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Photo courtesy of Refinery 714

It’s a busy week in Fort Worth with fetes all around, including taco parties, trick-or-treat beer flights, a champagne dinner, and a boho-chic cowboy-themed pop-up with plenty of whiskey cocktails. Don’t miss the perfect taste of a fall with dinner on a farm or make plans for an annual outdoor cigar and spirits tasting that’s growing every year. The weather looks to be perfect for it all.

Tuesday, October 4

The Ultimate Taco Challenge at El Chingon
The Bledsoe Street Mexican restaurant and bar will celebrate National Taco Day with a taco-eating contest. Teams of four can compete to devour 42 tacos. Contestants will have four minutes and 20 seconds to do it, and the fastest team will $500 cash plus a coveted bottle of Don Julio 1942 tequila to be served that night. Check-in for the contest starts at 7 pm and the challenge kicks off at 8 pm. Spectators can enjoy an array of other specials (starting at 3 pm), including a five-taco flight ($9.42), a tequila flight featuring Don Julio 1942, Azuñia, and Casa Noble ($35), a flight of three mini margaritas ($13), shots of Don Julio 1942 ($19.42), and half-off a selection of à la carte tacos.

Date Night Series: Bao Buns Cooking Class at The Table Market & Culinary Studio
Couples will learn how to make various bao buns – a popular Chinese street food – during this hands-on cooking class. On the menu is char sui pork bao and shiitake and water chestnuts bao. The $125 class fee is per couple, and folks may BYOB. Class starts at 6:30 pm.

Wednesday, October 5

Trick or Treat Flights at Martin House Brewing Company
The Riverside brewery popular for its creative lineup of flavors will launch four Halloween beers this week. Try them all in a flight of pours paired with candy. The brews include Battle Bats vanilla milkshake IPA, Gummy Ghost strawberry cream sour, Mr. Mummy vanilla toffee crunch stout, and Wicked Wolf peanut butter marshmallow blonde. Flights will be $15 and will come with a treat bag of Halloween candy. Visit from 4-9 pm.

Thursday, October 6

Veuve Clicquot Six-Course Pairing Dinner at B&B Butchers & Restaurant
The ultimate bubbly brand will be featured during this indulgent six-course dinner, set to take place in a private room at the posh Shops at Clearfork steakhouse. Highlights from the seafood-centric menu include oysters three ways, jumbo lump crab cocktail, and pan-seared sea scallops. Dinner is $260 per person, plus tax and gratuity, and begins at 6 pm.

Rhinestone Cowboy Kick-off Party at The Kimpton Harper
Break out the boots and bedazzlers for this boho-western meets disco-themed party that will celebrate the start of The Kimpton Harper’s new Pendleton Whisky pop-up. Located in Refinery 714, the downtown hotel’s 24th floor bar, the month-long pop-up experience will feature glitzy décor, feathers and floral, along with intricate cocktails made with Pendleton Whisky and its sister brand, Dobel Tequila. Try the Calamity Jane, a smoking libation made with rye whisky, dry vermouth, Aperol and yellow chartreuse, or the Lone Ranger, made with tequila topped with bubbles and served in a disco ball tumbler. The kick-off party will feature a costume contest and live DJ music starting at 7 pm. Refinery 714 will be from open from 5-11 pm.

Friday, October 7

Coffee and Tea Crawl
Hosted by the Arlington Public Library, this three-day coffee and tea crawl encourages participants to visit local Arlington coffee shops and bakeries. Hit all four and return your stamped postcard (available at each venue) to the George W. Hawkes Downtown Library for a free mug. Stops include Salter Bros. Coffee Roasters, Sugar Bee Sweets Bakery, White Rhino Coffee, and Inclusion Coffee. Any purchase at each location is good for a stamp, and the promotion runs through Sunday.

Saturday, October 8

Cowtown Taco Throwdown
The inaugural event set to take place at River Ranch Stockyards will feature local taco vendors who’ll showcase their taco best. Tickets ($20 for adults, $10 for kids 6-12) include two tacos with rice and beans, loaded salsa bar, and whiskey tasting (for adults). Or pay $49 for a VIP ticket that includes an open beer and margarita bar. The event will benefit Brotherhood for the Fallen, a non-profit that aids families of officers that have been killed in the line of duty. There’ll also be live music by the Steve Helms band. The party will run from 11 am-5 pm.

4th Annual Cigar & Spirits Tasting
To be held at Panther Island Pavilion, the fourth annual event hosted by Cigar & Spirits Magazine will feature a beer and wine garden, food trucks, live music, and more than 80 cigar and spirit brands to sample. Tickets are $100 per person and the party will run from 5-8:30 pm.

