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Photo by Brooks Burris

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 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."

It was more than a clever tagline. The glittering annual gala was held November 11 at Hotel Drover in the Stockyards, mere steps from where the first few episodes of 1883 were filmed last year. Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan — who went to Paschal High School and lives in the Fort Worth area with wife Nicole — as well as with two of the shows' biggest stars, Ryan Bingham and LaMonica Garrett, were honored with the Lone Star Film Festival's most coveted awards.

It was a star-studded evening in which cast and crew of the Yellowstone franchise mingled with Fort Worth movers and shakers and fans of the show. Among the A-list crowd: Eric and Sainty Nelsen, Hassie Harrison (Yellowstone's Laramie), Kelsey Asbille (Monica Dutton in Yellowstone), Wendy Moniz (Sen. Lynelle Perry in Yellowstone), Dawn Olivieri (Sarah Atwood in Yellowstone), Mina Garrett, Parnell and Charlotte McNamara, Stacie McDavid, Marisa Wayne, Ethan Wayne, David Glasser, and Craig Cavileer.

As guests mingled with drinks in hand, some sipped craft beer from 6666 Grit & Glory, created with the essence of the legendary Four Sixes Ranch in the Texas Panhandle. The 6666 Ranch figured prominently into the last season of Yellowstone, is reportedly the name of a forthcoming spinoff, and has a strong Fort Worth connection — it belonged to the late oil heiress Anne Marion. Sheridan purchased it after Marion passed away in 2020.

Inside The Barn event space, guests were given a warm welcome by Bob Jameson, president & CEO of Visit Fort Worth; along with Chad Mathews, director of the Lone Star Film Society, and Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker.

Big awards for big stars
Eric Nelsen, a Fort Worth actor who played fan-favorite "Ennis" on 1883, gave a rousing tribute to Taylor Sheridan, before Lone Star Film Society board member Red Sanders presented Sheridan with the 2022 Larry McMurtry Award. The award honors native Texans who have made great contributions to the film, television, and creative industries. It is, of course, named after the iconic Texas novelist and screenwriter Larry McMurtry, who died last year.

Fort Worth Film Commissioner Jessica Christopherson then presented LaMonica Garrett with the 2022 Spotlight Award. Garrett portrayed "Thomas" on 1883 to great acclaim. The Spotlight Award recognized his work on implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the industry.

The final award of the evening, the Stephen Bruton Award, was presented to Grammy award-winning musician and actor Ryan Bingham (Yellowstone's "Walker") by Tom Martens, director of the Fort Worth Music Office. A highlight of the evening was a performance by Bingham (who is coming back for a sold-out show at Billy Bob's Texas on December 9).

After closing remarks by Visit Fort Worth chief operating officer Mitch Whitten, the after-party kicked into high gear thanks to Disko Cowboy's Vinyl Ranch DJ Set.

'Yellowstone Week'
The gala was presented amid the 16th annual Lone Star Film Festival, during what could have been branded "Yellowstone Week" in Fort Worth.

Festivities kicked off with a special conversation at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, co-hosted by Nicole Sheridan and Kit Moncrief, at which Yellowstone director/cinematographer/producer Christina Voros (and 2021 Cowgirl Hall of Fame honoree) gave an insightful keynote exploring the depth of the strong female characters Taylor Sheridan has created.

Two days after the Lone Star Film Festival Gala, on November 13, Yellowstone stars gathered in the Stockyards again for the premiere of season 5 at the Downtown Cowtown at the Isis theater and after-party back at Hotel Drover. (With 12.1 million viewers worldwide, the premiere reportedly was the most popular scripted series episode so far in the new TV season.)

Two days after the premiere, on November 15, the Yellowstone cast and crew (including its biggest star, Kevin Costner) headed to the Johnson County town of Venus for filming. Meanwhile, the two biggest stars of 1883, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, came to Fort Worth, where Hill received the Patsy Montana Award at the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame Induction Luncheon and Ceremony at Dickies Arena.

