If fa-la-la-ing in the forest and singing around a campfire sound so much better than battling crowds in a mall or dealing with “out of stock” icons online, maybe you need to treat yourself to an outdoor getaway.
State Parks around Texas packed the holiday season with special events — in particular, 80 events at 47 parks and eight historic sites — from Thanksgiving trots to Christmas lightboat tours to New Year’s rides in the dark. Most of the events are family-friendly, but some seem ideal for solo adventurers who might want to pack a tent and escape into the woods for a night or two (we tip our hats to you, trade workers from detail).
Reservations fill up quickly, so be sure to visit an individual park’s website before you go. And check the Holidays in the parks page for lots of other fun options, pricing info and more info.
Austin/San Antonio Area Parks
Bastrop State Park
#OptOutside on Black Friday with a 3-4 mile guided hike, dubbed Gobble until you wobble, at 11 a.m. on November 26. The next day at 11 a.m., kids can join “Ranger Madalyn” for a fall-appropriate reading. Fletcher and the falling leaves, then make a craft or easily color the leaves and write a letter to Santa. Each day in December, follow the ornaments with clues through the park in the Fa La La through the forest treasure hunt.
Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site
Attend Decorate the rooms, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Nov. 27 to find out how the first Texans at the Sauer-Beckmann farm prepared for the holidays by stringing popcorn and decorating cookies to hang on their Christmas trees. Learn how to make local cedar wreaths and dip candles as farm staff prepare for das Weihnachten (Christmas). Then return at 5:30 p.m. on December 19 for the 52nd Annual LBJ Tree Lightinga holiday tradition started 52 years ago by the President and Mrs Johnson.
Garner State Park
Garner’s friends host his annual convention Christmas Open Daysfeaturing cookies, old-fashioned wassail, and photos with Santa at the Visitor Center, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 27.
Buescher State Park
On the Fa La La in the forest treasure huntyou can follow the ornaments with clues through the park to get a prize at the end, from December 1 to January 1.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Christmas in the park, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on December 5, features a holiday-themed scavenger hunt, as well as a chance to create a holiday greeting card to send to family, friends or someone in the need. Return for campfire songsfrom 6 to 7 p.m. on December 11, which includes hot chocolate, stories and music with park rangers.
Hill Country State Natural Area
Play games, make festive crafts, listen to a Christmas story and discover the Hill Country at Holidays in the hill country1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on December 11.
South Llano River State Park
AT Christmas at the Ranchfrom 2 to 5 p.m. on December 4, guests can warm up with hot chocolate and cider, listen to live entertainment, enjoy crafts and cookie decorating, and anticipate a visit from Santa Claus while admiring the twinkling lights and Christmas decorations of the historic Ranch House which now serves as the park’s headquarters.
Dallas-Fort Worth Area Parks
Tyler State Park
Start with the 14th Annual “Walk Off the Bird” Bird Walk, a 2.1-mile hike along the shore of the lake, at 9 a.m. Nov. 26. Bring your camera for a Fall in the savannah fall foliage hike at 2 p.m. that day, or the Fall Colors Lakeside Photo Hike at 9 a.m. on November 27. Return on December 10 and 11 for A Christmas in Pineywoodswhen you can walk or drive through the Lakeview and Big Pine campgrounds to admire the richly decorated camper sites and take a Nature Wonderland Hike.
Lake Tawakoni State Park
Drive through it or stay there and decorate your campsite with your favorite Christmas decorations to receive your second night of camping free during your stay. There will be a decoration contest, with prizes, as well as a reading of The night before Christmas — all part of Sparkling Tour 20215 p.m. to 8 p.m. on December 4.
Daingerfield State Park
The directory Christmas in the park The Drive-In Lights Tour runs December 15-18 (times vary). Stroll through the park illuminated like Santa Land and marvel at the decorated campsites and lights. Santa Claus himself will be there, but there will be no photo shoots with him this year.
Eisenhower State Park
The second annual Light up the park The drive-in lights event will take place on December 10 and 11 and will feature DIY candy canes and treats for kids and a certain visitor from the North Pole.
Cleburne State Park
Enjoy a Pancake breakfast with Santa Clausorganized by Cleburne Veterans of Foreign Wars, from 9am to 11am on December 11.
Cedar Hill State Park
To explore Christmas at Penn Farm December 11. Learn about the pioneering history of the Penn family and the farm they built 150 years ago. The event will end with an evening of caroling around a campfire with sweets and hot chocolate.
Mineral Wells Lake State Park
Live Christmas the cowboy way at Cross Timbers Cowboy Christmas, December 11. Park ranger and cowboy poet David Owens will gather guests around the campfire for an evening of cowboy culture through songs, stories and poems. It will take place at the Lone Star Amphitheater.
Dinosaur Valley State Park
As a little twist on the New Year’s “first day” hikes that many parks host, Dinosaur Valley makes a Midnight Countdown Day One Hike on New Year’s Eve. The group will walk (in the dark) to the gazebo in the park and ring in the New Year outside. It takes place from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Houston Area Parks
Brazos Bend State Park
Vacation in the park is an all-day affair on December 11. Events include a self-guided “elf walk”, Christmas crafts, a “pup parade”, s’mores, and more.
Goliad State Park and Historic Site
Every evening in December, visit the “History in Lights” exhibit and learn how lights and shadows tell the story of the historic site as you walk the same path taken by Native Americans and Spanish Franciscan priests so long ago.
Sea Rim State Park
Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus will board an airboat, then invite visitors to join them for hot chocolate, Christmas crafts and photo ops as part of A very swampy Christmas3-5 p.m. on December 18.