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Photo courtesy of Lake Austin Spa Resort

When the Lake Austin Spa Resort went shopping for a 25th-anniversary gift for guests, it aimed higher than traditional silver and picked treatments that incorporated gold, diamonds, and caviar. As a result, the dreamy destination spa now offers some of the most opulent, exclusive, and — at upwards of $1,000 — most expensive facials in the world.

In anticipation of its milestone anniversary in 2022, the Lake Austin Spa Resort’s LakeHouse Spa partnered with Swiss luxury skincare brand Valmont to introduce the new facials, which are as cutting-edge as they are indulgent.

Creme de la creme among them is The Regal by Valmont, which costs a jaw-dropping $1,050. The Regal was designed in Switzerland exclusively for LakeHouse Spa, and Austin is the only place in the world to get it.

“It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a lot of people,” says Becky Bence, Lake Austin Spa Resort lead esthetician. “And it’s definitely worth it.”

The 135-minute facial begins with the high-tech deep cleanse of the HydroFacial and proceeds with seven masks, including four collagen masks, a papaya enzyme, and a medical-grade LED light mask. Every single product from Valmont’s ultra luxe “masterpiece collection” called l’Elixir des Glaciers is used; some products are made with an uber anti-aging essence of gold sturgeon fish. All are applied using a Valmont signature “butterfly” motion that helps to lift and sculpt the face.

What puts the Regal over the top, though, are 35 minutes of choreographed massage, including a 500-year-old technique called “kobido,'' developed for the empress of Japan. Touted as a “surgical facelift as a massage," Bence says, kobido was once reserved only for nobility and the empress, then later handed down from masters to disciples.

So rarified is the Regal facial, that just six of the 21 LakeHouse Spa estheticians are trained to perform it. They learned at a weeklong “bootcamp” conducted by two Valmont experts who flew in to Austin from Switzerland.

“It was kind of like the Navy Seal program of facials,” Bence says. “It was kind of like being handed down something from a true master.”

The $1K price tag hasn’t kept people away. Since the Regal was introduced several months ago, guests have come from all over the world — and from all corners of Texas — to experience what the spa calls “the ultimate in anti-aging perfection and cellular renewal.” (After all $1,000 is still far less than an actual facelift or even regular nick-tuck-plump-ups by a cosmetic surgeon.)

Why reach all the way to Switzerland for the palatial new treatments? After emerging from COVID shutdowns, Bence says, LakeHouse Spa personnel “auditioned” just about every single skincare line out there. The estheticians voted, and Valmont won.

“We wanted to add something really special, something luxurious but yet something out-of-this-world amazing that truly benefited the skin,” Bence says. “Something almost to replace Botox and fillers …that gave you basically a natural face-lift without being invasive but still being relaxing.”

In addition to the Regal, other new Valmont facials introduced in this 25th anniversary year include:

  • The 150-minute Gold & Diamond Trifecta Facial that involves three massages, four masks, infra-red LED, and a hydrogel mask with micronized gold and diamonds, which costs $990.
  • The Golden Aura Rose & Caviar Facial, a 100-minute treatment that incorporates marine products containing caviar extract and Diamond Collagen, costing $790.
  • Energy of the Glaciers, a 90-minute facial that features rare ingredients from Switzerland and deep, structural massage of the face, stimulating muscles to tone and lift; $750.
  • Luminosity of Ice Facial, a 90-minute treatment described as a “toxin-flushing, facial reflexology-inspired facial” that uses a cocktail of seven plants organically cultivated at high altitudes; $650.

The spa also has a complete menu of non-Valmont facials and dozens of other signature treatments.

Luxe but laid back
Lake Austin Spa Resort’s Dallas-based co-owner, Mike McAdams, says the new facials are indicative of how high the spa wanted to aim for its 25th anniversary.

“Our guest demands a luxurious, more refined experience, and Valmont helps us deliver on that objective,” he says.

And yet, Lake Austin Spa Resort remains a place where robed guests can emerge from a $1,000 facial and step over geckos skittering along the sidewalk while a speedboat whizzes by pumping Beyonce through the speakers. It’s upscale but unpretentious, luxurious but laid-back — almost like “spa camp.”

