• The Center for Texas Cultural Heritage
    Rendering courtesy of Bailey Architects
  • Photo by Tyler Rudick
  • Exhibits at the Center will be geared towards a younger audience, ranging fromgrades four through seven.
    Rendering courtesy of BRC Imagination
  • Many of the displays, however, will offer an extra layer of historical detailfor curious adults.
    Rendering courtesy of BRC Imagination
  • "Birth of the Republic of Texas" — one of the many conceptual designs sumbittedby BRC Imagination Arts, the firm behind Space Center Houston.
    Rendering courtesy of BRC Imagination
  • With an additional hotel coming to the Discovery Green area, the new heritagecenter will be at the apex of the thriving tourist-friendly neighborhood.
    Graphic courtesy of The Center for Texas Cultural Heritage

Mayor Annise Parker joined noted Houston businessman John Nau Thursday to reveal the full scope of the plans for the Nau Center for Texas Cultural Heritage — a new educational facility and visitors center dedicated to the unique history and culture of southeast Texas.

"Two years ago, John and I sat down and began to have some serious conversations about this project," Parker said at a press event on the future building site, located along Avenida de las Americas between the George R. Brown Convention Center and Minute Maid Park.

"I had just a very small idea. I wanted a simple tourism center. It was a really nice vision, but it was way too small for John."

"I had just a very small idea. I wanted a simple tourism center that could capture the folks from the convention or sports venues to explore our amazing cultural heritage . . .

"It was a really nice vision, but it was way too small for John."

Geared toward students in fourth through seventh grades with additional material for adults, the forthcoming center is expected to become a new starting point for tourists to delve deeper into the history of both the city and the entire region.

"If you're really passionate about NASA, for example, it's not just about going to Space Center Houston," Parker said. "It's about going to the City of Houston's own Gragg Building, the headquarters of our parks department which was the first home of mission control and has some nifty space artifacts."

During the ceremony, John Nau — chairman of the center's new board and CEO of Silver Eagle, the nation’s largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products — announced he would be donating $8 million to the $40 million capital campaign to construct the facility. Houston First Corporation, which manages the convention center and surrounding hotels, is providing an additional $15 million to see the building to completion.

Historical inspiration

"There really hasn't been a place to direct visitors and conventioneers to places like Washington-on-the-Brazos or San Jacinto, one of the most important battles in the history of the U.S.," Nau told CultureMap in an interview after the event.

"Houston thinks big, dreams big and takes action. That message has to come out to inspire the young people ."

"This will be far more than just a visitor building. After we traveled to cultural and heritage centers in place likes Philadelphia, Gettysburg and Springfield, Illinois, it became clear that this project should have a strong educational component if it's going to succeed."

Early organizers of the Center for Texas Cultural Heritage assembled a diverse group of leaders from across the region to discuss how to present the rather complex and many-layered history of the greater Houston area.

"Out of these first meetings came this notion that Houston has big ideas. People here have vision and they back it up with action," Nau said, naming the Houston Ship Channel and the Texas Medical Center as but two of the city's seemingly-impossible achievements.

"Houston thinks big, dreams big and takes action. That message has to come out to inspire the young people. It's not just learning about Texas history. It's about being inspired to think bigger than they might normally think."

  • Sarah Rothenberg
    Photo by Tina Psoinos
  • Rothenberg enlisted Shepherd School of Music composition faculty, Prix de Romeand Stoeger Award winner Pierre Jalbert to note an antiphonal fanfare thatevoked a sense of grandeur.
    Photo by © David A. Brown/dabphoto.com
  • Rothenberg is enlisting the help of Da Camera artists past and present forMendelssohn's Octet and the continuo orchestra for Bach's Keyboard Concerto No.1 in D Minor, including violinist Vera Beths. . .
    Photo by Carine Bijlsma
  • and violinist Harumi Rhodes, alongside emerging musicians currently in the DaCamera Young Artists program and alums.

Connecting the notes: Da Camera's 25th anniversary show brings creative musicand cake together

Let them listen to Bach

Over that past 25 years, Da Camera of Houston's artistic director and founder Sarah Rothenberg has conceived a je ne sais quoi approach to programming music that's akin to a brilliant work of visual Pointillism. Think of George Seurat's Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte - 1884.

