The Texas State Park system does its part to bring holiday cheer by lighting up everything from the Battleship TEXAS and Goliad’s Mission Espiritu Santo to farmhouses and landmark homes at historic sites throughout the state with candles, lanterns and thousands of miniature electric lights. There’s nothing like the warm glow of candlelight to impart the feel of an old-fashioned Texas frontier Christmas at such places as the Starr Family Home in Marshall, Fort Richardson State Park and Historic Site and the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm in Stonewall.
One of the most popular holiday state park events takes place at Lake Mineral Wells State Park, where local businesses, organizations and individuals go all out to decorate campsites in the Plateau camping loop with Christmas lights and displays. Last year, more than 800 people attended the Cross Timbers Cowboy Campfire Christmas, donating money to the Lone Star Legacy Fund and canned good to a local food bank in lieu of paying a park entry fee. This year’s event, which takes place the first two weekends in December, will again feature a Saturday night music review with caroling, cowboy Christmas songs and stories, and refreshments.
In the East Texas pineywoods, hundreds will climb aboard a Victorian Christmas Train at Texas State Railroad State Park on Dec. 3, 10 and 17 to enjoy Old World goodies, strolling carolers and a visit from Santa and his elves. This is the eighth year that TSRR has run a Victorian train during the Christmas season to transport riders into a bygone era when trains served as a major mode of transportation. Regular excursion runs also will be conducted out of the Rusk Depot only during the first three weekends of December.
And for the 36th year, Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site will host the annual Tree Lighting ceremony begun by the late President and First Lady to provide a special celebration for the Texas Hill Country community of Stonewall and Johnson City. The free event on Dec. 18 provides park visitors with a chance to experience an early 1900s Christmas at a German-American farm illuminated by candles and lanterns, visit with Santa and see a live nativity.
Dates of special Texas State Park holiday events are:
December 2005 — Battleship Texas SHS — Yuletide Texas — Christmas was a very special time for the sailors and officers who served aboard Battleship TEXAS, and now you can get a glimpse at that history. Visit throughout the month of December to see the Battleship TEXAS in LaPorte adorned with lights, ornaments and decorations in the spirit of the season, just the way the crew members who served aboard her did while serving their country. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; fees free for Texas State Parks Pass members, $7 non-members, $4 senior citizens, free for children 12 and under (281) 479-2431.
December 2005 — Goliad SP — Christmas Lighted History Trail — Bring your family, friends and neighbors for a wonderful evening of visual stimulation at Mission Espiritu Santo. See the history of the mission in lighted cutout displays as you stroll through the trail. Dark-10 p.m. daily; call for more information (361) 645-3405.
Dec. 1–17, 2005 — Starr Family Home SHS — Christmas Candlelight Dinner Tour — Enjoy the ultimate Victorian experience as our dinner guest at the Blake Home in Marshall. Costumed staff serves you a sumptuous dinner in the romantic atmosphere of this beautiful home built in the 1890s. Included with dinner are musical selections by accomplished singers. Following dinner, tour the magnificent Maplecroft, built in 1870, home of James Franklin Starr. Fee $28 per person; reservations required; call for more information (903) 935-3044.
Dec. 9–11, 2005 — Lake Mineral Wells SP & Trailway — Cross Timbers Cowboy Campfire Christmas — Bring the whole family to the park for a weekend of holiday fun. Saturday night join us at the Lone Star Amphitheater for a campfire program of cowboy music, poetry and sing-along with a Christmas theme. Friday-Sunday drive through the park and enjoy a Cowboy Christmas light display. Campfire program 6-8 p.m., drive through light display dusk-10 p.m. (940) 328-1171.
Dec. 10, 16, 17, 2005 — Monument Hill & Kreische Brewery SHS — Trail of Lights — Get into the season’s spirit with us! Enjoy a fantastic quarter-mile trail illuminated with thousands of lights that decorate the park. Walk a trail overlooking the town of La Grange. Experience the more traditionally decorated 1850s-era German home of H.L. Kreische, bedecked in Christmas splendor, in a Texas-German style. Hear a variety of Christmas music. Bring your children to tell secrets to Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus and enjoy the genuine seasonal hospitality of the Friends of Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery, who sponsor the event. 6-8 p.m.; fees $3 adults, $1 children 12 and under (979) 968-5658.