“We never wanted to create the ‘zen’ spa with stark lines and absence of color – we aimed to create just the opposite,” McAdams says. “Your surroundings absolutely have an impact on how your wellness journey can unfold and influence your daily life. The colors and textures that surround you mimic the vibe of the Texas Hill Country and pay homage to nature.”

The top-rated spa and resort is a far cry now from the place McAdams purchased on January 1, 1997. Located along the shores of scenic Lake Austin in the Texas Hill Country, the property had lived previous lives as a fishing camp, nudist enclave, rodeo ranch, and diet camp.

McAdams — at the time a commercial real estate developer for Dallas-based Trammell Crow — experienced a personal work-life-balance crisis that's wholly relatable in today's post-pandemic, "great-resignation" world two-and-a-half decades later.

“I was living on a plane, traveling a lot. It was high stress, and high energy and I loved it,” he says. “In 1984, I found a place that changed my life — the Ashram in Calabasas, California. It was a true bootcamp, with physical activities and dietary restrictions that were very intense… This experience forced me to come down from my hectic lifestyle of traveling, eating, drinking, and not exercising."

After adopting healthier habits in his own life, he and an LSU fraternity brother, Billy Rucks, seized an opportunity to buy and transform the Lake Austin Spa Resort; they still co-own it today. “It was a diamond in the rough," McAdams says.

More 25th anniversary offerings
One of the biggest challenges running the spa the last 25 years (besides navigating a global pandemic), McAdams says, has been continually evolving in an industry dominated by fleeting fads and headline-grabbing gimmicks.

“The changes in the last 25 years in the spa industry have been monumental,” McAdams says. “The global wellness industry is now a $4.5 trillion economy, with ‘spa’ being one small part of the bubble. We are all seekers looking for ways to look and feel our best, and I think the growth is due to a demand in wanting to take our health into our own hands.”

One of the resort’s newest touts (proudly stated on their home page) is that they’re Texas’ only destination spa on a lake. Recently they’ve introduced a full range of water activities, including a water taxi that transports guests to the spa and back.

“When we bought Lake Austin Spa Resort in 1997, our guests would put a toe in the water — but we’ve also evolved and now understand the power of being near a moving body of water and how it affects your health, happiness, and even alleviates depression,” McAdams says.

Along with the new fancy facials and lake programming, the resort has also added new classes and activities and upgraded amenities for its 25th anniversary. Befitting its location in the “live music capital of the world,” Austin-area musicians now entertain guests nightly around s’mores pits. There’s new artwork around the campus, too.

“My favorite part of celebrating our 25th anniversary this year has been to watch a very special piece of commissioned art be installed in the first few months of the year,” McAdams says. “A local Austin artist created a 64-foot long, 400-square foot abstract mural of stone, glass, and tile designed to honor our magnificent natural location on Lake Austin.

"Within the creation, I wanted to honor all of the amazing past and present people who helped get to where we are today. Their names are included in this mural, discreetly placed within this homage to nature. Because of these special people, Lake Austin Spa Resort has enjoyed many wonderful accolades through the years.”

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To mark its 25th anniversary, Lake Austin Spa Resort is offering 25 percent off stays of at least two nights or more, through January 31, 2023. Reservations must be booked by October 31. Some packages include generous spa credits, but sadly, the $1,050 Regal facial is not 25 percent off. Find more information at www.lakeaustin.com.

Photo courtesy of Lake Austin Spa Resort

A red light mask is part of the $1,050 Regal by Valmont facial.

Photo courtesy of Rowan

Innovative new piercing studio needles into Fort Worth for Texas debut

Piercing news

A modern ear piercing company focused on the health and safety of clients has come to Texas via Fort Worth: Rowan opened at the Westbend complex on Wednesday, July 27.

The studio approaches piercing more like a minor medical procedure than a rite of passage performed at a shopping mall kiosk. Piercings at Rowan are performed only by licensed nurses who pierce with both hollow needles and single use piercing devices, they say.

