When it’s still a balmy 70 degrees in December but you really, really need to get your holiday fix, we’ve got two words for you: Christmas lights. Texas is filled with huge holiday light displays that are an instant cure for the holiday blahs. There are plenty in the Fort Worth area, of course. But if you're up for a road trip, here are five of the biggest and brightest.
Santa's Ranch in New Braunfels
If you’d rather keep the kids corralled in the car while you gaze at holiday lights, Santa’s Ranch in New Braunfels is your best bet. For just $22 per vehicle, you’ll cruise through numerous impressive displays, including lit-up nativity scenes, giant gingerbread houses, and even a Christmas dinosaur or two.
Know before you go: If you’re not in the mood to sit in traffic, we highly recommend heading to Santa’s Ranch during the week. However, if you’ve become used to traffic after sitting on I-35 for years of your life, check it out anytime through December 31 (Sunday through Thursday, 6-10 pm; Friday and Saturday, 6-11 pm).
The River Walk in San Antonio
San Antonio’s ever-popular River Walk is also one of the best places in Texas to get into the holiday spirit, thanks to the explosion of lights that drape over every square inch of this area. Now would be the time of year to take a gondola ride up and down the river to properly take in this festive spectacle.
Know before you go: This year, the lights will remain on through January 7, starting at 5:30 pm every night.
Zoo Lights in Houston
Every year, the Houston Zoo undergoes a wintertime makeover to become a holiday lights attraction the likes of which you’ve never seen — we’re talking 15 miles of lights; a 1958 Cadillac festooned with a musical light show; an enchanted forest; and an interactive, rather chatty zebra.
Know before you go: Zoo Lights runs through January 15; check out ticket pricing and times here.
Lights Spectacular in Johnson City
If your idea of a good holiday lights display involves feeling like you’ve stepped into an old-fashioned Christmas card, you’re in luck: the Lights Spectacular in Johnson City is exactly that. Every year (for the last 28), the Blanco County Courthouse and its surrounding trees have sparkled brighter than the night sky, thanks to over 100,000 twinkly white lights. Nearly every home and business in the town square joins in on the action, rendering this one of the loveliest, quaintest spots in the state to enjoy a holiday lights show.
Know before you go: The Lights Spectacular runs every weekend through January 2, from 6-9 pm.
Austin Trail of Lights in Zilker Park
It isn't really Christmas time in Austin until everyone's taken a leisurely stroll through the city’s Holiday Lights Bonanza 2.0, otherwise known as the Trail of Lights in Zilker Park. The official grand opening this year took place Saturday, December 9, and the Trail will remain open until December 23. Gather up your crew and take your time strolling through the 2 million lights and 40 displays — just don’t chug eggnog or drink too much spiked hot chocolate before taking a twirl under the Zilker Tree.
Know before you go: The Trail of Lights is open through December 23, from 7-10 pm. General admission is just $3, but there are some free nights, as well.