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Caroline Garcia raised the trophy as 2022 WTA Finals champion at Fort Worth's Dickies Arena on Monday, November 7. No. 6-seed Garcia defeated No. 7-seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6(4), 6-4 before an excited crowd in the championship match.

"I really went for it and I'm really, really happy to have win my biggest title," Garcia said.

Veronika Kudermetova and Elise Mertens of Belgium defeated defending champs Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova of Czech Republic in a nailbiter, 6-2 4-6 11-9, to earn the doubles title.

WTA Finals Veronika Kudermetova and Elise Mertens (left) defeated defending double champs Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova.Getty Images

The championship brought the week-long tournament to a rousing conclusion. The WTA Finals are the prestigious year-end finale for the Women’s Tennis Association, featuring the top eight singles players and doubles teams in the world.

Fort Worth hosted the tournament for the first time, October 31-November 7, after it was moved from Shenzhen, China. It's the first time the contest had been staged in North Texas, and the first time it was in the United States since 2005.

The top eight singles players who competed in a round robin-style tournament were:

No. 1 Iga Swiatek (Poland)
No. 2 Ons Jabeur (Tunisia)
No 3 Jessica Pegula (United States)
No. 4 Coco Gauff (United States)
No. 5 Maria Sakkari (Greece)
No. 6 Caroline Garcia (France)
No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka*
No. 8 Daria Kasatkina*

Runner-up Sabalenka received a glass sculpture created by Sinaca Glass Studios in Fort Worth.

The total prize money pool for the tournament is $5 million. The singles winner takes home more than $1.5 million.

In addition to receiving a slightly smaller cash prize, the runners up in both singles and doubles took home beautiful glass sculptures created by Fort Worth's Sinaca Glass Studios. Everyone left Fort Worth with a cowboy hat, also presented on-court.

Championship night brought the largest and most engaged crowd of the tournament - split down the middle, it seemed, for both Garcia and Sabalenka.

"Today's atmosphere was pretty amazing," Garcia said. "I mean the fans really, like, enjoyed a lot the show. In US it's always like this, they love tennis, just love the show they give you. Right from the beginning they were really into it and I think they helped us to bring our best tennis. They were supporting both of us, and it was really nice and really respectful for everyone."

Added Sabalenka, "The atmosphere was unbelievable. I mean, I, to be honest, I didn't expect that my support for me here, and people support me a lot here, and I really enjoyed every second playing. It was, atmosphere was unbelievable. Really."

Sabalenka had stunned the tennis world when she upset top-seed and world No. 1 Swiatek in the semifinals November 6. Swiatek had dominated the tournament - not yet losing a set - as she had dominated women's tennis all year long.

Garcia defeated Sakkari in the semifinals to make it to the championship.

(*Per WTA style, players native to Russia and Belarus do not have their country listed.)

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Shocking upset leads to surprising championship matchup at WTA Finals in Fort Worth

Game, Set, World-class matchups

The championship tennis match is set for the WTA Finals at Fort Worth’s Dickies Arena on Monday, November 7 - and it’s a matchup few might have seen coming.

No. 7 seed Aryna Sabalenka upset world No. 1 and top seed Iga Swiatek of Poland in an often lopsided three-set semifinal match Sunday night. Sabalenka will play for the title against No. 6 seed Caroline Garcia of France, who had defeated No. 5 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece in their semifinal meeting Sunday afternoon.

Sabalenka and Swiatek battled in a 2-hour-and-7-minute semifinal match in front of one of the largest Fort Worth crowds of the tournament, which began October 31. In front of a largely pro-Swiatek audience (as evidenced by the number of red and white Polish flags, T-shirts, scarves, and signs), Sabalenka prevailed 6-2, 2-6, 6-1.

"She deserves the win and congrats to her," Swiatek said after the match.

Swiatek had dominated the WTA Finals as she’d dominated the year in women’s tennis - she had not yet dropped a set in the tournament. She ends the year with a 67-9 win-loss record, and eight singles titles, including two Grand Slams.

Iga Swiatek Iga Swiatek is the No. 1 women's tennis player in the world. Al Bello/Getty Images

"On one hand I'm sad that I lost, but on the other hand I have one more day off. That's something on a bright side," Swiatek said. "This season has been so intense and I'm so proud of myself that I could play so well till the end of it."

