Hill Country Lights for the Holidays

Chilly nights in December are the perfect time for packing up your family and friends to explore some of the beautiful holiday light displays available across Central Texas and the Texas Hill Country. The annual Texas Hill Country Regional Christmas Lighting Trail is an assemblage of  lighting displays from small towns throughout the region, including  Austin, Bandera, Blanco, Boerne, Burnet, Fredericksburg, Johnson City, Marble Falls and Wimberley. To help you navigate the displays, the lighting trail website offers a helpful map and schedule of events and activities in each city.

Bandera is one of the stops on the Regional Lighting Trail, and, as the ‘Cowboy Capital of Texas’, Bandera will be hosting its annual Christmas Singing in the Saddle event at the Longhorn Saloon tomorrow evening, December 18th. Visitors are encouraged to bring, or rent horses, for Christmas caroling down Main Street at this event, and there will be hot chocolate and sweet treats available for visitors at the end of the parade ride.

While Fredericksburg, Texas is a popular getaway year-round, the town is extra special during the holiday season. Over the course of the holidays, Fredericksburg’s unique German heritage is on display with holiday décor, which includes a 26-foot-tall Christmas Pyramid at the town’s Marktplatz. Other attractions include an outdoor ice skating rink, 150 specialty shops with crafts from local artists, 75 restaurants serving everything from traditional German cuisine to unique Hill Country dishes, and over 400 bed and breakfast options for overnight guests.

Central Texas holiday

Photo courtesy of the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce

Just down the road from Fredericksburg, the Johnson City courthouse lighting display is one of the largest lighting displays in the state. Millions of lights cover the historic Blanco County Courthouse, creating a visual treat.  The lights are up until January 1st, and the inside of the courthouse is open on Saturday and Sunday nights throughout December from 6:00-9:00 p.m. for photos in front of the large Christmas tree, and the local Garden Club will be on hand to sell crafts and ornaments.

Located on Highway 281, just 40 miles west of Austin, Blanco, Texas celebrates the holiday season with the lighting of Blanco’s downtown Bindsiel Park. The park lights are open for holiday visitors until January 6th and, while in Blanco, visitors can enjoy the many antique shops and boutiques along the courthouse square as well. Another notable lighted courthouse in the area is the historic Burnet County Courthouse in Burnet, Texas, which shines  with thousands of white lights all over the building’s façade. Burnet is also home to a massive 18-foot multi-color Christmas tree, which is perfect for photo ops.  The Burnet lighting display is open nightly until January 1st.

Since 1991, the Marble Falls Walkway of Lights has also delighted visitors of all ages. Over 2 million lights dot  150+ decorated sculptures, which create a magical reflection on the waters of Lake Marble Falls. This enchanting self-guided tour is open nightly beginning at 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. until January 1st.

Central Texas holiday

Photo courtesy of the Marble Falls Walkway of Lights Facebook Page

Also just outside of Austin, Wimberley hosts its 16th Annual Trail of Lights at the EmilyAnn Theatre & Gardens. This year’s trail features 8 acres of glowing displays decorated by local businesses and community groups, and Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on hand to celebrate the season every Friday and Saturday evening until Christmas.  Nearby, in Austin, the beloved Trail of Lights at Zilker Park is open nightly until December 22nd, with an exciting schedule of entertainment from local bands.

Holidays in the Hill Country are unlike any other celebration. The region offers free, easily accessible lighting displays and events sure to charm visitors of all ages.  So pack up your crew this weekend and experience the joy of the season.

Elgin and Bastrop This Holiday Season

Thanksgiving has come and gone, which means the Elgin CHRISTmas Tree Farm is open for business. The Christmas tree farm has been a beloved Central Texas tradition since it opened as a small retirement business in 1984; and today, the farm has the largest selection of Christmas trees in Central Texas.  Each year the Elgin CHRISTmas Tree Farm plants over 6,000-7,000 seedlings, and they have multiple fields that they sell from each year. Their farm has a variety of different trees, including Virginia Pines, Loblolly Pines, Leyland Cypresses and pre-cut Fraser Fir Trees, and not only are you getting an authentic, Central Texas-grown Christmas tree  at their farm, you’re getting an experience along with it as well! The farm  features fun, family-friendly activities including a petting zoo, scenic hayrides, mazes, a Christmas Cottage and a children’s playground. They’re open every day until 5:30 p.m., except later on Thursdays and Fridays, when they’re open until 8:30 p.m.

