AUSTIN, Texas, Nov. 20, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- With the holiday season just around the corner, Texas is decking the halls and trimming the trees from the Gulf Coast to the Panhandle Plains. The range of holiday celebrations in Texas is as diverse as its regions, with millions of lights leading the way to seasonal fun throughout the state.
"Holidays in Texas mean tradition, and we are proud to share our favorite festive happenings with visitors. With all of the events, attractions and celebrations in store, Texas is the perfect place to make lasting holiday memories," said Brad Smyth, Tourism Director for the Governor's Office of Economic Development and Tourism.
During the holiday season, hundreds of statewide lighting ceremonies are guaranteed to delight. From a parachuting Santa to holiday train rides, the ways to celebrate among the sparkling Texas lights are truly endless. Below is a sampling of festivities taking place this year. In addition to lighting ceremonies, visitors can enjoy home tours, train rides, market days, world-class shopping and more throughout the Lone Star State.
- Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens: November 10-January 5, Galveston (www.moodygardens.com)
Santa himself will kick off the 11th annual Festival of Lights on November 10 by parachuting in to flip the switch to a mile-long trail of more than 1.8 million lights and 100 sound-enhanced, animated light displays, before heading over to the South Atlantic exhibit to feed the penguins. Guest can also enjoy an outdoor ice rink, holiday film screenings and snow tubing.
- Uptown Holiday Lighting: November 22, Houston (www.uptown-houston.com/news/page/holiday-lighting)
Every year on Thanksgiving evening, thousands gather for the annual Uptown Houston Holiday Lighting. This free family event features festive music by local groups, holiday characters, a special appearance from Santa, fireworks, and the lighting of more than 500,000 twinkling lights. After enjoying the lights head over to the nearby Galleria, the fourth largest shopping domain in the world, to get in some early holiday shopping.
- 63rd Annual Holiday Parade: November 22, Houston (www.ifest.org/2012-parade-info)
One of Houston's most cherished traditions, the Annual Holiday Parade brings 400,000 visitors to the parade route and nearly two million TV viewers at home. Promenading around downtown Houston are six floats and six enormous helium-filled balloon figures, joined by local marching bands, musicians and performers.
- Dickens on The Strand: December 1-2, Galveston (www.galvestonhistory.org/dickens_overview.asp)
For two days in December, The Strand in Galveston transforms into bustling Victorian London from the days of Charles Dickens. Hundreds of costumed performers, bagpipers and carolers provide constant entertainment on The Strand, with even the Queen making a special appearance.
- Chanukah On Ice: December 9, Houston (www.chanukahinhouston.com)
Houston is skating into the holidays with Chanukah On Ice at the Galleria Mall Ice Rink. Join Clutch, the Houston Rockets mascot, in skating around the ice menorah and meet Judah the Maccabee before sampling the Chanukah gelt and latkes.
- Texas Hill Country Regional Christmas Lighting Trail: November 1-January 1 (www.tex-fest.com/regional)
Bandera, Blanco, Boerne, Burnet, Dripping Springs, Fredericksburg, Johnson City, Kerrville, Llano, Marble Falls and Wimberley make up the impressive Texas Hill Country Regional Christmas Lighting Trail. Holiday fun can be found all along the trail, with festivals, parades, caroling, holiday markets and more for visitors to enjoy.
- Zilker Park Christmas Tree Lighting and Trail of Lights: December 16-23, Austin (www.austintrailoflights.org)
A beloved Austin tradition, the Trail of Lights is a mile-long, lighted winter wonderland kicked off by the lighting of the huge Zilker Tree on December 16. The festivities continue through December 23, with theme nights, carolers, musicians and dancers making each and every night a special experience.
Big Bend Country
- Frontier Christmas: November 30-December 8, Fort Davis (www.fortdavis.com/calendar.html)
The Christmas celebration in Fort Davis begins on November 30 with caroling in the town square, followed by cocoa and cookies to warm up before the lighting ceremony. On December 8, a holiday parade leads to the local library for a visit with Santa.
- San Jacinto Plaza Christmas Tree Lighting: December 1, El Paso (www.visitelpaso.com/visitors/to_do/3-annual-events/sections/21-annual-events/places)
The 77th annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony celebrates the holidays with entertainment and the lighting of the 50-foot Christmas tree, decorated with 10,800 bulbs and more than 500 ornaments. The annual lighted Christmas parade follows the tree lighting.
- Tour of Lights: December 7-31, Concho (www.conchochristmascelebration.com)
As part of the Concho Christmas Celebration, the Tour of Lights is a 2.5 mile drive through three million lights along the banks of the Concho River. One of the highlights of the tour is the glittering garden of 20 red and green poinsettia light displays, made up of more than 25,600 lights.
- Santa Land: December 10-23, Lubbock (www.playlubbock.com/extra/santaLand.aspx)
Now in its 56th consecutive year, Santa Land is a beloved Lubbock tradition that encompasses Christmas tree lightings, carols, and visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus. The lighting of the 60-foot Christmas tree marks the official opening of Santa Land on December 10.
