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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 Mashup Market

Best vegan grocer in Denton relocates to market-deli space

Vegan News


An acclaimed market in Denton specializing in all things vegan is making a move: Mashup Market, the plant-based specialty grocer that debuted at 316 Oak St. in 2020, is closing that original location and making its new headquarters at 1302 W. Hickory St., its second location that opened in 2021.

Owner Cherie Reed says that the new location offers a better platform and resources for the kinds of expansion she wants to undertake.

"We are moving all our products and resources to 1302 W. Hickory to focus on continued product additions and a new deli we have in the works," she says. "We've loved developing a following with our original location at 316 E. Oak but that will be closed after Sunday, September 25."

She anticipates that all of the products currently carried at Oak Street will be available at the Hickory location by Wednesday, September 28.

Reed opened Mashup Market as a place to stock vegan provisions from local, Texas, and small U.S. businesses, including jerky by It's Jerky Y'all, Spread Happiness Nut Butters by UNT grad Yesika Horton, and delectable vegan meats by vendors such as ribs by Dallas-based The Boneless Butcher and a vegan stuffed turkey by acclaimed The Herbivorous Butcher based in Minneapolis.

She's one of two DFW vendors, along with Lucky Mouth Grocery in Oak Cliff, who's stocking the wildly popular vegan cheeses by Rebel Cheese, an artisanal maker in Austin. Her vegan cheese selection is broad, with vendors from across the U.S.

The store sells dry goods, snacks, cooking kits, dressings, vegan caramel sauce, great wines, and a big selection of gluten-free goods.

It's also become a destination for vegan pop-ups such as Vuture Foods, and exciting product introductions such as the recent demo of vegan bacon by Thrilling Foods. When the store started serving deli sandwiches last year, they saw a robust response.

The new location is close to Pepita's, the family-owned vegan Mexican restaurant at 1115 W. Hickory St. that opened in 2021 — with the proximity creating yet more vegan synergy.

In fact, Pepitas is allowing Mashup customers to park in their lot, behind the restaurant.

"Great opportunity to grab something from Pepitas and shop!," Reed says.

Spiral Diner

Popular vegan restaurant Spiral Diner to open location in Arlington

Vegan News

You win some, you lose some: Fort Worth-based vegan restaurant chain Spiral Diner is closing its location in Dallas' Oak Cliff. But the company has more vegan eateries on the way.

According to a release, the Dallas location will close on August 14. It's at the end of its lease, which Spiral opted not to renew, stating that the building needed too much work.

The Dallas Spiral Diner had been there for 15 years, opening in February 2008. It was the second Spiral, following the original in Fort Worth. They also have a location in Denton.

But Spiral will open a new location in Arlington in 2023, at the Urban Union complex at 500 E. Front St.

This is in addition to the previously announced two vegan concepts in Fort Worth at PS1200 — a fine dining restaurant, Maiden Fine Plants & Spirits, and a donut and ice cream shop, Dreamboat Donuts and Scoops.

Owner and founder Amy McNutt called the Dallas closure bittersweet, saying, "we've been honored to feed our hungry customers for over 14 years! But, with our lease agreement expiring soon, it seemed like the right time to move on. All the years of incredible business have worn out this old building – it could no longer sustain our bustling operation!"

Texas Rangers

Oat milk giant scores naming rights to wiffle ball park in Arlington

Arena News

The Texas Rangers have created a new kid-friendly feature inside Globe Life Field. Called Oatly Park, it's a free wiffle ball park that'll be open during games for kids who want to take a swing.

According to a release, it'll make its debut on July 8.

Kids 12 and under who attend a Rangers game at Globe Life Field will be able to take five swings for free. It'll be open 30 minutes prior to the start of each game and will stay open until the end of the game.

It's a fenced-in park located in the upper-level center-field concourse above the Grand Slam Team Store, near section 233.

The Rangers previously had a wiffle ball park at The Ballpark in Arlington from 1995-2011. Now they've brought it back, says ballpark executive VP Chuck Morgan.

"Not a game day goes by without a Rangers fan letting me know that some of their best memories at The Ballpark in Arlington were hitting wiffle ball home runs at a Rangers game — it could be one of the best ideas I have ever had," Morgan says. Gotta love someone with self confidence.

Interesting that it's named for Oatly, which an Oatly spokesperson says reflects the oat milk company's tight partnership with the Rangers.

In 2021, Globe Life Field introduced oat milk soft-serve ice cream as part of their partnership. They were one of the first in the U.S. to serve this irresistible vegan treat, available in two flavors, chocolate and vanilla, as well as an option for a swirl.

That's when Oatly became the Official Sustainability Partner of the Texas Rangers, which included touches such as a Kids Zone and a giant Oatly carton display.