Additionally, all earring designs are hypoallergenic, using only ethically sourced materials suited for freshly pierced ears, they say. That means pre-sterilized 14k gold or stainless steel and titanium. They do not use brass, nickel, or zinc in any of the earrings, nor do they use metals that can cause irritation, rashes, allergic reactions.

“We could not be more thrilled to open Rowan’s very first Texas studio to provide Texans with a celebratory and safe piercing experience,” says Rowan founder and CEO Louisa Serene Schneider in a release. “Ear piercing is essentially a medical procedure, and we pride ourselves in hiring our nurses, who are the experts, when it comes to skin integrity, infection prevention and keeping patients calm in unfamiliar situations. We can’t wait to celebrate our Texas customers.”

According to the website, Schneider founded Rowan in 2018 because she "observed first-hand that products and services that were labeled 'girly' weren’t paid much attention and especially, in the ear piercing industry the choices were limited to either an impersonal experience at the mall and tattoo parlors or an intimidating one at a doctor’s office."

The New York-based company now has locations in New York City, Connecticut, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Georgia, New Orleans, South Carolina, and Fort Worth; they promise more coming soon (including one at La Cantera in San Antonio, the website says). They also have a partnership with Target, with several in-store locations across Dallas-Fort Worth.

Note that Rowan pierces only ears, but they'll do multiple piercings at one appointment. Prices are as follows: $35 for one piercing (device and needle piercing); $50 for two piercings (device piercing only) plus cost of piercing studs ($40-$60 per pair); $25 for a post downsize (needle piercing only).

The Westbend location is at 1653 River Run Road, Unit 141, Fort Worth. Hours are 10 am-7 pm Monday-Saturday and 11 am-6 pm Sunday.

For more information and appointment bookings, visit the website.

Rowan is a medically supervised piercing studio.

Photo courtesy of Rowan
Rowan is a medically supervised piercing studio.
Photo courtesy of H-E-B

H-E-B location leak leads this week's 5 most-read Fort Worth stories

This Week's Hot Headlines

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines.

1. Location accidentally leaked for possible H-E-B supermarket in Fort Worth. On June 8, it was looking like Fort Worth was going to get an H-E-B grocery store, according to a press release from Parkside at Alliance Town Center that got nearby residents excited. An H-E-B spokesperson confirmed that the company owns land there but has no immediate plans to build a store. Then the developer backtracked and clarified that the news about H-E-B was "inadvertently included" in a release, adding that "H-E-B has not announced a store at this site nor a timeline for construction."

2. Charming Texas Gulf Coast community named one of the most affordable beach towns in U.S. Here's some welcome news for North Texans in search of a beach house that won't break the bank: A new report from Realtor.com says a popular Texas coastal town is among the most affordable in the country. Rockport, Texas, a coastal community about 375 miles from Fort Worth, lands at No. 7 on Realtor.com’s new list of most affordable beach towns in the country.

3. Dallas-Fort Worth nightclub owner gets 16 years for allowing coke sales in bathrooms. In what surely feels like an episode of Miami Vice, a Dallas-Fort Worth nightclub magnate was sentenced to 16 years in federal prison for operating an empire of clubs in which drugs were sold openly. According to a release from the office of Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Chad E. Meacham, drugs were being sold in the bathrooms at the OK Corral Fort Worth, OK Corral Dallas, and Far West nightclub.

4. 12 semifinalists make the cut in 2022 Cliburn Competition in Fort Worth. The field of competitors in the Sixteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition was cut to 12 semifinalists on June 6, meaning a dozen pianists were halfway to the grand prize of $100,000, a gold medal, and an international career. The semifinal rounds take place through the weekend, and the six finalists will be revealed Sunday night, June 12. Planning to go? Here are tips to have the best experience.

5. Target shoppers can get a $10 manicure from a robot at 2 Fort Worth stores. In a handy development for busy, budget-conscious, beauty-minded shoppers, Target has deployed a futuristic robot to give manicures inside two Fort Worth stores. Called Clockwork, the system is touted as the world's first fully autonomous nail-painting robot and is now up and running at Target Fort Worth Central (301 Carroll St.) and Target Cityview (5700 Overton Ridge Blvd.).