As it majestically hangs center stage in one of the Impressionism galleries of the Art Institute of Chicago, the image is scientifically cohesive from afar. But get too close and the shapes diffuse into a mystery or dots begging to be unraveled — and connected.

Each blotch of paint behaves as if it were its own island.

Da Camera's strategy is no different. Look too close and very little makes sense. But once you understand how each particular element plays on the other, the significance that is embedded in the interdependence and the dialogue between the works just makes you smile. Because it's thoughtful, it's masterful and you couldn't imagine it any other way.

So what does Pierre Jalbert, Johann Sebastian Bach and Felix Mendelssohn have in common? Other than they are all composers in the genre of classical music. And their oeuvres are on the printed playbill for Da Camera's "25th Anniversary Celebration" at Wortham Theater Center Friday.

Within inches of the program, it's a nonsensical arrangement, especially as this concert celebrates the nonprofit's silver anniversary. One would think — and one would be correct for doing so — that Rothenberg has a justification for this bricolage of new and old tunes, that they are fused around some sort of motif.

There is a sound reason. Yet this time, such theme isn't about Debussy or Shostakovich or the genre of folk music. Rather, it's about Da Camera's journey itself.

"When I think of Da Camera, I think of creative and unique programming and great chamber music. So I wanted the piece to somehow reflect that."

"There's a wonderful practice in the Baroque period to commission pieces in light of momentous occasions," Rothenberg explains. "Think of Handel's Water Music or Bach's Brandenburg Concerti — commissioning new works is a time honored tradition dating back to the time of Bach."

Rothenberg imagined the sounds of brass instruments tolling a reverberant flourish that herald the accomplishments of an arts presenting organization thriving in the 21st century. She enlisted Shepherd School of Music composition faculty, Prix de Rome and Stoeger Award winner Pierre Jalbert to note an antiphonal fanfare that evoked a sense of arrival, an ethos of grandeur.

"When I think of Da Camera, I think of creative and unique programming and great chamber music," Jalbert explains. "So I wanted the piece to somehow reflect that."

Instead of assembling a large ensemble on stage, Jalbert opted for three musicians positioned throughout the hall to create spatial and antiphonal effects. His Fanfare Da Camera for brass is scored for two trumpets and one trombone.

"The trombonist is placed on stage and each trumpet is placed in a balcony on the right and left side of the auditorium," he explains. "The trombonist functions as a kind of soloist while the trumpets echo each other in canonic imitation. The three come together at the very end to present a more chordal, homophonic texture in celebratory fashion."

Jalbert's harmonic language is wonderfully colorful, says Rothenberg, the kind that would welcome something fantastic in the Baroque era.

"I am performing Bach because of a variety of reasons," Rothenberg explains. "Da Camera also presents jazz. And just as Bach appeals to classical tastes, Bach has inspired some of the giants of jazz of this and past generations."

She is right. Bach has mused pianists Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett and Oscar Peterson, trumpeters Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis, among other musicians of international repute.

"I am performing Bach because of a variety of reasons. Da Camera also presents jazz. And just as Bach appeals to classical tastes, Bach has inspired some of the giants of jazz of this and past generations."

"Bach's Keyboard Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, the first showcase piece he wrote for harpsichord — though it's important to note that it isn't early Bach — was a daring work in its kind," Rothenberg says. "Because of the instruments softness, it hadn't yet been put in a soloistic light."

For the continuo orchestra and for Mendelssohn's Octet in E-flat Major, Rothenberg gathers Da Camera artists past and present, including violinist Ken Goldsmith, who performed in the inaugural Da Camera concert, violist James Dunham and cellists Norman Fischer and Desmond Hoebig with emerging musicians currently in the Da Camera Young Artists program (Joanna Becker, Creston Herron, Derek Powell and David Connor) and alums (Sonja Harasim and Whitney Bullock) — many who refined their skills with violinist Vera Beths — alongside violinists Harumi Rhodes, Nicolas Kendall, violist Ivo-Jan Van Der Werff, Theresa Hanebury and Jim Vassallo on trumpet, trombonist Thomas Hulten and former Da Camera education director, cellist Evan Leslie.

