Ready for a holiday season as huge as the Lone Star State ? Texans are spoiled for choice with hundreds of destinations and attractions where people pull out all the stops to create timeless traditions with sparkling lights, hospitality, and cheer. As for outdoor adventure throughout the winter, nature lovers will find opportunities to see our state’s lands through a new lens, thanks to experiences unique to the season . To help narrow your list, we’ve rounded up the biggest, best, and brightest things to do in winter in Texas.
Holiday Events In Texas
Texans mean business about many things, not the least of which are epic holiday light displays . From an enchanting zoo display to dazzling downtowns all aglow with twinkling bulbs, every corner of the state lights up with holiday magic. Here are six of the most exceptional Texas winter displays and events overflowing with festive fun things to do. 1. Zoo Lights, Houston
Houston Zoo, 6200 Hermann Park Dr, Houston, TX 77030, USA
Location: Houston Zoo Popularity: Very Price: Vary depending on date, age, and membership
One of the most long-awaited family things to do in Texas, the holiday lights at the
never disappoint. From mid-November to early January, the zoo decks out its grounds with over 15 miles of lights, a massive tree, and animal-themed displays. Indulge in hot cocoa, DIY s'mores, and heartier snacks, and secure those Santa pics on selected nights.
2. Holiday Lights On The River Walk, San Antonio
San Antonio River Walk, San Antonio, TX 78205, USA
Location: San Antonio River Walk Popularity: Very Price: Free
Dip into the holiday spirit with a visit to San Antonio for its annual Holiday Lights on the River Walk event. Glowing with more than 100,000 lights, the city’s signature entertainment attraction becomes more mesmerizing than ever. Best part? Strolling through is free! For an extra dash of magic, consider a one-hour
, available for a fee.
3. Trail of Lights, Austin
Zilker Metropolitan Park, Austin, TX 78746, USA
Location: Zilker Park Popularity: Very Price: General admission tickets range from free to $8 depending on the night. Children who are age 11 and younger are admitted free with a ticketed adult. Tickets with add-on perks are available at higher prices.
Hands down Austin's ultimate holiday extravaganza, the
Trail of Lights
in Zilker Park shines almost as bright as the city skyline with over 2 million dazzling lights and 40-plus whimsical displays. A beloved Christmas holiday event since 1965, the central Texas attraction has earned national acclaim and attracts more than 300,000 people each year.
4. Polar Express, Palestine
Polar Express, 789 Park Rd 70, Palestine, TX 75801, USA
Location: Texas State Railroad Popularity: Very. See the website for peak and non-peak dates and rates. Price: Vary based on date, age, and train car selection
If your belief in Santa needs a boost, board
The Polar Express Train Ride
at Texas State Railroad in Palestine. The rides embark regularly from mid-November through December. Passengers enjoy hot cocoa and cookies during storytelling before arriving at the North Pole. There, Santa and his elves hop aboard with gifts and jolly Christmas carols for the return ride.
5. Holiday At The Arboretum, Dallas
The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, 8525 Garland Rd, Dallas, TX 75218, USA
Location: Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden Popularity: Very. More so on weekends. Price: Day admission is free for members and ranges from $12 to $20 for non-members depending on age. Night admission varies for members and non-members depending on the day of the week and age.
The 66-acre Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden certainly knows flowering bulbs, so it should come as no surprise it achieves master status with the glowing kind, too. Each year, the arboretum transforms with
millions of twinkling lights
and stunning displays. Signature features include a Christmas village and charming Victorian gazebos, each depicting one of the 12 days of Christmas.
6. Santa’s Wonderland, College Station
Santa's Wonderland, 18898 Hwy 6, College Station, TX 77845, USA
Location: College Station Popularity: Very Price: General admission tickets start at $49.95 for children and $54.95 for adults when purchased online. A variety of add-ons and express passes are available.
Possibly the grandest Christmas spectacle in Texas,
has more than three dozen activities rolled into one destination. You can take in the lights on an open-air hayride and explore Santa's Farm, where you’ll meet Clydesdale horses. There’s also the delightful Santa's Town, a Christmas village-style shopping area. Arrive hungry and enjoy the famous hot cocoa along with plenty of other tasty food and drink options.
Christmas Towns In Texas
While numerous locations boast annual holiday events and displays, certain Texan communities truly elevate the experience. These are the full-fledged Christmas towns throughout the state that consistently rise to the challenge of taking it to the next level. Here are a few that excel in creating a magical holiday atmosphere. 7. Johnson City
Johnson City, TX 78636, USA
Location: Downtown Johnson City Popularity: Local gem Price: Free
The Texas Hill Country town of Johnson City holds down the title of
The Twinkliest Town in Texas
with an impressive lights-per-capita ratio. This town of less than 2,000 people dazzles its entire downtown annually with over 2 million Christmas lights. The event, officially titled “Lights Spectacular - Hill Country Style,” is so massive that NASA reported spotting it from space. Lights twinkle from dusk till midnight, from a kickoff celebration in late November through early January. On December 30, the town hosts a huge block party featuring live music by Texas artist Bart Crow.