Dec. 10, 17, 2005 — Texas State Railroad SP — Victorian Christmas Train — A wonderfully warm experience full of Christmas cheer and great fun for the young and young at heart. While riding the train, enjoy good food, song, stories and of course Santa Claus and his elves. Meet at the Palestine station. 4-6 p.m.; fees $25 adults, $10 children 5-13, free for children under 5; dates subject to change; reservations required, (800) 659-3484. (800) 442-8951.
Dec. 10, 2005 — Barrington Living History Farm-Washington-on-the-Brazos SHS — Candlelight Christmas 2005 — Barrington Living History Farm invites young and old to experience a 19th Century Texas Christmas. Enjoy all the same surprises of the holiday season that our Texas ancestors did as they celebrated Christmas with music, dancing, food and special Christmas crafts. 1-8 p.m. (936) 878-2213.
Dec. 10, 2005 — Fulton Mansion SHS — Christmas Caroling at the Mansion — Bring the family for a real old-fashioned Christmas caroling on the grounds in Fulton. Afterwards, enjoy gingerbread and cider. For a reduced fee, see the beautiful Christmas decorations on the first floor. 6:30-8 p.m. (361) 729-0386.
Dec. 10, 2005 — Stephen F. Austin SP — Hayride and Christmas Caroling — Enjoy caroling through the San Felipe park on a hayride, then share cookies and hot chocolate afterwards. 6-8 p.m.; admission is one canned good per person (979) 885-3613.
Dec. 10, 2005 — Stephen F. Austin SP — Pancake Breakfast with Santa — Have a breakfast of homemade pancakes with homemade syrup, sausage, juice and coffee and tell Santa all your Christmas wishes. 8-10:30 a.m.; fee $3 per person (979) 885-3613.
Dec. 15–31, 2005 — Big Spring SP — Poinsettias in the Park — View six large metal poinsettias (each one is 20 feet wide and 8 feet tall) and a 10-foot tall star wrapped in Christmas lights. These lights will be placed on the edge of the 200-foot bluff in the park (at the northern limit of the Edwards Plateau). This is in conjunction with the Festival of Lights at the neighboring Comanche Trail Park with more than 500,000 Christmas lights. Dark-10 p.m. (432) 263-4931.
Dec. 17, 2005 — Lake Texana SP — Christmas Crafts — Bring the kids to the park just outside Edna and prepare for the holidays by making Christmas crafts to decorate your home. For times and more information contact Cindy McLemore at email@example.com or call (361) 782-5718.
Dec. 17–19, 22—23, 2005 — Wyler Aerial Tramway SP — Santa at Ranger Peak — Santa will be at the top of Ranger Peak in El Paso waiting for children to deliver their letters in person and to take their picture with him. Noon-5 p.m.; fees $7 adults, $4 children 4-12, children 3 and under free (915) 562-9899.
Dec. 18, 2005 — Lyndon B. Johnson SP&HS — 36th Annual Tree Lighting — Come to the Texas Hill Country and enjoy a community-wide event, with carolers, a live nativity, Santa Claus, candlelight and lamp-lit 1900s Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm and a special nighttime holiday tour of the LBJ National Historical Park and Texas White House. Light refreshments will be served following the tree lighting ceremony. 6 p.m.-till; donations appreciated (830) 644-2252.
Dec. 22, 2005 — Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center — Christmas on the Border — Come see cactus and Christmas lights, caroling cowboys and cowgirls, folklorico dancers, the Community Choir and Papa Noel at the West Texas Borderlands Celebration in Lajitas. The Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center staff invite you to attend this special Wednesday event from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Entry fees are waived for the special event, but donations are welcomed. (432) 424-3327.
Jan. 1, 2006 — Goliad SP — Christmas Lighted History Trail — Bring your family, friends and neighbors for a wonderful evening of visual stimulation at Mission Espiritu Santo. See the history of the mission in lighted cutout displays as you stroll through the trail. Dark-10 p.m.; call for more information (361) 645-3405.