Christmas Texas Vacations (Festive Ideas)

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Christmas is a big deal in Texas, and like everything else in the Lone Star State, holiday celebrations are big, bold, and uniquely Texan. Spanning almost 268,600 square miles and bordering Mexico, Texas is a cultural melting pot, and its people are as ethically diverse as any state in the country. 

Depending on where you visit, Christmas traditions can be very different. The Texas Cowboy and Santa Claus are celebrated statewide. Still, certain cities and towns may have unique traditions and food based on the history and cultural profile of the local people.

Christmas Texas Vacations - Texas View

The Best Christmas Texas Vacations

Christmas Texas vacations are great ways to spend the holidays, whether with your family or partner or flying solo. There are a million things to see and do and many great places to shop. The best part? You can plan and design the vacation you want from start to finish because Texas has it all. 

You can find that if you fancy a traditional Christmas with decorations, trees, lights, markets, and turkey. Contrastingly, it won’t be hard to see if you want the authentic Texas experience with some merriment sprinkled in. Ever had barbecued brisket for Christmas dinner? Yes, it’s a common Texas holiday tradition. 

Beautiful christmas tree in the Fort Worth Stockyards Texas - Texas View

Christmas tends to have a more Latin flavor close to the Mexican border. Locals in the Rio Grande Valley area have become accustomed to Christmas dinner tamales, bright-colored lights along the streets, and piñatas hanging on the eve of the big day. Christmas getaways in Texas are magical and suited to virtually everybody.

The one drawback to planning a Christmas vacation in Texas is that too many fantastic options make it hard to decide what to do. But, as always, we’re here to help and have gathered many vacation ideas that cater to various people. So, let’s dive in. 

Downtown Grapevine - Texas View

The Christmas Capital of Texas – Grapevine

Holidays in the Lone Star State, has a reputation for taking things to a whole other level. In Grapevine, Texas, Christmas is a major deal. The city transforms into a winter wonderland, creating the perfect experience for kids and adults. 

The local vintage railway turns into the Polar Express, an unmissable excursion if you have young kids. The festive journey is non-stop fun and action, with singalongs, Christmas bells, festive snacks, and an appearance from Santa himself. There are plenty of opportunities to snap photos along the way.

The Palace Arts Center puts on special Christmas shows and live performances in November and December. Some shows cater to children, while other concerts are geared towards adults or families. You can also watch various classic Christmas movies there during the festive season. 

Color of 2020 year. Classic Blue food trendy background. Roasted pork in white dish christmas baked ham with cranberries tangerines thyme rosemary garlic on dark table surface - Texas View

Another of the many must-see events in Grapevine is the Parade of Lights, which has been going on for over 40 years. It’s the biggest in northern Texas and features beautifully decorated floats, dazzling light displays, and live musical performances from local groups.

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Everywhere you go in Grapevine, you’ll find Christmas cheer. Restaurants, hotels, and shops are decorated to the end degree. There are ice skating rinks, Christmas markets, and almost all restaurants and stalls that sell seasonal beverages and holiday food to help get you in the mood. 

Christmas ball ornament hanging on pine branches under sunny blue sky in Texas - Texas View

Christmas In The State Capital 

There’s never a slow day in Austin. The State Capital is a weird and wonderful place on a random Tuesday, but things turn up a notch when it comes to the holiday season. Although we think of Austin as a terrific vacation destination for adults or couples, it’s also great for families. 

The entire city is beautifully decorated with trees and glorious Christmas-themed lights. Bar hopping on Sixth Street or Rainey Street has an entirely different feel when Christmas arrives. Although winters are mild, there’s always a reason to grab a cozy cup of mulled wine when the sun goes down. 

One of the best Christmas attractions in the city (and perhaps the entire state) is the Trail of Lights at Zilker Park. It’s a mesmerizing light display that has to be seen to be believed. The tradition began in 1965 with a celebration called “Yule Fest”, which was organized by the Austin Parks and Recreation Department. 