"Mendelssohn revived Bach — whose music was largely forgotten after his death in 1750 — by producing the first St. Matthew's Passion in a concert setting in 1829," Rothenberg added. "His sister Fanny Mendelssohn (who was an accomplished pianist) performed many of Bach's works, including the D Minor Concerto."

Brahms learned much from Mendelssohn's music and discovered Bach through Mendelssohn's study. As such, Rothenberg has chosen a cadenza Brahms penned for her performance of Bach's Keyboard Concerto. Brahms' reaction to the concerto, written two centuries prior, travels from a conventional Baroque aesthetic to thicker textures typical of Romanticism. For the last concert of this season, Rothenberg will re-context Brahms' late piano compositions for In The Garden of Dreams, a staged production commingling text, images and music of turn-of-the-century Europe.

As for Mendelssohn's Octet, "there isn't a more celebratory piece in the world," Rothenberg says. "Like champagne and cake."

Cake? In keeping the festive tenor of the musical evening, champagne and desserts will follow at an after party at the Houston Ballet Center for Dance. Because there's no question that Jalbert loves and Bach and Mendelssohn loved cake.

Who doesn't?


Da Camera of Houston presents "Opening Night: 25th Anniversary Celebration" on Friday at 8 p.m. at Wortham Theater Center. Tickets start at $28 dollars and can be purchased online or by calling 713-524-5050. Admission to the after party at the Houston Ballet Center for Dance is $50.

A 25-year toast: George R. Brown employees there since the very beginning take(a brief) break

Pix of the day

When the George R. Brown Convention Center first opened on Sept. 26, 1987, city officials couldn't forsee the change that it would usher in for the city of Houston.

It is now part of a thriving district, with a neighboring public park, a second hotel on the road to development and a solid master plan laying out the foundation for the coming decade, and it remains one of the premier convention spots in the United States.

A handful of devoted employees remember that opening day, and took a few moments from their busy schedules on Wednesday (the convention center is currently playing host to two events) to toast to their and center's longevity.

Peter Radowick of Houston First submitted this Pix of the Day, saying "The George R. Brown Convention Center opened its doors 25 years ago today and these five employees — from left, Luther Villagomez, Anita Mendieta, Charmaine Pilgrim, Frank Randolph and Joey Granado — were all on the scene in 1987 making things run smoothly."

Got a great photo of a Houston happening or everyday occurrence? Or just a fun photo that shows why Houston is so unique? Send it to barbara@culturemap.com, along with details (who, what, where and why it's special). It might make our Pix of the Day.

New convention center hotel is full speed ahead: See the striking look that willpave over a parking lot

1,000 rooms

Houston First Corporation is entering into exclusive negotiations with locally-headquartered Rida Development Corporation to develop the new hotel that will be adjacent to the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Rida has teamed with Morris Architects for the design of the 1,000-room hotel, which will be attached to the George R. Brown by sky bridge.

The project will take the district one step closer to a "four-corners" hotel concept envisioned in the 2025 Master Plan, which includes a hotel "planned for the corner of Polk Street and Chartres Avenue, one block southeast of the Convention Center" and another on the corner of Rusk Street and Chartres Avenue. And it comes in the same week that the George R. Brown is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

The project will take the district one step closer to a "four-corners" hotel concept envisioned in the 2025 Master Plan.

The overall goal is to expand the holding capacity of the convention center district, which has been eliminated from convention-hosting consideration in the past due to inadequate downtown accommodations.

"This new convention center hotel will increase our convention business and bring new energy to the city's convention district," Ric Campo, chairman of Houston First, said in a statement. "The hotel will bring significant sales resources for the convention market and will be a welcome addition to the Houston sales teams."

The new convention center hotel will be built directly north of Discovery Green — mirroring Hilton Americas-Houston, the 1,200-room hotel connected to the convention center by two skywalks — on a 6.7-acre space that is currently a surface parking lot.

Houston First says that it will construct a 1,800-space parking garage on the north side of the George R. Brown with first-floor retail space. The process for that garage, which will serve both the general public and convention hotel visitors, is expected to begin later this year.

