It’s the most magical time of the year, but it’s not just Christmas lights keeping Texas merry and bright. From trains and tamales to live music and fireworks, here are 10 towns in the Lone Star State to visit this December. You can also find a comprehensive guide to yuletide across Texas at austin360.com.
Now-Jan. 6: Locomotion lovers should climb aboard the holiday tradition known as Trains at NorthPark. For the past 31 years, the event has raised more than $13 million for Ronald McDonald House of Dallas and served more than 38,000 families. The Trains at NorthPark entertains more than 70,000 each season with 1,600 feet of track rolling from coast to coast across America. Tickets are $7 for adults and $4 for children and seniors. More at thetrainsatnorthpark.com.
Now-Dec. 21: Take a hayride to the cutting fields to seek out and chop down the perfect Christmas tree at Elgin Christmas Tree Farm, where rows upon rows of Virginia pines and Leyland cypress grow in the tree fields. While there, enjoy everything from scenic hayrides and a crazy maze to visiting resident donkeys and alpacas. Find more and check the tree status after Dec. 15 at facebook.com/ElginChristmasTreeFarm.
Now-Jan. 1: A decade ago, the Texas Senate officially declared Grapevine the Christmas Capital of Texas, and there’s good reason why. This town boasts more than 1,400 holiday events in 40-plus days. From experiencing Texas’ largest ICE! event at Gaylord Texan Resort to riding the North Pole Express on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad, those looking to celebrate the season 24/7 should head here. Find more merry magic at grapevinetexasusa.com/christmas-capital-of-texas.
Now-Dec. 16: Vineyards and tasting rooms twinkling with lights and radiating holiday cheer set the scene for the Texas Hill Country’s 2018 Christmas Wine Affair. For 17 days, 44 participating Hill Country wineries invite guests to sample and swirl their favorite sips on this self-guided wine trail. Tickets are $75 per couple/$45 individual and come with a full complimentary tasting at each winery (limit four wineries per day) and a 15 percent discount on three-bottle purchases from each winery. More at texaswinetrail.com/trails.
Dec. 8, 15, 22, 23, 25 and 31: Experience holiday Cheer on the Pier on Saturdays in December, when the whole family can snap photos with Santa, watch holiday movies like "The Polar Express" and "Elf," enjoy rides and take part in holiday-themed activities at the Pleasure Pier. More at pleasurepier.com.
Now-Jan. 6: While in town, be sure to check out all of the merriment on offer from now through the New Year. Known as the "Winter Wonder Island" of Texas, Galveston will continue to spread holiday cheer throughout the season with hundreds of events over 50 days spanning holiday performances at The Grand 1894 Opera House, Ice Land at Moody Gardens, Holiday Splash at Schlitterbahn Galveston and more. More at galveston.com/holidaymagic.
Now-Dec. 29: Gruene Hall is delivering a sleigh’s worth of live performances all month, and most weekday and weekend afternoon shows are free of charge. Check out Walt Wilkins & the Mystiqueros (Dec. 6), Todd Snider (Dec. 7-8), Tyler Childers (Dec. 12-13), Steve Earle & the Dukes (Dec. 16), Brett Graham (Dec. 17), Two Ton Tuesday Holiday Show (Dec. 18), William Clark Green (Dec. 21-22), Kevin Fowler (Dec. 27), Roger Creager (Dec. 28) and Stoney Larue (Dec. 29). More at gruenehall.com.
Dec. 8: Learn tamale-making techniques and take a few dozen home with you to share during the holidays at La Gran Tamalada, a cultural culinary tradition taking place at Historic Market Square from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Cortez family, owners of the popular Mi Tierra restaurant, shares its love of family, tradition and tamales at this event that’s free and open to the public. At the annual community workshop, there will be live music and children's activities in Centro de Artes such as storybook reading, corn husk doll decorating and photo-ops with Pancho Claus. More at guadalupeculturalarts.org/la-gran-tamalada.
Dec. 31: Ring in 2019 at Celebrate San Antonio, the biggest New Year’s celebration and fireworks extravaganza in the state. Presented by Bud Light, the free downtown fiesta features live music on three stages, carnival games and rides, festival food, fireworks and more in Hemisfair Park from 6 p.m. to 12:15 a.m. More at saparksfoundation.org/event/celebrate-sa.
Dec. 9, 22, 25, 30, 31: Want to see Santa ditch his sleigh and ride into town Texas-style on a longhorn? Head to the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines during Visit With Santa events on Dec. 9, 22 and 25, where families can take photos, write letters to Santa, take part in holiday arts and crafts activities and more in Santa’s workshop. Ring in 2019 during the resort’s two-night New Year’s Eve Extravaganza package (Dec. 30-31), including a full-scale carnival complete with a Ferris wheel, an on-site petting zoo, a Texas-style barbecue, a DJ dance party, a sparkling wine or apple cider toast, and the resort’s signature fireworks display. More at lostpines.regency.hyatt.com.