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Photo courtesy of Pizza Verde

Christmas comes early this week with the debut of a holiday-themed pop-up with tropical vibes at a brand-new bar. There’s also lots of opportunity to learn about holiday wine pairings, with several wine dinners and tastings on the list. Mark your calendar for the launch party of a new coffee-infused version of a popular local whiskey, celebrate the anniversary of an acclaimed Fort Worth pizzeria, and more.

Monday, November 14

Anniversary Dinner at The Basement Lounge with La Onda
La Onda chef Victor Villarreal will help the underground Camp Bowie Boulevard lounge celebrate its seventh anniversary with a three-course seafood-centric dinner. The menu includes papas bravas with whipped crème fraiche and sturgeon caviar, Brazilian seafood stew, and a surprise dessert. Dinner is $100, plus tax and gratuity, and begins at 6 pm.

Tuesday, November 15

Antinori Wine Dinner at Tre Mogli
It’s the first wine dinner for this popular Italian destination from chef Stefon Rishel and his team. Six courses will feature a raw bar, ricotta and leek ravioli, seafood risotto, crispy quail, Niman ranch lamb chop, and fig tart with smoked whipped cream. The dinner is $125 (which includes gratuity), plus tax, and begins at 6:30 pm.

Holiday Crepes and Wine at Landon Winery Grapevine
The Grapevine winery will partner with Crepes on the Go to serve two sweet and two savory crepes paired with wines during this unique pairing event. The tasting is $42, plus tax, and will run from 6:30-8 pm.

J. Lohr Wine Dinner at Hotel Vin
Cynthia Lohr, co-owner of California’s J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, will visit the Grapevine hotel for a four-course wine-pairing dinner in the Bordeaux Ballroom. Chardonnay, two Cabernets, and a Petite Syrah will be paired with a seafood starter, lemon, basil, and fontina tortellini, Wagyu prime rib, and red velvet cake with cheesecake mousse and chocolate glaze. Dinner is $200, plus service charge and tax, and begins with a reception at 6 pm. Also note that Hotel Vin’s Winter Wonderland pop-up begins Friday for the holiday season, featuring the hotel’s popular igloo bubbles available for happy hour or dinner reservations. (This year they’re decked out with après ski lodge décor.) Reservations start at $150, plus tax and gratuity, for a bottle of wine and fondue to share during happy hour.

Wednesday, November 16

Willamette Valley Vineyards Wine Tasting at Wine 30
The Roanoke wine bar will offer a tasting of five Oregon wines from Willamette Valley. The $25 price includes charcuterie board bites. The tasting begins at 5:30 pm.

Thursday, November 17

The Beast & Co. Fall Wine Dinner
Near Southside restaurant Beast & Co. is hosting a seven-course wine dinner featuring seasonally inspired dishes and specially selected wine pairings from Chef Michael Arlt and owner Dustin Lee. Courses include beet with anchovy powder, oyster with seaweed dressing, burnt celeriac with endive & pear, halibut with mushroom & mustard, smoked duck with cassoulet, ginger molasses sorbet, and chocolate tart with salted cream. It runs from 7-9 pm and is $190 including tax & gratuity. Reservations can be made online: Go to the date 11/17 and select the "Fall Wine Dinner" event.

Friday, November 18

Gather with Gewurztraminer: A Thanksgiving Wine Pairing Class at Messina Hof Grapevine Winery
Learn how to pair Thanksgiving staples with Messina Hof wines during this tasting event. Thanksgiving tasting menu items will include honey glazed ham, oven roasted turkey, cornbread stuffing, sweet potatoes, fresh asparagus, cherry cobbler, and Southern pecan cobbler. The pairing is $45, plus tax and gratuity, and begins at 6:30 pm.

Pizza Verde: One-Year Celebration
The award-winning pizzeria marks its one-year anniversary with a weekend-long celebration from November 18-20 with giveaways, freebies, swag, and more. All three days, there'll be a spin-the-wheel for a shot to win free pizza and drinks. All weekend, for every $10 spent, diners get a raffle ticket and entry to win one of their three raffle baskets featuring items from Mariachi's Dine-In, the Modern Art Museum, Boulevard of Greens, Mashup Market, Planted Bakery, and more. On Saturday at 3:30 pm, there'll be a complimentary mimosa toast. Friday-Sunday, 11 am-3 pm.

Saturday, November 19

Texas Flavor Series Launch at Whiskey Ranch
Be among the first to sample and purchase TX Whiskey’s newest release – TX Blended Whiskey Texas Flavor Series Limited Edition with Avoca Coffee. This is the first flavored offering from TX Whiskey – although the distillery has partnered with the local coffee roaster in the past to create TX Whiskey-tossed coffee beans. The $10 ticket includes tastings available at 1 pm, 2 pm, and 3 pm, along with a cocktail from the bar. There’ll also be food trucks, live music, and complimentary bottle engraving. The new release will retail for $39.99 and the event will run from 12-5 pm.

