CHRISTMAS ACROSS TEXAS
The lights at night are big and bright at holiday celebrations across state
Through the new year, Texas towns big and small glow with the magic of the holidays — merriment ranging from snow days and lighted Christmas parades to Santa visits and holiday markets. Here’s your road-trip guide to a little last-minute Yuletide fun. AUSTIN The Trail of Lights is a quintessential Austin experience, during which Zilker Park near downtown radiates holiday spirit 7-10 p.m. through Dec. 23. Activities are peppered along the trail, including interactive kids’ areas, live entertainment, photo ops with Santa and dining options, such as funnel cakes and food-truck fare. More at austintrailoflights.org. BASTROP
Celebrate the season during downtown’s annual Lost Pines Christmas — family-friendly, fun-filled weekends brimming with holiday shopping, entertainment, activities and events (Dec. 14-16, Dec. 21-23). And Bastrop’s River of Lights is up dusk till 10 p.m. through Jan. 4. More at lostpineschristmas.com. BUDA Take a stroll while sipping cocoa and seeing
Santa at Buda’s Trail of Lights (6-10 p.m., Dec. 14-16 and Dec. 21-23), a free event held at Historic Stagecoach Park. More at ci.buda.tx.us/525/Trail -of-Lights. COLLEGE STATION
A Texas-size Christmas unfolds at Santa’s Wonderland, where snow falls nightly through Dec. 30. Merrymakers can also take hay rides and horse and carriage rides through the sparkling Trail of Lights; ride on the West Pole Express trackless train; jump inside a massive snow globe; or brave Santa’s mechanical bull. New this year is Frostbite’s Mountain, where you can grab a tube and race down one of eight furiously fun snow tubing lanes, and the Snow Playground. More at santas-wonderland.com. DALLAS
Christmas is in full bloom through Dec. 31 at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden’s Holiday at the Arboretum. Stroll through the garden to see 25-foot Victorianstyle gazebos come to life with extravagant scenes inspired by “12 Days of Christmas”; take in more than 500,000 twinkling lights; and check out “The Artistry of the Nativity” in the DeGolyer House. You can also see nighttime lighting displays at the Perot Museum and the Dallas Zoo (through Jan. 6). More at visitdallas.com and dallasarboretum.org. FORT WORTH
Experience Texas’ largest drive-through lights display at the Texas Motor Speedway’s Gift of Lights through Dec. 30 — or take a spin around Panther Island Ice, an outdoor skating rink with great views of downtown (through Jan. 14). Find more holiday events “worth” checking off your list at fortworth .com/holiday-checklist. GALVESTON
“Ice Land: Pole to Pole” at Moody Gardens brings a skilled team of master ice carvers to carve 2 million pounds of ice into everything from polar bears and penguins to walrus and reindeer (through Jan. 6). Don’t miss the mile-long Festival of Lights trail at Moody either; it has more than 1 million lights and lighted scenes (through Jan. 6). Elsewhere, Lanterns and Lights features a magical display of Christmas lights and other artisan pieces throughout Saengerfest Park downtown (through Jan. 1). You can also splash and surf with Santa at Holiday Splash at Schlitterbahn Galveston (weekends through Dec. 30), or run with thousands of jolly joggers in the Santa Hustle Galveston 5K and Half Marathon (Dec. 15-16). Find more merriment at galveston.com/holiday magic. GRAPEVINE
In the “Christmas Capital of Texas,” you can climb aboard the Grapevine Vintage Railroad’s North Pole Express in your Christmas jammies, take in a holiday concert or movie at the Historic Palace Theatre or shop for everyone on your list at the charming local stores downtown. Need a festive place to rest your head? Great Wolf Lodge’s yearround indoor water park resort transforms into Snowland with a life-size gingerbread house, nightly snow showers and other attractions. Or consider Gaylord Texan Resort’s Lone Star Christmas (through Jan. 1) — it features 2 million holiday lights, 2 million pounds of hand-carved ice, a twostory 12-lane snow tubing hill, a 6,000-square-foot ice skating rink, more than 30,000 feet of gingerbread for decorating, 25-foot-tall toy soldiers, miniature trains, a new Christmas Carousel, Santa and Mrs. Claus and more. More at grapevinetexasusa.com/ christmas-capital-of-texas. HILL COUNTRY