8. Grapevine Locations: Multiple locations throughout Popularity: Very Price: Downtown events are free. Resorts vary based on booking details.
Christmas reigns supreme in Grapevine, a.k.a. the
Christmas Capital of Texas
. It starts with a shimmering downtown and a massive Parade of Lights. While downtown, check out one of the state’s most popular wineries, Grape Vine Springs. The city is also home to Gaylord Texan Resort, which spares no detail in becoming a winter wonderland for holiday guests. Part of that experience can include the resort’s Ice Village, which offers chills of impressive ice sculptures and thrills of activities like an ice rink and snow tubing. Last but hardly least, sprinkle in Snowland at Great Wolf Lodge, which features daily indoor snowfall in its otherwise warm family water park.
9. Jefferson Location: Downtown Jefferson Popularity: Local gem Price: Tour of homes tickets are $22.50 by the advance sale cutoff date and $30 after. Children age 12 and younger are admitted free. Enchanted Forest is free.
of more than 100 illuminated trees and its long-loved Candlelight Tour of Homes are two of its seasonal standouts. The small town of less than 2,000 people exudes holiday charm, making it a destination worthy of a road trip. Warm hospitality invites you to step into brilliantly decorated Victorian houses for a festive journey through history and make timeless memories of your own. Marvel at the many trees and maybe take a few tips for tree-trimming inspo you can take home.
10. Marshall Location: Piney Park Popularity: Regional draw Price: Piney Park Winter Festival & Trail of Lights tickets are $9.99 for opening weekend, $19.99 for peak days; and $12.99 for non-peak days for adults and children age 3 and older. Online purchase saves $1 per ticket.
A relatively new family destination in the Texas town of Marshall, Piney Park plays a huge part in making this already festive down a must-do holiday hotspot. The park’s
Winter Festival & Trail of Lights
welcomes guests from mid-November through December and features an epic light maze, visits with Santa, and dozens of other fun activities. Kids can tackle jumbo jumpers, zoom down slides, and board barrel train rides.
Fredericksburg, TX 78624, USA
Locations: Multiple Popularity: Regional draw Price: Many events are free.
For a beautiful blend of Texas and German holiday traditions, you can’t miss Fredericksburg’s
Christmas Nights of Lights
. A full season of events kicks off in late November with a short audio presentation about the town’s German heritage and the lighting of the Marktplatz (town square). Nightly traditions continue with lighting the Christmas tree and a German Christmas Pyramid. Festivities featuring music and more continue nightly through the first week of the new year.
12. Georgetown Location: Downtown Popularity: Local gem Price: Most events are free.
People say Georgetown’s square is one of the prettiest in Texas, so imagine how glorious it becomes when bedecked for the holidays. The decorations and events make it look like a holiday postcard of a
quintessential American small town
. The merriment kicks off the day after Thanksgiving with an official lighting ceremony, and the cheer keeps going all season long. Highlights include a Christmas Stroll, historic home tours, and a breakfast with Santa.
While Texans must go elsewhere for ski slopes, the state’s milder winter months and infrequent snowfall allow for welcomed cooler conditions to enjoy outdoor activities . Popular state and national parks undergo a seasonal transformation, offering distinctly different experiences. Here are a few of the most interesting among them. 13. Hiking The Salt Basin Dunes, Salt Flat
Salt Basin Dunes, Unnamed Road,, Salt Flat, TX 79847, USA
Location: Guadalupe Mountains National Park Popularity: Moderately Price: $10 entrance fee for the park
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is home to a 2,000-acre expanse of brilliant white
that extend beneath Texas’ tallest peaks. While it may not be snow, it sure looks like it at times. Come winter, these majestic dunes sparkle like snowdrifts, a mirage made especially convincing when the mountains have a dusting of snow. This surreal west Texas landscape, known as Salt Basin Dunes, is the result of over 30 million years of geological and atmospheric artistry. Some of them tower up to 60 feet or more.
14. Beachcombing, Port Aransas
Port Aransas Beach, Port Aransas, TX 78373, USA
Location: Port Aransas, Mustang Island Popularity: Local gem Price: Depends on booking details
When people talk of Texas beaches, many think of South Padre Island, however, this special retreat is 200 miles north. You’ll feel enveloped in a warm winter hug with a visit to
, a tranquil beach haven on the Gulf Coast barrier Mustang Island across the bay east of Corpus Christi. When winter arrives, crowds thin to clear the path to fully dive into a vibrant arts scene and culinary delights. A great time to do this? First Friday events at Port Aransas Art Center, which happen year-round. With 18 miles of coastline, it's an angler’s paradise, which earned it the title of the state’s fishing capital.