Monday, November 21

Vegan Thanksgiving Beer Dinner at Funky Picnic Brewery & Café
The South Fort Worth brewery and restaurant has partnered with the Blue Zones Project to present a five-course plant-based dinner with a Thanksgiving twist. The family-style dinner includes green bean casserole, maple-roasted carrots, mashed cauliflower and mushroom gravy, butternut squash risotto, sage stuffing, chickpea meatloaf, vegan seitan turkey, and vegan pumpkin pie. A beer pairing flight is included. Dinner is $90 and begins at 7 pm.

Sippin’ Santa at The Down ‘n Out
The new watering hole at 150 W. Rosedale St. will open its doors in festive fashion by hosting Sippin’ Santa, a tropical-themed holiday pop-up that will have more than 30 locations in bars across the country. Island-inspired libations will include the Kris Kringle Colada made with dark Jamaican rum and cream of coconut; the hot Undertow Toddy made with cognac; and Rudolph’s Rum Rhapsody made for two. The pop-up will run until December 31.

Photo courtesy of Rice Village

Buzzy new ice cream shop tops 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's WestBend center scoops location of buzzy ice cream concept. The WestBend mixed-use development in Fort Worth's University District is booming, and now there's a slew of new shops and businesses lined up to join the mix, including Van Leeuwen, New York-based ice cream company that makes dairy and especially ice creams. It's opening its first store in Fort Worth.

The Key Lime Pie at Anderson Distillery. Photo courtesy of Anderson Distilling

2. Where to drink in Fort Worth right now: 5 best new bars in the 'burbs. New bars open in Fort Worth on the regular, but the ‘burbs are also buzzing with new drinking destinations. Northeast Tarrant County, in particular is hot, with several swanky lounges and new sports bars recently opened for business. Here are five new bars to visit that are the worth the trek beyond the 820 loop.

Pizza with mushroom and shaved asparagus. Funky Picnic

3. Funky Fort Worth brewpub unveils speakeasy bar with pizza on the side. A Fort Worth restaurant is about to debut an ultra-trendy new spinoff. Funky Picnic Brewery & Café, the brewpub in the Near Southside, is opening a speakeasy bar and pizza kitchen called The Back Room at Funky Picnic, which will occupy the space right next door at 401 Bryan Ave. #109 that was previously occupied by Black Cat Pizza.

100 Things to Do in Fort Worth Before you Die will be released on September 25. Courtesy photo

4. Fort Worth author’s new book compiles ultimate bucket list of 100 things to do in Cowtown. If you’re out of ideas of things to do in Fort Worth, one local author has you covered. Celestina Blok has compiled her top recommendations in her new book, 100 Things to Do in Fort Worth Before You Die. The new title, which releases Sept. 25, covers the categories of food and drink, music and entertainment, outdoors and recreation, culture and history, and shopping and fashion.

Coco Gauff is one of the top-ranked singles and doubles players. Julian Finney/Getty Images

5. How to see Coco Gauff, Iga Swiatek, and more WTA tennis stars compete in Fort Worth. Fresh off her US Open victory, the world's No. 1 female tennis player, Iga Swiatek, will lead the top eight singles players and doubles teams into Fort Worth next month for the 2022 Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Finals. The competition will take place October 31-November 7 at Dickies Arena, and tickets are now on sale.

Courtesy photo

These are the 7 best food and drink events in Fort Worth this week

This week in gluttony

There’ll be multiple ways to escape (at least mentally) this week. Jet set to France at a French wine dinner or tasting. Or pretend to be on the beaches of Mexico at one of two National Tequila Day celebrations. Or simply find respite from the heat with a refreshing glass of iced tea, which will be free at a sandwich shop chain this week.

Wednesday, July 20

One Night in Paris: A French Wine Tasting at Chef Point Restaurant & Bar
Escape to Paris by way of Watauga at this French wine tasting hosted by chef Franson Nwaeze at Chef Point Restaurant & Bar. Featured dishes include escargot, smoked duck breast, grilled lamb kabobs, and duck confit. Reservations are $78 and include tax and gratuity. The dinner begins at 6:30 pm and will also be held at Chef Point’s Colleyville location on Thursday at the same time.

Thursday, July 21

Free Tea Day at McAlister’s Deli
Weather this hot calls for a cold beverage, and McAlister’s Deli will answer with free iced tea. Visit any location for any variety of the sandwich chain’s brisk tea, which is brewed with orange pekoe black tea leaves. Options include sweet, unsweet, half-and-half, half-tea-half-lemonade, or tea with flavored shots. Limit one tea per person in-store, and four teas per order via the McAlister’s Deli website or app.

