Parlor Doughnuts

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:

Parlor Doughnuts has opened a location in Southlake, at 410 W. Southlake Blvd. #140, in a small center that also includes Another Broken Egg Cafe, Nektar Juice Bar, and Jersey Mike's Subs. Parlor was founded in Indiana as a coffee shop before they added gourmet cronut-style doughnuts, and subsequently began franchising across the U.S. They made their Texas debut in 2021 when they opened a store in Fort Worth. They do coffee and espresso drinks such as cappuccinos and lattes, plus hot chocolate, chai, and matcha drinks, plus doughnuts with decadent toppings and fillings, in flavors such as maple pecan, bourbon caramel, turtle cheesecake, and raspberry pistachio. But there's also a menu of breakfast items such as avocado toast, acai bowl, breakfast tacos, and two breakfast sandwiches: sausage-biscuit and spinach pesto on a ciabatta bun; and a whole line of decadent milkshakes in matching flavors such as churro and maple pecan.

The Cajun Market & Cafe in Colleyville closed at the end of October, which they announced on Facebook, stating that since mid-summer, sales have been steadily declining due to the post-pandemic shredded economy. "When we opened our doors and brought our business to the community, it was with the sincere desire to bring authentic Cajun cuisine to the market," they said. "It’s not you and your support or that we have dropped in the quality of our food or service. It's just an unfortunate set of economic circumstances we all have to deal with." They're pursuing a partnership with a local retailer who can stock their gumbo, etouffee, red beans, Boudin products, meat and crawfish pies, and sausages.

El Torito is a tamale maker that specializes in tamales with plant-based fillings, and as of November 19, they're now available at Mashup Market, the plant-based grocery in Denton. They've added a limited-edition tamale flavor to the menu: Jackfruit Pozole Rojo which will be available for the holiday season and through the winter. Their other flavors include green-chile chicken, jalapeno & cheese, chorizo & bean, bean & cheese, and for now, another limited-edition flavor: pumpkin spice. They also do empanadas and other specials. You order online although they're already sold out this week with holiday orders.

Belenty's Love Mexican Vegan Restaurant is now offering tamales for the holidays, available through December 23 in the following options: picadillo, chickenless, cheese & jalapeño, beans, or soyrizo, a dozen for $15. Call 817-862-9008.

Mariachi's Dine-In has launched a new made-to-order dessert: Buñuelo chips drizzled with house made chocolate, berry compote, powered & cinnamon sugar, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream, all vegan. The ice cream sits at the center, so you can dip into it with the chips.

Morgan's Ice Cream, the small-batch ice cream maker, is now featured at Bonnell's Fine Texas Cuisine. They posted on their Facebook page that they were approached "by the Fort Worth famous, fine-dining restaurant @bonnellstexas" regarding bringing their ice cream onto their menu. Bonnell's is now serving their Honey, Not So Vanilla ice cream plus a custom coffee ice cream.

Modern Market has a new winter menu featuring a Greens & Grains bowl with arugula, tomato, grains in a scallion ranch dressing; Nicoise with tuna, olives, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, and boiled egg; braised Angus beef bowl with garlic mashed potatoes, mushrooms, & kale Caesar salad; a Winter Garden salad with greens, shredded carrot, tomato, red onion, & crumbled goat cheese; pizza topped with Brussels sprouts & bacon; fire-roasted veggies plate with Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, & carrot; and a Nutella Belgian waffle with toasted coconut & almond.

Carrabba’s is doing a limited-time 3-course dinner for two for $44, featuring appetizer to share, soup or salad, and entrées with choices from stuffed mushrooms, zucchini fritte, Sicilian chicken soup, Caesar salad, eggplant parmesan, lasagna, spaghetti, rigatoni with Italian sausage, chicken, pork chop, or sirloin.Dunkin’s New Pancake Wake-Up Wrap is a portable, pillowy pancake, folded and filled with egg, bacon, or sausage, cheese, and a side of syrup.

7-Eleven debuts its 7Collection holiday line including holiday sweaters, "Oh Thank Heaven" script necklace, 7-Eleven knitted striped Beanie, 7-Eleven sherpa blanket, a 7-Eleven clock, and a 7-Eleven stocking.

