‘Tis the season to sparkle! From now through the end of the season, festive holiday light trails adorn Texas Hill Country, and we’ve discovered the best and brightest dazzlers around.
We adore Trail of Lights at Zilker Park, but this article goes above and beyond for my kind of people who are truly extra in their love for shiny objects. I’m eternally beguiled by the night and mesmerized by shiny objects, so I’m way into the holiday light trail scene.
These aren’t your subtle, modest light displays, but rather full-on Clark Griswold affairs. If you crave holiday glitz and are up for a quick road trip, these eight Hill Country destinations can satisfy your quest to shine on.
1/ Bastrop River of Lights and Lighted Christmas Parade
Breaking news: Bastrop, Texas, is changing its name to The Little Town That Loves Christmas! Okay, not really, but they totally could. Lost Pines Christmas highlights include a Lighted Christmas Parade, a Santa/Ugly Sweater pub crawl, a wassail fest, and a Christmas Cookie Crawl. Plus the month-long, twinkly star of the show is the half-mile walking trail, River of Lights.
The Lighted Christmas Parade is Dec. 9, 2017, this year, and includes hundreds of participants. River of Lights runs from Nov. 25, 2017 through Jan. 2, 2018. Local groups decorate the entire walk for the season, while area businesses completely sponsor the parade and lighted walking trail. Events are free and open to the public.
Historic Downtown Bastrop – Website
2/ Winter Wonderland at Circuit of The Americas
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little…Car? It may become the greatest marriage since peanut butter and chocolate when F1 race track, Circuit of The Americas (COTA), opens up for the eagerly awaited Winter Wonderland. The circuit of lights will wrap around the track and include an ice skating rink, dazzling tunnel of lights, Santa’s Workshop, live music, and carnival rides. And that’s only the beginning.
COTA’s Winter Wonderland takes it to a WHOLE. OTHER. LEVEL. More exotic offerings befitting the customary F1 set are hot air balloon floats, camel rides, and a human snow globe. I’m so excited about this one, like a kid on Christmas morning—that’s a thing, right? The whole shebang is under wraps until opening night Dec. 1, 2017. Dates are Dec. 1-2, 2017 and Dec. 8-30, 2017. Admission is $16 (children 5 and under free).
9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd. – Website
3/ Santa’s Ranch in New Braunfels
Dinosaurs, space shuttles, and monster pickup trucks, oh my! Those whimsical lighted exhibits alone should make the drive to New Braunfels worth it. Drive through Santa’s Ranch along a mile or so of winding country roads. Animated, custom-made displays feature more than 1.5 million lights a-glowing.
Apart from Christmas dinosaurs, all of the yuletide favorites appear. You’ll see angels, Christmas trees, the North Pole, and nativity scenes (and they throw in some added fun with less traditional exhibits).
Andre Lenartowicz, aka The Austin Spotter, notes, “As Tom Petty would have sung, the waiting is the hardest part…Unless you pack a patient crew and/or snacks (and your favorite Christmas tunes), your best bet is to go during the work week.”
Santa’s Ranch is open through Dec. 31, 2017. Cost is $28 plus tax per car, or $56 plus tax for a one-car season pass.
9561 IH 35 North, New Braunfels, TX – Website
4/ San Saba Christmas Park
Nestled at the top of Texas Hill Country, San Saba goes all out with its Mill Pond Christmas Extravaganza. Who needs the Bellagio fountain when you have ten acres of dancing shimmer and glimmer right here in the Hill Country? San Saba flashes more than one million lights in time to music. You know you’re going to hear Christmas standards along with popular hits.
Visitors can walk or drive through the light display. The wintry wonderland is full of fun visual goodies, including tunnels and digitally-animated scenes. San Saba Christmas Park is free and open to all through Jan. 5, 2018.
110 Thomas Stewart Dr., San Saba, TX – Website
5/ Johnson City Lights Spectacular
The Lights Spectacular people in Johnson City don’t play when it comes to Christmas lights. The proof these lights are out of this world lies in actual images from outer space! Holy holiday spirit, Batman! Johnson City turns into a proper holiday village during the free Lights Spectacular.
The courthouse wears a draped array of thousands of lights, while Pedernales Electric Cooperative wraps more than one million lights around a large stand of oak trees. Almost every home and business in town dresses up for December.
The Lights Spectacular event starts after Thanksgiving with the Nov. 24, 2017 lighting of the courthouse tree and a Nov. 25, 2017 Lighted Parade. The event runs through Jan. 2, 2018.
Downtown Johnson City – Website
6/ Wimberley Holiday Trail of Lights
The EmilyAnn Theatre & Gardens in Wimberley hosts this celebration of the season. The eight-acre Wimberley Trail of Lights winds up with a traditional marshmallow roast around a yule log. Don’t forget the free hot chocolate.
This glittery gorgeousness is a true community effort. Numerous local businesses and community members come together each year to decorate the trail. It is interactive with character cutouts for fun photos, a musical garden, and a life-sized chess/checker board.
Wimberley Trail of Lights runs from Nov. 25, 2017, through Dec. 28, 2017, and is free (donations appreciated).
1101 Ranch Road 2325, Wimberley, Texas – Website
7/ Marble Falls Walkway of Lights
More than two million lights and 400 lighted sculptures sparkle on the banks of Lake Marble Falls. The annual Walkway of Lights is a free event in Lakeside Park, but donations are welcome.
Local non-profit organizations sell holiday goodies and Santa photos (cash only) at the park. The Walkway of Lights is open through Jan. 1, 2018.
305 Buena Vista Dr., Marble Falls, TX – Facebook
8/ San Antonio River Walk Holiday Lights
San Antonio’s popular River Walk lights, illuminated from the night after Thanskgiving through Jan. 7, 2018, are a classic. Stroll along the River Walk for free, or book a boat to maximize your sparkly glee. Admire the lights over chips and salsa, and perhaps a margarita at one of the riverside restaurants. The City of San Antonio and Paseo del Rio Association sponsor the light show every year.
849 E. Commerce St., San Antonio, TX – Website
Magical Moments for One and All
December is the sparkliest month of all with lights, colors, and pretty little packages. Plenty of local courthouses and downtown areas have holiday light events throughout the season. Round Rock, Georgetown, and Lakeway each have tree lightings and pretty light shows going on.
Crank up your cell phone camera, explore the Hill Country, and Instagram your heart away! Or simply enjoy the show and sip hot cocoa with loved ones. Your call. Ho ho ho!
@theAustinot wants to know:
What is your favorite Texas Hill Country holiday lights tradition?
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