Friday, July 22

Summer Wine Tasting in Southern Rhone at Mason & Dixie
The Southern-inspired restaurant in Grapevine will go European with a French wine tasting. Guests will partake in four wines paired with four courses highlighting the flavors of Southern Rhône. Tickets are $49 and the tasting will begin at 6:30 pm.

Saturday, July 23

Riscky’s BBQ 16th Annual Rib-Eating Competition
The 95-year old Fort Worth barbecue institution will host its annual rib-eating contest at its Stockyards Station location. The first 30 participants to sign up on the day of the event will have 60 seconds to eat as many beef ribs as possible. Then the top qualifiers will move on to the next round, where prizes will be valued at $100 for third place, $250 for second place, and $500 for first place. There’s a $5 entry fee and the contest will begin at 11 am.

National Tequila Day at The Post at River East
The popular Race Street live music destination invites patrons to celebrate tequila on Saturday with specials all day long. Go for $5 margaritas, tequila, and mezcal flight specials; $3 bloody Marias; and $6 bowls of pozole. Free live music will entertain all day, too. The Post opens at 11 am.

Sunday, July 24

Half-Priced Tequila at El Chingon for National Tequila Day
For one day only and only until 5 pm, the part-bar-part-Mexican-restaurant El Chingon will offer its selection of tequilas and mezcals for half-price, including bottles and shots. Get the day started early with brunch featuring classic dishes like chilaquiles and huevos rancheros. El Chingon opens at 11 am.

Make Your Own Wood-Fired Pizza at Pizza Verde
The plant-based pizzeria will teach participants how to make vegan wood-fired pizza. The class includes apps and a glass of prosecco, and an ingredient bag with dough, house-made mozzarella, and sauce recipe to make pizza at home. Tickets are $60 per person and class begins at 5:30 pm.

Photo courtesy of Pizza Verde

These are the 7 best food and drink events in Fort Worth this week

This week in gluttony

Fresh tastes of summer appear on this week’s event menus, which feature peaches, ceviche, citrus, crab, and wood-fired pizza. There’s also a book club meeting that comes with dinner from a local favorite eatery, and a unique beer dinner that honors a loyal customer.

Thursday, June 23

A Veritable Feast at Leaves Book and Tea Shop
An evening of dining and book discussion will cover the topic of poverty at the Near Southside tea shop and bookstore. Diners will enjoy a meal from Dusty Biscuit Beignets in a book club meeting format, but no pre-reading is required. Dinner is $40 per person and the event will run from 6:30-8:30 pm.

Honig Family Wine Dinner at Thirty-Eight & Vine
CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Chef of the Year Jenny Castor of Luckybee Kitchen will make an appearance at The Foundry District wine bar for a pop-up pairing dinner. The summery four-course menu will feature chilled blue crab soup, citrus pesto buns on toasted brioche, crispy pork belly, and blackberry moon pies. Dinner is $150 per person and includes wine pairings. Start time is 6:30 pm.

Friday, June 24

Peach Fest & The Peach Truck Pick Up at Jabo’s Ace Hardware
The famed traveling Peach Truck will make an appearance at Jabo’s Ace Hardware in Westcliff, and the store is hosting a festival to celebrate. Go for peach-themed cocktails, freeze-dried peach ice cream, and peach grilling demos while picking up Peach Truck orders. (Note that Peach Truck orders must be reserved in advance.) Even more, go dressed in peach-themed attire and be entered to win a $50 gift card to Jabo’s. The peach party will run from 2-5 pm.

Beer Dinner at Turning Point Beer
Chef Craig Lawson of Detour Catering will visit the Bedford brewery to prepare an elegant four-course menu to be paired with Turning Point craft brews. Menu highlights include jumbo lump crab croquettes, pan-fried red snapper, and classic tiramisu. The $80 per-person price includes beer pairings, as well as two additional drink tickets good for draft pours at the bar. Dinner begins at 6 pm and will be held in Turning Point’s new event space called The Relic.

Sunday, June 26

La Onda Pop-Up at Grandma’s
The Race Street destination for coastal cuisine will make an appearance at Grandma’s bar in the Near Southside for a ceviche pop-up. Visit starting at 5:30 pm for a la carte dishes prepped fresh. Arrive early as La Onda will be on site until sell-out.

Make Your Own Wood-Fired Pizza at Pizza Verde
Learn how to wood-fire your own homemade pizza during this demonstration class at the popular Locke Avenue pizza parlor. The $60 per-person price includes bites and a glass of prosecco along with a bag of dough, a sauce recipe, and house-made mozzarella to test your newfound skills at home. Class will run from 5:30-7:30 pm. Additional wine and beer will be available for purchase.