Mushrooms are a nationwide trend which CW33 covers with a visit to Smallhold, an indoor farm in Buda that’s harvesting thousands of pounds of gourmet mushrooms like Lion’s Mane and Yellow Oyster every day.

Photo courtesy of Farrar Food Photography [http://www.farrarfoodphotography.com]

Magnolia Avenue restaurant closure 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. Looking for the best things to do this weekend? Find that list here.

1. Fort Worth chef reluctantly closes Near Southside brunch favorite. A neighborhood restaurant from an acclaimed Fort Worth chef has closed: Fixture, which served comfort food and craft cocktails in Fort Worth's trendy Near Southside, closed on November 7, after eight years. Chef-owner Ben Merritt says he was sad to have to shutter the restaurant, but that circumstances that have emerged since the pandemic forced the closure.

2. All the Veterans Day 2022 deals in Dallas-Fort Worth that honor military service members. Ahead of Veterans Day on Friday, November 11, we unearthed some of the best deals around Dallas-Fort Worth to ease the strain on the bank accounts of all military veterans and current service members. While most special deals were for one day only, some businesses offer discounts for veterans year-round.

3. Texas will host CMT Music Awards for the first time ever in 2023. Big news for country music fans: the CMT Music Awards are coming to Texas. During Carrie Underwood's sold-out show in Austin on November 2, CMT Music Awards co-host Kelsea Ballerini came on stage to announce that country music's grandest night would come to the city's new Moody Center. Airing Sunday, April 2, 2023, the fan-voted awards ceremony will be hosted in Texas for the first time ever.

4. Pop rock powerhouse Paramore heads to Fort Worth on new North American arena tour. Fort Worth fans of alterna-emo-pop group Paramore and their radio-ready hooks can catch the trio next year during a just-announced stadium tour. The act famous for anthemic singles such as "Ain't It Fun," "Misery Business," and "Still Into You" will hit Dickies Arena on July 8, 2023, with Foals and The Linda Lindas as openers.

5. Where to see the most spectacular Christmas lights dazzling Dallas-Fort Worth in 2022. Tis barely the season for Dallas-Fort Worth to light up, merry and bright, for the 2022 holidays — from towering trees that twinkle and shine to dazzling drive-thru displays and immersive walk-thru experiences. Here's our 2022 guide to the biggest, brightest, most spectacular Christmas light displays in the area.

Boca 31

Where to eat in Fort Worth right now: 5 sizzling new restaurants for October

Where to eat

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:

Akarii Revolving Sushi
Conveyor belt sushi — where sushi rolls and other items are placed on a track that circulates through the restaurant, allowing you to pluck a dish as it passes your table — may be on the wane in Japan but they're still a fun novelty in DFW, and Akarii is one of the latest examples. Akarii first debuted in Mansfield in 2019, and now a second location has opened in Fort Worth on 628 Harrold St., by the Tom Thumb off 7th. Sushi snobs may not approve of the idea of waiting for a sushi roll to trundle its way to their table. But it's ideal and quick for those who like to be in the driver's seat and start grabbing plates of good basic sushi at about $4 per item the minute they sit down, and obviously fun for kids. There's beer and wine, and a decent selection of sake, too.

Boca 31 - Fort Worth
Chef-driven quick-service restaurant featuring Latin street foods from husband-and-wife Andres and Marlene Meraz, who've opened in the Near Southside in the former Funky Town Donuts space on 8th Avenue. Andres is a California native who's worked at the Ritz-Carlton and Restaurante Akelarre, a Michelin 3-star restaurant in Spain, before moving to Texas in 2014. He gives a creative spin on tacos, empanadas, and sandwiches such as the pulled pork on ciabatta bread, and a vegetarian taco with onions, zucchini, eggs, and cheese. Their empanadas are especially fine, in savory (ham & cheese) or sweet (guava & cream cheese), and they also do quesadillas, rice bowls, breakfast bowls with potatoes and choices from chorizo chicken sausage, and specials rolled out daily. For such good food, prices are crazy-cheap: Tacos and empanadas are $2.50 a shot, and a sandwich is $6.50.

