or mail a letter to Santa. Then revel in a Victorian-era Christmas at the Hometown Holiday at the Settlement to City Museums through Dec. 31. Guests are invited to visit neighborhood art studios, too, including Vetro Glassblowing Studio, Grapevine Foundry & Fine Arts Program, Holder Dane Gallery and Art Studios and The Blacksmith Shop.

It takes a Christmas Village

Candlelight, Dallas: Sing along with strolling carolers and take a stroll of your own through the Dallas Heritage Village at Old City Park, which will be dressed in traditional holiday decorations. There’ll be Santa to hear your wish list, a train exhibit, hayrides and more. Dec. 10-11.

Christmas Village at Bayou Bend, Houston: Ima Hogg’s former home is festively decked out for the season to help created the Christmas Village at Bayou Bend, which includes a visit from Santa and his reindeer, performances, lights galore and more. Through Jan. 1.

Campfire Christmas at George Ranch Historical Park, Richmond:
Take a step back in time to enjoy a progressive Christmas dinner, music, hay ride and tours of the 1890s Davis Victorian Mansion and 1930s George Ranch Home. Finish the experience with hot cider and coffee around the campfire. Dec. 9-10, 16-17.

Christmas in the Park at George Ranch, Richmond
George Ranch Historical Park brings to life holiday traditions as it was celebrated more than 100 years ago with the state’s first settlers. Take a peek into a Victorian home decked out for the holidays. Through Dec. 23.


(Photo by Brandon Jakobeit)

Parades and Posadas

Flower Mound Christmas Parade & Tree Lighting:Get in the spirit for a nighttime “Candy Land Christmas” parade from Spinks Road to Gerault Park. The parade ends with the lighting of the Christmas tree, photos with Santa, petting zoo, food trucks and more. Dec. 10.

McKinney Christmas Parade of Lights: McKinney’s annual Christmas Parade of Lights, starts and ends at the city’s thriving downtown square. This year’s parade theme is “The Gift of Christmas.” Have fun with a Rotary Club scavenger hunt in the square. Dec. 10.

Plano Lions Christmas Parade: “Plano Wishes You a Merry Christmas,” and that sentiment is enough, but that’s also the theme the city’s Lions Christmas parade that starts at the Plano ISD Administration building. Have a pancake breakfast with Santa first, if you like. Dec. 10.

Posada Dallas: Dallas’ Latino Cultural Center brings out mariachis, matachines and children’s crafts to accompany its annual Posada, a procession that re-creates Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to stay in Bethlehem. The procession starts at Central Square Park at Swiss Avenue and Oak Street and ends at the Center. Dec. 11.

Ice is Nice

Panther Island Ice, Fort Worth: Head for the Coyote Drive-In to experience Fort Worth’s only outdoor ice skating rink, a gift of the Trinity River Vision Authority. Through Jan. 16.

‘ICE! and Lone Star Christmas, Grapevine: Bundle up in your parka (provided) and gloves (not provided) and immerse yourself in The Gaylord Texan Resort annual winter wonderland ICE! exhibit. The 14,000 square-foot exhibit features 2 million pounds of hard-carved ice sculptures, a skating rink, snow tubing and more. Through Jan. 1.

Ice Land: Ice Sculptures, A Caribbean Christmas, Galveston: Master carvers chisel out two million pounds of ice to create a festive (and chilly) Caribbean Christmas at Moody Gardens. The exhibit, which portrays some of the characteristics of the Flower Garden Banks and the Gulf of Mexico, also includes an oil rig ice slide, Through Jan. 8.

Ice at Discovery Green, Houston: Skate in the shadow of Houston’s grand downtown skyline at Discovery Green’s 7,716 square-foot outdoor rink, the largest in the Southwest. Look for specialty nights featuring jazz or Latin music, as well as selfies with Santa on skates (Saturdays through Dec. 19). Through Feb. 12.

Santa Sightings

Santa, reindeer and #ElfieSelfies, Houston: The Children’s Museum of Houston has lined up lots of opportunities to see Santa. On Dec. 11, 17 and 24, make and wear an elf hat to take an #ElfieSelfie with Santa. On Dec. 17, you’ll hear the sleigh bells as one of Santa’s reindeer stops by, too. And on Dec. 24, enjoy the countdown to Christmas with fun events, including milk and cookies with Santa.

Holidays at the Heard, McKinney: The Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary nature trail enhances its natural beauty with holiday décor and festive music. Have your photo taken with special guests Father Christmas and Mother Nature. Dec. 10, 16 and 17.

Shopper’s Delight

Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, Austin: As expected in the Live Music Capital, live bands help create a uniquely Austin shopping experience at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, where shopping amongst more than 100 vendors is enhanced with the creation of dance space. Dec. 14-16.

Texas Cristkindl Market, Arlington: It’s a Texas spin on a German Christmas market. Shop for the holidays while nibbling on bratwurst, strudel and more. There’s Peppermint Park activities for children, too. Through Dec. 23.

Cowtown Indie Bazaar, Fort Worth: Shop for an array of handcrafted goods made from more than 75 independent makers. Dec. 10.

The Boho Market, Dallas: Fair Park is packed with 120 vendors for a two-day shopping event including artisan foods, food trucks, live music and free photo booths and photos with Santa. Dec. 9-10.

Tomball German Christmas Market & Festival: German Christmas Market & Festival Weihnachtsmarkt Texas Style in downtown Tomball. The open-air street market features more than 175 vendors. Dec. 9-11.

Downtown Wanderland, Dallas: Downtown Dallas Inc. promotes various shopping hotspots throughout downtown. Expect events, free gift-wrapping station, photos with Santa and movies (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on Dec. 9 and The Polar Express on Dec. 16). Through Dec. 17.

From the December 2016 issue
The June 2024 cover of Texas Highways: Treasures from the Coast

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