15. Hiking & Caving, Bend
Colorado Bend State Park, 2236 Park Hill Dr, Bend, TX 76824, USA
Location: Colorado Bend State Park Popularity: Moderately Price: $5 park entrance fee for ages 13 and older. Free for ages 12 and younger.
For an inspiring winter outdoor adventure near Austin, unwind in the natural beauty of
Colorado Bend State Park
, which is about a two-hour drive. The park encompasses over 400 caverns, serene water scenes, and fun trails for hikers in its 5,300-acre expanse. A must-visit is Gorman Falls, a majestic 70-foot waterfall that captivates year-round.
16. Birding, Mission
Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, 2800 S Bentsen Palm Dr, Mission, TX 78572, USA
Location: Bentsen-RGV State Park Popularity: Very Price: $5 park entrance fee for age 13 and older ($3 per person for groups of 10 or more). Free for age 12 and younger.
Vibrant jewel tones of green jays, great kiskadees, and Altamira orioles mingle with chocolatey-colored plain chachalacas at
Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park
in Mission. Situated along the Texas-Mexico border, this park is a significant site for any birder. The park’s number of recorded bird species numbers over 360 alongside many other creatures, including butterflies, bobcats, and javelinas. Explore seven miles of trails, including the wheelchair-accessible 1.8-mile Rio Grande Trail.
Texas has vast options for getaways tailored to every taste , so we’ve pulled together just a few that are especially well-suited for the winter season . How about finishing your holiday shopping during a relaxing weekend with friends at a lap-of-luxury hotel and spa? Or perhaps you’d rather plan a winter trip to snuggle into a state park cabin with your significant other. We have these options and more. 17. Glamping In Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Canyon, TX 79015, USA
Location: Palo Duro Canyon State Park Popularity: Moderately Price: Tents start at $299 per night.
If you need a pause from life’s pressures, what better retreat than to take cover in a big canyon?
Palo Duro Glamping
makes that prospect irresistible with its four luxurious tents at Palo Duro Canyon, which nationally is second in size only to the Grand Canyon. All of the tents are sturdy, fully furnished, and equipped with all the comforts, from a fridge and s’mores supplies to games and hammocks. Covered porches with swinging seats create the perfect perch for relaxing and taking in the views of this panhandle paradise.
18. Cozy Cabins In Bastrop
Bastrop State Park, 100 Park Road 1A, Bastrop, TX 78602, USA
Location: Bastrop State Park Popularity: Moderately Price: $110 to $200 nightly, depending on the cabin, plus the daily $5 park entrance fee for ages 13 and older. The highest rate is for the four-bedroom lodge.
Get lost in the Lost Pines and experience a time of rebirth at Bastrop State Park just 32 miles east of Austin. Despite the forces of floods and fires in recent years, the park is a show of nature’s resilience with new growth. Plan a stay in
one of the park’s 14 cabins
, which are time capsules of the 1930s craftsmanship of the Civilian Conservation Corps. While equipped with many modern amenities, the cabins retain their vintage charm with only basic heat and cooling. Do bring an extra blanket in winter.
19. Urban Cowboy Christmas In Fort Worth Locations: Multiple Popularity: Regional draw Price: Varies based on activity with some free
Do Christmas in
with a decidedly current twist with a stay in the Fort Worth Stockyards. Choose between the historic Stockyards Hotel or the hip Hotel Drover to immerse yourself in the district. There, you can do some shopping, ice skating, and snapshots with Santa. Head downtown to see the towering Christmas tree in Sundance Square Plaza, the electrifying Parade of Lights, and the Texas Ballet Theater’s production of “The Nutcracker” at Bass Performance Hall. In the cultural district, catch the radiant "Modern Lights" at the Modern Art Museum and the one-mile “Lightscape” at Fort Worth Botanic Garden.
20. Shopping & Spa Time In Houston Location: The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Popularity: Regional draw Price: From $379 per night depending on booking details
Give yourself a holiday gift by experiencing the opulence at
The Post Oak Hotel in Uptown Houston
, the only Forbes Five-Star Hotel and Spa in Texas. Since it’s just moments from the famed Houston Galleria, just call it a shopping getaway to check off those last holiday gifts. Meanwhile, you can enjoy luxuriously appointed rooms or a suite and a bit of lounging in the lavish, heated pool. For ultimate pampering, book services at the 20,000-square-foot spa.
So there you have it! The best of the best winter things to do in Texas. Are you at all surprised that it has your winter wishlist covered? From sparkling holiday events to quaint Christmas towns, thrilling outdoor adventures to cozy winter getaways, the warmth of our hospitality this season will stay with you into the new year. We hope you’ll share your experiences at these destinations and any others you believe should make the list.
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