Sheridan and the Yellowstone franchise aren't done with Fort Worth yet. Another spinoff, 1883: Bass Reeves, is also being filmed in the area. The new six-part series is a sequel to 1883, about a former slave (played by David Oyelowo) who became one of the first Black U.S. deputy marshals west of the Mississippi River in 1875.

Filming for Bass Reeves is expected to bring millions of dollars to the local economy, Mayor Mattie Parker said during her State of the City address in late September. The show will continue to put Fort Worth on the map, she said.

Powered by the success of 1883 and Yellowstone, Fort Worth in 2022 shot onto a prestigious list of top filmmaking cities for first time.

In 2023, Sheridan will receive the state's highest honor for achievement in the arts, a Texas Medal of Arts Award.

Photo by Brooks Burris

Eric Nelsen, Ryan Bingham, Hassie Harrison, Kelsey Asbille

Photo courtesy of Worthington Renaissance Hotel

8 essential tips for sky-high fun at Fort Worth's new Rooftop Cinema Club

Movies in the sky

After months of anticipation and a few delays, the new Rooftop Cinema Club Downtown Fort Worth finally premiered on November 1. The al fresco urban cinema at the Worthington Renaissance Hotel is more than an outdoor movie theater — it's a whole experience. (And a great date night.) But where, exactly, is it, and where do you park? Here are some tips for making the most of an evening at the Rooftop Cinema, based on an opening-night experience and information from the venue.

Where it is
The actual address for Rooftop Cinema Club is 235 Throckmorton St., Fort Worth. This is different from the The Worthington Renaissance Hotel's address, 200 Main St. It's advertised as being on the "Mezzanine Level," which may not mean anything to Fort Worthians who've never stayed at the hotel and had reason to find the Mezzanine Level.

Specifically, the entrance to Rooftop Cinema Club faces Throckmorton Street (across from Jimmy John's). If you're on the Toro Toro side of the hotel, you're on the opposite side and need to walk all the way to the other end. Once you find the entrance, walk up a couple flights of stairs and you'll be on the third-floor Mezzanine Level.

If you start from inside the hotel, take the elevators to the "M' level and simply walk outside to the terrace. Which brings us to ...

Where to park
Do not valet at the hotel or you'll end up paying the hotel's general valet price. What you want to do is self-park in The Worthington Renaissance garage, whose entrance is near the entrance to the Rooftop Cinema off Throckmorton, just north of 2nd Street.

You'll get a rate of $10 if you bring your parking ticket to the box office — don't forget that!

There's also nearby street parking, and if you're up for a walk, Sundance Square lots and garages are free on weekday evenings and weekends.

Tip: If you dine at the hotel restaurant Toro Toro before or after a movie, you'll receive complimentary valet parking up to three hours. There's a special Toro Toro "Show on the Road" menu offered from 5-6:30 pm for pre-cinema dining. You can also get 10 percent off your Toro Toro bill when you show your movie ticket. Which brings up...

Food and drink
You do not need to eat before you arrive at the Rooftop Cinema. Concessions go beyond popcorn, candy, and cokes (though they do have them all) and into a limited menu of chef-driven dishes served from a concession stand on-site.

Toro Toro chef Richard Sandoval helped create an "elevated" menu that includes pulled pork tacos, hot dogs, chips with salsa and brisket queso, and more. To be clear, we're not talking $3 nachos and $2 tacos. Think $12-$18 per dish. A limited selection of cocktails, beer, and wine is for sale for $7-$12, too.

Bringing in your own food or beverages is not allowed.

Rooftop Cinema Club You can easily move between the lounge and theater areas.Photo by Michael Merry

What to bring
BYOB a blanket. The venue will be open on cold winter nights and searing summer days. Dress appropriately for the outdoors (don't forget hats and sunscreen on sunny days), and on these current chilly fall evenings, bring a blanket or throw to snuggle under. You can also toss it over a chair or loveseat and reserve your spot before the movie starts.

Starting December 1, they'll offer wind-proof, Rooftop Cinema Club-branded blankets for purchase. Blankets can be brought back each time for a free treat.