It's not official until H-E-B says so.

Photo courtesy of H-E-B
It's not official until H-E-B says so.
Photo courtesy of Clockwork

Target shoppers can get a $10 manicure from a robot at 2 Fort Worth stores

Nailing new technology

In a handy development for busy, budget-conscious, beauty-minded shoppers, Target has deployed a futuristic robot to give manicures inside two Fort Worth stores.

Called Clockwork, the system is touted as the world's first fully autonomous nail-painting robot and is now up and running at Target Fort Worth Central (301 Carroll St.) and Target Cityview (5700 Overton Ridge Blvd.).

"Fort Worth locals can now enjoy convenient, stylish manicures while perusing the store's coveted beauty aisles through the Clockwork x Target partnership," the company says in a release.

Dallas-Fort Worth is the third test-market for Clockwork, behind cities in Minnesota and California. Just one Dallas store (Target Medallion, at 6464 E NW Hwy.) is offering the service, but they have plans for expansion, a spokeswoman says.

The Clockwork manicures, dubbed "minicures," are nail-painting sessions — don't expect them to file your nails or push your cuticles — that take 10 minutes and cost $10. No tipping necessary.

"Clockwork uses AI and 3D technology to effectively paint the nails in under 10 minutes, giving customers a quick yet high-quality polish change without slowing them down on an already busy day," the release promises.

Here's how it works: You book and pay for appointments online. Explore polish colors here.

Then arrive with clean and bare nails, ready to be polished. (They provide nail polish remover to get regular lacquer off but cannot do gel removal right now.) The polish used is non-gel, regular polish "free of Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Formaldehyde and Toluene, and a number of other harmful substances," they say.

Clockwork founder Renuka Apte told CNN the nail-painting technology works like this:

To paint your nails, Clockwork’s machines rely on cameras, data, and algorithms. You place a digit on a finger rest and slide it into the machine, where two cameras rapidly take about 100 pictures of the nail. Apte said those images are used to create a 3-D point cloud showing the shape of the nail, and this data is used to figure out where the edges of your nail are located. This information is then used by algorithms that figure out things such as how (and how fast) the machine’s polish-dispensing pipette should move to apply paint to your nail.

The robot's not as perfect as a skilled manicurist; the same CNN reporter said, "The first time I visited, the pipette that pushes out polish appeared to clog after painting a few nails, and several of my nails were painted so poorly around the edges that the machine’s attendant fixed them by hand. It took about 20 minutes to complete a coat in a honey-yellow hue, which is twice as long as the company’s goal."

And one might imagine it's not nearly as relaxing as a salon manicure from a human being who massages your arms and makes sure your wine glass stays full.

But the company makes clear that the aim here is convenience, not luxury, stating, "Whether the busy Target shopper wants to feel more put together or feminine before their next meeting, play with fun polish colors, or quickly get their nails painted while out and about, the Clockwork x Target partnership aims to create new ways for on-the-go beauty enthusiasts to indulge in self-care."

Customers must be at least 13 years old to use the service. Booking appointments is encouraged, but walk-ins are welcome if there's availability, and will be guided through the process by an attendant.

Packages of three manicures are available for $24. Shoppers in DFW can use the promo code BIGTEX for $2 off their first visit.

Sit down and have a manicure on your next run for Diet Coke and Clorox Wipes.

Photo courtesy of Clockwork
Sit down and have a manicure on your next run for Diet Coke and Clorox Wipes.
Photo courtesy of Lake Austin Spa Resort

Texas' dreamiest lakeside resort luxuriates in list of best U.S. spas

Very honorable mention

Lake Austin Spa Resort accumulates accolades like Beyoncé accumulates Grammy awards.

Last year alone, the resort earned recognition from the likes of Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and U.S. News & World Report. The latest accolade for Lake Austin Spa Resort: The Discoverer travel blog has anointed it one of the six best spas in the U.S.

The resort “serves as a tranquil escape” from life's hustle and bustle, according to the blog.

