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Texas State Parks Gearing Up for Christmas Events
AUSTIN, Texas — Santa Claus forsakes his reindeer-pulled sleigh in favor of an aerial tramway in El Paso and a Texas State Railroad steam train in Palestine in just a couple of the unusual twists to holiday season celebrations in state parks throughout Texas.
Jolly ol’ Saint Nick will be on Ranger Peak in El Paso awaiting children riding the Wyler Aerial Tramway high above the Franklin Mountains. Santa will receive letters from the children and pose with them for photographs from noon to 5 p.m. Dec. 17-18 and Dec. 21-22.
A four-minute ascent in a Swiss-made cable car takes riders almost 1,000 feet up, over a yawning Franklin Mountains canyon, to an observation deck affording a 360-degree view of 7,000 square miles of El Paso-Juarez (Mexico), New Mexico and West Texas. The cost for the special event is $7 for adults, $4 for kids 4 to 12 and free for children 3 and younger. Call (915) 562-9899 for more information.
Take a Victorian Train Ride on the Texas State Railroad Dec. 2, 9, and 16 to experience a Christmas of yesteryear aboard vintage rail cars pulled by a steam locomotive through the Piney Woods of East Texas. Costumed strolling carolers and Santa will add to the festive event. Brownies, cookies, lemonade, eggnog and hot cider will be served.
The steam train departs the Victorian-style depot in Palestine at 3 p.m. for the 26-mile trip to Rusk. The cost is $30 for adults, $10 for children 3 to 12, and free for those 2 and younger. Reservations are required and can be made by calling (903) 683-2561 or (800) 442-8951.
Santa will be on hand, as well, on Dec. 17 in Stonewall for the 37th annual Tree Lighting at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site in the Texas Hill Country. Carolers, a live nativity and tours of the early 1900s Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm illuminated by candles and old-time lamps add to the festive holiday spirit.
A special nighttime holiday tour of the LBJ National Historical Park and Texas White House of the late President Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird will be offered. Light refreshments will be served after the 6 p.m. tree-lighting ceremony.
Dates of other special Texas State Park holiday events are:
December 2006 — Monument Hill & Kreische Brewery SHS — Early German Christmas — Get into the season spirit with a stroll down the park’s quarter-mile trail illuminated by thousands of tiny Christmas lights. Experience a German-style Christmas with a visit to the traditionally decorated 1850s-era home of German brewer H. L. Kreische in La Grange. Enjoy refreshment and entertainment. Call (979) 968-5658 for dates and times. Available by reservation only to groups of 30 or more. Fees: $12 per persons; children 12 and under free.
December 2006 — Battleship TEXAS SHS — Yuletide Texas — Christmas was a very special time for the sailors and officers who served aboard the Battleship TEXAS. Visit the vessel in LaPorte throughout the month to see the battleship that served in both world wars adorned with lights, ornaments and decorations in the spirit of the season just as crew members did while serving their country. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fees: $10 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and free for children 12 and younger. Call (281) 479-2431 for more information.
December 2006 — Big Spring SP — Poinsettias in the Park — Visit the park in Big Spring and see six large, metal poinsettias 20 fee wide and 8 feet tall, wrapped in Christmas lights. The lighted poinsettias will be placed along the edge of the 200-foot bluff at the northern limit of the Edwards Plateau inside the park. The poinsettia decoration is done in conjunction with the city’s Festival of Lights in the neighboring Comanche Trail Park where more than 500,000 lights shine. Call (432) 263-4931.
December 1–3, 8–10 — Lake Mineral Wells SP & Trailway — Cross Timbers Cowboy Campfire Christmas — Bring the whole family to the park for a Cowboy Christmas weekend. Saturday night join us at the Lone Star Amphitheater for a campfire and a program of cowboy music, poetry and sing-a-long with a Christmas theme. Campfire program 6-8 p.m. Friday — Sunday drive through the park and enjoy a Cowboy Christmas light display from dusk-10 p.m. (940) 328-1171
Dec. 1-25 — Starr Family Home SHS — Candlelight Christmas Dinners — In conjunction with the Wonderland of Lights Festival in Marshall, catered dinners will be offered complete with musical entertainment and a tour of the historic Starr Mansion. The dinners are for group bookings by reservation only. Call (903) 935-3044 for times, fees and reservations.
Dec. 2 — Varner-Hogg Plantation SHS — Christmas Open House — Head to West Columbia and step back in time for a tour of Varner-Hogg Plantation decked out in 1850s splendor for the holidays. Children will enjoy making crafts and refreshments will be available. Hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call (979) 345-4656.
Dec. 2 — Goliad SP — Christmas at the Mission — Experience the sights and sounds of the holiday season at Mission Espiritu Santo. Dr. James Lee will direct the Beeville Community Chorus in a performance of secular Christmas music inside the old mission chapel. Flickering candlelight, phenomenal acoustics and voices raised in song create a visual and auditory holiday experience like no other. Hours: 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Call (361) 645-3405.
Dec. 2 — Brazos Bend SP — Simple Christmas — Escape the hustle and bustle of the season with a trip to Needville. Enjoy an afternoon and evening of the simple life: making s’mores, Dutch over cooking, rope making, piñatas, hayride, plus a visit from a Southern Santa. Bring a picnic supper to enjoy while listening to the sounds of The Brazos River Pickers, an old-time bluegrass band at the outdoor amphitheater. Refreshments will be available. Hours: 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Call (979) 553-5101.