Details of the Sabalenka-Swiatek match can be found here.

The WTA Finals are the prestigious year-end finale for the Women’s Tennis Association, featuring the top eight singles players and doubles teams in the world.

Fort Worth is hosting the tournament for the first time, after it was moved from Shenzhen, China.

The total prize money pool is $5 million.

Caroline Garcia, WTA Finals Caroline Garcia defeated Maria Sakkari in the semifinal round.Getty Images

"It's the last match of the season and I'm ready to give everything I have," Sabalenka said of the final.

Of the championship, Garcia said, "I would like to put pressure on her obviously, and to be able to use [her] ball as well. But I will try to play my game."

The championship singles match between Garcia and Sabalenka will take place at 8 pm Monday, November 7 at Dickies Arena.

It will follow the championship doubles match featuring defending champs Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova against Veronika Kudermetova and Elise Mertens, which begins at 5:30 pm.

More information on the WTA Finals is here and tickets to the championship matches are here.

.

Photo courtesy of WTA

Crown jewel event of women's tennis begins at Fort Worth's Dickies Arena

Game, set, world-class match-ups

UPDATE 11-5-2022: The semifinalists are set. All semifinal matches take place Sunday, November 6 at Dickies Arena. The schedule is:

Day Session - 1:30 pm start:
(1) Barbora Krejcikova (Czech Republic) & Katerina Siniakova (Czech Republic) vs
(5) Lyudmyla Kichenok (Ukraine) & Jelena Ostapenko (Latvia)
Not before 3:30 pm:
(5) Maria Sakkari (Greece) vs (6) Caroline Garcia (France)

Night Session - 7 pm start:
(1) Iga Swiatek (Poland) vs (7) Aryna Sabalenka
Followed by:
(4) Veronika Kudermetova & Elise Mertens (Belgium) vs (8) Desirae Krawczyk (USA) & Demi Schuurs (Netherlands)

More information is here and tickets are here.

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It's not as famous as Wimbledon or the US Open, but the WTA Finals will crown a new queen of the women's pro tennis tour in Fort Worth this week - and all are invited to court.

For the first time, Fort Worth hosts the prestigious year-end finale for the WTA, featuring the top eight singles players and doubles teams in the world. Singles players vying for title, and their rankings, are:

No. 1 Iga Swiatek (Poland)
No. 2 Ons Jabeur (Tunisia)
No 3 Jessica Pegula (United States)
No. 4 Coco Gauff (United States)
No. 5 Maria Sakkari (Greece)
No. 6 Caroline Garcia (France)
No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka*
No. 8 Daria Kasatkina*

U.S. superstars Gauff and Pegula are also competing in doubles.

The "round robin"-style competition will take place October 31-November 7 at Dickies Arena, and tickets start at $20.

The prestigious year-end finale has been moved to Fort Worth from Shenzhen, China, for one year only, WTA officials say. It's the first time the contest has been staged in North Texas, and the first time it's in the United States in 17 years. The total prize money pool is $5 million.

Players assembled at Fort Worth's Hotel Drover for a celebration and "draw party" on Friday, October 28. (More on the groupings, draws, and prize money each player picks up throughout each round here.)

Each day in the first rounds, play starts at 3 pm, and both singles and doubles matches will be played. Friday through Sunday, play begins at 1:30 pm. The finals in both doubles and singles will take place at 5:30 pm and 8 pm respectively, Monday, November 7.

The initial order of play, on October 31 and November 1 is:

Monday, October 31
3 pm:
(1) Barbora Krejcikova (Czech Republic) & Katerina Siniakova (Czech Republic) vs (8) Desirae Krawczyk (USA) & Demi Schuurs (Netherlands)
Not before 5 pm:
(3) Jessica Pegula (USA) vs (5) Maria Sakkari (Greece)
Not before 7 pm:
(2) Ons Jabeur (Tunisia) vs (7) Aryna Sabalenka
Followed by:
(3) Coco Gauff (USA) & Jessica Pegula (USA) vs (6) Yifan Xu (China) & Zhaoxuan Yang (China)

Tuesday, November 1
3 pm:
(4) Veronika Kudermetova & Elise Mertens (Belgium) vs (5) Lyudmyla Kichenok (Ukraine) & Jelena Ostapenko (Latvia)
Not Before 5 pm:
(1) Iga Swiatek (Poland) vs (8) Daria Kasatkina
Not before 7 pm:
(4) Coco Gauff (USA) vs (6) Caroline Garcia (France)
Followed by:
(2) Gabriela Dabrowski (Canada) & Giuliana Olmos (Mexico) vs (7) Anna Danilina (Kazakhstan) & Beatriz Haddad Maia (Brazil)

"I’m super excited to be in the finals," says top-ranked Swiatek. "I feel like it’s a celebration of what we’ve done in the past year. I’m just proud to be here."