The Hill Country sparkles during the holidays, and there’s no better way to experience it than by taking a self-guided evening drive along the Texas Hill Country Christmas Lighting Trail. Stretching north from the city of San Antonio to towns including Boerne, Burnet, Dripping Springs, Fredericksburg, Goldthwaite, Johnson City, Llano, Wimberley, Marble Falls, Round Mountain and New Braunfels, all set aglow with sparkling lights and dazzling town squares, courthouses, shops, churches and historic sites through New Year’s Day. Wine lovers should hit the Texas Hill Country Wine Trail for the Christmas Wine Affair (through Dec. 16). Tickets ($75/couple and $45/individual) include a full complimentary tasting at all 44 participating wineries with a limit of four wineries per day and a 15 percent discount on three bottle purchases at each winery. More at texaswinetrail .com/store/item/2018 -christmas-wine-affair. LLANO
This little town lights up during Starry Starry Nights, which brings unique Christmas displays to Badu Park from 6 to 9 p.m. nightly through Dec. 31. Visitors can stroll along the Llano River enjoying thousands of sparkling lights, sip hot chocolate and roast marshmallows each night. On weekends, bring your wish list and get your picture taken with Santa from 6 to 8 p.m. More at llanostarrystarry nights.com. MARBLE FALLS/ LAKE LBJ
Take a free stroll through the Walkway of Lights at Lakeside Park along beautiful Lake Marble Falls, which delights visitors with more than 2 million lights nightly from 6 to 10 p.m. through Dec. 26. Admission is free, but concessions and Santa photos are fundraisers for local nonprofit organizations. More at marblefalls .org/events/2018/walkway -of-lights. NATURAL BRIDGE CAVERNS Christmas at the Caverns (Dec. 15-16, Dec. 2223) fills this geographical gem with seasonal joy, including Caroling in the Caverns as the sounds of Christmas rise from 180 feet below; a Christmas Campfire with seasonal games, food, drinks and photos with Santa “Spelunker” Claus; hayrides with lighted scenes and music; an outdoor maze; and other festivities. More at naturalbridgecaverns .com. PALESTINE and RUSK
Climb aboard the Polar Express in your pajamas to hit the tracks to the North Pole — the quintessential Christmas journey heads out of Palestine station through Dec. 27. Aboard the Polar Express at Texas State Railroad, children of all ages can look forward to a one-onone experience with the cast, conductors, elves, waiters, chefs and Santa Claus. Ticket prices range from $20 to $100 per passenger. More at texas staterailroad.net. SAN ANTONIO
Fiesta de las Luminarias lights up the River Walk with more than 2,000 traditional Mexican luminarias Dec. 16-18. On Dec. 19, the Pearl complex will host its second annual traditional Posada at Pearl, inspired by the Mexican and Latin American tradition of Las Posadas. Thrill seekers can get into the holiday spirit with seasonal experiences at Morgan’s Wonderland (through Dec. 23), SeaWorld San Antonio (through Jan. 6) and Six Flags Fiesta Texas (through Jan. 6). More at visitsanantonio.com.
Clockwise from top left: A Texas-size Christmas unfolds at Santa’s Wonderland in College Station; Christmas caroling at Natural Bridge Caverns; carved ice scenes from Moody Gardens’ Ice Land display “Pole to Pole”; Fiesta de las Luminarias lights up San Antonio’s River Walk with more than 2,000 traditional Mexican luminarias.
Passengers wear their pajamas to board the Polar Express in Palestine.
Saengerfest Park in downtown Galveston is decorated for the holidays.