Our mild winters are just one of the great reasons to call Houston home. But with an average Christmas Day high temperature of 65 degrees (according to weather.com), getting into the holiday spirit might require a bit more creativity. Fortunately, our region is full of beautiful holiday destinations just a short car ride away. From literary holiday recreations to Hill Country trails lit ablaze with decorative lighting, these holiday drives are sure to put you in a festive mood.
Galveston’s Dickens on The Strand
At a mere 45-minute drive from downtown Houston, Galveston Island is practically our backyard. Its Dickens on the Strand festival is one of the most unique holiday celebrations in our state. From Dec. 6-8, Galveston’s historic Strand district is transformed into a Victorian-era scene complete with characters from Charles Dickens’ famous novels, parades, costumed vendors, and roving carolers and performers. In celebration of the festival’s 40th anniversary, two of Dickens’ descendants will also make an appearance at the event. Aside from the full-day street festivals all weekend long, other major events include Dinner with Dickens and the Steampunk Ball on Dec. 7. Period attire is encouraged.
Hill Country Christmas Lighting Trail
The famed Texas Hill Country is beautiful any time of year, but the region’s towns don their finest holiday lighting, creating a Christmas Lighting Trail worth following from end to end. The trail winds through towns just east of San Antonio and Austin, such as Boerne, Kerrville, and Fredericksburg, each with its own special holiday events and displays. Marble Falls’ Walkway of Lights is a particularly beautiful display featuring more than 2 million lights adorning Lake Marble Falls. Check the trail’s map to devise your itinerary (most towns are within a three- to four-hour drive of Houston).
New Braunfels’ Santa’s Ranch
Not to be outdone by other Hill Country cities, New Braunfels mounts an all-out Christmas lighting spectacular in the form of Santa’s Ranch. From Nov. 1-Jan. 4, 1 million lights join to create a mile-long drive full of more than 100 Christmas displays and animations. Since New Braunfels is located in such close proximity to many towns in the Hill Country, a drive through Santa’s Ranch can also serve as an add-on to the region’s Christmas Lighting Trail.
Alpine’s Cowboy Poetry Festival and Big Bend National Park
If you’re up for a weekend getaway, consider a visit to Alpine, a West Texas city known as the gateway to Big Bend National Park. About an eight hour drive from the city, Alpine typically receives some snow most winters due to its 4,000 foot altitude. The town’s proximity to stunning natural scenery is complemented by a lively arts scene which pays homage to the area’s history. If it’s holiday lights you’re after, Big Bend’s unspoiled open spaces bring star-filled nights bright enough to out-twinkle some big city lights. When you’re ready to hit the road, Big Bend’s driving trails offer hundreds of miles of scenic drives through rugged landscapes.
Keep in mind that many drives wind through dirt or mountain roads, along with possible wintry conditions. Before departing on your road trip, make sure your vehicle’s maintenance is up-to-date.
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