The eyes of the tennis world will be on Fort Worth, too. According to NBC5, the matches will be broadcast in 160 countries to a projected viewing audience of 900 million people. Find coverage at tennischannel.com.

To keep up with the tournament, follow WTA on Facebook or visit the website.

(*Per WTA style, players native to Russia do not have their country listed.)

---

UPDATES 11-2-2022:

Order of play for Wednesday, November 2 is:

3 pm start:
(1) Barbora Krejcikova (Czech Republic) & Katerina Siniakova (Czech Republic) vs (6) Yifan Xu (China) & Zhaoxuan Yang (China)
Not before 5 pm:
(2) Ons Jabeur (Tunisia) vs (3) Jessica Pegula (USA)
Not before 7 pm:
(5) Maria Sakkari (Greece) vs (7) Aryna Sabalenka
Followed by:
(3) Coco Gauff (USA) & Jessica Pegula (USA) vs (8) Desirae Krawczyk (USA) & Demi Schuurs (Netherlands)

What happens now in singles:

Sakkari advances if she wins in straight sets Wednesday (Position in group tbd)

If Sakkari and Pegula win Wednesday, Sakkari advances as group winner and Jabeur is eliminated. (Pegula and Sabalenka would play for second spot Friday)

If Sabalenka and Jabeur win Wednesday, Sabalenka advances as group winner and Pegula is eliminated. (Sakkari and Jabeur would play for second spot Friday)

Pegula is eliminated if she loses in straight sets Wednesday

Any other combination of results will mean advancement comes down to the final matches.

What happens now in doubles:

Krejcikova & Siniakova advance if they win in straight sets Wednesday (Position in group tbd)

If Krejcikova & Siniakova and Krawczyk & Schuurs win Wednesday, Krejcikova & Siniakova advance as group winner and Gauff & Pegula is eliminated. (Krawczyk & Schuurs and Xu & Yang would play for second spot Friday)

If Xu & Yang and Gauff & Pegula win Wednesday, Xu & Yang advance as group winner and Krawczyk & Schuurs are eliminated. (Krejcikova & Siniakova and Gauff & Pegula would play for second spot Friday)

Krawczyk & Schuurs is eliminated if they lose in straight sets Wednesday

Any other combination of results will mean advancement comes down to the final matches.

Order of play for Thursday, November 3 is:

3 pm start:
(2) Gabriela Dabrowski (Canada) & Giuliana Olmos (Mexico) vs (5) Lyudmyla Kichenok (Ukraine) & Jelena Ostapenko (Latvia)
Not Before 5 pm:
(1) Iga Swiatek (Poland) vs vs (6) Caroline Garcia (France)
Not before 7 pm:
(4) Coco Gauff (USA) vs (8) Daria Kasatkina
Followed by: (4) Veronika Kudermetova & Elise Mertens (Belgium) vs (7) Anna Danilina (Kazakhstan) & Beatriz Haddad Maia (Brazil)

Round robin advancement scenarios in singles for Thursday:

If Swiatek and Kasatkina win, Swiatek advances as group winner, Gauff is eliminated (Kasatkina and Garcia would play for the No.2 spot on Saturday)

If Swiatek wins in straight sets and Gauff wins in three sets, Swiatek advances (position tbd)

If Garcia and Gauff win, Garcia advances as group winner, Kasatkina is eliminated (Gauff and Swiatek play for the No.2 spot on Saturday)

If Garcia wins in straight sets and Kasatkina wins in three sets, Garcia advances (position tbd)

Any other combination of results will mean qualification comes down to final matches.