The Pantry
Sweet restaurant and market at 713 W. Magnolia Ave. (the former Hot Damn Tamales space) from chefs and teachers Hao Tran and Natasha Bruton, features two irresistible food groups: dumplings and sweets. Relying on family recipes to craft savory and sweet treats, they rotate in new seasonal flavors regularly, with dumplings as curry potato, kimchi, brisket, shiitake, or the current must-have, pumpkin masala. Same story for Bruton's cookies, cakes, and tarts with current offerings including smoked apple cobbler with maple bourbon caramel, served with ice cream, and take-and-bake cinnamon rolls. There are also soba noodles and craveable street foods like banh mi and kim chi fried rice. You can (and should!) go every week and never get bored.

Tannahill's Tavern and Music Hall
On the heels of Caterina's, his new Italian restaurant at Mule Alley, comes this brand new live music spot from perennially busy chef Tim Love, partnered with music promoter Live Nation. There's always something going on here, with acoustic musicians during happy hour, Cowboys watching parties, and a full slate of name acts booked through 2022. There's also a full and creative menu that hits on some current trends. Appetizers include oysters with garlic bread, crawfish fritters, smoked chicken wings (with blue cheese, ranch, & celery), crab-artichoke dip with pita bread, tuna tostada, poutine with chicken gravy, and chicken & cauliflower nuggets. Entrees include tempura fish & chips, pappardelle with wild boar ragu, a vegan pappardelle with Beyond meat sausage Bolognese, baby back ribs, a sloppy joe with wild boar on a potato bun, a skirt steak burrito, and an amusing fried bologna sandwich with American cheese on toasted white bread. Come for the music, stay for dinner.

3rd St. Market
New market and cafe at 425 W. 3rd St. is from a beloved foodie duo: former Cafe Modern chef Dena Peterson Shaskan and breadmaker Trent Shaskan (Icon Bread) and features all the best stuff to eat: sourdough bread, sandwiches, soups, pastries, charcuterie, and wine. A sample menu features tempting items such as poblano chicken corn chowder, and sandwiches such as tuna with olives, artichoke hearts, and green beans on Icon Classic Sourdough, or Smoked Turkey with Honeycrisp apple slaw and Muenster cheese on Icon Seeded Sourdough. They also have loaves by Icon Bread on site and pastries from Libos Dulceria (some of which are also sold at The Table, the market they own in the Near Southside).


State Fair of Texas adds serious gourmet treats from DFW restaurants

State Fair News

The 2022 State Fair of Texas is about to commence, with opening day on September 30, and discounts galore.

On the foodie front, for the first time, they've added seven new food stands from some notable Dallas-area restaurants.

These are above and beyond the usual concessionaires, and also have nothing to do with the Big Tex awards (which this year include a Fried Charcuterie Board and a sweet called Peanut Butter Paradise).

No, these are serious gourmet goodies that range from irresistible empanadas to gourmet soft-serve ice cream to Neapolitan pizza topped with BBQ.

These are the seven brand-new vendors joining the lineup at the 2022 State Fair of Texas:

Empanadas and fries from Chimichurri & Milagro Taco Cantina
Award-winning chef Jesus Carmona’s new stand will be serving dishes from his two Dallas restaurants, Chimichurri and Milagro Taco Cantina. He'll be doing two types of empanadas, plus a campeona taco, a burrito Texano, and mole fries, drizzled with mole sauce, crema fresca, and cotija cheese. Carmona was nominated for Rising Star Chef in CultureMap’s 2018 Tastemaker Awards and appeared on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri.

Candy pickles from Di-Licious Candies Pickles Factory
Known as the “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” of pickles, the family-owned and -operated Di-Licious Candies Pickles Factory is the “first original candy pickle factory in the entire world” and has more than 250 flavors of candy pickles. Featured dishes include their signature chamoy candy pickle along with candy pickles in a cup, Rainbow Brite candy pickle sundae, and cotton candy pickle roll crunch.