What if it rains?
Light rain probably won't thwart a movie showing (bring a poncho), but if inclement weather affects the guest experience, they say, screenings may be canceled. They outline the official procedure:

"In the event of a cancelled screening, we will notify you as soon as possible via email with details on how to transfer your tickets to another screening or obtain a refund. If creating an account, please be sure to use the same email address you used to purchase your tickets. You can also check the current status of your screening on its thumbnail visible on the venue page or its booking page."

More information about ticket transfer is here.

Rooftop Cinema Club Everyone gets a set of personal wireless headphones. Photo courtesy of Rooftop Cinema Club

The movie-watching experience
This is not your father's drive-in. Guests sit in either single or double, love seat-style Adirondack chairs (depending on which ticket you buy; see below), with cushions and wide armrests for drinks; side tables help contain food trays and popcorn cartons.

Upon entry, everyone is given a pair of personal wireless headphones, "silent-disco" style. Movie audio is piped in loud and clear. (You still may hear some street and airplane noise, but if you're paying attention to the movie, ambient noises are not distracting.) Suddenly craving Raisinets? You can move easily between the theater and concession areas with the headphones on during the film, and you won't "miss" much. The headphones are turned back in at the end.

A large, L-E-D movie screen has a crisp picture quality, right under the moon and stars. (To this eye, the lights coming from inside the office building behind it were slightly intrusive — but maybe they'll read this and start to turn them off at the end of the day.)

You'll want to arrive on time for your movie; unlike most modern movie theaters, there aren't 30 minutes of previews and commercials.

Rooftop Cinema Club Fort Worth The outdoor theater is surrounded by downtown buildings.Photo courtesy of Worthington Renaissance Hotel.

What else to do
The whole venue feels like a backyard party, complete with high-top tables, lounge areas, games, and even an old pick-up truck for photo opps. (It can be rented out for special events and private screenings.) Arrive early or stay late to play cornhole, ping-pong, or Cards Against Humanity. Don't miss the chance for a sky-high selfie against Fort Worth landmarks like the Tarrant County Courthouse clock tower.

Rooftop Cinema Club Photo opps abound.Photo courtesy of Worthington Renaissance Hotel

Ticketing
All tickets are sold online only, but can be purchased up until movie starts. Standard tickets range from $17.50–$26.50, depending on ticket type and time of day:

  • Adirondack chair only: $17.50-$19.50
  • Adirondack chair with popcorn: $22.50
  • Loveseat with popcorn: $26.50

Active, retired, and family of military personnel can get 15 percent off with the code FortWorthMilitary2022. (Bring any form of valid military ID as proof.) Students can get 10 percent off with the code FortWorthStudent2022. (Active student ID or student schedule required as proof.)

A complete list of upcoming movies is here. There are special Open Caption screenings for the hearing impaired, sing-a-longs, dog friendly "Wooftop" events, and more special programming (like "corny Christmas classics") planned.

Note that all screenings before 4:30 pm are open to all ages, while screenings starting at 4:30 pm or later are strictly for those 18 and older.

Photo courtesy of H-E-B

Fort Worth's first H-E-B store 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. Looking for the best things to do this weekend? Find that list here.

1. H-E-B is in fact opening a supermarket at Fort Worth's Alliance. Despite some coy protests to the contrary, it turns out that Fort Worth's Alliance is getting an H-E-B store after all. The mega supermarket chain is continuing its expansion in the DFW Metroplex with plans to open H-E-B Alliance at the northwest corner of Heritage Trace Parkway and N. Riverside Drive.

2. Where to eat in Fort Worth right now: 5 sizzling new restaurants for October. Fall's almost always a good time for restaurant openings in Fort Worth and 2022 is no exception. There are burgers, sandwiches, street food, sushi, bread, dumplings, and a fried bologna sandwich. Here's where to eat for October.

3. Afton Battle steps down as Fort Worth Opera general director after 2 years. Fort Worth Opera general and artistic director Afton Battle has resigned after leading the company through two challenging, post-pandemic years; her last day with the company will be November 23.