Dec. 2 — Eisenhower Birthplace SHS — Old-Fashioned Christmas at Ike’s House — Tour the birthplace of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, decorated for the holiday season in 1890’s style. Children are encouraged to bring their Christmas list for Santa who arrives at 2 p.m. The event is free, but tours of the birthplace are $3 for adults; children under 12 are free. Call (903) 465-8908.
Dec. 2-3 — Lyndon B. Johnson SP & HS — Holiday Cookie Decorating and German Traditions — Have fun decorating cookies as it was done for a German Christmas celebration in the 1900s at the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm in Stonewall. Hear the legend of Saint Nicholas and experience other German holiday activities and traditions on the farm. Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call (830) 644-2252.
Dec. 2, 8-9, 15-16 — Monument Hill & Kreische Brewery SHS — Trail of Lights — Walk along the fantastic quarter-mile tail overlooking the town of La Grange and be delighted by thousands of lights along the way. Experience the more traditionally decorated 1850s-era German home of H. L. Kreische, bedecked in Christmas splendor, in a Texas-German style. Bring your children to tell secrets to Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus and enjoy the genuine hospitality of the Friends of Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery, sponsors of the event. Hours: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Fees: $3 adults and $1 children 3 to 12. Call (979) 968-5658.
Dec. 3 — Magoffin Home SHS — Holiday Tea — Begin the Christmas season by joining us in El Paso for the annual Victorian tea party. The home is elegantly decorated in the Victorian style for Christmas. There will be seatings at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Fee: $12.50 per person; advance ticket purchase required. Call (915) 533-5147.
Dec. 9 — Battleship TEXAS SHS — Santa Swingin' 40s Christmas — Visit the Battleship TEXAS moored in La Porte and enjoy the spirit of the holidays. Write and mail letters to Santa, hear swing music and see dancing performed live onboard. Enjoy hot wassail, meet and have your picture taken with Santa and much more. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fees: $10 for adults; $5 senior citizens and free for children 12 and under. Call (281) 479-2431.
Dec. 9 — Cedar Hill SP — Caroling Through Penn Farm — We will begin the evening with a lantern-lit tour of Penn Farm in Cedar Hill, followed by a Christmas carol sing-a-long around the campfire. Afterwards, enjoy hot chocolate and cookies. Hours: 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Call (972) 291-3900, ext. 232 to confirm program.
Dec. 9 — Stephen F. Austin SP — Pancake Breakfast with Santa — Join Santa for a breakfast of pancakes, sausage, juice and coffee, and let him know all your dreams for this Christmas. Hours: 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Fees: $3 per person. Call (979) 885-3613.
Dec. 9 — Washington-on-the-Brazos SHS — Candlelight Christmas — The sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a traditional 19th century Christmas come alive at this annual Barrington Living History Farm event. Dr. Anson Jones and his family invite you to help decorate Barrington with greenery, play traditional games, make old-fashioned crafts, listen to stories, and as the evening draws to a close, enjoy the candlelight while dancing to polkas, waltz and schottische tunes. Heart and chuck wagon cooking, taffy pulls, hot spiced cider and cookies add to the festivities. Hours: 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Fees: $2 for Texas State Parks Pass members, $6 non-members, $4 students, free for children 6 and younger. Call (936) 878-2213.
Dec. 9 — Fulton Mansion SHS — Christmas Caroling at the Mansion — Bring the family for real old-fashioned Christmas caroling on the grounds in Fulton. Afterwards, enjoy gingerbread and cider. For reduced fee, see the beautiful decorations on the first floor of the mansion. Hours: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Call (361) 729-0326.
Dec. 9 — Martin Dies, Jr. SP —Holiday Celebration — Have a fun-filled afternoon of activities and music. First, bring out your creative side at our annual Gingerbread House Design and Construction Marathon, with the Friends of Martin Dies, Jr. State Park providing all the supplies you need to create a truly unique creation beginning at 2 p.m. Then join in a festive sing-along concert of seasonal songs and hymns beginning at 4 p.m. All activities held in the Dining Hall in the Walnut Ridge Unit of the park. Call (409) 384-5231.
Dec. 9 — Stephen F. Austin SP — Christmas Caroling Hayride — Come to San Felipe and take a caroling hayride with us through the park and enjoy cookies and hot chocolate afterwards. Hours: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Bring one canned good per person for free admission. Call (979) 885-3613.
Dec. 9 — Estero Llano Grande SP — Christmas in the Park — Visit this World Birding Center site in Weslaco for a fun day of free arts and crafts, hot chocolate and hot apple cider. Enjoy all of our wintering wildlife as well. Don’t forget to visit our park store to pick up some unusual Christmas gifts. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call (956) 565-3919.
Dec. 14 — Fort Leaton SHS — Christmas on the Border — Celebrate this special time of the year with a traditional borderlands Christmas in Presidio. See the posada, folklorico dancers, enjoy refreshments and be ready to sing along with us. Hours: 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Call: (432) 229-3613.
Dec. 16 — Abilene SP — Christmas Stories Around the Campfire — Gather around the campfire and listen to your favorite Christmas stories while enjoying hot chocolate and cookies. You never know who may show up. Hours: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Call (325) 572-3204.
Dec. 16 — Lake Texana SP — Christmas Crafts — Bring the kids to Edna and get ready for the holidays by making decorations for your home at the Nature Center. Hours: 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Call (361) 782-5718.
Dec. 23 — Lake Texana SP — Campfire Carols — Sit around the campfire at Lake Texana in Edna, enjoy some hot cider or cocoa and sing your favorite Christmas carols at the Nature Center. Hours: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Call (361) 782-5718.
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