Pumpkin spice cheesecake on a stick from Drizzle Cheesecakes
Olympic athlete Stephen El Gidi and his partner Walid founded Drizzle Cheesecakes in 2018. Their business has made appearances across North America from southwestern Ontario to neighbors at Six Flags Over Texas’ Holiday in the Park. Drizzle’s New York-style cheesecake on a stick is dipped in magic-shell Belgian chocolate and rolled in a variety of toppings including crushed Oreos, red velvet cake, strawberry crumble, and more. Their stand will feature specialty flavors developed just for the State Fair of Texas including pumpkin spice cheesecake.

Loaded queso fries by Enjoy Foods
Founded in 2012, Enjoy Foods started out as a gourmet kitchen store in Rockwall from owners Dwaina Morris and her husband They'll be serving loaded queso fries, loaded queso nachos, fried chicken tacos, root beer floats, brownie sundaes, daiquiris, and fried jalapeños. One extra-unique item is their adult-infused jumbo Texas pickle infused with daiquiri mix.

Gourmet soft-serve ice cream by Once Upon a Cone
Once Upon a Cone has been soft-serving delicious ice cream treats all over Texas for the past 12 years. They do premium vanilla, chocolate, and swirled soft-serve ice cream along with specialty sundaes, shakes, floats, and malts. Their dipped cones are available in chocolate, cherry, butterscotch, and birthday cake flavors.

Nashville hot chicken by Palmer’s Hot Chicken Dallas
The Nashville Hot Chicken restaurant concept from Dallas native Palmer Fortune and his partner and chef Mills Garwood will serve the Motherclucker sandwich, a fried chicken sandwich with pimento cheese and pickles; jumbo tenders; banana pudding; and tots, plain or smothered in pimento cheese queso). Plus their Frosé wine slushy made with pureed strawberries, hibiscus, and lime.

Neapolitan-style burnt ends pizza by Texapolitan Pizza
Stephan Nedwetzky of Pit Commander Barbecue is using barbecue as the topping on his favorite type of pizza, Neapolitan. Each pizza is made from 00 flour imported from Italy and needs only 90 seconds in the 900-1,000-degree stone oven to reach thin, crispy perfection. Four personal-sized pizza pies will include margherita, pepperoni, cheese, and smoked pork belly burnt ends. That one consists of red sauce, mozzarella, smoked pork belly burnt ends, jalapeños, cotija cheese, and Pit Commander Barbecue Sweet Heat BBQ sauce.

Getty Images

These Dallas-Fort Worth high schools sit at head of the class as Texas' best

A+ rating

Several districts in Dallas-Fort Worth have earned extra credit for having the best high schools in Texas.

In the latest rankings of the state's best high schools from education review website Niche, these DFW school districts dominated among the top 10 in Texas:

  • Carroll ISD in Southlake, No. 3
  • Lovejoy ISD in Addison, No. 5
  • Coppell ISD, No. 6
  • Frisco ISD, No. 7
  • Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, No. 8
  • Highland Park ISD, No. 9
  • Prosper ISD, No. 10

Dallas ISD’s School for the Talented & Gifted tops the list of the state’s best public high schools, and St. Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas leads the list of the state’s best private high schools.

Other Dallas-Fort Worth public high schools in the state’s top 10 this year are Dallas ISD’s School of Science & Engineering (No. 3) and Carroll ISD’s Carroll High School (No. 7).

Aside from St. Mark’s, three other DFW schools appear in the top 10 for the state’s best private high schools: Greenhill School in Addison (No. 3), The Hockaday School in Dallas (No. 5), and Cistercian Preparatory School in Irving (No. 8).

The highest-ranking Fort Worth private school was Trinity Valley School, which landed at No. 25. Fort Worth Country Day School was close behind it, at No. 27. The Oakridge School in Arlington is No. 30. Roanoke's E.A. Young Academy for Gifted and Talented Scholars is No. 34, and Fort Worth's All Saints' Episcopal School is No. 39.

“Some of the biggest decisions that parents face have to do with their children’s education,” Luke Skurman, founder and CEO of Niche, says in a news release. “We strive to put as much power in their hands as possible so they can make informed decisions with confidence.”

