The snow might been skimpy in Texas at Christmas, though the holiday cheer is overflowing. Borrowing traditions from many, Texas adds its own twist to the yuletide season.
The Best Christmas Towns in Texas
Visitors can nibble on Tamales, a corn husk filled with Mexican spiced meat and cornmeal while walking by luminaries. Maybe a bratwurst with a stein of beer while gazing at an authentic German Christmas Pyramid is the way to celebrate. Some just want to see millions and millions of lights, and Texas serves that up too. Here are the best Christmas Towns in Texas to celebrate the season.
Grapevine is the Christmas Capital of Texas, located between Dallas and Fort Worth. Its downtown area gets covered in garland and dripping in lights to transport visitors as they shop and sip. Annual events include its popular North Pole Train ride, a tradition for many families as they ride a vintage train with Santa. The annual Parade of Lights is another top event at one of the best Christmas Towns in Texas.
Most events center around Peace Plaza at Grapevine Main Station, from an outdoor ice rink to a Christmas parade to a North Pole train ride. Overnight guests can head to one of the holiday-decorated resorts, like the Gaylord Texan Resort and Conference Center. Holiday events kick off Thanksgiving week and continue until after New Year’s.
The Holiday fun sports German accent in this top Texas Hill Country destination. Up and down its Main Street, Fredericksburg’s quaint boutiques beckon shoppers. The centrally located Marketplatz brims with Christmas Spirit from its outdoor skating ring to its 30-foot Christmas tree to its authentic 26-foot German Christmas pyramid, spinning with charming characters.
Visitors should come hungry as Fredericksburg serves a bit of everything from German brats to smoked BBQ to top Tex-Mex. The bounty of the area is available at the 60 wine-tasting rooms across the area for the perfect bottle for gifting or celebrating.
The events kick off Thanksgiving week and run through New Year’s.
3. San Antonio
As the top destination in Texas, the iconic San Antonio River Walk drips in the Christmas spirit. From the twinkling colored lights adorning the Cypress trees to Luminaries lining sidewalks to the smell of Tamales, San Antonio offers its own Tex-Mex Christmas traditions.
The festivities start with the Ford Holiday River Parade and Lighting Ceremony on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Some of San Antonio’s favorite attractions get a holiday makeover with Alamo Lights, Zoo Lights at the San Antonio Zoo, and Holiday in the Park at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. The celebration starts on Thanksgiving week and continues until the first week of January.
This Texas beach destination gets iced over for the holiday season with its annual Ice Land Rainforest Holiday at Moody Gardens. World-renowned Chinese ice carvers transform the 28,000-square-foot indoor space into a tropical rainforest created out of colored ice. Guests marvel at the colorful creatures created in ice, like monkeys and butterflies, and then can whiz down the ice slide. Open from mid-November until after New Year’s and located at 1 Hope Blvd. Admission is required for a specific time and date.
For a Victorian-inspired getaway, Galveston’s signature holiday event, Dickens on Strand is celebrating its 50th anniversary on the first weekend of December. With costumed participants, parades, and constant entertainment, visitors are transported back to 19th-century London. Advance tickets are recommended, and the event is held in downtown Galveston along Mechanic Street and The Strand.
Austin loves its outdoor and its outdoor light displays. One beloved tradition is strolling through the Austin Trail of Lights in Zilker Park with its 2 million lights on over 40 displays, including many favorite cartoon characters. Afterward, holiday revelers stand under the Zilker Tree, a tower decorated with lights.
Peppermint Parkway at the Circuit of Americas is a drive-through nightly light event. Visitors experience a million lights with music and dancers along the one-mile route.
As the capital of Texas, the capitol building displays a Texas-grown tree every year. Another cherished treat in Austin is Mozart’s Coffee Roasters. It is a must for sipping hot chocolate under its canopy of Christmas lights, which are set to music, next to Lake Austin.
6. College Station
Outside of town, this college town is home to Santa’s Wonderland, a Texas-sized Christmas extravaganza. Starting with 4.5 million lights and REAL snow (Central Texas doesn’t see much of that), merrymakers ride through the displays on an open-air hayride.
Afterward, there are 12 snow tube lanes for wind-in-your-face fun. Then, revelers can head to the snow playground with enough snow for snow angels. If that wasn’t enough, Santa’s Wonderland has an outdoor ice skating and a petting zoo. Santa’s Wonderland runs from mid-November until a few days before New Year’s. Admission is required, and there are early-season discounts.
Known as the Big D, Dallas offers a magical holiday escape at its Dallas Arboretum. This 66-acre property transforms for the holidays in a 12 Days of Christmas theme. Its 50-foot-tree plays music, and visitors will pass 600 nutcrackers in the garden displays. There is a Christmas Market.
The Holiday at the Arboretum is open daily from mid-November until the first week of January. Timed entry admission is required to this popular Dallas holiday event.
Texas has its own railroad, the Texas State Railroad, based out of the East Texas town of Palestine. Passengers climb abroad for an official Polar Express excursion while the soundtrack for the movie sets the mood.
The classic children’s book, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, is read while kids in pajamas listen and nibble on cookies. Santa and Mrs. Claus visit the cars during the 60-minute ride, and Elves also lead passengers in classic carols. The Polar Express departs the Palestine Depot from November through the end of the year. Families can head over to the historic Anderson County Jail to see the Grinch.
Just north of Austin, the Williamson County Courthouse in Georgetown is transformed with lights and decorations. For the first weekend in December, the shops around the square roll out the Santa red carpet for its annual Georgetown Christmas Stroll. The lights stay on for the season at Georgetown Square from Thanksgiving weekend until the first days of January.
10. El Paso
Out in West Texas, El Paso transforms its downtown into a holiday destination with its annual WinterFest. Visitors can get into the season with an outdoor skating rink, shopping, and dining, especially the holiday favorite Tamales. WinterFest starts in mid-November and continues until the New Year.
11. Corpus Christi
Short on snow, though high in Christmas Cheer, Corpus Christi hosts Merry Days on the Bay with holiday markets, Santa sightings, and more. The Illuminated Boat Parade is a popular event along the Downtown Seawall. Close by, the Art Museum of South Texas erects its Christmas Tree Forest with decorated trees, a favorite from mid-November until New Year’s.
This historic Texas town transforms for the holidays with its annual Wonderland of Lights Festival. With millions of tiny white lights, the Harrison County Courthouse glitters as a backdrop as horse-drawn carriages, ice skating, and Santa’s workshop delight all. The Wonderland of Lights opens for the season Thanksgiving week and runs until New Year’s.
13. Johnson City
Home to a former U.S. President, this Hill Country town is all aglow with lots of lights across its historic core. With 2 million lights, this display is so big it can be seen from space. This free event is a Texas Hill Country favorite. Visitors will find the lights on from Thanksgiving week until the first week of January.