Nash Farm Harvest Moon Supper
Enjoy a 19th century-inspired farm menu during this evening dinner in the meadows of Grapevine’s Nash Farm. Guests will be serenaded by the Lone Star String Band. The $100 per-person ticket includes opening reception, wine paired with dinner, and a souvenir photo. The event begins at 6:30 pm.

Courtesy photo

Velvet Taco to bring upscale gourmet tacos to Grapevine in late fall

Taco News

Big-time tacos are coming to Grapevine: Velvet Taco, the Dallas-based taco chain, is opening a location at 440 W. SH 114, in a new commercial center at the former Payton-Wright Ford automotive dealership.

Construction has just begun on the restaurant, which will be a 3,100-square-foot space plus a trademark Velvet Taco patio. Velvet Taco CEO Clay Dover says they're hoping to be open in late 2022.

A concept dedicated to serving upscale tacos in a funky fast-casual setting, Velvet Taco was founded in 2011 on the idea that tacos don't have to be associated with Tex-Mex cuisine and can be made with the same care and quality ingredients one finds at fine dining restaurants.

They opened their first location on Henderson Avenue, and the brand has since grown to 30-plus locations in Texas, Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. That includes a location on West 7th Street in Fort Worth. The only other location nearby is The Colony, so this definitely fills a Velvet Taco gap.

Their menu explores multi-cultural boundaries, culling from cuisines such as Asian and Indian in tacos such as spicy tikka chicken, falafel, and Korean fried rice. They also have a strong vegetarian/vegan game with options such as falafel, beer-battered cauliflower, and a clever Nashville hot tofu.

They're also known for their elotes, their signature red velvet cake, and for having cocktails including good margaritas.

The development they're going into includes space for up to five additional restaurant or retail spaces, and will also be home to a location of Rock & Brews restaurant.

Grapevine is not the only area set to get a new Velvet Taco: The chain is also opening restaurants in Grandscape, Allen, and Deep Ellum.

Photo by Kathy Tran

Alamo Drafthouse theater's revival 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. Former Fort Worth-area Alamo Drafthouse comes alive again under new owner. B&B Theatres, the nation’s largest privately held theater chain, has acquired the former Alamo Drafthouse location in North Richland Hills, with the aim of reopening the theater somewhere around the holiday season in 2022. Located at 8380 Davis Blvd., the theater was opened by Alamo Drafthouse in April 2019, and, after a few fits and starts, it permanently closed in February 2022.

2. Acclaimed chef opens dreamy new global taco restaurant in Bedford. An exciting new taqueria has opened in Bedford from award-winning chef Chetra Chau. Called Dream Tacos, it's a global fusion taco restaurant and bar, which opened on July 4 at 2807 Central Dr., conveniently next to Chau's acclaimed restaurant Chetra's Kitchen Grill & Bistro.

3. Queen of Country Reba McEntire makes rare tour stop in Fort Worth. Country music legend Reba McEntire is extending her arena tour, "Reba: Live in Concert," including a stop at Fort Worth's Dickies Arena on October 14. Tickets for the tour went on sale Friday, July 15.

4. Christmas-obsessed Fort Worth neighbor unwraps new ice skating rink for 2022 holidays. The "Christmas Capital of Texas" is adding a festive new feature for the 2022 holiday season: Grapevine will debut an outdoor ice skating rink along Historic Main Street in November. The 4,500-square-foot outdoor ice rink — which, yes, will be real ice — will open on November 18, and remain operational for 52 days, through January 8.

5. Where to eat in Fort Worth right now: 5 sizzling hot new restaurants to try. We're in the middle of a heat wave and that's the inspiration for this edition of Where to Eat in Fort Worth right now, our monthly roundup of places to try. This list comprises five sizzling hot new restaurants — hot because they're new, and also hot because at least one is just plain hot, like burn-your-mouth hot.

The former North Richland Hills location of Alamo Drafthouse will be transformed into a B&B Theatres location by the end of 2022.

Photo by Kathy Tran
The former North Richland Hills location of Alamo Drafthouse will be transformed into a B&B Theatres location by the end of 2022.
Dream Taco

Acclaimed chef opens dreamy new global taco restaurant in Bedford

Taco News

An exciting new taqueria has opened in Bedford from award-winning chef Chetra Chau. Called Dream Tacos, it's a global fusion taco restaurant and bar, which opened on July 4 at 2807 Central Dr., conveniently next to Chau's acclaimed restaurant Chetra's Kitchen Grill & Bistro.

Chau, who was nominated for Fort Worth Chef of the Year in CultureMap's 2021 Tastemaker Awards, has created a diverse menu of gourmet tacos that incorporate French, Japanese, Southern BBQ, southern East Asian, and Mexican influences.

Options include banh mi taco, "beef Wellington" taco (with tenderloin and mushrooms) wrapped in puff pastry, Philly cheese taco, Korean-style bulgogi taco, and a vegan taco with tempura tofu.