Monday, June 27

Gare-Bear: A Tribute Beer Dinner at Funky Picnic Brewery & Café
The Near Southside restaurant and brewery is paying homage to a loyal customer who’s been to all 14 beer dinners they’ve hosted thus far. Beer dinner number 15 is dedicated to Gary Melton, a Funky Picnic regular whose favorite dishes — including tacos, pizza, Vietnamese, and Thai food — will all make an appearance on the beer pairing menu. Dinner is $50 per person, including tax and gratuity, and begins at 7 pm.

Photo by Shelley Neuman

Willie Nelson's canceled show tops 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. Willie Nelson cancels Fort Worth show at Billy Bob's Texas next month. Country music legend Willie Nelson has canceled his March 19 concert at Billy Bob's Texas in Fort Worth as part of a spate of cancellations on his current tour. According to SavingCountryMusic.com, 88-year-old Nelson announced February 14 that he is canceling most concerts at indoor venues for the foreseeable future.

2. Spicy Korean fried chicken chain to open its first location in Fort Worth. An international fried chicken chain is coming to Fort Worth: Bonchon, the brand known for its unique and spicy Korean-style fried chicken, is opening its first Tarrant County location in southwest Fort Worth, off the frontage road of Chisholm Trail Parkway.

3. 5 Fort Worth restaurants earn spot on 2022's best list by Texas Monthly. Once again, Texas Monthly has published its list of the state's best new restaurants. The 21st edition of the list highlights the magazine's favorite dishes from around the state, and five Fort Worth bars and restaurants received recognition for their dishes or drinks.

4. First-ever Reality Fest brings stars and secrets of reality TV to Fort Worth. There's never been a Real Housewives of Fort Worth or a Survivor: Fort Worth, but the city will be the center of the unscripted TV universe during the inaugural Reality Fest this fall. Taking place September 17-18 at Arts Fort Worth, Reality Fest promises two days of events dedicated to all things unscripted.

5. Authentic deep-dish pizza from Chicago is coming to Fort Worth. An authentic Chicago-style pizza name is coming to Fort Worth: Rosati's Pizza, a chain based in Illinois that's been doing Chicago-style pizza since 1964, is opening a location at 5152 Golden Triangle. It's going into a new little center at the intersection of Park Vista Boulevard, and is anticipated to open in mid-2022.

Willie Nelson has canceled his March 19 concert at Billy Bob's Texas

Photo by Shelley Neuman
Willie Nelson has canceled his March 19 concert at Billy Bob's Texas
Rosati's

Authentic deep-dish pizza from Chicago is coming to Fort Worth

Pizza News

An authentic Chicago-style pizza name is coming to Fort Worth: Rosati's Pizza, a chain based in Illinois that's been doing Chicago-style pizza since 1964, is opening a location at 5152 Golden Triangle. It's going into a new little center at the intersection of Park Vista Boulevard, and is anticipated to open in mid-2022.

Rosati's has a long history that dates back to New York in the 1890's, where Sam Rosati had an Italian restaurant. According to the company's website, the family moved to Chicago and began opening Italian restaurants. They opened the first Rosati's Pizza in a suburb of Chicago in 1964. By 1978, 10 Rosati family members owned Rosati's Pizza locations, and they began franchising in 1979.

There are currently four locations in Texas including two in North Texas: Flower Mound and McKinney.

Their signature deep-dish is pan-cooked, with a buttery crust that's topped with chunky tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese from Wisconsin, then baked for 40 minutes. It's available in two sizes: 10-inch and 14-inch.

They've diversified their pizza crust options, adding a thin crust, gluten-free crust, and "double dough," comparable to your generic pizza.

Toppings are pretty classic: Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushroom, green pepper, and so on.

They also have pastas such as lasagna and fettucine alfredo; salads including Caesar and antipasto; and sandwiches such as a meatball sub and an Italian beef with mozzarella on French bread. Some locations also offer ribs and fried chicken.

There are wings and fun appetizers such as fried ravioli, fried mushrooms, and garlic bread.

This should be a comfort to those still mourning the closure of Uno, Fort Worth's longtime Chicago-style pizzeria which closed in 2020 after 28 years.

Opening the Rosati's in Fort Worth is Tina Barrionuevo, who has a corporate background in inventory management. She says she's still waiting on permitting to begin construction.

Barrionuevo brings a special asset to the table: She moved here from Chicago eight years ago.

"We're from Chicago, so I have familiarity with Rosati's and exactly how the pizza should be," she says.

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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.