Locals would gather in early December for the lighting of the Yule Log and the official opening of the Austin Christmas season. Almost 60 years later, the Trail Lights are famous nationwide, featuring over two million lights, close to 100 trees, and several more holiday displays. There are also fun activities at the park during this season.

Just before Christmas, the Palmer Events Center (downtown), transforms into a Christmas market. You can shop from local vendors, listen to live music, and bask in the festive atmosphere. There are also full bars and concession stands serving food and drinks. 

Our final recommendation is to visit the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) for the Peppermint Parkway Christmas festival. What’s usually a racing track turns into an enjoyable family-friendly event with Christmas displays, lights, elves, amusement rides, go-karts, and zip lines. 

River walk in San Antonio city at night at holiday season - Texas View
Christmas lights at riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas, USA

Sunny Christmas In San Antonio

A good reason to visit Texas for Christmas is to avoid the winter cold. If a sunny Christmas is what you’re after, look no further than San Antonio, one of the most culturally diverse cities in the state. Its Latin influence will give you a festive feel like you’ve never experienced.

The San Antonio River that flows directly through the city is the focal point of the action year-round. The legendary River Walk is the number one attraction. It’s a 15-mile-long urban waterway with beautifully designed pavements and tasteful bridges, guiding you through the best shops and restaurants in the city. 

The River Walk becomes a Christmas paradise with thousands of festive lighting displays and decorations during Christmas. It’s hard to be in a lousy mood after strolling the River Walk at Christmas. At this time of year, you can also find pop-up vendors selling tamales and Christmas Tex-Mex snacks that are to die for.

We recommend taking a riverboat tour to appreciate the city’s beauty from a different angle. Every year, there’s also a Christmas parade along the river where floats provide colorful and music-filled entertainment for citygoers. This is among the best free entertainment in the whole city. 

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Last but certainly not least, you have the annual Light the Way Holiday Festival that’s been in operation for 37 years. It’s held at the University of the Incarnate Word, where you can enjoy live music, eat from local food trucks, meet Santa, and admire the light and firework displays at night’s end.  

Christmas tree with snowflake and colorful glass ornaments balls at daytime in Texas - Texas View

Affordable Family Christmas Trips In Texas

Family vacations at Christmas can get very pricey. It’s one of the most expensive times of the year to travel, and hotels tend to hike up their rates when the festive season comes around. So, we’ve dedicated a special section of this article to the best Christmas vacations for families that won’t break the budget. 

Let’s take a look. 

Holly Jolly Houston 

Houston is the biggest city in Texas and the epicenter of culture in the state. But what most people don’t realize is that it’s one of the cheapest of the United State’s most populous cities. So if you’re looking for a bargain Christmas vacation, consider taking the family to H-Town. 

Houston is a fascinating city with phenomenal museums, a bustling art scene, and several eclectic neighborhoods. Come Christmas, the city takes on a new look and is filled with lights, decorations, and seasonal activities. Winters are typically quite warm in Houston, which makes it pleasant to get around.

Fun, low-cost activities include outdoor ice skating at Discovery Green and a dazzling lights show at Houston Zoo. The zoo has over 15 miles of lights scattered throughout the premises during the holidays. The illuminated animal figures provide endless photo opportunities so you can cherish the memories forever.

There are also a lot of fun activities for the whole family in downtown Houston. In late November, Houstonians gather in front of the City Hall to officially turn on the Christmas lights. Here, you’ll also set your eyes on the city’s iconic tree, measuring 56 feet tall and 28 feet wide. 

Also, in the downtown area, you can stroll through the holiday village, learn how to build gingerbread houses, visit Santa Claus, and try delicious food and drinks at the German Christmas market.

Wrapped gifts near a christmas tree during christmas time at home - Texas View

College Station Christmas

College Station is packed full of students for most of the year. However, once collegegoers head home for the Christmas break, it becomes a fun holiday destination. There is a Santa Town, and locals pull out all the stops to light up the city. 

