As one of the largest states, Texas offers a multitude of entertaining choices to make your holidays memorable and eventful. Spanning everything from historic towns, natural parks, fishing piers, coastal beaches and special festive events like holiday performances, trails of lights, and even a Christmas Capitol, the visitors have boundless options to choose from for their family and friends. The capital city of Austin and its sister cities Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, are only the beginning of fascinating and enjoyable travel destinations around the state.
San Antonio Christmas
Did you know that San Antonio is the state’s most visited tourism destination? There’s a good reason: The San Antonio River Walk. For over 30 years, the day after Thanksgiving, the San Antonio River is filled with decorated and illuminated barges for the hour-long parade.
San Antonio is also the setting for the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza, the largest mariachi competition in the U.S. In December, the San Antonio tradition of tamale making is celebrated with Tamales! Holiday Festival at Pearl and La Gran Tamalada. The local holiday favorites are dessert tamales, and if you get a chance, you should try them.
Each Christmas season, the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio hosts the fantastic Light the Way Festival, complete with food trucks, holiday shopping, visits from Santa, and, of course, a plethora of lights. Santa’s Railroad at the San Antonio Transportation Museum is a nighttime ride through 40 acres of decorations on an equally decorated train that kids will love.
There is a Sesame Street Christmas parade, a holiday market, Christmas themed shows, Santa, and reindeer at SeaWorld San Antonio, which is decorated with over 9 million lights! Visit at night to see all of the lights, and don’t miss the snow showers in the Christmas village, which will make you feel like you’re at the North Pole!
Natural Bridge Caverns could be the most unusual holiday activity in San Antonio. Natural Bridge Caverns is about an hour’s drive from San Antonio and is exactly what it sounds like: huge caves. Caroling in the Caverns is a tour of the caverns that includes Christmas music. A winter wonderland has been created on the property’s grounds. Families can ice skate, pose for photos in a giant snow globe, visit Santa, and even take a hayride. All of this is incredible, but the best part takes place underground.
Christmas in Austin
Every year you can attend the lighting of a giant Christmas tree near the front steps of the Texas Capitol Building. There’s live entertainment after the ceremony, which showcases Austin’s renowned local music scene. Holiday lights adorn the businesses, bridges, and trees of Sixth Street. Quite possibly Texas’ best-known street, Sixth Street, is seven blocks of historic homes and commercial buildings dating back to the late 1800′s and early 1900′s. These old buildings were restored to house restaurants, live music bars, art galleries and trendy shops.
Austin has a lot of fun things to do during the holidays. The Trail of Lights in Zilker Park and the Blue Genie Art Bazaar are two highlights. The Fun Run through the Trail of Lights, the Zilker “tree,” and ice skating on the Whole Foods roof are among Austin’s more unusual Christmas events.
Another popular shopping event in the area is the Blue Genie Art Bazaar. The art on display here is suitable for people of all ages. You can frame your own photographs and prints, as well as novelty candles, yard art, wooden toys, and other items. Everything is made by hand by local artists.
Austin Christmas events are brimming with live music, iconic Austin cuisine, and funky-meets-traditional holiday entertainment for the whole family. Stroll through Zilker Park’s Trail of Lights or sing carols on the steps of the Texas state capitol.
Christmas is celebrated in the Texas Hill Country town of Fredericksburg in a manner befitting of their German heritage. Every year, the town hosts a number of community Christmas events. One of the first is the lighting of the German Christmas Pyramid and tree at the Vereins Kirche on Marktplatz. Santa Claus appears, and there is live music. The Eisbahn outdoor skating rink, which is open from November to January, is a local favorite.
During the holiday season, the always magical Fredericksburg Main Street gets an even more glamorous makeover, and it is sure to put you in the Christmas spirit from the first stroll. On December 4, the town center will be transformed into a flurry of homemade floats, marching bands, and Christmas lights, continuing a tradition that has drew visitors for more than two decades.
One of the first is the lighting of the German Christmas Pyramid and tree at the Vereins Kirche on Marktplatz. Santa makes an appearance for the festivities, and there is live music and free cookies. In addition, the Eisbahn outdoor skating rink, which is open from November to January, is a local favorite.
Christmas in Grand Prairie
The Grand Prairie Holiday Tree Lighting, a Christmas Candlelight memorial service, and the Traders Village Holiday Market are just a few of the reasons to celebrate Christmas here. These are only a few of the attractions available. The city’s spectacular light display, however, is the main draw. Visitors can drive for two miles while being surrounded by thousands of Christmas lights. A holiday village with an indoor laser show and a walk-through forest are also part of the display.
Prairie Lights, located at Lynn Creek Park on Joe Pool Lake, is Texas’ premier holiday light park. When you arrive at Prairie Lights, you will be dazzled by 4 million lights strung along a 2-mile path. Hundreds of ALL-NEW displays of various shapes line and arch over the roads. This year’s Prairie Lights is an entirely in-car experience. Halfway through, there are drive-through concessions and restrooms. The very animated light tunnel concludes the second half of the drive – the perfect ending to a night you will never forget.
