‘Tis the season for holiday celebrations, big and small, Texas has it all. Whether you prefer quiet evenings fireside or nights on the town, it’s a great time to visit the Lone Star State. If you choose to hang your stockings in Texas this holiday season, don’t miss these Texas-style festivities!
TEXAS HOLIDAY PARADES
Kick off the holidays with parades across the state. Dubbed the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade of Texas, the HEB Holiday Parade in Houston features hot air balloons, marching bands, cheerleaders and costumed characters. Further west, El Paso’s “uniquely Texan” Thanksgiving Day parade, the FirstLight Federal Credit Union Sun Bowl Parade will celebrate “80 Years Around the World” for its 80th annual celebration.
Too busy cranking out that turkey? Join over 150,000 spectators the day after Thanksgiving for the Holiday River Parade & Lighting Ceremony along the River Walk in San Antonio. Enjoy the Christmas music concert, the lighting of the River Walk and wave at Santa as his sleigh floats by.
Texas-sized Holiday Light Displays
For those looking for bright lights, small towns and big cities alike, host multiple holiday light spectaculars that almost outshine Texas’ big and bright stars. Most hail the name “trail of lights,” including the 52nd annual Austin Trail of Lights. Grab family and friends to sit by a traditional Yule Log, ride the Ferris Wheel, write a letter to Santa and more!
Just a few hours south in Houston, stroll through the Houston Zoo Lights for magical lights and musical entertainment from carolers and local musical groups. While most zoo creatures will be fast asleep, you can visit animals in the Reptile House, Kipp Aquarium, Bug House or Carruth National Encounters.
Outside of Houston, take a hay ride through the trail of lights at the biggest Christmas attraction in the state, Santa’s Wonderland in College Station, TX. Get the full experience with a visit with Santa in Santa’s Town, a nostalgic Texas Christmas Village. Capture the experience for your Instagram under the “God Bless Texas” light arch, next to the giant Texas flag light display or in the “Giant Texas Sized Snow Globe.”
If you’d rather stay within the warm comforts of your car, you can experience it all from the passenger seat while driving through the Gift of Lights at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas or the San Antonio Christmas Lights Fest.
The Lone Star State is also home to some unique celebrations. No stranger to beautiful displays, the Dallas Arboretum fills twelve Victorian gazebos with costumed characters, whimsical animals and winter scenes to bring The 12 Days of Christmas to life!
The Trains at NorthPark also call the Big D home. Experience all the trimmings of holiday train travel in more than 4,000 square feet of train themed environments. Nearby in Grapevine, adults can hop aboard the Christmas Wine Train and embrace the holiday spirit with festive treats and of course, wine! For a Western cowboy holiday, visit Christmas in the Stockyards in Fort Worth, TX. The one-day event takes place on December 2 and has western heritage activities for the entire family.
TEXAS HOLIDAY AT THE BEACH
Feeling more like a holiday beach bum than cowboy? Spend the holidays on the beaches of Galveston, Texas and be amazed by incredible ice sculptures at A Caribbean Christmas at Moody Gardens. The resort brings in a team of master ice carvers to sculpt two million pounds of ice into an undersea journey of tropical fish, eagle rays, turtles dolphins and more!
Also in Galveston, “Surf with Santa” at Schlitterbahn Waterpark Galveston Island’s Holiday Splash! Open weekends and select weekdays from November 25 to December 31. The holiday extravaganza also features a Snow Globe Float, Bahn Borealis Light Show, Ornament Factory, holiday characters and reindeer games!
MEXICAN CHRISTMAS FIESTAS
Luminarias, traditional Mexican Christmas lanterns, light the San Antonio River Walk for the Ford Fiesta De Las Luminarias. The century’s old tradition begins at dusk Friday, Saturday and Sunday from December 2-18. Further north and along the border in El Paso, revel the Annual Posadas Celebration and Luminaria Lighting Festival. Posada, the Spanish for “inn” or “shelter,” is a traditional celebration recreating Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to stay in Bethlehem. The presentation is followed by live music, the traditional Christmas Piñata ceremony, cultural dance presentations and the lighting of over 5,000 luminarias.
TEXAS NEW YEAR HOEDOWNS
Once you’ve made all your holiday stops, it’s time to ring in the new year, and what better place than the largest honky tonk in the world, Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth? This year the dance hall will feature two Texas-born acts, Eli Young Band and Green River Ordinance for New Year’s Eve at Billy Bob’s Texas.
If you’re looking to celebrate riverside, you can enjoy live music, carnival games and rides and festival food at the annual Celebrate San Antonio New Year’s Eve celebration. The event takes place downtown and ends the night with a fireworks extravaganza.
For the families, kids are welcome (more like encouraged) at the Children’s Museum of Houston annual Rockin’ New Year’s Noon Bash. Watch the New Year’s Eve Daytime Ball Drop after the countdown to noon after the New Year’s Noon Parade.