“Situated along the shores of Lake Austin in [the] Hill Country, the stunning rolling hills and lush greenery of this upscale resort encourage guests to spend most of their time outside,” The Discoverer says. “Celebrate its waterfront location by paddle boarding on the placid waters of the lake or by participating in an invigorating yoga session along its picturesque shores.”

For an even more physical experience, The Discoverer recommends taking barre or kickboxing classes.

After all that activity, it might be time for a trip to LakeHouse Spa. The blog suggests splurging on the “indulgent” Gifts Of Our Garden treatment, which includes 100 minutes of full-body exfoliation, massage, and a body wrap using herbs from the resort’s private garden.

Lake Austin Spa Resort unveiled a multimillion-dollar renovation in the summer of 2020. The 19-acre wellness wonderland reopened, post-pandemic shutdown, with new dining rooms, guest rooms, updated spa amenities and services, and new dining menus.

Dallas-based co-owner Mike McAdams employed the help of Dallas designer Brianna Wright-Guay to accomplish his vision throughout the property and its 40 guest rooms. Upgrades included new English fabrics, original art, and custom furnishings, as well as visually appealing improvements in the Garden Library, Lake Room, and soothing Blue Room inside the 25,000-square-foot LakeHouse Spa.

The resort’s executive chef Stephane Beaucamp also created new menu items ranging from nourishing power bowls to new smoothies, plant-based entrees, and immunity-boosting juice shots.

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Celestina Blok contributed to this story.

Photo courtesy of The Judds

The Judds' coveted Fort Worth concert tops this week's 5 hottest headlines

This Week's Hot Headlines

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines. For the best things to do this weekend, click here, and for the best dining options on Easter Sunday, click here.

1. The Judds choose Fort Worth as one of their final tour stops ever. Iconic country music duo The Judds are embarking on their first tour in over a decade, "The Final Tour," which will make a stop at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth on Saturday, October 22. Fort Worth is one of only 10 cities, and the only city in Texas, on the arena tour; tickets went on sale Friday, April 15.

2. Fun new sports bar in Bedford gives mid-cities something to drink about. Like any town, Bedford could use more bars, so let's welcome Central Office Bar & Kitchen, a new sports bar and restaurant that opened in March in a comfy spot at 2208 Central Dr. where they're serving all of your bar essentials and more. Cold beer, cocktails, food, and a fun atmosphere are are always on "the day's agenda," they say, because of that office theme, get it.

3. 48 Hours covers horrifying Dallas murder-for-hire by Oak Cliff wife. A horrifying murder that took place one morning on an Oak Cliff street was the subject of a new episode of 48 Hours. Called "The Plot to Kill Jamie Faith," the show was broadcast on Saturday, April 9 on the CBS Television Network and is now available to stream on Paramount+.

4. Fort Worth's iconic Paris Coffee Shop predicts May for reopening date. Breakfast lovers, take note: Paris Coffee Shop, one of Fort Worth's oldest restaurants, which closed in September 2021 for a renovation, is targeting May for its anticipated reopening. The iconic restaurant on Magnolia Avenue has been in the midst of a renovation since the fall.

5. Innovative new Southlake medspa is laser-focused on aging well. A Dallas-based medspa is taking its lasers to the 'burbs: Vitalyc Medspa will open its third area location, at 1071 E. Southlake Blvd. in Southlake's Park Village, on Thursday, April 21. Known as a luxury wellness destination that features best-in-class equipment and non-invasive treatments that don’t interfere with daily life, Vitalyc offers cutting-edge non-invasive treatments for the face, body, and skin.

The Judds will stop at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth on October 22.

Photo courtesy of The Judds
The Judds will stop at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth on October 22.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

'Lightscape' shines bright in this week's 5 most popular Fort Worth stories

This week's hot headlines

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines. Looking for the best things to do this weekend? Find that list here.

1. What to expect at 'Lightscape,' Fort Worth's new walk-thru winter wonderland. Fort Worth’s most Instagrammable new holiday lights display is best enjoyed without clinging to a phone. “Lightscape,” which made its North Texas debut at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden on Friday, November 18, walks visitors through a winter wonderland experience unlike any other in DFW.