Niche says that while traditional rankings rely heavily on metrics like test scores and academic performance, its rankings combine ratings from current students, alumni, and parents with data from the U.S. Department of Education to evaluate teachers, resources, facilities, extracurricular activities and more.

Here’s how other Texas schools and school districts fared in this year’s Niche rankings.

Austin area

  • Austin ISD’s Liberal Arts & Science Academy, No. 2 among public high schools
  • Eanes ISD’s Westlake High School, No. 6 among public high schools
  • Round Rock ISD’s Westwood High IB World School, No. 8 among public high schools
  • St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, No. 4 among private high schools
  • Eanes ISD, No. 1 among best school districts

Houston area

  • Houston ISD’s Carnegie Vanguard High School, No. 4 among public high schools
  • Houston ISD’s Debakey High School for Health Professions, No. 5 among public high schools
  • Houston ISD’s Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, No. 9 among public high schools
  • Katy ISD’s Seven Lakes High School, No. 10 among public high schools
  • The John Cooper School in The Woodlands, No. 6 among private high schools
  • The Village School in Houston, No. 7 among private high schools
  • The Kincaid School in Houston, No. 10 among private high schools

San Antonio area

  • Keystone School in San Antonio, No. 9 among private high schools
  • BASIS Texas Charter Schools in San Antonio, No. 4 among school districts

Rio Grande Valley

  • South Texas ISD in Mercedes, No. 2 among school districts

Fort Worth's TCU makes the grade on list of top Texas schools for 2022

Report card time

Back-to-school time means back-to-college-rankings time, and here they are.

Neighborhood review site Niche.com has just released this year's college rankings, which rely on U.S. Department of Education data coupled with reviews from current students, alumni, and parents to judge American colleges on 12 factors, including academics, campus, dorm life, and professors.

In results that look strikingly similar to last year's list, three Dallas-Fort Worth universities have made the grade among top 10 Texas schools this year.

Southern Methodist University came in at No. 4 (same as 2021), Fort Worth's Texas Christian University ranked No. 6 (same as 2021), and University of Texas at Dallas landed at No. 9 (up one spot from No. 10 in 2021).

Once again, Houston's Rice University was named the best school in Texas (and sixth best in the United States, up from No. 7 last year).

The complete top 10 in Texas (with national rankings included) looks like this:

  1. Rice University, No. 6 in U.S.
  2. University of Texas at Austin, No. 46 in the U.S. UT also ranks eighth on the list of best public colleges in the U.S. and first in Texas.
  3. Texas A&M University in College Station, No. 75 in the U.S.
  4. Southern Methodist University in Dallas, No. 82 in the U.S.
  5. Trinity University in San Antonio, No. 99 in the U.S.
  6. Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, No. 104 in the U.S.
  7. Texas Tech University in Lubbock, No. 148 in the U.S.
  8. Baylor University in Waco, No. 172 in the U.S.
  9. University of Texas at Dallas, No. 220 in the U.S.
  10. University of Houston, No. 232 in the U.S.

Proving that the Horned Frogs can party it up and then get down to work, TCU earned an A in both Party Scene and Academics. It got an A+ for Campus, A in Athletics, A- for Diversity, and B+ for Value. Find its whole report card here.

Crosstown rival SMU earned an A+ in both "Party Scene" and Academics. It also earned an A+ in Campus, A in Athletics, A- in Diversity, and A- in Value. Find the school's complete ranking here.

University of Texas at Dallas' highest grade was an A, in the category of Diversity. It earned an A- in Academics and Value; B- in Campus, and a C in both Party Scene and Athletics. Complete rankings are here.

The rankings compare more than 1,000 colleges and universities across the country.

“We know that choosing where to go to college is a major life decision, and we’ve always been committed to helping students and their families make their choice with as much information as possible,” says Luke Skurman, founder and CEO of Niche. “With a mix of comprehensive data and millions of reviews, our 2023 best colleges rankings are a guide to the thousands of excellent institutions across the country.”

So, what is the best college in the United States this year? The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston holds the top spot nationally.

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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.