A veteran chef who worked for 20 years doing catering, corporate gigs, homestyle cooking, and fine dining, opened his highly personal gem Chetra's Kitchen in Bedford in 2021, where it has earned raves for its excellent, globe-trotting food, with everyday items like a BLT benefitting from chef-inspired touches such as an over-easy egg and Korean barbecue sauce.

Chetra's was also where Chau began to earn a following for his creative tacos, with a strong enough demand that he felt confident he could do an entire restaurant centered on a taco menu.

Dream Tacos menu includes:

  • Banh mi taco with ground pork, pickled veggies, and mayo, in a flour tortilla
  • Braised pork belly taco, with hoisin, cucumber, scallions, and Chetra’s sauce wrapped with steam bun
  • Thit kho taco, with pork sirloin, soy, pickled veggies, cellophane noodles and scallions, in a flour tortilla
  • Crispy catfish taco with housemade tartar and pickled coleslaw
  • Lobster and shrimp tacos, with lobster, shrimp, Chetra’s sauce, lobster sauce, scallion, and pickled daikon (seasonal)
  • Skirt steak taco (carne asada), featuring marinated beef with herbs, guacamole, pico, ranchero sauce and herbs
  • Pepper crusted Ahi tuna taco, with pickled cucumber, radish, wasabi cream, ponzu, Chetra’s sauce (street taco)
  • Crispy sushi taco, with salmon or tuna, pickled veggies, avocado, crab, jala, siracha, eel, and ponzu wrapped in a crispy taco shell and nori
  • Tandoori chicken taco, with French tandoori cream sauce
  • Spicy chicken taco, featuring marinated adobo and chipotle chicken breast, pickled slaw, topped with ranchero sauce
  • Philly cheese tacos, with top sirloin, onions, bell pepper, wrapped in a puffy taco shell
  • Bulgogi taco, Korean marinated beef, topped with kimchi or pickled veggies and crispy noodles
  • Chile relleno taco, with ground beef, pico de gallo, and cheese con queso

He also has a section of BBQ tacos with brisket and pulled pork.

He does a cool sushi twist on nachos by topping them with spicy ahi tuna, plus chicken quesadillas and guacamole & chips.

Prices run from $7 to $8, with a few topping that such as the lobster and shrimp, which is $14.

"The prices reflect the fact that we are using high quality products and ingredients," Chau says. "My mission and inspiration is to incorporate global flavors and take tacos into another elevation."

There's also a full bar with imported and domestic beer and cocktails, with an appealing array of frozen margaritas, including a swirl with house-made sangria, and another topped with Grand Marnier. There’s a Coco-pina margarita which is half margarita, half pina colada; a mojito, an Asian pear mule, and a lychee martini.

There are happy hour food and drink specials but even on a regular day, most of the cocktails all come in at $8 to $10.

Paco's Mexican Cuisine

Sundance Square gets its tacos back and more Fort Worth restaurant news

News You Can Eat

This roundup of dining news around Fort Worth includes many openings, some new dishes, and the sad passing of two major figures in the restaurant world.

Here's what's happening in Fort Worth restaurant news:

Paco's Mexican Cuisine is opening a second location in Sundance Square, in the former Taco Diner location. According to a Facebook post, they'll be opening in July. "We opened our small hole in the wall in the amazing Near Southside, six years ago with only six employees and 12 tables. We have seen a lot of growth and over come many challenges since then. It is a great opportunity to work with Sundance Square to be a part of the downtown revival since the pandemic. We are to bring our family restaurant to the heart of Fort Worth."

Outpost 36 Texas Barbeque is a new authentic Texas barbecue joint coming to Keller, at 1801 S. Main St. - next to Horizon 76 American Grill House with whom it shares ownership. Owners Jeff Lowery, Dwight Dowell, and Chris Polk are currently executing an extensive remodel, with an opening forecast for mid- to late-summer.

Dayne's Craft Barbecue is partnering with Philip Murrin of River Ranch Stockyards to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Westland, in west Fort Worth. They're going into a shopping center at 9840 Camp Bowie West Blvd. that was built in the 1950s. Until the building is finished, Dayne's will be open at 9808 Camp Bowie West Blvd. Friday-Sunday.

Fork in the Road, a diner in Arlington at 1821 S. Fielder Rd., is in danger of closing. The restaurant posted a heartfelt plea on Facebook stating that it was in peril. "We couldn't get the loans because bigger businesses took them all before we even got considered. We've now depleted both of the owners' entire savings trying to stay open. ... Now one of the owners is having to go back to work in an office full time to try to save their home and help save the restaurant." Their food looks amazing - the fries are skin-on, there's a burger topped with grilled jalapeno slices, and check out this red velvet cake pie, basically, it's a red velvet cake on a flaky pie crust, topped with chocolate glaze.

