Photo courtesy Franklin Mountains State Park
AUSTIN— Officials with Texas State Parks and the Texas Historical Commission are inviting residents to dust off the tinsel and twinkle lights and head to a Texas State Park for some holiday fun.
Starting right here in the Sun City, residents can walk off the stuffing and pie at the Turkey Trot event at Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso 8:30 a.m. November 29.
Staff will lead visitors on a moderately difficult trail to the Aztec Caves in the Franklin Mountains. The trail is about one and a half miles and participants are encouraged to bring comfortable shoes and plenty of water.
Forty-four other Texas State Parks and 10 Texas Historical Commission State Historic Sites will also be decking the halls and creating some holiday cheer at more than 80 events statewide beginning this Saturday and continuing through December.
On Dec. 14, Abilene State Park will be hosting the Fa La La in the Forest event from 6-9 p.m. Campers are encouraged to adorn their campsites, screened shelters and yurts with lights and decorations in honor of the holiday season. Campsite fees will be waived the day of the event for anyone who wants to decorate their site. The public is invited to tour the park and take in the twinkling lights on display. Anyone interested in decorating a campsite must contact the park in advance at 325-572-3204.
Walk the candlelit paths at Barrington Plantation State Historic Site from 4:30-8 p.m. Dec. 6-7 and experience a Texas Christmas the decade before the Civil War. Visitors will be able to discover the origins of some of their favorite holiday traditions as costumed interpreters bring to life the festivities of the season with musket-fire, music and dancing. Attendees will also be able to tour the historic home of the last President of the Texas Republic, Dr. Anson Jones, as the family enjoys their Christmas gathering.
In South Texas, families can pick a spot in the day use area of Falcon State Park to view the Second Annual Falcon Lake Christmas Boat Parade from 7-10 p.m. Dec. 14. Visitors will be able to see boats float by decked out in cheerful Christmas lights.
Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site will be hosting the 50th Annual LBJ Tree Lighting, a special holiday tradition started by President and First Lady Johnson. Families will be able to enjoy carolers, a live nativity, Santa Claus, refreshments and the spectacular tree lighting. Visitors can travel the trails and revisit Christmases from the past at Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm, which will be decorated in early German-Texan holiday decorations. The event begins at 4:30 p.m., with the tree lighting scheduled for 5:30 p.m., and runs until 8 p.m. Dec. 15.
In the Panhandle, discover the ghosts of Palo Duro Canyon State Park’s past as figures of the canyon’s rich history come to life during a walk back in time. Visitors will be able to hear the voices Charles Goodnight, Isabel Robinson and a Civilian Conservation Corps enrollee, just to name a few. Participants are encouraged to bring red flashlights, water and appropriate clothing for the weather. The event begins at 6 p.m. Dec.14 and tours will meet at the Soapberry Day Use area. Tours will depart at 15-minute intervals and there will be four groups total.
Ray Roberts Lake State Park’s Johnson Unit will be hosting a day of Thanksgiving celebrations beginning at 9 a.m. Nov. 23. Families can learn to cook a Dutch oven dish for Thanksgiving this year and try samples of different Dutch oven cuisines. At 11 a.m., there will be crafts and a game hosted in honor of the turkey. The day finishes off with a trap ball turkey tournament at 2 p.m.
Ever wonder how Santa gets around the marsh to visit good little boys and girls? By air boat of course! Santa and Mrs. Claus have booked a cabin at Sea Rim State Park and will be arriving for their stay by air boat. From 3-6 p.m. Dec. 14, kids will have a chance to take a picture with Santa when he arrives and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies at the park. Children can also make homemade ornaments during this marshy Christmas event. Entrance fees are waived for the event or visitors can arrive early and pay entrance fees to visit the beach before Santa arrives.
At the Starr Family Home State Historic Site, visitors can celebrate the holiday season from 10 a.m.-noon Dec. 7 with craft making, story time and cookie making the whole family can take part in.
For more information about holiday activities at Texas State Parks, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website. A full calendar is available online on the TPWD calendar page. For activities at THC’s State Historic Sites, visit the Texas Historical Commission website.
Photos of past holiday events are available on the TPWD Flickr page.
Also, for those residents who want to bring Texas State Parks home for the holidays, for more than 15 years, the annual park Christmas ornament has featured some of the most recognizable Texas State Parks landscapes. The 2019 ornament introduces a redesigned ornament style. The metal ornament features photo-quality artwork in stunning color with rich, laser-etched textures and detail.
This year, the ornament depicts the iconic Lighthouse, a geological structure in Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Located south of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle, this majestic park is home to the nation’s second largest canyon.
The annual Christmas ornament can be purchased exclusively online for $19.95 each. Purchase by Dec. 10 for likely arrival before Christmas. Tax and shipping fees apply.
Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine is also offering a special subscription deal for the holidays. Anyone can give two gift subscriptions to the magazine for just $15. Don’t want to feel left out? Give yourself the gift of the outdoors for an additional $5.