For anyone looking for a place to infuse their spirit with Christmas cheer, look no further than the Lone Star State. It may be a way off from the North Pole, but just like everything else, when it comes to Christmas spirit, everything is bigger (and better) in Texas. Of course, Texas is not exactly a small state geographically. If anyone is going to partake in a Christmas event (and everyone should!), take the entire family and make a day trip out of it. Here are some of the best Christmas day trips to sleigh off to this year.
It is easy to feel festive at the Winter Wonderland at The Circuit. This world-famous event has the flagship event of the Chinese Lantern Festival, where guests will experience the brightness of the season through interactive entertainment and lighted displays. Guests can skate on the state’s largest outdoor ice-skating rink. Afterward, make sure to see the H-E-B Tunnel of Lights, Santa’s Workshop, and the area’s petting zoo. Have a camera on hand as you are sure to capture many memories. Afterward, if you are in the mood for a hot chocolate or coffee, stop by Mozart’s Coffee Roasters. The building is completely decked out for the season and runs a light show every hour on the hour beginning at 6 pm through closing time. The twelve-minute show employs 150,000 Christmas lights set to music.
Before leaving town, stop by the Four Seasons Hotel Austin and tour the annual Gingerbread Village. These edible homes are not an average homemade display. Each home in the village is crafted overnight by a team of talented chefs and engineers. There is a different theme each year, and these works of art are worth viewing. The 2019 theme is “friendship.”
What better place to fill up with festive holiday cheer than the official Christmas Capital of Texas®? Grapevine is a quaint town near Fort Worth that is famously known for their wine festivals and events. In 2009, the Texas State Senate officially decreed Grapevine the official Christmas Capital of the state, and those seeking merriment will not be disappointed.
In a 40-day span preceding the holiday, there are more than 1,400 festive events on average each year in the city. These include thrills for adventure-seekers such as Scuba Diving Santa and snow tubing, as well as millions of magical holiday lights throughout the city. Here is just one way to spend a day enjoying the city.
The young and old alike will appreciate taking a ride on the North Pole Express®, the vintage Grapevine rail train, all decked out for the season. Guests are presented with a souvenir ticket as they board the train, along with a keepsake mug of Santa’s special chocolate snow milk. The short train ride is filled with plenty of other treats and surprises, perhaps none more exciting than the destination itself.
Riders will arrive at the snowy North Pole Forest and tour Santa’s workshop, where they can enjoy a Broadway-style musical Christmas performance. No trip to the North Pole would be complete without an actual photo with Santa, and each guest will receive one before departing.
Upon the return to Grapevine, enjoy a stroll down Main Street and take in the sights and sounds of the season. The boutiques lining the street are the perfect way to get in some Christmas shopping; shoppers will find everything from antiques to modern apparel.
All the merriment (and shopping!) is sure to work up an appetite, so take advantage of the numerous restaurants in the downtown area. A local favorite is Tolbert’s Restaurant and Chili Parlor, where patrons can enjoy the famous Bowl of Red (chili con carne), tortilla soup, burgers, or many other Southwestern specialties.
End your day by wowing everyone at ICE! located at the Gaylord Texan Resort. This stunning display has over two million twinkling lights, 15,000 ornaments, and ice sculptures made from more than two million pounds of ice. Do not forget to snap a photo or two at the 54-foot tall Christmas tree!
MCALLEN AND HIDALGO, TEXAS
The McAllen holiday parade is another example of how Christmas is bigger and better in Texas. Not only is the illuminated holiday and helium balloon parade the largest in the state, but it was twice named as best parade in the world.
This parade will feature dozens of illuminated, professionally decorated floats as well as celebrities and guest performances. The parade is one day only, and there are an estimated 250,000 spectators who come to view, so those who want an excellent vantage point will need to arrive early.
If you prefer, you can purchase seats with a guaranteed view. Those with tickets can enjoy the parade from within the Veterans Memorial Stadium. There are 13,000 seats available, so invite the entire family.
Any time you have before or after the parade is well-spent at the adjoining Christmas in the Park event. Make sure to come hungry, as there will be over 30 food vendors. If guests need help working up an appetite, make sure to stroll through the marketplace, where they will find more than 40 craft vendors.
Before leaving the area, spend some time in neighboring Hidalgo enjoying its Festival of Lights. The festival is reported to be the largest Christmas display in the entire state.
The three-mile trail of lights can be viewed via a train or trolley tour. One popular option offers dinner, a concert, and the trolley tour so guests can feast on a roast beef dinner before making their way through the light tour. Additionally, guests can take a self-guided tour in their own vehicle. Make sure to tune the radio to 91.1 and enjoy the musical accompaniment with the drive.
COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS
The city hosts a Christmas in the Park event two weekends in December. It is well worth it to attend; not only is the event free, but there is something enjoyable for every member of the family. Additionally, families are welcome to bring in their own non-alcoholic beverages.
Take a free hayride and visit animals in the petting zoo. There are real snow slides to add even more merriment to the season. Of course, Santa himself will be in attendance, so make sure to have your wish list ready.
If you need more facetime with Santa, head to Santa’s Wonderland. Visitors will have a challenging time deciding which to be more excited about: spending time with Santa or seeing snow. For those native to Texas, snow may be something that is rarely seen, so take advantage of tubing down Frostbite’s Mountain or frolicking in the snow playground where those from one to 92 will enjoy making snowmen and snow angels.
Additionally, families can take Santa’s hayride tour or a VIP horse and carriage ride to view the paths marked with stunning light displays. Make sure to stock up on food and drink with one of the on-site vendors where guests can nosh on cinnamon roasted nuts, world-famous cocoa, or a massive half-pound burger.