12 Christmas-Obsessed Texas Destinations to Visit This Holiday Season
Grinches need not apply.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed during the holidays, as you shop for the perfect presents, decorate your home, and attend a never-ending slate of parties. But this year, take a deep breath, hop in the car, and leave all those worries behind you—or just put them off for another week. Because all across the state, there are ample opportunities to dive headfirst into holiday cheer before the season ends. From snow-tubing hills and drive-through light shows to markets hawking local gifts and hot drinks, these are 12 of the most Christmas-obsessed destinations in Texas.
Now through January 28
The Adolphus rooftop got a winter makeover into a picturesque holiday village, complete with themed cottages, cozy cabins, fire pits, and festive decor. The special menu includes Fondue, Chicken Schnitzel, and Fried S’mores, with cheerful drinks like Frozen Hot Chocolate and a Chai Toddy. Outside of Winter Village, the Adolphus lobby features a 24-foot live Christmas tree that’s grown especially for the hotel at a farm in Michigan, and the French Room is hosting holiday teas and serving hot cocoa.
Now through February 14
The upscale hotel has transformed the al fresco WineYard Grille + Bar into its new Winter Wonderland experience, with happy hour hangouts and private dining available in eight igloo-style bubbles. Each sports a ski lodge theme, with fur blankets and heaters, and the bubbles are situated amidst evergreen trees and under a canopy of string lights.
December 17 - 23
In the week leading up to Christmas, swing through the Palmer Events Center in Downtown Austin. That’s where you’ll find nearly 200 vendors selling art and gifts to cap off your holiday shopping. Live bands take the stage each day, providing a soundtrack as you peruse the wares. And when you need a break, two full bars are serving drinks, and concessions include pizza, pasta, and sandwiches.
Now through January 1
Visiting the Gaylord Texan hotel during the holidays, whether for a weekend or an afternoon, is like getting joyfully pummeled in the face with a snowball wrapped in lights and delivered by a gingerbread man riding a one-horse open sleigh. They lean hard into the holiday spirit, with lights and decorations everywhere you look. Activities include a tubing track covered in real snow, an ice skating rink, and an ice village filled with larger-than-life sculptures and an ice slide. There are pop-up bars serving seasonal drinks, DIY gingerbread house stations, photo-ops with Santa, and coordinated light shows set to music. Be sure to pace yourself.
Now through December 26
For most of the year, Circuit of the Americas is a Formula 1 track and concert venue. But during the holidays, it transforms into Peppermint Parkway, a decidedly different experience that involves a mile of holly-jolly displays, millions of lights, dancing elves, amusement rides, and a train. Drive through the decked out parkway to enjoy the sights from inside your car, then take a pit stop at the Peppermint Plaza, where you’ll find food, drinks, and Santa. If that’s not enough to hold you over until New Year’s, you can race go karts at speeds up to 55 mph or zoom through the air on a zip line.
Now through December 23
Inspired by Arlington’s German sister city, Bad Königshofen, as well as holiday markets across Europe, the open-air Texas Christkindl Market features vendors selling gifts and crafts, plus traditional German food (think pork schnitzel, brats, potato pancakes) and glühwein, Germany’s aromatic take on mulled wine. If you’ve got kids in tow, swing through the Kinder Kids Rootbeer Garden for stage shows, painting workshops, and hot cocoa, and be sure to get a photo with St. Nikolaus.
Now through December 31
Get your tickets to Prairie Lights, then make your way to Lynn Creek Park at Joe Pool Lake. That’s where they keep the entrance to the two-mile drive-through path festooned with no less than four million glittering lights. We’re not astronauts, but we’d bet you can probably see it from space. Drive along to view hundreds of new displays alongside and arching over the road. At the halfway point, hop out of your car to explore the Holiday Village, with carnival rides, concessions, a walk-through “magical forest,” and photos with Santa, before strapping back in to proceed through a massive, trippy light tunnel that signals your exit.
Now through January 1
Once again, Downtown El Paso has been transformed into a holiday dreamscape for its annual WinterFest. Trees sparkle with lights, there’s an ice skating rink, and the Plaza Theater screens free holiday movies, from Elf and The Polar Express to Christmas Vacation. Spend some time among the oversize decorations and 55-foot tree in San Jacinto Plaza, see a free concert, and score sustenance via the various food trucks and vendors.
Now through December 30
College Station is best known as the home of Texas A&M, but during the holiday season, a portion of the town turns into Santa’s Wonderland, complete with an ice skating rink, a walkable trail of lights, snow tubing tracks, a red barn showing Christmas movies, and campfires—the latter are more exciting when you purchase a hotdog and s’mores kit. If you’re still hungry, vendors serve burgers, BBQ, pizza, and funnel cakes, plus craft beer and wine on tap.
Now through January 7
For a beachside destination, Galveston knows how to Christmas. The 242-acre Moody Gardens amusement park is billed as the largest holiday destination in the Southwest. There’s a mile-long light display featuring two million lights, a four-story tall tree, an ice skating rink, and an “arctic slide” primed to shoot you down an icy ramp in a tube. Sticking with the ice theme, Ice Land features a colorful Caribbean Christmas scene with ice sculptures depicting coral and fish. At night, step into the Cirque Joyeux Holiday Show for an ultra-festive performance with acrobats and aerialists.
Now through January 9
There’s never a bad time to visit San Antonio, but the River Walk’s holiday lights make a strong case for a winter road trip. Stroll the downtown promenade underneath illuminated cypress trees, which reflect off the water to give the whole strip a magical glow. This free attraction is flanked by shops and restaurants on all sides, so stop along the way to find gifts or refuel.
December 9 - 11
Located just north of Houston, Tomball celebrates its German roots each year with a festival and open-air Christmas market. More than 160 vendors line the streets to sell handcrafted items and traditional foods while bands play on multiple stages and street performers entertain the crowds. Score a few gifts for the people on your list, or simply use that as a thinly veiled excuse to gorge yourself on schnitzel, brats, pretzels, and boots brimming with German beers.