‘Tis the Season to Celebrate
By Sydni Ellis
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas especially in Texas, where we start singing holiday carols before the Halloween decorations are put back in the attic. We can’t help it! The twinkling lights, sparkling tinsel, colorful ornaments and shiny presents are just too beautiful to keep packed away. And it’s not just me; many Texas cities are starting their festivities early with festivals, markets and tree lightings this month!
If you like to deck the halls with the best of them, then check out one of these holiday celebrations in Texas. Bundle up the little ones and get ready for pictures with Santa, creamy hot cocoa, glittering decorations and plenty of Christmas cheer.
Start your magical Christmas journey about a five-hour drive south in New Braunfels. Here, Santa traded his much-too-cold North Pole digs for something a little warmer Santa’s Ranch! This is one of the most impressive Christmas light displays in the state, running daily (including holidays) from Nov. 8-Jan. 4 for $28 per vehicle. When you first arrive, order hot chocolate, popcorn or other refreshments to keep you warm throughout your drive. Then explore Santa’s Ranch while you and your family stay warm inside your car. Some of the amazing displays include trucks and houses covered in lights, colorful tunnels, traditional characters like Rudolph and Frosty, and a 50-foot Christmas tree.
For more larger-than-life holiday displays, drive 40 miles west of Wylie to Grapevine to see the Christmas Capital of Texas! Grapevine transforms into a winter wonderland this time of year, filled with more activities than you could possibly do in one season (1,400 in 40 days to be exact!). Help Grapevine celebrate its 175th anniversary by going on the Grapevine Christmas Passport – Elf Adventure, which includes stamping a brass gift tag at a blacksmith shop, making a piece of metal tinsel at a tin shop and building a Christmas train for just $8 from Nov. 29-Dec. 23. While there, you can also purchase a $3 Christmas Activity Ticket to ride the vintage carousel, meet Santa’s (real!) reindeer and tour the Hometown Christmas Exhibit.
Another unique activity includes visiting the ICE! display at the Gaylord TexanResort, which is always a treat. This year, it features huge ice sculptures of Charlie Brown and his friends crafted by master artisans using two million pounds of colorful ice. This (literally) cool event is $23.99 for adults and runs from Nov. 15-Jan. 5. And don’t miss taking a ride on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad’s North Pole Express! Hop aboard the 1920s-inspired train, where elves will provide you a frosty chocolate snow milk and a cookie to enjoy on your journey. The final stop is at Santa’s Workshop, where Santa and other characters will sing and dance in a Broadway-like performance. Taking a photo with Santa will end the amazing holiday experience. Tickets begin at $28 on various days from Nov. 29-Dec. 23.
Who says you can’t get some of your holiday shopping done early as in, before Black Friday? Bring your wallets and your Christmas spirit to the Plano Christmas Market Nov. 23-24! This free event is a favorite community tradition (and so close to home!), where locals come out to sell their homemade gifts. You can find one-of-a-kind artwork made from fabric, wood or ceramic, spicy salsa and sweet jams, lovingly made baby items, ornaments and quilts, and so much more. It’s the perfect opportunity to by something personal and to find unexpected treasures for those people on your list that are always impossible to shop for (looking at you, grandpa!).
Speaking of shopping it’s my favorite Christmas activity, OK? the Texas Christkindl Market Nov. 29-Dec. 22 is another awesome spot to find holiday goodies, listen to live holiday music and get in the spirit of the season. Located in Arlington, the Texas Christkindl Market is a free shopping event. Because it was inspired by Germany’s famous holiday markets, many of the items for sale and concessions available are from Germany as well, such as the gorgeous holiday decorations from Kathe Wohlfahrt and the sweet German lace Lebkuchen cookies from Sister Cities. After shopping the handcrafted decor and special gifts, take a break and go ice skating at the outdoor rink opened until Jan. 12.
Next on the holiday festival agenda, drive five hours south to Comfort, near San Antonio. Here, celebrate the free Christmas in Comfort on Nov. 30! For this one day only, the downtown historic district completely transforms into a charming, small-town holiday festival like a Hallmark movie come to life! More than 125 vendors and on-site merchants will be selling seasonal items and gifts that you can’t find anywhere else.
In between shopping breaks, decorate a gingerbread house, take the kids to the petting zoo, get a picture with Santa, and enjoy holiday treats while listening to live music. At night, stay for the highlight of the event: the Weinachten Lichter (Christmas Lights) parade beginning at 7 p.m. This spectacular show features more than 100 floats and thousands of twinkling lights followed by a firework display it’s a truly magical experience.
One of the most unusual holiday celebrations in Texas is Christmas at the Caverns in San Antonio, running weekends from Dec. 7-23. Christmas carolers will fill the Natural Bridge Caverns with their beautiful singing, made even better by the ancient rock formations that create perfect acoustics. You can also tour the Underground Nativity Experience to see the story of Christmas in front a spectacular backdrop. And, try to catch a sight of Santa “Spelunker” Claus, who will be rock-climbing or making his way through the Twisted Trails course. Outside the cavern, ride on a Cowboy Christmas Hayride to see light-up scenes from the Old West, bounce inside a giant inflatable snow globe and glide along the synthetic ice rink. Other activities include helping Santa find his missing reindeer in a maze and gathering around the campfire for games and s’mores! This event is $27.99 for adults, and you can get $2 off admission if you bring a non-perishable food item to be donated to the San Antonio Food Bank.
Finally, welcome the holiday season right here at home at the free Wylie Arts Festival Dec. 7 at FBC Wylie Event Center. Your whole family is sure to have a jolly time at this creative event, with plenty of activities for adults and kids alike. With more than 150 homemade arts and crafts booths selling everything from jewelry to paintings, it’s easy to cross everyone off your shopping list. Later, treat yourself to festive food in historic downtown Wylie: the sweet aroma of fried goodies and warm drinks will delight your senses.
The holiday season only comes once a year, so you deserve to enjoy it as much as you can! Even the (gasp!) Grinches among us won’t be able to keep their smiles hidden during these events. As for us? Our hearts will be filled with so much merriness that it’ll be like every single night is Christmas Eve. So, dust off your favorite holiday sweaters and join us. And don’t worry if you “accidentally” forget about Thanksgiving this year we won’t tell anyone!