Texas is never short on things to do, and that is definitely true during the holiday season. I mean everything is bigger in Texas, so that has to include a Texas Christmas, right? If you’ve been to Texas then you know that we spend our summer melting away in the Texas heat, so when the first cool air strikes in the fall, Texans begin thinking about Christmas. Pretty much right after the Thanksgiving turkey has been put away, the state comes alive with lights, decorations, parades, and celebrations.
While some places across the country celebrate a white Christmas, Texans ring in Christmas with tons of lights and some good old southern charm to try and replace the missing snow. Whether you’re spending a weekend in Austin, a week on the beach, or a short getaway to your local town, we have you covered in this post that outlines Christmas in Austin, Grand Prairie Lights, Dickens on the Strand in Galveston, the San Antonio Christmas lights, the Grapevine Christmas celebration, and many others. So, put on your boots and head out to celebrate Christmas, Texas style with our list of 20 Texas Christmas destinations you don’t want to miss!
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Grapevine Christmas Celebration
Grapevine isn’t called ‘The Christmas Capital of Texas’ for nothing. This small town outside of Dallas knows how to ring in a Texas Christmas. Hosting over 1,400 events for the 2018 holiday season, there is guaranteed to be something for everyone at the Grapevine Christmas Celebration!
Start your trip by booking a room at The Gaylord Texan Hotel. Here you can experience not only their marvelous hotel all decked out for the holidays, but you can also walk through their holiday attraction made completely out of ice! If that’s too cold for you, then stay at The Great Wolf Lodge as it turns into a magical winter wonderland during the holiday season when its transformed into Snowland. You can’t go wrong staying at either of these hotels any time of year, but they are absolutely magical during the holiday season!
Kids will love riding the Grapevine Vintage Railroad dubbed ‘The North Pole Express’ this time of year. Adults can get their wine and shopping fix taken care of on Grapevine’s Main Street, which is dripping with lights and Christmas charm during the holiday season. Check out Grapevine’s complete listing of events here.
Marty and I visited Wimberley’s Holiday Trail of Lights last year and loved it. Wimberley is already listed on our 15 Small Texas Town You Must Visit because it is just so stinking charming! During the holidays, visitors flock to Wimberley to experience the six-acre winter wonderland park known as the Holiday Trail of Lights. This free event includes tons of light displays, a fire pit to roast marshmallows and make s’mores, carolers, and so much more.
We stayed at The Square Inn during our last stay in Wimberley and loved it, and no, we weren’t sponsored. We didn’t even tell the host we were travel bloggers. LOL. The Square Inn is right off of the main square in town, which is perfect for walking to all of the fun shops and restaurants. To me, the little inn felt more like a bed and breakfast. We had our own private room and bathroom right off of a cute courtyard. There was a stocked refrigerator in the common area with drinks and snacks, and then in the morning, we were treated to an amazing homemade breakfast. I highly recommend booking The Square Inn!
Dickens on the Strand in Galveston
Head down to the Texas coast to be transported to Christmas past. Galveston’s famous Victorian holiday festival, Dickens on the Strand, will have you thinking you’re in old London. Costumed vendors peddle their goods including Victorian style food, drinks, and crafts. You’ll be entertained by carolers, musicians, and jugglers just to name a few. Come dressed in Victorian clothes, and get in for half price!
While in Galveston, be sure and stay at Moody Gardens Hotel & Spa to enjoy all of their amazing Christmas festivities. Moody Gardens boasts eight holiday attractions under one venue for the 2018 holiday season. Ice Land will take you through their famous rainforest to see monkeys, birds, and beautiful vegetation all while you are surrounded by ice carvings before you slide down a giant ice slide. Moody Gardens also has a mile long trail full of lights, Christmas themed shows, train rides, Rudolph in 4D, and great holiday food specialties. We’ve stayed at Moody Gardens several times, and we love it every time!!
Cleburne is a small town about 40 minutes southwest of Fort Worth. During Christmas, Cleburne is turned into a Christmas wonderland when the local park is transformed with over 3 1/2 million lights. The opening ceremony not only lights up the park but also hosts Santa and Mrs. Clause while carolers serenade guests. There are numerous activities planned throughout the holiday season, so be sure and check out the complete schedule here.
College Station Christmas Lights
For a true Texas Christmas experience, you have to go to Santa’s Wonderland in College Station. Whether you choose to do Santa’s hayride or take a VIP carriage tour, you will be surrounded by festive music as you ride through millions of holiday lights. After your light tour, visit with Santa, listen to some live music, and jump inside the Texas-size snowglobe for an awesome selfie. Enjoy some delicious Texas food and wine as well before hitting the 10,000 square foot shopping area or hopping on the mechanical bull. Kids will love racing down the toboggan chute, riding the Santa’s Wonderland train or sliding down the tallest mountain slide in Texas. But don’t leave too soon or you’ll miss the rare snowstorm in Texas! Check out their website for a complete listing of things to do and ticket prices.
