Shine on, you beautiful diamond! 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 of 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, then these nine Hill Country destinations will satisfy your quest to shine on.
1/ Bastrop River of Lights and Lost Pines Christmas
Breaking news: Bastrop, Texas, is changing its name to The Little Town That Loves Christmas! Okay, not really, but it totally could. Lost Pines Christmas highlights include the Lighted Christmas Parade, snow day, wreath-making day, Krampus Christmas Haunts, and a Christmas cookie “make and take” event at the YMCA.
The library, opera house, and several small businesses embrace the season with special events throughout the month of December.
The Lighted Christmas Parade is Dec. 8, 2018, and includes hundreds of participants.
The star of the show is the half-mile walking trail, River of Lights. River of Lights runs through New Year’s Eve. Local groups decorate the entire walk for the season, while area businesses completely sponsor the parade and lighted walking trail. The trail and several events are free and open to the public.
Historic Downtown Bastrop – Website
2/ Winter Wonderland at Circuit of The Americas
Winter Wonderland at Circuit of The Americas will bedazzle even the Grinchiest among you. Winter Wonderland at the Circuit is now open for its second year.
Circuit of The Americas has incorporated the world-famous Chinese Lantern Festival, created over several weeks on-site by artists and engineers from China, to rev up its light show this year (car puns, hee hee).
You’ll be walking in a selfie wonderland as you meander around the track taking in all the illuminated beauty. Prepare yourself to ooooh and ahhhh for this one!
Don’t skip the dazzing tunnel of lights, where you can dance to the beat of groovy music while the lights dance with you. Family-friendly highlights also include the largest outdoor ice skating rink in Texas, Santa’s Workshop, petting zoo, singing trees, and carnival rides. And that’s only the beginning.
Winter Wonderland’s traditional Chinese lantern festival, complete with a giant, colorful dragon, is outstanding. COTA brings in several food trucks, too. I’m so excited about this event, like a kid on Christmas morning—that’s a thing, right?
Remaining 2018 dates are Dec. 6-9 and Dec. 13-30. On Dec. 7, all veterans, active duty military, and first responders get in free! Admission to the track and light trail is normally $16, but children five and under are free.
Additional activities, such as ice skating, carnival rides, and visiting the North Pole (the top of the tower) cost a little extra.
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 trip 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, Bible stories, and nativity scenes. The designers throw in some added fun with less traditional exhibits that make us giddy with glee.
Andre Lenartowicz, a.k.a. 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. 30, 2018. 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 10 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 also hosts several holiday-themed events throughout the season.
A big night to visit is Dec. 8, 2018, when local businesses host a Sip n’ Stroll through downtown. The event will feature Texas wineries, the River City Holiday Band Concert on the square, and a lighted Christmas parade.
San Saba Christmas Park is free and open nightly through Jan. 6, 2019.
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.
Visiting the Lights Spectacular is free, but you can pay for a horse-drawn carriage ride or tractor-pulled hayride through the area. The Lights Spectacular event runs through New Year’s Day 2019.
Downtown Johnson City – Website
6/ Wimberley Holiday Trail of Lights
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, musical garden, and life-sized chess/checker board. There’s a fun human snow globe, too!
Wimberley Trail of Lights runs through Dec. 28, 2018, and is free. Donations are welcome, though, as this is the town’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
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 nonprofit organizations sell holiday goodies and Santa photos (cash only) at the park. For those wanting to make a weekend of it, Horseshoe Bay Resort is offering free shuttle service from their expansive grounds to Walkway of Lights nightly.
Walkway of Lights is open through Dec. 26, 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 dusk to dawn through Jan. 6, 2019, 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
9/ Old West Christmas Light Fest
In its fifth year, this drive-through holiday haven is at Enchanted Springs Ranch in Boerne, northwest of San Antonio. If you love the old west, this one’s for you. Old West Christmas Lights Fest has more than 40 old west buildings decorated in Christmas lights. Plus, there are mechanical bull rides, even for the kiddos.
Tickets are $15 per adult and $10 for children four and older. Family packs for five people are $49.
Open Thursday through Sunday nights until Dec. 16, 2018, and every night between Dec. 20-30, including Christmas Eve and Christmas night.
242 State Hwy. 46 W, Boerne, TX – Facebook
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 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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