AUSTIN— With the Christmas holidays approaching, Texas State Parks are helping friends and families get into the spirit by offering gift items and hosting holiday events statewide.
With 72 events scheduled at 47 state parks in the weeks ahead, there are plenty of options for holiday fun, including: candlelit tours, night walks with Santa Claus, taffy pulls, Christmas light displays and a traditional Mexican American Las Posadas celebration, just to name a few.
For more information about holiday happenings at Texas State Parks, visit www.tpwd.texas.gov/holidays or pick up a brochure at a nearby state park or Texas Travel Information Center. The booklet includes images from past events and a map of participating parks.
Among the offerings at state parks throughout Texas this month are several historic site holiday celebrations like the Barrington Candlelight Christmas near Washington-on-the-Brazos Saturday, Dec. 10, from 5:30 – 8 p.m. Get a glimpse of Christmas in the 1850s with a candlelight tour of Barrington Farm, former home to the “Last President of Texas” before statehood. The farm also offers a closer look at the Christmas experience for enslaved Texans. This event includes 19th century music and dancing, bonfires and Christmas readings, an 1850s Santa Claus, cookies and hot cider. The program is free with general admission, but reservations are recommended. To reserve a spot, contact the park at Barrington.Farm@tpwd.texas.gov or 936-878-2214.
Craving a dazzling display of Christmas lights? Several state parks will be hosting tree lightings and light displays all month, including:
The 47th annual tree lighting at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site Sunday, Dec. 18, from 6-9 p.m, is a special Hill Country tradition started by President and Mrs. Johnson which has continued for nearly a half century. The event highlights some of the German holiday traditions of the region. The evening also includes carolers, a live nativity scene, Santa Claus and refreshments. Stop by the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm to see how local families celebrated the holidays would have been by in the early 1900s.
Foodies are welcome to experience some of the unique food-centric programs, such as taffy pulls and Dutch-oven cooking, happening at state parks this month. For a hands-on experience, check out the Old Fashioned Holiday Taffy Pull at Palmetto State Park Sunday, Dec. 18, from 10 a.m. – noon. Have some holiday candy-making fun with the park staff as they lead visitors in a holiday taffy pull. This year’s program will feature opportunities for participants to create batches of homemade honey cream and saltwater taffy with recipes dating back to the Depression era and sugar-rationing days of World War II. The program is free with park admission.
Some state parks will be dressed in their holiday best while accompanying families on guided strolls through decorated trails. During the Pineywoods Christmas and Nature Wonderland Hike at Tyler State Park Friday and Saturday, Dec. 9- 10, from 4 – 9 p.m. the park will be decorated in Christmas lights. Visitor-decorated campsites will greet participants with the sights and sounds of the holidays during the Pineywoods hike. After the hike, snacks and refreshments will be available at the Silver Canoe Park Store and Patio. All participants must meet at the Silver Canoe Park Store at 4 p.m. to begin the walk.
For a full list of holiday park events, visit http://texasstateparks.org/calendar/holidays.
Want to bring Texas State Parks home for the holidays? Commemorate parks and the holidays with the Texas State Park ornament. For 15 years, the annual parks Christmas ornament has featured some of the most recognizable Texas State Parks landscapes. This year, the ornaments will showcase Dinosaur Valley State Park and the famous dinosaur statues towering over the park; a diver about to take the plunge at the largest spring-fed pool in the world at Balmorhea State Park; and a biker exploring the trails at Tyler State Park.
Another way to bring the parks home for the holidays is to give the gift of a Texas State Parks Pass. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is offering the opportunity to buy a State Parks Pass as a gift for $65; a $5 discount off the regular price. This annual pass gives the holder unlimited visits to all 95 state parks for themselves and a carload of guests. Visit the Foundation website to take advantage of this online-only offer through Dec. 19. All proceeds from purchases go back to support Texas State Parks.
The Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine is also offering a special buy one, get one offer this holiday season. Anyone can subscribe to the magazine and receive 10 issues for just $10 and give a second gift subscription for only $5 more. The magazine’s issues include spectacular photos of Texas’ picturesque landscapes and unique wildlife, as well as award-winning, in-depth articles on state parks, wildlife, conservation, fishing and hunting. Anyone can also add the Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine mobile app for just $2 per subscription. With this add-on, subscription holders get immediate access to magazine content, including archives and app-exclusive content like the Texas Hunting Guide, Texas Fishing Guide and Pokémon Go! Trainers’ Guide to State Parks.