  • City Dance Company
    Photo by David Brown
  • The TSU Jazz Ensemble played for guests outside of the museum.
    Photo by David Brown
  • Ballerinas with the City Dance Company performed on the grassy lawn.
    Photo by David Brown
  • Houston Council Member Ellen Cohen presented Josef Helfenstein, director of TheMenil Collection, with a city proclamation.
    Photo by David Brown

Jazz, dancing & scavenger-hunting on the lawn: The Menil celebrates its 25thbirthday with a block party

Pix of the Day

Twenty-five is a big year, a quarter century, a milestone worth marking with a big, blow-out party.

The Menil Collection did just that, inviting friends, neighbors and patrons to join in celebrating the Houston treasure's 25th birthday on Saturday.

Sweltering afternoon heat didn't stop the hundreds that flocked to the grassy lawn to celebrate, listening to music from the Kashmere Reunion Stage Band and the TSU Jazz Ensemble, watching ballerinas from the City Dance Company and peeking inside at the current exhibitions.

Attendees brought lawn chairs, blankets and picnics, and guests queued up for complimentary ice cream. Children participated in a scavenger hunt and played in the grooves of the Michael Heizer installation.

If you weren't able to make it out to the party, no worries — there's still time to help the Menil celebrate its special year. The museum will host free performances and public programs, fancy dinner benefits and posh cocktail parties through December. Find more information here.

Got a great photo of a Houston happening or everyday occurrence? Or just a fun photo that shows why Houston is so unique? Send it to barbara@culturemap.com, along with details (who, what, where and why it's special). It might make our Pix of the Day.

  • Founded in Los Angeles by Mark Lee and Sharon Johnston in 1998, Johnston Markleehas made a name for itself with a deep dedication to architectural history andtheory.
  • View House, Rosario, Argentina, 2009.
  • Hill House, Pacific Palisades, CA, 2004.
  • After several years of searching for an architecture firm to take on its newMenil Drawing Insitute, Menil officials announced this week that JohnstonMarklee will lead the design project.
    Courtesy photo

Menil picks Los Angeles architects Johnston Marklee to design new DrawingInstitute

public meets private

Marking the 25th anniversary of the Menil Collection's public debut, museum trustees have announced their unanimous decision to select Los Angeles architecture firm Johnston Marklee as the designers of the new Menil Drawing Institute (MDI).

Board members and museum officials packed into the lobby of the Menil library in late May for two days of presentations from the four finalists announced in April: Pritzker Prize-winners Sanaa, Menil master plan designers David Chipperfield Architects, the quickly-emerging Mexican firm of Tatiana Bilbao and, finally, Johnston Marklee, a relatively lesser-known architecture team with a deep commitment to architectural history and theory.

"It may have been two of the greatest days of my professional career," Menil director Josef Helfenstein told CultureMap in a phone interview. "All four firms showed an impressive understanding of the subtle balance between public and private life on the campus, not to mention a deep respect for the museum's history."

"This is a huge institutional moment for us," said Menil director Josef Helfenstein. " We were unbelievably thrilled when they arrived with this completely innovative proposal to create an intimate new facility."

During final deliberations with the board of trustees, Johnston Marklee distinguished itself with a refined approach to the scale and landscape of the museum campus as well as a forward-thinking consideration of how delicate works on paper can be displayed with regard to the bright Houston sun.

"This is a huge institutional moment for us," said Helfenstein. "There has never been a building designed specifically for modern and contemporary drawings. We were unbelievably thrilled when they arrived with this completely innovative proposal to create an intimate new facility."

On the horizon

After founding their semi-eponymous firm in 1998, architects Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee and have established themselves as a leaders in technical innovation with projects like the Hill House — a residential design placed along a 47-degree slope in Pacific Palisades — and a fully up-cycled "green" gas station in the heart of car-centric Los Angeles. Other works like the View House in Argentina stand as a testament to the firm's penchant for modernist reinvention.

The firm presented a single-story structure built around a trio of open courtyards, two of which would serve as entry points at either end of the building. A dedicated research area wraps around the third courtyard. A "living room" space would be situated at the center of the MDI to provide a casual and intimate zone of interaction for staff, scholars and the public.