4. North Texas bluebonnet capital flourishes as No. 4 best suburb in state. The North Texas city known as a bluebonnet capital of Texas each spring is also one of the state's best overall suburbs. Ennis lands at No. 4 in a recent SmartAsset ranking of the best suburbs near a large city in Texas. Nationally, it's ranked 102nd.

5. Glittering Auberge Resorts luxury hotel checks into Fort Worth Cultural District. A new hotel in Fort Worth's Cultural District will come with one of the hottest names in luxe lodging: Auberge Resorts Collection will manage Bowie House, a new "urban luxury retreat" being built off the bricks of Camp Bowie. Now officially called Bowie House, Auberge Resorts Collection, the hotel is expected to open in late 2023.

Rendering courtesy of Auberge Resorts Collection

Glittering Auberge Resorts luxury hotel checks into Fort Worth Cultural District

Hotel news

A new hotel in Fort Worth's Cultural District will come with one of the hottest names in luxe lodging: Auberge Resorts Collection will manage Bowie House, a new "urban luxury retreat" being built off the bricks of Camp Bowie.

Now officially called Bowie House, Auberge Resorts Collection, the hotel is expected to open in late 2023, according to a release.

Those who drive the West 7th corridor and have seen the construction (and nearby road blocks) know the hotel is going up in the 3700 block of Camp Bowie Boulevard, on the former site of The Ginger Man bar and before that, Rick's On The Bricks. (Not to be confused with another luxury hotel under construction nearby.)

Bowie House will be a four-story, 106-room boutique hotel with 88 rooms and 18 suites, including a 2,250-square-foot "signature" suite. Per the release, other features will include:

  • signature restaurant facing a private enchanted garden with outdoor seating
  • lobby bar and lounge and a terrace bar
  • billiards room with pool and game tables
  • an "intimate rose-colored lacquered" library
  • fireplace lounge
  • dramatic grand ballroom
  • well-edited boutique
  • barn-inspired spa and fitness center
  • outdoor pool and bar with a pool deck that will hover on a second-floor terrace, complete with private cabanas
  • outside hotel gardens with hedges and florals that climb walls, pergola lounge areas, and soft seating and event spaces accented with fireplaces, firepits, and water features

"When (Bowie House) debuts, the luxury boutique hotel will be the first of its kind for the area, anchoring a 30-block promenade of acclaimed museums, restaurants and unique retail," the release says, then reminds that it will be located near Cultural District museums, Dickies Arena, and Will Rogers Memorial Center.

“Fort Worth is a culturally rich gem full of uniquely Texan experiences, ranging from its famous Stockyards district to the celebrated Kimbell Art Museum," says Dan Friedkin, chairman of Auberge Resorts Collection. "We are excited to help open up this city to global travelers with a one-of-a-kind luxury hotel experience befitting such an incredible destination. Bowie House will be modern and luxurious, yet local and full of character.”

The hotel itself "will embody the Western personality of Fort Worth with modern flair," the release says.

Acclaimed interior design and architect firm BOKA Powell is leading the design of the hotel, with elements that will speak to the city’s charm and sophistication: traditional Texas finishes, trace Spanish architecture, and eccentric furniture and decor.

"Global in design, yet familiarly local in their finishes and details, guestrooms will feel like a sophisticated version of a private Texas home," the release says. "Local Western flavor will be woven into each guestroom with art and artifacts curated by some of Texas’ most notable artists and artisans."

Jo Ellard, president of Bowie Place Properties, promises "a hotel that embodies the history and culture of Fort Worth, that respects and pays homage to the Western lifestyle that makes Fort Worth so special, and that embraces the cultural sophistication and diversity for which the city has become so famous."

Bowie House, Auberge Resorts Collection will be the brand’s second property in Texas, after the top-rated Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resorts Collection in Austin. The company manages 23 one-of-a-kind luxury hotels, resorts, and private clubs in some of the world's most coveted locations, including Napa Valley, Aspen, and Santa Fe, and across Mexico, Caribbean, and Europe.