Central Texas

Photo courtesy of YNN

Elgin is a bit of a drive from Kyle for a Christmas tree. (And totally worth it, for the experience of the farm and the smell of fresh pine in your home throughout the holiday season.) But if you need another reason to make the journey worth your while, Bastrop is hosting their annual Lost Pines Christmas celebration this weekend (Thursday , December 12th through Sunday, December 15th). Each day of the holiday party offers something different and unique, including stargazing and other activites at McKinney Rough Nature Park, the Christmas Street Market in downtown Bastrop, Mr. and Mrs. Claus at the Bastrop Public Library, an array of shows and performances including The Nutcracker, as well as lighted Christmas parades, the Bastrop River of Lights and more.

More than 30 family-friendly activities occur throughout the four day weekend, and each event is distinctly and uniquely Bastrop. Visit the Lost Pines Christmas website for a full schedule and details about the event. It’s a great way to have some holiday fun away from home, for a day or for the weekend!

Central Texas holidays

Bastrop River of Lights courtesy of the Bastrop Chamber of Commerce

Stumped on the Holiday Gift Front? Try a DIY Gift.

Holiday shopping can be brutal. Trying to figure out the perfect, creative gift for the hubby, the wife, the in-laws or the kiddos is hard enough, but staying within budget? That’s a whole other monster. However, if you’re resourceful (and a wee bit crafty), this can be easily accomplished with some DIY holiday gift solutions.

The number of interests, games and fun times that kids have makes DIY gifts for the little ones easy. And, you can tailor and personalize the gift to your kids’ particular interests in a snap. Have a superhero fan in your family, or a little one who thinks he can fly? Make them their own superhero costume based on their favorite color, their name and the preferred superhero power. This link above offers great ideas and plans for everything superhero: from T-shirt-made capes, to winged shoes, to even a lighted Green Lantern ring.

Plum Creek, Kyle TX

Have a kiddo who has an affinity for shooting spitballs or Nerf Guns? Give them something a little less messy to shoot – like marshmallows. These marshmallow shooters require very few materials to make – pretty much just PVC pipe – and they provide your whole family with the perfect post-present Christmas Day activity.

Plum Creek, Kyle TX

Homemade gifts that are sentimental or meaningful add that personal touch we so often strive for when giving gifts. Things like decorated “Reasons I Love You” books, scrapbooks or photo albums, mixed cds, recipe books or family cookbooks are simple homemade gifts that require little cash, and pack a meaningful punch that says, “I put some time into this.”

One of our favorite homemade gifts for older parents or grandparents are Memory Jars. These jars can go one of two ways.

Plum Creek, Kyle TX

1)      Fill a jar with slips of paper, each with a question or prompt written on it. These questions can be about anything you’re interested in learning about this person – from “Tell me about you and Mom’s first date” to “What was elementary school like for you” to “What did you want to be when you grew up.” This is a great way to learn the details of your elders’ lives, and, if you make writing down the answer a daily requirement, it gives them something to look forward to each day, and an opportunity to run down memory lane.


2)      Survey people that care about or have been involved in the life of that particular person. Ask them to contribute a favorite memory, compliment or tidbit about that person, and compile them in a decorated jar. Whenever that person is having a rough day, or just wants a little ego boost, they can dip into the jar and find a smile.

Plum Creek, Kyle TX

Another cheap and simple homemade gift, for Dad, Mom or any coffee fan in your life is a Sharpie-decorated coffee mug. The required supplies are simple – Sharpies, a mug or dish you want to alter, and an oven. Simply decorate the mug to your heart’s content, and put it in the oven set at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. The decorations stand up to handwashing and scrubbing with a sponge, but are a little less efficient in the dishwasher – but, hey, it’s a really cheap and personal gift, and if you want something that can withstand the machine, check out Pebeo markers for a little bit more.

And psssst, Plum Creekers….If you want additional DIY holiday gift ideas, Pinterest is a great place for inspiration!