Georgetown’s annual Holiday Stroll hosts a hair salon where visitors can get Whoville hairdos. Photo courtesy Downtown Georgetown Association

Winter break is fast approaching. Cue later bedtimes, mornings with hot cocoa by the fire, and, best of all, weeks of no homework. Of course, with the long school break comes kids with a lot of free time. What’s a parent to do? We selected nine upcoming activities and events that offer creative options for you to enjoy with your kids. 

Get a Who-do

During the 42nd annual Holiday Stroll in Georgetown, local cosmetology students plus stylists from Supercuts join forces to create Whoo Hair, a whimsical hair-styling experience that transforms people into Cindy Lou or Euchariah Who with the help of a lot of gravity-defying hairspray, a few baubles, and Grinch-y magic. The Whoville hair salon is open Dec. 1 from 5 to 9 p.m., and Dec. 2 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Find it on the west side of the courthouse in historic downtown Georgetown. 


See the Largest Holiday and Helium-Balloon Parade in Texas

On Dec. 2, the 10th annual McAllen Holiday Parade, hosted by actors Mario Lopez and Linda Tovar, kicks off at Veterans Memorial Stadium. Enjoy seeing floats, marching bands, celebrity guests (including Dallas Cowboy legends Michael Irvin and Drew Pearson) along the 1.5-mile route. For the past several years, the city of McAllen has sponsored the cutest miniature-sized holiday parade involving holiday floats created out of shoeboxes. This year at the holiday parade, be sure to look for last year’s winning entry in the shoebox parade brought to life as a real float. 


Learn to Make Tamales
San Antonio

Tamaladas are grand celebrations of one of Texas’ most iconic holiday foods: the tamal. Head to historic Market Square to get your fingers on some masa and enjoy the free family festivities at La Gran Tamalada on Dec. 9 and 10 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. There you can find fresh steamed tamales, tamal kits, and activities for kids. 


Shop at a European-style Christmas Market
San Antonio

This year, San Antonio launches the brand new Holidays on Houston Street, featuring five blocks full of holiday lights and decorations and festivities such as Alamo Lights. It runs from Nov. 24 to Jan. 2 with a special weekend dedicated to a European-style Christkindl market (Dec. 15-17). Sing along with carolers, buy some locally made crafts, and be amazed by a drone holiday light show. 


Take an Unforgettable End-of-the-Year (or New Year’s Day) Hike
Various locations

On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department hosts midnight and First Day Hikes at several of their state parks. This year, Honey Creek State Natural Area will host a 2.5-mile hike at 10 p.m. on Dec. 31, and Palo Duro Canyon is expected to host its traditional Hoppin’ John Midnight Hike, starting at 11:30 p.m. on Dec. 31. The 2-mile hike starts with a small portion of black-eye pea soup (a traditional food thought to ensure good luck for the year to come). Don’t feel like hiking at night? Check events at parks near you to get your New Year started right.


The ice slide at ICE! is always a hit with the kids. Photo courtesy Marriott International.

Slide Down an Ice Slide
Grapevine and Galveston

A world of intricate ice carvings returns to Grapevine and Galveston this year as part of ICE! and ICE LAND, respectively. At the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, go through the world of the Grinch, take the tube down Snow Flow Mountain, and start a friendly snowball fight thanks to a snowmaking machine. At Moody Gardens in Galveston, Iceland goes tropical with a rainforest theme. You can race down ice slides and then stroll through the Festival of Lights outside.


Sip Holiday Tea
Various locations

Why not get a little fancy and treat the kids to a holiday tea? This time-honored tradition is best experienced at some of Texas’ grandest hotels, such as The Adolphus in Dallas, The Driskill in Austin, The Ashton in Fort Worth, Grand Galvez in Galveston, and The Lancaster in Houston. There’s also a special gingerbread tea with Santa at the Four Seasons Houston on Dec. 17.


Go Ice Skating—or Curling
Various locations

Yes, you really can go ice skating in Texas (even outdoors!). Check out the Stockyards Rodeo Rink, a 4,000-square-foot ice skating rink housed in the Livestock Exchange Building in Fort Worth from Nov. 20 to Jan. 7. Or visit the Rotary Ice Rink at Travis Park in San Antonio. In Houston, Green Mountain Energy Ice at Discovery Green is a picturesque holiday rink with skate dates open through January. Just across from this rink is the Marriott Marquis Houstonhead to the sixth floor (home of the famous Texas-shaped lazy river) for the Texas Winter Lights Celebration, which features a curling rink and other family fun.


Hop Aboard for a Magical Train Ride
Various locations

When you have younger children, nothing beats the experience of taking them on a holiday train ride to an imaginary North Pole, complete with a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus on your journey. Seats fill up fast, but check for mid-week dates on the Polar Express in Palestine; the North Pole Flyer in Bertram; and the Polar Express in Galveston. The North Pole Express in Grapevine is currently waitlist-only.

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

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