Just off this central common area, the drawing institute's exhibition gallery — like the Renzo Piano buildings that house the Menil's main collection and Cy Twombly holdings — is proposed to be lit from above by a highly-controlled system of reflected natural daylight.

"One of the major challenges of this project is the sensitivity of the materials to light," Mark Lee told CultureMap from the firm's LA headquarters. "On the other hand, you have to take into account the gradations of light as one moves from the outdoors to the indoor. The proposal calls for a gradual progression so you don't feel like your suddenly in the dark, producing a so-called 'matinee effect.'"

"There's a relation between architecture and open space that's tremendously important to the campus' rich tapestry of residential and institutional buildings," said Johnston Marklee co-founder Sharon Johnston.

"There's a relation between architecture and open space that's tremendously important to the campus' rich tapestry of residential and institutional buildings," explained Sharon Johnston.

"Philip Johnson's original house for Dominique de Menil (on San Felipe in River Oaks) was essential to us in that it provides a kind of DNA found in Renzo Piano's designs and throughout the campus, particularly in the way domestic scale and courtyards factor into the overall visitor experience."

Details of the project, such as building materials and a site selection, are expected to emerge this summer as Lee and Johnston begin their collaborative meetings with the museum's architecture committee. Helfenstein stressed that the selection of Johnston Marklee has never been about choosing a specific design, but rather about establishing an architectural working relationship.

"Sharon and Mark take this very holistic approach to the project," he said. "Buildings need to come from their surroundings and this idea couldn't be more true for the Menil campus. The MDI has to be philosophically part of this family of buildings here. Johnston Marklee completely got it. Their point of departure into something new is just right."

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California cult fave In-N-Out Burger finally reveals opening date for wildly anticipated Woodlands location

are you in or out?

Cult favorite fast food restaurant In-N-Out Burger will open its fourth Houston-area location in The Woodlands this Thursday, November 30, the Houston Chronicle reports. Located in a former Sweet Tomatoes at 1717 Lake Woodlands Dr., it will offer indoor seating for 84 and a 24-seat covered patio.

After years of rumors and speculation, the California-based chain opened two locations in Katy and Stafford simultaneously in 2019. Diners immediately flocked to both with hour or more waits for drive-thru orders.

Debates immediately followed about the newcomer’s quality relative to local favorite Whataburger.

Founder Harry Snyder opened the first In-N-Out in 1948 in Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley. The company had become known for a number of firsts and traditions, including being the first drive-thru restaurant to use a two-way speaker system, hand-leafing its lettuce on site, and a not-very-secret menu that's developed a loyal cult following.

Woodlands residents making their first visit to In-N-Out may want to stick to staples like the classic double-double cheeseburger and a milkshake. From there, consider trying the signature “Animal Style” burgers that come topped with pickles, grilled onions, extra spread (a sauce that’s similar to Thousand Island dressing), and mustard fried onto each meat patty.

The Woodlands has seen a number of new bar and restaurants openings recently. The Stand, a more elevated burger-oriented concept from California, opened in Hughes Landing in August. Popular bar Kirby Ice House debuted near the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavillion in September. A second location of whiskey-obsessed comfort food restaurant Bosscat Kitchen & Libations will soon debut in Market Street.

All In-N-Out Burgers locations are open daily beginning at 10:30 am.

10 ways these River Oaks apartment homes will elevate your next chapter

Turn the Page

In what may be Houston’s most coveted neighborhood sits NOVEL River Oaks, a new beacon of classic architecture and modern lifestyle that honors the heritage, elegance, and natural beauty of the area.

A testament to high-end living, these elegant apartment homes make an impression and continue the pace of this alluring ZIP code that’s steeped in history.

Here are 10 notes about NOVEL River Oaks that illustrate how you can elevate your own narrative here.

1. It’s a natural fit
Canopied under lush live oaks, the setting for your new home is an idyllic haven within the city. The airy, botanical aesthetic is just as picturesque as the neighborhood that surrounds it.

2. Every layout is luxurious
From entertaining family and friends to quiet nights at home, the one-, two-, and three-bedroom floorplans are designed for beauty and functionality.