Holiday DeLights at Fair Park, the site of the annual Texas State Fair, captivates visitors with a 1,000,000 lights, a laser show, free movie screenings, Victorian carolers, quartets and of course Santa, his Elves and his reindeer. December truly is a magical month for the entire family, can you imagine one of the largest collections of 1930s art and architecture decorated in holiday style?
Holiday Delights is a free holiday festival and market that kicks off a full season of holiday activities. Enjoy carolers, arts and crafts, carriage and train rides, a reindeer petting area, and photos with Santa. This year’s additions include a snow hill with a snow baseball field, hayrides, and Annabelle’s Petting Zoofari.
The city’s 66-acre Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is featured for the first time an exhibition called The 12 Days of Christmas. The garden will come alive in the evening as guests will have the rare opportunity to stroll the garden as they view Victorian gazebos filled with mechanical characters and animals inspired by the famed Christmas carol.
Christmas in Houston
The holiday celebrations begin Thanksgiving evening in America’s fourth largest city. Thousands gather along Post Oak Boulevard every year for the fireworks event and lighting of 80 trees. In December, more than 2 million lights illuminate life-size animated animal sculptures at The Houston Zoo.
Stroll through the lovely grounds of the Houston Zoo and take in the sights and sounds of the season. Interact with Candy the Zoo Lights Zebra, take a selfie on a giant ice throne, and take a socially awkward photo with Santa in his workshop as he prepares for the holidays!
There will be no white Christmas in Houston, but there will be an outdoor skating rink, Santa Claus, a holiday village, gingerbread houses, and plenty of Christmas lights. What do you think about that?
Christmas in Galveston
From November to New Year’s, the town is filled with magical events and activities brimming with holiday cheer. Galveston Island brings Christmas to life with a number of must-see attractions throughout the season, including the Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens, Downtown Lanterns & Lights, and the Santa Hustle, a holiday 5K and half marathon.
While the Galveston Railroad Museum has fantastic activities for children, such as train rides and visits from Santa, the Moody Gardens is jam-packed with Christmas-themed activities for the entire family!
About an hour’s drive from Houston, Galveston has a fantastic new attraction – Ice Land. Moody Gardens keeps their event at a chilly 9 degrees, so don your complimentary parka and explore the $5 million ice sculpture park (and you thought buying bags of ice at a convenient store were expensive). This exhibit features 30-foot tall holiday-themed characters in a wide variety of scenes and Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants with his underwater friends. You can also check out the mile-long Festival of Lights, an ice rink and ride down an enormous ice slide.
But wait, there’s more! In addition, they have a 4D Rudolph experience, ice slides, train rides, a dancing tree, and classic holiday movies playing on Texas’ largest screen. The town also hosts the annual ‘Dickens on The Strand’ festival, which dates back to 1974 and sees the town transport itself to 19th-century London, complete with oil lamps, Victorian costumes, and carolers.
For truly unique Christmas memories, Grapevine is the place for your family. It calls itself the Christmas Capitol and rightly so, for the variety and scale of events hosted by this city during the holidays. Some of the events include North Pole Express, Carol of Lights, Parade of Lights, Santa’s Wonderland, and live music at the Historic Palace Theatre, Christmas Wine Trains and after Christmas train rides.
Grapevine celebrates Christmas with over 1,400 events taking place over 40 days from mid-November to early January. A visit to a man-made Snowland and large ice sculptures with ice slides, created with nearly 2 million pounds of ice, are among the most notable events. Grapevine also has a special train ride for children and an outdoor movie screen at the Historic Palace Theatre that shows popular Christmas films.
THE POLAR EXPRESS Train Ride will be available at the Galveston Railroad Museum for a 60-minute round-trip journey to the North Pole. Once on board, hot chocolate and treats are served as passengers read along with Chris Van Allsburg’s classic children’s book, The Polar Express. Santa and his elves greet passengers at the North Pole before boarding the train, where each child receives the first gift of the season – a silver sleigh bell. On the way back to the museum, chefs in each car lead passengers in singing Christmas carols.
Christmas in Texas
The Lone Star State may not be a white wonderland during the holiday season, but towns across the state go above and beyond to celebrate the season. From East Texas to Central Texas and everywhere in between, there is bound to be a Texas town where you can enjoy a festive Christmas in Texas.
Everything is bigger in Texas, and this holds true for holiday celebrations as well. Texas is one of the best Holiday getaways in the United States, with larger-than-life light tunnels, Christmas trees, and holiday displays. More Texas Christmas destinations:
- San Angelo has a beautiful 2.5-mile Tour of Lights with giant Christmas cards and holiday scenes galore!
- Marble Falls is home to the breathtaking Marble Falls Walkway of Lights.
- College Station has a lovely Santa’s Wonderland!
- The George Ranch Historical Park in Richmond TX provides a traditional celebration.