Round robin scenarios in doubles for Thursday:

Danilina & Haddad Maia advance if they win in straight sets Thursday (Position in group tbd)

If Danilina & Haddad Maia and Dabrowski & Olmos win Thursday, Danilina & Haddad Maia advance as group winner and Kichenok & Ostapenko are eliminated. (Dabrowski & Olmos and Kudermetova & Mertens would play for second spot Saturday)

If Kudermetova & Mertens and Kichenok & Ostapenko win Thursday, Kudermetova & Mertens advance as group winner and Dabrowski & Olmos is eliminated. (Danilina & Haddad Maia and Kichenok & Ostapenko would play for second spot Saturday)

Dabrowski & Olmos is eliminated if they lose in straight sets Thursday.

Any other combination of results will mean qualification comes down to the final matches.

---

UPDATES 11-4-2022:

Order of Play:

Friday, November 4
Singles Nancy Richey Group • Doubles Rosie Casals Group

Day Session - 1:30 pm Start
(6) Yifan Xu (China) & Zhaoxuan Yang (China) vs (8) Desirae Krawczyk (USA) & Demi Schuurs (Netherlands)
Not before 3:30 pm:
(3) Jessica Pegula (USA) vs (7) Aryna Sabalenka
Night Session - 7 pm Start
(2) Ons Jabeur (Tunisia) vs (5) Maria Sakkari (Greece)
Followed by:
(1) Barbora Krejcikova (Czech Republic) & Katerina Siniakova (Czech Republic) vs (3) Coco Gauff (USA) & Jessica Pegula (USA)

Rosie Casals Doubles Group Standings & Advancement ScenariosKrejcikova & Siniakova have won the group. The winner Friday between Krawczyk & Schuurs and Xu & Yang will claim the second position. Gauff & Pegula cannot advance.

Saturday, November 5
Singles Tracy Austin Group • Doubles Pam Shriver Group

Day Session - 1:30 pm start
(5) Lyudmyla Kichenok (Ukraine) & Jelena Ostapenko (Latvia) vs (7) Anna Danilina (Kazakhstan) & Beatriz Haddad Maia (Brazil)
Not before 3:30 pm:
(6) Caroline Garcia (France) vs (8) Daria Kasatkina
Night Session - 7 pm start
(1) Iga Swiatek (Poland) vs (4) Coco Gauff (USA)
Followed by:
(2) Gabriela Dabrowski (Canada) & Giuliana Olmos (Mexico) vs (4) Veronika Kudermetova & Elise Mertens (Belgium)

Tracy Austin Singles Group Advancement Scenarios
Swiatek has won the group. The winner Friday between Garcia and Kasatkina will claim the second position. Gauff cannot advance.

To keep up with the tournament, follow WTA on Facebook or visit the website.

Photo courtesy of Dickies Arena

Simmons Bank Showdown: TCU vs. SMU and UTA vs. Texas State

The Simmons Bank Showdown, an early season all-Texas teams men’s basketball double-header.

The double-header will begin with a face-off between Sun Belt Conference teams, the Texas State Bobcats against the University of Texas-Arlington Mavericks. That will beollowed by Big 12 Conference Texas Christian University Horned Frogs taking on the American Athletic Conference Southern Methodist University Mustangs.

Legends

Dallas Cowboys debut nachos and more new snacks at Arlington stadium

Cowboys News

The Dallas Cowboys 2022-2023 season at AT&T Stadium is about to begin, and they've unfurled a slate of new foods to go-with.

These new culinary creations will debut on Sunday, September 11 at the home opening game when the Cowboys play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The menu is from Legends at AT&T Stadium, their on-site food purveyor. In a release, their food & beverage director George Wasai gives props to one particular dish.

"Next-level flavor for fans is what this season is all about, continuing our tradition of delivering an extraordinary culinary experience for local fans and those visiting at AT&T Stadium," Wasai says. "Our famous Cowboys Mac N Cheese has a new option with lobster that we are so excited for fans to enjoy this new addition, with all of the new comfort food sandwiches and more."

That must be some mac & cheese to get its own shout-out.