There are two interior finish options, but you should know that all units come with hardwood floors, private balconies, spacious walk-in closets with built-in shelving, and gourmet kitchens complete with stainless steel appliances and wine refrigerators.

3. Have a stay-cation at the retreat-style pool
Both the rooftop pool with sun ledge and the pool house with an outdoor living room have “vacation vibes” written all over them — no travel time required. There’s also a sunset terrace with grilling lounges for post-pool-day noshing.

4. WFH — with or without the "W"
Thanks to a map room equipped with quiet areas for focus time, along with public meeting spaces and an executive conference room, working from home has never looked better.

When you’ve put in enough hours for the day, the indoor-outdoor city-view lounge, as well as the conservatory and veranda, are the perfect places to grab a drink and unwind.

5. You can also work out from home
The full athletic club onsite features the most innovative equipment and machines along with a flex fitness studio.

6. Very good neighbors included
Located at the iconic intersection of Willowick and Westheimer, you’re in good company the minute you walk out the door.

The chic boutiques of Highland Village are just around the corner and eclectic global restaurants and Central Market are all within strolling distance, too.

7. Furry BFFs welcome
Not only is taking Fido outside a walk in the park (literally!) with beautiful oak-lined pathways, but there is both a pet park and grooming room onsite.

8. Too many other amenities to count
From a coffee bar and hosted wine tastings to concierge service, valet parking, and package delivery — and, of course, a gated, access-controlled parking garage, electric car-charging stations, and more — the list of amenities seems to go on forever.

9. This place is buzz-worthy, literally
Through a partnership with Alvéole, NOVEL has adopted honeybees to help change the narrative of the urban environment and reconnect the community to the subtle wonders of nature.

10. There’s even more to look forward to
Coming soon, NOVEL will be adding another layer to its own narrative with a range of high-end retail partners that will be moving in soon.

Photo courtesy of Crescent Communities

The indoor-outdoor city-view lounge is the perfect places to grab a drink and unwind.

NOVEL River Oaks is now leasing. Explore your next chapter here or call 713-597-8035 to schedule your personalized tour today.

Texas state parks bloom throughout 2022 holidays with festive events and peaceful escapes

Silent nights

If roasting s'mores and hiking in the great outdoors sounds fun, pack up the family and visit one of Texas’ state parks this holiday season.

Texas state parks and historic sites are ringing in the holidays with a number of festive events. There are drive-thru light tours, special holiday hikes, arts and crafts for the kiddos, and more.

Reservations fill up quickly, so be sure to visit an individual park's website before you head out. And check the Holidays in the Parks page for many more fun options, pricing information, and more information.

Houston and Gulf Coast-area parks

Brazos Bend State Park
Holiday in the Park is an all-day affair on December 10. Events include a self-guided "Elf Hike," Christmas crafts, "Pup Parade," s'mores, and more.

Goose Island State Park
See the park in lights, enjoy holiday activities, and camp for free when you decorate your campsite during Christmas in the Park on December 17. Guests are invited to "Santa's Village" at the CCC Recreation Hall for holiday crafts, games, hot chocolate around the campfire, and to drop off letters to Santa in the North Pole Mailbox.

Lake Corpus Christi State Park
Get in the holiday spirit with the second annual Holiday Light Drive Thru, 6-9 pm December 10. Visitors can enter the park for a drive through the lighted areas of Javelina and Opossum Bend camping loops, plus the Old Pavilion.

Austin/San Antonio-area parks

Bastrop State Park
Follow ornaments with clues through the park every day in December during the annual Fa La La Through The Forest Scavenger Hunt. Enjoy the Lost Pines Christmas Parade, a collaborative event with Bastrop and Buescher Parks, at 6 pm December 10. Tour the inside of the historic Refectory and see how the Civilian Conservation Corps celebrated Christmas away from home during A Lost Pines CCC Christmas 9 am-12 pm December 17.

Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site
Visit the popular attraction during December to learn how the farm staff get ready for das Weihnachten (Christmas). Return to the park at 5:30 pm December 18 for the 53rd Annual Tree Lighting, a holiday tradition started by President and Mrs. Johnson.