Grand Prairie Lights
Grand Prairie hosts an awesome drive-through holiday light park on the banks of Joe Pool Lake, the Grand Prairie Lights. The 2-mile winding path takes you through numerous light displays showcasing over 4 million lights! Halfway through your drive, get out and stretch your legs at the Holiday Village that includes concessions, a snow maze, photos with Santa, and a walk through the lighted forest. On the way out of the park, you will be rewarded with a drive through the second largest lighted tunnel in Texas. Be warned, this attraction gets very crowded on the weekends, especially right around Christmas, so be patient and allow yourself enough time to make it through.
San Antonio Christmas Lights
San Antonio is known for its festive atmosphere all year long, but I especially love it during Christmas. The historic streets and the famous Riverwalk seem to shine even brighter as they come alive with holiday light displays and festive holiday music. There is an illuminated river parade that takes place right after Thanksgiving where floats of all kind make their way down the Riverwalk. Later in the season, the Riverwalk becomes illuminated with more than 6,000 luminaries that light the way for the holy family.
Of course, staying on the Riverwalk is the best option to enjoy the parade. The Grand Hyatt, The Mariott Rivercenter, The Wyndham San Antonio Riverwalk, and The Hyatt Regency Riverwalk are a few of our favorites. All of these hotels are located right on the Riverwalk, so you’re within walking distance to all the great shops, restaurants, and festivities.
The San Antonio theme parks won’t let you down during the holiday season either. SeaWorld glows under the light of over eight million lights during their Christmas celebration, while Six Flags Holiday in the Park immerses you in holiday shows, food and of course, thrill rides. If you looking for a hotel closer to the theme parks, be sure and book with Hotels.com so you can start earning your way to free stays.
Another town from our 15 Small Texas Towns You Must Visit, Fredericksburg is one of our favorite Texas towns and Christmas is an especially great time to visit. The German roots of Fredericksburg shine brightly during their holiday festivities. Come and watch the Light the Night Christmas Parade and then go ice skating at their outdoor ice rink. Take a selfie with the 26-foot tall wooden Christmas Pyramid located in the Marktplatz before hitting Main Street to see all of the shops decked out in their holiday best.
I especially love grabbing a holiday wine trail pass and then visiting all of the amazing Texas wineries that are all dolled up for the holidays. If you aren’t familiar with the area, check out our posts to help guide you: 7 Fredericksburg Wineries Not to Miss or The Ultimate Guide to Fredericksburg, TX. For a complete listing of events, click here.
When visiting Fredericksburg, we usually do a bed and breakfast or an Airbnb. If you’ve never stayed with Airbnb, use our link to get $40 off of your first booking! If you prefer a hotel, there are lots of great ones in Fredericksburg. We try to always book our hotel stays through Hotels.com so that we can earn free nights! Some of our favorites in Fredericksburg include the Fredericksburg Inn and Suites, The Inn on Barons Creek, and Hampton Inn and Suites.
Marble Falls’ Walkway of Lights
Head about 50 miles northwest of Austin and you will find the little town of Marble Falls nestled in the beautiful Texas hill country. While Marble Falls is great to visit year round, it sparkles during the holiday season. Right on the banks of Marble Falls lake, you will find the Marble Falls Walkway of Lights. The Walkway of Lights features over 2 million lights and is completely free to enjoy! The light displays range from run water toys to patriotic flags and eagles. The town kicks off the season with a lighted parade before flipping the switch to turn on the Walkway of Lights.
For the perfect view of the Walkway of Lights, stay at The Hampton Inn on Lake Marble Falls. We enjoyed sitting on the deck with a glass of wine looking over the lake while the Walkway of Lights reflected on the water right beside us.
Johnson City is a small town that glows during the holiday season. Plan your visit to Johnson City the last weekend of November so that you can participate in the opening festivities. The Friday after Thanksgiving, they kick off the season with the lighting of the Blanco County Courthouse which is draped with more than 100,000 twinkling white lights! Head through the town to see the entire block of oak trees covered in brilliant white lights as well. In addition, almost every home and business participates in this annual lighting festival, so you will definitely see plenty of lights here in Johnson City. See their full listing of events here.
Go to East Texas to experience Marshall’s Christmas light display. Marshall comes alive when millions of white lights illuminate their town every holiday season during their annual Wonderland of Lights Festival. Marshall has an outdoor skating rink, hayrides, a restored carousel, horse-drawn carriage rides, and Santa’s Village. While visiting, you can participate in the Wassail Walk or the Jingle Bell Run to work off some of those holiday sweets, or just shop away your calories at the Outdoor Christmas Market. Visit their official website for more information.