Hotel Vin

Grapevine boutique Hotel Vin  debuts new outdoor eatery with BBQ & drinks

Hotel News

There's an exciting new place to get food and drink in beautiful downtown Grapevine: Called WineYard Grille + Bar, it's a fun outdoor concept located at Hotel Vin, Autograph Collection, featuring two of the most powerful lures: BBQ and al fresco dining.

According to a release, it opened October 19, replacing a concept called The Junction, with a Texas meets European-fusion barbecue menu, craft cocktails, and an extensive beer and wine list.

The menu by executive chef Juan Pablo Silva includes smoked meats, sides, and weekend specials such as a rack of ribs with French fries.

BBQ options include brisket, ribs, and chicken, served with one side from a choice of black truffle & manchego fries, potato salad, and Gouda mac & cheese; and sauce such as BBQ, brava, roquefort, olive, or chimichurri.

There are four cheese plates — they seem to be very big on cheese — served with toast and fig jam. And two interesting salads: Nicoise and panzanella salad.

wineyard patio hotel vin Strings of lights give it a festive feel.Hotel Vin

Located at 215 E. Dallas Rd., alongside the historic Grapevine Vintage Railroad, WineYard comprises a cool outdoor space that's meant to be an extension of the hotel environment.

Appointments include Edison bulbs for ambiance, plus strings of lights, plus turf underfoot, plus outdoor heaters for chilly evenings.

A big part of the attraction at WineYard is that it hosts live music on Friday and Saturday nights, as well as seasonal events and activities on the north lawn.

For example, WineYard will host the popular bubbles experience for the 2022 holiday season, allowing guests another way to enjoy the space during winter months.

Hotel Vin, Autograph Collection is a 120-room boutique hotel that pays tribute to the grape in Grapevine, with an exceptional wine program and a nod to vino in the name of all of its dining options including its main restaurant Bacchus Kitchen + Bar (they also seem to like + signs), plus Magnum Speakeasy, plus Harvest Hall, the European-style food hall, plus Rioja Rooftop Terrace, open on weekends.

Courtesy of The Driskill

4 Texas hotels book spots among world's best in coveted annual awards

World-Class Accommodations

You don't have to travel far to enjoy world-class accommodations. In fact, four Texas hotels have been named among the world's 50 best in Condé Nast Traveler's annual Readers' Choice Awards.

Celebrating its 35th year, the annual list collates the best hotels, airlines, cruises, and islands — all chosen by the magazine's readers from around the world.

Four total Texas properties made the list, three from Austin and one from Houston:

  • The Driskill (No. 3)
  • JW Marriott Austin (No. 8)
  • Four Seasons Hotel Houston (No. 19)
  • Hotel Granduca Austin (No. 29)

Snagging a coveted spots in the top five, downtown Austin's historic Driskill hotel earned a nod as the most "authentically Texas" hotel. The magazine notes its "iconic limestone-and-brick facade," and "light, bright guest rooms" with details such as the "Civil War–era pistols that have been repurposed into lamps." The famous 1886 Chocolate Cake also earned a mention: "It costs $8 per slice, and is worth every penny."

Also enjoying the limelight in the top 10 is the JW Marriott Austin, which the magazine touts for its "prime location, of course, just minutes from the Blanton Museum of Art, Lady Bird Lake, and several hundred music venues."

Houston's Four Seasons' equally "prime central location" in the city helped secure its No. 19 spot. Condé Nast calls out the all-marble and mahogany interior, which "manages to straddle the line between Texas traditional and contemporary."

And last in Texas, but not least on the global list by a long shot, Hotel Granduca Austin earned its No. 29 spot for the "innocuous stucco exterior," which "belies serious magic: a European palazzo-inspired courtyard, stationed on the building's backside. The magazine's praise continues" "this hotel feels worlds away from downtown-hipster Austin ... Request a room on a higher floor, which have small Juliette balconies and views all the way to downtown."

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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.