New dishes include:

  • Steak Sandwich. Beef dipped in au jus on a toasted bun with arugula, provolone cheese, creamy horseradish sauce, and caramelized onions
  • Lobster Mac-N-Cheese. Their "famous" Cowboys Mac-N-Cheese with chunks of garlic-butter-poached lobster
  • Torta. Bolillo bun with refried beans, choice of chicken, barbacoa, or pork, queso fresco, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and guacamole
  • Fried Mozzarella Burger. Angus patty on top of fried mozzarella sticks, with marinara sauce and pepper jack cheese
  • Mozzarella Sticks. With marinara sauce
  • Mango Habanero Chicken Sandwich with Pineapple Slaw. Fried chicken tossed in mango-habanero sauce, topped with pineapple slaw
  • Muffuletta. Focaccia bread topped with olive salad, capicola, mortadella, ham, salami, provolone, and mozzarella cheese
  • Coffee. From Black Rifle Coffee

Wasai also touts the vegetarian (not vegan) menu, stating that "our Plant Based Touchdown program with vegetarian options for fans has been so successful, and we are honored to help have an impact on game day both in Stadium and at home with adding more produce and big flavor vegetables and vegetarian options to their familiar and favorite game day menu options."

Launched in 2021, their plant-based offerings feature vegetarian dishes, some using produce from WE Over Me Farm at Paul Quinn College in Dallas. They're available at the Plant-Based/Vegetarian Carts located at sections U411 and U441.

And the menu includes:

  • Awesome Plant-Based Burger. With lettuce, tomato, grilled onion, and chipotle aioli
  • Buffalo Chick’n Nachos. Blue corn tortilla chips topped with jalapeño jack queso, Sweet Earth's plant-based chicken tossed in buffalo sauce, and pickled jalapeños
  • Touchdown Tots. Tator Tots drizzled with jalapeño jack cheese, guacamole, sour cream, Sweet Earth plant-based chicken tossed in Cholula sauce
  • Plant-Based Chicken Avocado Wrap. Crispy plant-based chicken, avocado, lettuce, and ranch, wrapped in a tortilla
  • Plant-Based Chopped Chicken Salad. Lettuce, cucumber, tomato, charred corn, plant-based crispy chicken, and black beans in creamy herb dressing

There's another separate menu for suites that has dishes like hummus, empanadas, and plant-based chicken sliders.

Value of Dallas Cowboys rushes to record-smashing $8 billion, says Forbes

How’ bout them dollars?

Billionaire Jerry Jones keeps scoring with his investment in the Dallas Cowboys.

For the 16th year in a row, the Dallas Cowboys top Forbes’ annual ranking of NFL team valuations. Now, Forbes says, the Cowboys are worth $8 billion — the first pro sports franchise of any type to reach that mark. That figure is up from the $6.5 billion valuation reported last year.

“The sale of the Denver Broncos for a record $4.65 billion helped push up the value of all NFL teams,” says Mike Ozanian, assistant managing editor at Forbes.

As if their $8 billion valuation weren’t impressive enough, the Cowboys are the first NFL team to generate $1 billion in revenue, according to Forbes. That’s thanks in no small part to corporate sponsorships like the team’s 10-year, $200 million beer deal with Molson Coors.

The average NFL team is now worth $4.47 billion, up 28 percent from last year, Forbes says. The state’s only other pro football team, the Houston Texans, ranks 11th with a valuation of $4.7 billion, compared with $3.7 billion on last year’s list.

Forbes based its team valuations on revenue and operating income for the 2021 NFL season. Last year, the Cowboys generated nearly $1.1 billion in revenue and $466 million in operating income (a yardstick for how much revenue will eventually turn into profit).

Jones bought the Cowboys for around $140 million or $150 million in 1989, depending on which media account you trust. Jones insists he’ll never sell what now is a multibillion-dollar money machine. But he has tossed around a potential $10 billion sale price.

As of August 30, Forbes pegged Jones’ net worth at $12.3 billion.

Jones derives much of his wealth from his ownership of the Cowboys, where he is president and general manager. Some of his treasure chest — $200 million a year — goes toward renting the $1.5 billion AT&T Stadium, where the Cowboys play their home games.

Well before he occupied the White House, Donald Trump reportedly had a chance to snag the Cowboys for $40 million to $50 million. That was in 1983, three years before Jones purchased the team.

“I feel sorry for the poor guy who is going to buy the Cowboys. … He’ll be known to the world as a loser,” Trump famously proclaimed in a 1984 interview.

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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.