Jefferson is proud to say that it celebrates Christmas on the Bayou. Step back in time when you participate in the Candlelight Tour of Homes the first two weekends in December. Several gorgeous Victorian homes open their doors for you to see them decorated in their holiday best. After your home visits, stick around to enjoy more of the festivities in Jefferson. They open the season with a Christmas Parade and an Enchanted Forest Tree Lighting Ceremony. You might also choose to participate in one of the pub or bed and breakfast crawls before shopping for the perfect Christmas gift in one of Jefferson’s many unique stores.
Austin Christmas Lights
Austin is full of activities to keep you busy during the holiday season. Start with the Austin Trail of Lights, aka The Austin Christmas Lights, where you can walk through an amazing light display featuring over a mile of Christmas lights as well as food vendors, live music, and photo ops with Santa.
For a true taste of Austin weird, head over to the light display on 37th Street, you’ll see why! Austin also hosts a Victorian Christmas on 6th Street this time of year. Here you can shop handmade arts and crafts while enjoying live entertainment from carolers and choirs.
Back in East Texas, you will find the great town of Tyler. Start your Christmas festivities in Tyler with a drive through their 24-acre winter wonderland known as Santa Land. Located just outside of Tyler, Santa Land is aglow with over 2.5 million lights that sparkle throughout the holidays. Try to plan your visit around the Roseland Plantation’s Afternoon Tea and HIstoric Tour. While reservations are required, this is a great way to enjoy a beautiful plantation all decked out for the holidays.
Hidalgo is a small Texas town located in the Rio Grande Valley near the border of Texas and Mexico. Since 1991, this small town has boasted an award-winning light display featuring more than 3 million light bulbs! Visitors can travel on several different trails, each featuring unique light displays throughout the town.
Head out to George Ranch Historical Park in Richmond, TX for their annual Christmas in the Park celebration. Discover customs and decorations from the 1830s to the 1930s. There are also cattle demonstrations, special treats, and story time with Santa. For a small fee, you can also participate in making holiday ornaments or special holiday baked goods. Visit George Ranch Historical Park’s website for more information.
Dallas is packed with things to do during the holiday season, so I am just going to hit on some of the highlights. Train lovers will want to head straight for NorthPark Mall to see the elaborate model train display that sets up every year during the holidays. While at NorthPark, let the little ones enjoy a show at the puppet theatre before decorating gingerbread cookies at Camp Gingerbread. For a complete listing of events at NorthPark, click here.
The Dallas Arboretum is overflowing with holiday cheer when they set up their Christmas displays. The themed 12 Days of Christmas event lasts longer than 12 days, so don’t worry! Not only are their displays and lights all over the garden, but the Arboretum also sells seasonal treats and beverages to match the festive atmosphere.
Dallas is also host to one of the largest Christmas parades in the country. Join thousands of spectators as they take to the streets of Dallas to welcome Santa and all of his friends. If parades aren’t your thing, and you prefer a quieter way to ring in the season, consider visiting The Dallas Heritage Village during their holiday Candlelight celebration. The Candlelight celebration is a two-day event held in mid-December featuring carolers, and lots of family-friendly activities throughout the village.
Located about 20 miles southeast of Waco, Marlin once drew visitors from far and wide to experience the healing spring waters that flowed in this area. Today you can come during the holiday season to take part in a small town Christmas parade before enjoying historic tours of the church, cemetery, and homes of this small community.
The lake community of Granbury loves to have festivals and Christmas is no exception. To kick off the season Granbury hosts a Nights of Lights Parade ushering in Mr. and Mrs. Clause. You can also enjoy a candlelight tour of some of the privately owned historic homes all decked out for the holidays while the kids make s’mores with Santa during this festive time of year! Read more about Granbury in our post, 15 Small Texas Towns You Must Visit.
Like Dallas, Fort Worth is packed with activities for the holiday season. Enjoy Christmas in the Stockyards when Santa arrives in his magical stagecoach ready to take pictures with the kids. Then head over to enjoy storytime with Mrs. Clause before roaming around the stockyards to enjoy carolers, special holiday treats, and cowboy poetry.
The Fort Worth Parade of Lights kicks off the holiday season with a grand parade through the streets of downtown Fort Worth. The parade includes floats, balloons, and several local performance groups. After the parade, the Sundance Square Christmas tree comes to life lighting up the downtown area.
Nearby, you will find Six Flags Over Texas aglow with lights during their annual Holiday in the Park celebration. Kids can ride down a snow hill, a rare occurrence in Texas, before heading over to SantaLand on the SantaLand Express train. Adults will enjoy all of the thrills of the amazing rides at Six Flags. Next door to Six Flags, at Globe Life Park, you will find Texas Christkindl Market, a German Christmas market that includes German food and drinks, the world’s largest light maze, a skating pond, and of course, Santa Clause!
If you need accommodations in Fort Worth, we recommend The Omni Hotel, The Sheraton Downtown, The Embassy Suites, or The Hilton Downtown. All of these hotels are in an excellent downtown location and have great customer service and amenities. You won’t be disappointed staying at any of these great properties.
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