'Tis the Season
9 festive Texas towns to visit for a magical holiday experience
Across Texas, cities and towns are gearing up for Christmastime. If you want a break from crowded big-city light displays and festivals, Texas' small towns have you covered. From inventive ice sculpture displays to local wine tastings, we’ve compiled a list of towns across the Lone Star State filled with winter events where you can experience some Christmas magic.
Winter Wonderland Island in Galveston
It may seem too chilly to head to the coast, but Galveston, with a winter full of fun activities, might just be the place to spend this holiday season. Moody Gardens offers eight holiday attractions, including the Festival of Lights and ice sculpture renderings of famous landmarks; Downtown Lasers and Lights merges over-the-top light displays with downtown’s historic backdrop; and Dickens on the Strand brings guests back to the Victorian Era. There are also events at Pleasure Pier and Schlitterbahn, and an opportunity to spend a weekend celebrating the sandhill cranes that have just flown into the area.
Magical Winter Lights in La Marque
With one of the most extravagant lantern festivals in the nation, La Marque, 40 miles southeast of Houston, is a can’t-miss Christmas destination. Now through January 5, the 20-acre space is divided into eight different light displays, such as a walk-in castle called The Kingdom, a colorful lantern version of Houston’s landmarks, and massive dinosaurs. This year’s event features Chinese acrobats and the opportunity to learn to make traditional Chinese art.
Lost Pines Christmas in Bastrop
Bastrop is home to an array of holiday events just 30 miles east of Austin. Sip mulled wine while shopping along downtown’s storefronts during Wassail Fest on November 30, hear reimagined versions of your favorite holiday classics during “A Country Christmas” at the Farm Street Opry on December 5, and watch the more than 100 floats go by during the Lighted Christmas Parade on December 14. Scream Hollow offers an alternative event: Krampus visits the haunted attraction for three December weekends in Twisted Christmas.
Salado Christmas Stroll
Horses clop along Main Street pulling carriages behind them as choirs and bands break out in song at the 59th annual event in Salado, 50 miles north of Austin. Taking place over the first two weekends of December, local shops are open for extended hours so guests can pick out unique gift items; enjoy themed snacks, fair food, and hot chocolate; and experience the merriment of the village in full swing.
Dickens on Main in Boerne
Thirty miles northwest of San Antonio is the small town of Boerne, whose celebration of Charles Dickens brings, among other things, snow to the Texas Hill Country. Over Thanksgiving weekend, celebrate the Christmas season within six distinct villages each featuring their own attractions like a petting zoo, live ice sculpture carvings, and the one-man show of A Christmas Carol, appropriately named “Bah Humbug.”
Christmas Wine Affair in the Texas Hill Country
If you want a more relaxed way to celebrate the holiday, why not see what Texas wine country has to offer? The Christmas Wine Affair, November 29 through December 15, is a great way to experience wines from the state’s growing industry, and 48 wineries in the area are participating this year. Each ticket comes with complimentary tastings at each participating winery and discounts on wine purchases, as well as a look at the Texas Hill Country during the holidays.
Christmas Capital of Texas events in Grapevine
The "Christmas Capital of Texas" does not disappoint with its many offerings. Popular events include visiting the intricate ice sculpture displays, ice slides, and ice monuments dubbed ICE! at the Gaylord Texan; spending a day in the indoor snow at the Great Wolf Lodge’s Snowland; and taking a ride on the North Pole Express at the Grapevine Vintage Railroad. The town also offers movie screenings in its historic Palace Theatre, lots of opportunities to shop for unique gift items, and numerous parades and festivals.
Texas Christkindl Market in Arlington
Arlington isn’t the smallest town around, but it lands on our list for its small-town vibes and unique German Christmas offerings. Beginning November 29 through December 22, shop unique and exclusive Christmas decorations from Käthe Wohlfahrt and designs from the renowned Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas Village, as well as more local offerings, and enjoy holiday music and an ice skating rink that’s open through mid-January.
Wonderland of Lights in Marshall
It’s more than just lights; downtown Marshall in East Texas becomes a holiday wonderland at this annual event from November 27 through December 29. There’s a Santa’s Village where kids can meet the man himself and make arts and crafts, an outdoor ice skating rink for guests of all ages, and horse-drawn carriage rides around town. Live Christmas music plays throughout the month of December, and the historic courthouse is covered in festive decor and lighting.