Let's admit it Texans, our lovely state never truly has a 'real' winter. We don't have snow-capped mountains or frozen winter wonderland forests, our retail stores aren't equipped with the latest winter coats or skiing gear...we just don't have winters. If you're a Texan, you know this is at times heartbreaking. Every once in a while it'd be nice to have some 'real' winter weather for a change, feel all cozy by the fire watching snow fall outside the window, build a snowman, go sledding, cut down a Christmas tree, you know, normal wintery things!
I have family coming from Maryland in December to stay with us throughout the month till New Years and they've requested for us to show them the gorgeous side of Texas that isn't flat land and boring. First off, they live in the North, they know what a real winter is and they laugh at us when ice storms hit and cities shutdown, and they've traveled the world - talk about hard to please in that case! If your family has ever explored what Texas has to offer beyond the city highways, you know there are tons of amazing things to do and see in our diverse state. Unfortunately, almost all of them are more appealing during Spring and Summer.
So what are we to do but start searching for as many things as we can find across Texas that will bring out our state's inner winter wonderland! I thought I'd share my top holiday activity finds for older teens and adults so that if you're ever in the same predicament as we are, and you need to start making road trip plans ASAP, you have a handful of unique attractions and places in Texas to travel to that you probably would've never thought of. Here are 12 things to do during Texas' winter months.
1. See the famous Bald Eagle nests of Texas
Did you know Texas' hill country is a winter nesting home to some of our nation's Bald Eagles? Grab your binoculars and cameras and head to these popular eagle sights:
2. Smell real Christmas trees growing in Texas
Gah, I love the fresh pine smell of evergreen Christmas trees! There are over 120 Christmas tree farmers in Texas growing 500 to 10,000 trees per farm and harvesting one of the most iconic symbols of the holiday season. Take family photos for your annual holiday cards behind a backdrop of trees, cut down your own tree, or take part in the holiday crafts and events at the farms. Head on out to a farm near you and support your local tree farmers.
3. Experience the changing of tree colors by waterfalls
If you're the kind of person who dreams of the Carolina waterfalls and mid-fall hiking to see the trees changing colors and waterfalls freezing over, you've got to visit Texas' Guadalupe Mountains National Park at Smith Spring or Colorado Bend State Park at Gorman Falls anytime from fall into winter.
4. Eiffel Tower holiday lights
If you can't be under the Eiffel Tower in France, be under one of its replicas topped with a fitting cowboy hat in Paris, Texas! 27 LED lights adorn the tower that reflect the holiday colors at night during December. The town hosts ongoing holiday events like the local Christmas parade, Movie in the Park Holiday nights, and home Christmas light tours as well.
5. Bundle up for ICE! at the Gaylord Texan Resort
Whether you have kids, or you don't, this holiday activity is awesome for anyone. I've been twice, the last time being in 2011 when the theme was Shrek. The Gaylord hosts an ice sculpture walk-through with a different theme every year; this year will be Frosty The Snowman. The tour features 2 million pounds of hand-carved ice and two ice slides. This year they'll be adding a section called The Frostbite Factory where you'll get to see the ice carvers up close as they work! Aside from the sculpture tour and getting to wear a huge blue parka, the entire resort is decked out in Christmas decorations, lights, and even a full size gingerbread house to explore. I plan to go this year!! :)
6. Watch the Ford Holiday River Parade & Lighting Ceremony
The hour long parade on the banks of the River Walk in San Antonio is full of illuminated boats, holiday decorations, bands, and great food!
7. Go back in time with Fredericksburg's Annual Lighting of the German Pyramid
This little German town will be decked out in traditional German holiday festivities, lighting of a Christmas tree and traditional wood-carved pyramid, plus lots of great foods! If you prefer to add a little global culture to your holiday festivities, this is the place for you!
8. Check out the dozens of holiday activities in Grapevine
From the North Pole Express and the Twinkle Light Boat Parade, to an international Christmas Market and Christmas Wine Trains, the city of Grapevine has an activity for any family to enjoy. It has even been named the Christmas Capital of Texas!
9. Visit San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio for a holiday mass
The cathedral is beautiful when its holiday lights and Christmas tree adorn the grounds. With masses in both English and Spanish, it is the oldest functioning religious community in the state of Texas having been founded in 1731. On the grounds there is a gift shop, water fountains, and scenic surroundings for photography.
10. Walk the Austin Trail of Lights during its 50th Anniversary
Grab a cup of hot chocolate or your favorite warm cinnamon tea and head for Austin's Zilker Park! This is a must-see event in the city where 1.25 miles of lights, food, and entertainment take over December 7-21. Watch last year's recap video to see what happened!
11. Skate on ice in downtown Houston's Discovery Park ICE Skating Rink
The ICE skating rink uses recycled water from Kinder Lake every year to form a 7,716 square-foot rink kept at 22 degrees. This is the largest outdoor ice skating rink in the Southwest! But it's not just about the skating, there are outdoor movies, live music, ice carvings, food, and more. It will be packed, so make sure to go when it might not be that busy.
12. Go to a Trans-Siberian Orchestra ConcertIf you love the classic songs of the holidays, but need a little modern twist to get the boys more interested, this concert is for you. We've been twice, and it's awesome; a little bit of the classics, rock, and a super light show. They'll be touching down in Houston December 19 and Dallas December 21. For all other tour dates and locations, visit the link below!
So there you have it, a pretty good handful of holiday events, activities, and places around Texas to explore this winter. Who thinks we'll actually get some snow this year?? :) I know those ice storms are just around the corner.haha
What are some of your family's must-do holiday activities? Share in the comments below! You never know, you might discover an event or activity that you've never experienced before in a city or town near you.