Winters are mild in College Station and sometimes get warm. However, you can experience a (not so) authentic white Christmas in this beautiful city. College Station’s biggest Christmas attraction, Santa’s Wonderland, has devices that shoot fake snow into the air. 

Santa’s Wonderland is a must-visit for families. As well as pretty decorations and lights, it’s got fun activities, such as toboggan tubing and snowball fighting at Frostbite’s Snow Playground. Explore the grounds on a horse and carriage, meet Santa, and dine at one of the restaurants for an unforgettable experience. 

Although prices will likely be higher around the holiday season, College Station usually has very reasonable accommodation pricing, helping you keep costs as low as possible. 

Family visiting the Christmas market - Texas View

German Christmas In Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg, Texas, is a small city in central Texas of German heritage. To this day, the city brandishes its German roots with its 19th-century architecture, Pioneer Museum, and town square, called the Marktplatz. During Christmas, the entire city resembles a festive German town. 

If you’ve ever experienced a German Christmas market before, you’ll understand the atmosphere that it creates. Food stalls selling bratwurst hotdogs, gluhwein (mulled wine), apple strudel, roasted nuts, gingerbread, and other festive favorites are staples once December hits.

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The city also installs an outdoor ice skating rink at the park, and twinkling Christmassy lights illuminate the streets. The German-style architecture is the perfect backdrop in these settings. They also bring in a handcrafted Christmas pyramid from Germany each year which becomes the center point during the season.

Fredericksburg is smack in the middle of Texas Wine Country, so if your kids are older, you could consider scheduling a Christmas wine-tasting experience. If you want to get the best bang for your buck, we recommend booking your Fredericksburg, Texas, Christmas vacation ahead of time. 

Christmas Road Trip In Texas

Despite being the largest state in the contiguous USA, many of the big cities in Texas are located quite close together. So, if you fancy a Christmas road trip this year, you can cross off a lot of stops in just a few days. We’ve outlined a simple plan that hits several hot Christmas spots. 

From start to finish, the road trip covers approximately 750 miles and involves around 15 hours of driving. However, you don’t want to be in the car the whole time. So, we recommend 10 stops along the way where you can get involved in some of the festivities. Here’s the route and some ideas for what you can do at each stop:

  • San Antonio (starting point): take a boat trip down the San Antonio River.
  • Wimberley: roast marshmallows over the Yule Log. 
  • Johnson City: take part in a Christmas crafts workshop downtown. 
  • Marble Falls: take photos with the two million lights at the Walkway of Lights. 
  • Cleburne: check out the Whistle Stop Christmas Parade.
  • Arlington: visit the Christkindl German Christmas Market. 
  • Grand Prairie: head through the two-mile drive through Prairie Lights display. 
  • Grapevine: the Christmas Capital of Texas
  • Jefferson: take the Enchanted Forest walk
  • College Station: spend an afternoon at Santa’s Wonderland

We recommend camping or glamping if you want to keep your Christmas road trip rustic. But if the weather isn’t suitable, consider staying in cabins. These are typically located in the countryside, offering a peaceful and cozy atmosphere that’s perfect for the holidays. 

Here are some of the best Christmas cabins in Texas to consider on your travels: 

  • Peach Log Cabin (Fredericksburg)
  • Sycamore Treehouse (Fredericksburg)
  • Contigo Ranch (Fredericksburg)
  • Smith Creek Log Cabin (Wimberley)
  • The Vineyards Campground & Cabins (Grapevine)


Author Profile
Christian Linden Texas View Headshot 3 - Texas View
Author at Texas View | Texas View

Christian Linden is a seasoned writer and contributor at Texas View, specializing in topics that resonate with the Texan community. With over a decade of experience in journalism, Christian brings a wealth of knowledge in local politics, culture, and lifestyle. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Texas. When he's not writing, Christian enjoys spending weekends traveling across Texas with his family, exploring everything from bustling cities to serene landscapes.

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