Prairies and Lakes
- Santa's Wonderland: November 16-December 30, College Station (www.santas-wonderland.com)
This dazzling holiday attraction earns its name with a sparkling light display of 2.5 million bulbs that stretches more than 37 acres. The fun continues in the nostalgic "Texas Christmas Village" where visitors of all ages can enjoy train rides, barbecue, holiday movies, a petting zoo and even a mechanical bull.
- Christmas Capital of Texas® Kickoff: November 19, Grapevine (www.grapevinetexasusa.com/christmas)
Grapevine earns its name as the "Christmas Capital of Texas" with more than 1,400 Christmas events in 40 days. The festivities officially open with the Kickoff on November 19, where Tom T. Turkey is pardoned by Santa Claus and the mayor just in time for Thanksgiving. Dallas-based national pop musician Bean will give a special performance, and children can enjoy ornament-making and visits with the World's Tallest Elf. In addition, December 1 marks the Twinkle Light Boat Parade, one of the state's most original holiday parades. Lake Grapevine transforms into a glittering spectacle with festively lit watercraft brightening the night.
- Whistle Stop Christmas: November 19-December 31, Cleburne (www.whistlestopchristmas.org)
3.5 million lights decorate Hulen Park each year in Cleburne. The festivities begin with the annual Christmas parade downtown, followed by pictures with Santa and live entertainment.
- Chesapeake Energy Parade of Lights: November 23, Fort Worth (www.fortworthparadeoflights.org)
To celebrate its 30th anniversary, the annual Fort Worth holiday parade will have a special extended route for this year's theme: "The Wonder Of It All!" More than 100 brightly lit entries make up the parade, flocked with antique cars, local marching bands, horse-drawn carriages and holiday characters. The parade concludes with the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus, and the illumination of the 55-foot tall Christmas tree in Sundance Square.
- Christmas in the Square: November 23-January 6, Frisco (www.friscosquare.com/CITS)
The largest choreographed holiday lights and music show in North Texas takes place in Frisco, just north of Dallas. Now in its seventh year, Christmas in the Square draws more than 650,000 visitors annually to experience this holiday extravaganza, complete with real snow and a parachuting Santa.
- Holiday Lighting Festival: November 30, Denton (www.dentonholidaylighting.com)
Capture the true spirit of a small-town holiday celebration at the 24th annual Holiday Lighting Festival in Denton's Historic Courthouse Square, where the mayor and one lucky child flip the switch to light up the 20-foot tree. Photos with Santa, horse drawn wagon rides and delicious food are available throughout the square.
- Christmas Medical Center Holiday Parade: December 1, Dallas (www.childrensmedicalcenterdallas.com/development/parade)
Each year in Dallas over 350,000 spectators gather to watch this annual holiday parade, benefiting the Children's Medical Center. Now in its 25th year, local marching bands and performance groups entertain along the parade route amongst the colorful floats and giant balloon characters.
- Lighting of the Doves: November 17, The Woodlands (www.thewoodlandscvb.com/LOTD)
Lighting of the Doves kicks off the holiday season in The Woodlands with interactive booths and games, a snow play area, balloon artists, face painters, inflatables, ice carvers, amazing fireworks and more. The celebration concludes with the arrival of Santa on a decorated boat on The Woodlands Waterway.
- Wonderland of Lights Festival: November 21-December 31, Marshall (www.visitmarshalltexas.org)
From the opening lighting ceremony on November 21 to the midnight ball drop on December 31, the Wonderland of Lights Festival encompasses the joy of the holidays in Marshall. Other events include the Wonderland 5k Run and Walk and a lighted Christmas parade through town.
- Rail of Lights: November 22-December 23, Jefferson (www.tickets.railoflights.com)
Step back in time aboard a 50-year-old steam train on the Historic Jefferson Railway. The train circles the Piney Woods along the Big Cypress Bayou past nativity scenes, a German Market, a General Store, the Angel Tree, and sparkling light displays.
South Texas Plains
- Ford Holiday River Parade & Lighting Ceremony: November 23, San Antonio (www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com)
Every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the River Walk's giant cypress trees are illuminated with 122,000 shimmering lights. The annual lighting ceremony and parade is a San Antonio tradition that dates back over 30 years, with generations of families enjoying the characters, music, and costumes of this annual event.
- Candlelight Posada: December 8, McAllen (www.exploremcallen.com/events)
This year marks the 30th anniversary of McAllen's Candlelight Posada. The event kicks off with a caroling nativity procession, followed by a Christmas parade and the lighting of the Mayor's Christmas tree.
About Tourism in Texas
Visitors to Texas enhance the state and local economies as evidenced by $63 billion in total travel spending in 2011 and more than 200 million domestic visitors last year. Travel and tourism directly supported 530,000 Texan jobs and generated $4 billion in local and state taxes in 2011.
SOURCE Texas Tourism