Einstein Bros. Bagels has launched its popular Everything Bagel Seasoning in partnership with B&G Foods in grocery stores nationwide. Consisting of sesame seeds, dried onion, dried garlic, salt, and poppy seeds, it's the seasoning mix used on their popular Everything Bagel and can now be sprinkled on whatever dish you want.

Perry's Steakhouse & Grille has a new limited-time New York strip flight, featuring nine ounces total of Texas Kobe-Style Wagyu Beef, Nebraska Prime Certified Angus, and True Japanese A-5 Wagyu Beef. It's available through June for $99.

The Biscuit Bar has a new seasonal special for June: Chipotle RazzBrie Chicken Biscuit, with fried chicken, brie cheese, and raspberry peach chipotle sauce.

Sweetgreen has three new dishes for summer: the Summer Teriyaki Bowl featuring okra and a teriyaki sauce with tahini as the base; pesto summer veggies; and peach & goat cheese salad, available through August 10.

Dickey's Barbecue Pit has a new King's Hawaiian Spicy Chicken & Cheddar sandwich with smoked chicken, cheddar, jalapeños, and spicy barbecue sauce on a sweet King's Hawaiian Bun. It's available through August 28.

Taco Bell has debuted two new items: The Quesadilla Burrrger is part Tex (burger) and part Mex (quesadilla), made with Nolan Ryan beef, pico de gallo, guacamole, lettuce, queso, and Cholula chipotle ranch dressing, between two crisp, warm cheese quesadillas. Brisk Dragon Paradise Sparkling Iced Tea balances tropical dragon fruit, raspberry, and blackberry flavors with a hibiscus tea base, with a refreshing fizzy sensation.

Pie Five Pizza has introduced the Old World Maggie, a reinvention of their Margherita Pizza topped with fresh mozzarella, olive oil, grape tomatoes, parmesan, and fresh basil. A personal size pizza on an artisan thin or traditional Italian crust is $5 with promo code OLDMAGGIE through June 26.

7-Eleven has added a new dish for summer: Hot Honey Boneless Wings, a boneless wing in a sweet honey chili glaze with roasted garlic and chili pepper.

Michael G. "Mike" Smith, former owner of Paris Coffee Shop, died on June 13; he was 78. He grew up in Fort Worth, graduated from The University of North Texas in 1965, and took over operation of The Paris Coffee Shop in 1965 after his father became ill. He continued operation for 47 years until selling the business in 2021.

Richard Perrotti Jr., owner of Perrotti's Pizza, died on May 10, after battling a long illness; he was 58. Perrotti was co-founder, along with his late father, of Perrotti's Pizza, a beloved Fort Worth and TCU restaurant staple since 1986, where he operated as the owner until his retirement.

Photo by Erin Easley

New birria taco shop tops this week's 5 hottest Fort Worth headlines

This Week's Hot Headlines

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

1. Fort Worth's birria taco queen readies new restaurant for opening day. One of Fort Worth's most hotly anticipated restaurants is preparing for its brick-and-mortar debut: Calisience, a food truck that draws sell-out crowds for its crispy birria tacos, will open in a permanent space at 2707 Race St. Owner Jacqueline Anaya says it's too soon to pin down an opening date, but she's aiming for August.

2. 10 affluent Dallas-Fort Worth counties make bank as richest in Texas, new report shows. Based on its geographic size, Rockwall County is the smallest county in Texas, at just 149 square miles. But don’t let its size fool you when it comes to wealth. Rockwall County also is the richest county in the state — and it's not the only DFW county to make the wealthiest list.

3. This roundup of Fort Worth restaurant news has breakfast on the brain. If you're a morning person, this roundup of Fort Worth restaurant news has you in mind. It's loaded with tidbits about breakfast, brunch, and everything in between. There's new breakfast restaurants, new breakfast menus, and a little coffee news for good measure.

4. Where to drink in Fort Worth right now: 5 best bars for frosty frozen cocktails. Oh, hello summer. You’re sure early this year. North Texas has been seeing a record-breaking heat wave. While temperatures are hovering around 15 degrees above normal, a frozen cocktail might be the only solution to keeping cool … and sane. Find respite at these five Fort Worth fan favorites for frosty beverages.

5. These are the 8 best food and drink events in Fort Worth this week. This week bring the highly anticipated return of one of Fort Worth’s most iconic burger joints with a grand opening celebration in a new location. There's also a big fried chicken and craft beer fest this weekend. Save room for a beer-pairing dinner on Monday that’s sure to bring on the “meat sweats.”

I like tacos.

Photo by Erin Easley
I like tacos.
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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.