The Trail of Lights at Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Monument in LaGrange offers a less-crowded alternative to the Trial of Lights in Austin. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

In my never-ending quest to avoid giant crowds and explore places I don’t normally see, I landed at Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Site in LaGrange this weekend.

The verdict? The park’s annual Trail of Lights, which combines a historic setting and a festive, quarter-mile trail shimmering in holiday lights, makes a fine alternative to Austin’s glitzy – and sardine-packed – trail at Zilker Park.

Santa and Mrs. Claus greet visitors during the Trail of Lights in La Grange.

It takes about an hour and 15 minutes to drive to LaGrange, which is located east of Austin on U.S. Highway 71. The park is located on a 200-foot bluff on the south side of town, and features the ruins of one of the earliest breweries in Texas and a memorial to Texans killed in the 1840s during the War with Mexico. (Among them were the 17 Texian prisoners from the Meir Expedition who drew a black bean and were shot by a Mexican firing squad.)

The quarter-mile trail includes lighted trees and holiday scenes.

Both sites are highlighted in the Trail of Lights, a quarter-mile walk through lighted displays of ice skaters, fishing penguins, trees, a nativity scene and more.

Visitors can walk through Kreische’s masonry home, too, which is decked out in traditional German style, circa the 1850s, with wreathes, candles, a holiday tree, and a few of those delicate, candle-powered wooden windmills made in Europe.

Little white lights outline the smokehouse behind the main home, and from the hillside overlook in front of the house you can see the lights of La Grange far below. Inside, the architecture drew me in – thick masonry walls, arched windows and wood-planked floors.

Kids can meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, and hot cider, coffee, hot chocolate and cookies are served.

The trail is open Dec. 16 and 17.

The park looks like a fun place to visit other times of the year, too. The 40-acre property offers hiking, picnicking, tours of the ruins of the brewery, which fell into disrepair after Kreische died, and an interpretive center with lots of information about the early days of the brewing industry in Texas.

The Trail of Lights will be open from 6-8 p.m. Dec. 16 and 17. Entry fee is $5 for adults or $1 for ages 3 to 12.

Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Site is located at 414 State Loop 92. For more information call 979-968-5658 or go here.