Garner State Park
Join the Buffalo Soldiers program and friends as they stop into Garner State Park before leaving for Christmas break during the Marching Towards Christmas event 10 am-2 pm December 10. Christmas activities will include hand-dipped candles, frontier Christmas painting, Christmas-themed hard tack in Dutch ovens, and stories of the Buffalo Soldiers.

Buescher State Park
On the Fa La La in the Forest Scavenger Hunt, you can follow ornaments with clues through the park to secure a prize at the end, December 1 to January 1. Enjoy the Smithville Festival of Lights and Lighted Parade, a collaborative effort between Buescher and Bastrop parks, on December 3.

Hill Country State Natural Area
See how art, history and state parks are connected; learn some basic watercolor techniques and paint a card or two to take home during the Watercolor Christmas Cards event 2:30-4 pm December 3. Come back for Horses in History & Ornament Craft from 2:30-4 pm December 22 and learn how horses played important roles in the lives of vaqueros, native people, ranchers and more. Then, play a round of horseshoes and paint a horse ornament to take with you.

South Llano River State Park
At Christmas at the Ranch, 2-5 pm December 3, guests can warm up with hot chocolate and cider, listen to live entertainment, enjoy crafts and cookie decorating, and anticipate Santa's visit while taking in the twinkling lights and Christmas decorations at the historic Ranch House that now serves as Park Headquarters.

Dallas-Fort Worth-area parks

Tyler State Park
Enjoy Reading Ranger Campfire Stories around a cozy campfire at 3 pm December 3. Head back December 9-10 for A Pineywoods Christmas, when you can stroll or drive through the Lakeview and Big Pine campgrounds to take in campers' elaborately decorated sites and take a Winter Wonderland Hike.

Lake Tawakoni State Park
Drive through or stay at the park and decorate your campsite with your favorite Christmas decorations to receive your second night of camping free during your stay. There will be a decorating contest, complete with awards, as well as a reading of The Night before Christmas — all part of Twinkle Tour 2022, 5-8 pm December 3.

Daingerfield State Park
Drive through the park lit up like Santa Land during the 10th annual Christmas in the Park drive thru lights tour December 14-17 (times vary). Marvel at the decorated campsites and lights, and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies while waiting for a chance to visit with Santa.

Eisenhower State Park
Help those in need and spread holiday cheer — and as a bonus, get free entry to the park — by bringing one unwrapped donation item to the park’s Holiday Donation Drive through December 19. Visit December 9-10 to visit the Light Up the Park drive-thru lights event, featuring milk and cookies with Santa. This year, the park is taking unwrapped toys to donate instead of collecting entrance fees for the event.

Cleburne State Park
Enjoy Pancakes With Santa and make pinecone bird feeders 9-11 am December 10.

Cedar Hill State Park
Search for birds taking their winter break at the park during their Winter Birding Walk, which takes place 7:30-8:30 am December 13. Explore Christmas on Penn Farm on December 17: Learn about the history and pioneers of the Penn Family and the farm they built 150 years ago.

Lake Mineral Wells State Park
Experience Christmas, cowboy style, at Cross Timbers Cowboy Christmas, December 3. Park ranger and cowboy poet David Owens will gather guests around a campfire at the Lone Star Amphitheater for an evening of cowboy culture through songs, stories and poems.

Dinosaur Valley State Park
In partnership with Toys for Tots, the park is hosting Christmas in the Valley, a full day of ranger-led events, programs, family friendly activities, arts and crafts, food and more. Bring a new and unwrapped toy for free admission for the whole family. The event takes place 1-4 pm December 17.

West Texas and the Panhandle-area parks

Franklin Mountains State Park
On December 3, make ornaments and holiday cards with recycled materials as part of the Art in the Parks series. During Cookies and Cocoa, you can decorate and take home your own Christmas treat while sipping on a cup of hot chocolate 2-4 pm December 23. Come back on Christmas Eve for a guided, two-mile Santa Hike at 11 am.

Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site
Bring your family out for Home for the Holidays guided family hike on December 10 and moderate hike on December 17.

San Angelo State Park
Enjoy a drive-thru tour of lights and optional pictures with Santa and Smokey Bear during Holly-Days in the Park, 6-8 pm December 10.