2. Hoffbrau Steak fires up the grill for new location in Grapevine. A longtime steakhouse is coming to Grapevine: Hoffbrau Steak & Grill House, a small family-owned and -operated chain that's been in Dallas-Fort Worth for more than 40 years, will open a location November 28 at 700 W. State Hwy 114, previously home to a Brick House Tavern & Tap, which closed during the pandemic.

3. Yellowstone and 1883 stars cowboy up at Fort Worth gala honoring Taylor Sheridan. Fort Worth has always been "where the West begins," and now it's where TV's hottest Western drama begins, too. The 2022 Lone Star Film Festival Gala - held November 11 at Hotel Drover in the Stockyards - leaned hard into the city's connections to Yellowstone and its prequel, 1883, with signs and programs that boasted "The Road to Yellowstone Began in Fort Worth."

4. Divine doughnuts and tempting tamales top this Fort Worth restaurant news. This roundup of restaurant news around Fort Worth has tidbits about doughnuts, Cajun food, vegan tamales, and gourmet ice cream, culled from press releases, social media, and the occasional hot tip. Here's what's happening in Fort Worth restaurant news.

5. Here comes Santa House, back to Grapevine for a very charitable 2022 Christmas season. After taking a much-needed break last year, Louie Murillo and his family are once again decking their halls, yard, and rooftop to bring back the Grapevine Santa House — a smash hit during the 2020 holiday season. The half-acre property is a "Where's Waldo?" maze of more than 1,000 Santa statues, which visitors can walk among, snap photos with, and then, they hope, make a donation to Grace Grapevine's Christmas Cottage program.

Texas parks beckon throughout 2022 holidays with festive events and peaceful escapes

If roasting ‘smores and hiking in the great outdoors sounds fun, pack up your family and visit one of Texas’ state parks this holiday season.

Texas state parks and historic sites are ringing in the holidays with a number of festive events. There are drive-thru light tours, special holiday hikes, arts and crafts for the kiddos, and more.

Reservations fill up quickly, so be sure to visit an individual park's website before you head out. And check the Holidays in the Parks page for many more fun options, pricing information, and more information.

Dallas-Fort Worth-area parks

Tyler State Park
Avoid the Black Friday madness with the 15th annual “Walk-off the Bird” Bird Walk, a 2.1-mile walk by the lakeshore at 9 am November 25. Bring your binoculars to relax and enjoy the bird life of the East Texas Pineywoods. At 2 pm the same day, enjoy a Fall in the Savannah fall foliage hike. Enjoy Reading Ranger Campfire Stories around a cozy campfire at 3 pm December 3. Head back December 9-10 for A Pineywoods Christmas, when you can stroll or drive through the Lakeview and Big Pine campgrounds to take in campers' elaborately decorated sites and take a Winter Wonderland Hike.

Lake Tawakoni State Park
Drive through or stay at the park and decorate your campsite with your favorite Christmas decorations to receive your second night of camping free during your stay. There will be a decorating contest, complete with awards, as well as a reading of The Night before Christmas — all part of Twinkle Tour 2022, 5-8 pm December 3.

Daingerfield State Park
Drive through the park lit up like Santa Land during the 10th annual Christmas in the Park drive thru lights tour December 14-17 (times vary). Marvel at the decorated campsites and lights, and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies while waiting for a chance to visit with Santa.

Eisenhower State Park
Help those in need and spread holiday cheer — and as a bonus, get free entry to the park — by bringing one unwrapped donation item to the park’s Holiday Donation Drive from November 25 to December 19. Come back December 9-10 to visit the Light Up the Park drive-thru lights event, featuring milk and cookies with Santa. This year, the park is taking unwrapped toys to donate instead of collecting entrance fees for the event.

Cleburne State Park
Enjoy Pancakes With Santa and make pinecone bird feeders 9-11 a.m. December 10.

Cedar Hill State Park
Walk off your Thanksgiving Day meal and explore nature in the cool fall air during the three-mile Thanksgiving Nature Walk 7:30-9 a.m. November 26. Search for birds taking their winter break at the park during their Winter Birding Walk, which takes place 7:30-8:30 am December 13. Explore Christmas on Penn Farm on December 17: Learn about the history and pioneers of the Penn Family and the farm they built 150 years ago.

Lake Mineral Wells State Park
Experience Christmas, cowboy style, at Cross Timbers Cowboy Christmas, December 3. Park ranger and cowboy poet David Owens will gather guests around a campfire at the Lone Star Amphitheater for an evening of cowboy culture through songs, stories and poems.

Dinosaur Valley State Park
In partnership with Toys for Tots, the park is hosting Christmas in the Valley, a full day of ranger-led events, programs, family friendly activities, arts and crafts, food and more. Bring a new and unwrapped toy for free admission for the whole family. The event takes place 1-4 pm. December 17.

Austin/San Antonio-area parks

Bastrop State Park
The park’s annual Gobble Till You Wobble hike November 25 has been canceled due to predicted rains. However, you can still follow ornaments with clues through the park every day in December during the annual Fa La La Through The Forest Scavenger Hunt. Enjoy the Lost Pines Christmas Parade, a collaborative event with Bastrop and Buescher Parks, at 6 pm December 10. Tour the inside of the historic Refectory and see how the Civilian Conservation Corps celebrated Christmas away from home during A Lost Pines CCC Christmas 9 a.m. to noon December 17.

Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site
Attend Deck the Halls, 10 am. to 3 pm November 26 to explore how early Texans at the Sauer-Beckmann Farm got ready for the holidays by stringing popcorn and decorating cookies to hang on their Christmas tree; learn how to make wreaths out of local cedar and dip candles as the farm staff get ready for das Weihnachten (Christmas). Return to the park at 5:30 pm December 18 for the 53rd Annual Tree Lighting, a holiday tradition started by President and Mrs. Johnson.

Garner State Park
Join the Buffalo Soldiers program and friends as they stop into Garner State Park before leaving for Christmas break during the Marching Towards Christmas event 10 am to 2 pm December 10. Christmas activities will include hand-dipped candles, frontier Christmas painting, Christmas-themed hard tack in Dutch ovens, and stories of the Buffalo Soldiers.

Buescher State Park
Take a Giving Thanks Guided Hike and learn how the Civilian Conservation Corps built the park from 3-4 pm November 26. On the Fa La La in the Forest Scavenger Hunt, you can follow ornaments with clues through the park to secure a prize at the end, December 1 to January 1. Enjoy the Smithville Festival of Lights and Lighted Parade, a collaborative effort between Buescher and Bastrop parks, on December 3.

Hill Country State Natural Area
See how art, history and state parks are connected; learn some basic watercolor techniques and paint a card or two to take home during the Watercolor Christmas Cards event 2:30-4 p.m. December 3. Come back for Horses in History & Ornament Craft from 2:30-4 pm. December 22 and learn how horses played important roles in the lives of vaqueros, native people, ranchers and more. Then, play a round of horseshoes and paint a horse ornament to take with you.

South Llano River State Park
At Christmas at the Ranch, 2 to 5 pm December 3, guests can warm up with hot chocolate and cider, listen to live entertainment, enjoy crafts and cookie decorating, and anticipate Santa's visit while taking in the twinkling lights and Christmas decorations at the historic Ranch House that now serves as Park Headquarters.

Houston and Gulf Coast-area parks

Brazos Bend State Park
Holiday in the Park is an all-day affair on December 10. Events include a self-guided "Elf Hike," Christmas crafts, "Pup Parade," s'mores, and more.

Goose Island State Park
See the park in lights, enjoy holiday activities, and camp for free when you decorate your campsite during Christmas in the Park on December 17. Guests are invited to "Santa's Village" at the CCC Recreation Hall for holiday crafts, games, hot chocolate around the campfire, and to drop off letters to Santa in the North Pole Mailbox.

Lake Livingston State Park
Learn about your favorite Thanksgiving food (the turkey) during Campfire Turkey Talk on November 26. Rangers will cover the history of Thanksgiving, the habits and behaviors of wild turkeys, and share interesting facts about turkeys, including how it nearly became our national bird.

Lake Corpus Christi State Park
Get in the holiday spirit with the second annual Holiday Light Drive Thru 6-9 pm December 10. Visitors can enter the park for a drive through the lighted areas of Javelina and Opossum Bend camping loops, plus the Old Pavilion.

West Texas and the Panhandle-area parks

Franklin Mountains State Park
Pack your Thanksgiving leftovers and hike 1.5 miles up to Aztec Caves during the park’s Turkey Trot at 11 am November 25. On December 3, make ornaments and holiday cards with recycled materials as part of the Art in the Parks series. During Cookies and Cocoa, you can decorate and take home your own Christmas treat while sipping on a cup of hot chocolate 2-4 pm December 23. Come back on Christmas Eve for a guided, two-mile Santa Hike at 11 am.

Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site
Bring your family out for Home for the Holidays guided family hike on December 10 and moderate hike on 17.

San Angelo State Park
Enjoy a drive-thru tour of lights and optional pictures with Santa and Smokey Bear during Holly-Days in the Park 6-8 pm December 10.

Affluent Fort Worth neighbor leads list of lavish holiday spending budgets in U.S.

Santa Baby

As the most wonderful time of the year approaches, holiday shopping budgets are in the spotlight, and a study from WalletHub lists Flower Mound as one of the top cities where Santa doesn't need a whole lot of help.

According to the personal finance website, the average holiday budget in Flower Mound is $3,531 per person, the third highest in the nation.

The town's 2021 population of 77,243 (per the U.S. Census) boasts a median income $139,703 and earlier this year was named by Ventured.com as the richest city in Texas.

In spite of an increase over last year's gift list totals, Flower Mound dropped to the third spot after being ranked No. 1 last year with a budget of $3,427. Newton, Massachusetts (budget $4,233) and Palo Alto, California (budget $3,920) edged out the Texas city this year.

Flower Mound was the only Texas city in the top 10, but there's plenty of holiday cheer to be found in the report, and not just for Flower Mound Santa fans.

Each year, WalletHub calculates the maximum holiday budget for over 550 U.S. cities "to help consumers avoid post-holiday regret," the website says. The study factors in income, age of the population, and other financial indicators such as debt-to-income ratio, monthly-income-to monthly-expenses ratio and savings-to-monthly-expenses ratio.

Despite nationwide focus on inflation strains, holiday spending is expected to be healthy, and higher than last year.

"The seeming social upheaval in recent times may lead households to spend more in an attempt to take some control of the environment which they can control," says Robert Wright, University of Illinois, Springfield professor emeritus who was among five experts consulted for advice about holiday shopping.

This could be good news if your Christmas wishes are on local shopping lists. Eight other North Texas cities landed in this year's top 100 heftiest holiday budgets:

  • Allen, No. 17 , $2,670
  • Frisco, No. 37, $2,150
  • McKinney, No. 45, $2,070
  • Plano, No. 50, $1,999
  • Carrollton, No. 55, $1,837
  • Richardson, No. 58, $1,823
  • North Richland Hills, No. 81, $1,658
  • Lewisville, No. 90, $1,630

Fort Worth landed at No. 366 with a budget of $890, while Dallas landed at No. 401 out of 558 cities with an average holiday budget of $845.

Elsewhere in Texas, spending in the Austin area won't be ho-hum with the Capitol City's budget of $1,705 ranked at No. 78. Two Austin suburbs, Cedar Park (budget $2,855) and League City (budget $2,541) ranked 14 and 20, respectively.

Santa's bag could be a mixed bag in the Houston area with three suburbs in the top 100, but the urban center falling behind:

  • Sugar Land, No. 15, $2,793
  • Pearland, No. 36, $2,172
  • The Woodlands, No. 71, $1,733
  • Houston, No. 366, $890

Things don't look too jolly for San Antonio, ranked at No. 431 with an average budget of $803 or Pharr, which was the lowest ranked city in Texas.

At No. 553 with a budget of $487, the Rio Grande Valley city came in just a few spots ahead of last place Hartford, Connecticut, with a budget of only $211.