Oatly, which sells nondairy milk, ice cream, and yogurt made from oats, is also building a production facility in Fort Worth, anticipated to open in 2023.

And now they've scored naming rights to this new Globe Life Field amenity. I mean, it's no Starplex, but "Oatly Park" has an OK ring.

"We've loved partnering with the Texas Rangers to bring Oatly's non-dairy treats to the Globe Life stadium and we're proud that they've been a hit with fans so far," says Oatly's senior director of communications Mary-Kate Smitherman.

"Oatly Park was a natural extension of our partnership and a really fun way to bring a unique experience to life for kids of any age, adults included, to show off their baseball skills," Smitherman says. "Look for the gigantic Oatly carton at the stadium, you can't miss it, and give it your best shot for a wiffle ball home run!"

Oatly Park will be open for play beginning July 8, as the Rangers return to Arlington for a 10-game homestand, beginning with the Minnesota Twins on Friday night. The game is said to start at 7:05 pm, so one presumes the whiffle ball action will begin at 6:35 pm.

Photo courtesy of Belenty's

Fort Worth just squeaks onto list of top 20 vegan cities in U.S.

Vegan News

A new survey of the top 20 vegan cities in the U.S. has determined which city is the most vegan of all. Spoiler: It's not Fort Worth. Boo.

But Fort Worth did squeak onto the list, coming in at No. 20, boasting 68 restaurants that are vegan or offer vegan options.

The survey by the team at Meal Delivery Experts set out to determine which cities have the most vegan food options. They compiled the 20 most populous cities in the U.S., then used data from TripAdvisor to count how many restaurants or food venues in each city offers at least one vegan option.

New York comes in at No. 1, blowing everyone else away with 1464 restaurants or food venues offering vegan options — more than double the number than any other city on the list.

No. 2: Los Angeles is in second place, with 705 restaurants or food venues offering vegan options. Los Angeles has among the widest variety of cuisines including vegan Korean, Ethiopian, and Thai food.

No. 3: Chicago, with 489 restaurants or food venues offering vegan options, which is a surprise since Chicago is such a big meat town, although the city is best known for deep-dish pizza, and many Chicago restaurants now offer a vegan alternative.

Houston and Austin both make the top 10. Houston comes in at No. 6, with 312 restaurants — snatching the surprise win for top vegan city in Texas away from Austin, which has a bigger reputation for being veg-friendly; Austin is No. 8 on the list with 286 restaurants.

Dallas was No. 12, with 209 vegan- or vegan-friendly establishments, just nosing out San Antonio which has 202 restaurants.

Fort Worth's last place ranking is misleading. Despite what the numbers may say, Fort Worth has the buzziest vegan scene in Texas right now with trailblazing places like Pizza Verde, Zonk Burger, Mariachi's Dine-In, and Belenty's Love Vegan Mexican Resteaurant, so good that it won 2022 Restaurant of the Year in CultureMap's annual Tastemaker Awards. Fort Worth is also home to Texas' most famous vegan restaurant, Spiral Diner.

Whether motivated by health, environmental, or ethical reasons, the number of vegans in the US is rapidly increasing, reaching new heights in 2022. One in ten, or 10 percent, of Americans now consider themselves vegan or vegetarian.

The dollars are also there, with the plant-based industry worth over $7 billion in the US in 2022.

The milk substitute market is valued at over $3 billion in 2022.

The meat substitute market is valued over $1 billion in 2022.

The full list, by ranking:

  1. New York - 1464
  2. Los Angeles - 705
  3. Chicago - 489
  4. San Francisco - 467
  5. San Diego - 385
  6. Houston - 312
  7. Seattle - 309
  8. Austin - 286
  9. Denver - 261
  10. Philadelphia - 258
  11. Phoenix - 234
  12. Dallas - 209
  13. San Antonio - 202
  14. Charlotte, NC - 176
  15. Jacksonville, FL - 140
  16. Indianapolis - 140
  17. Columbus, Ohio - 137
  18. San Jose - 80
  19. Oklahoma City - 80
  20. Fort Worth - 68
Delaware North

Globe Life Field in Arlington debuts 3 new food stands for 2022 season

Ballpark News

Baseball season is back and so is a new lineup of ballpark food being served at Globe Life Field in Arlington.

The Texas Rangers and foodservice and retail partner Delaware North are not only debuting new specialty food items, but this year they have three new hospitality spaces for you to eat and drink at.

New venues
Three new venues include a pop-up spot and a cocktail loungey place, as follows:

  • Arlington Eats. Located near Section 101, this will feature pop-up outposts of local restaurants during weekend games and select events. Arlington’s Hurtado Barbecue Co. will be the featured concept for the first two games, followed by Ella B’s Restaurant on April 15-17, and Prince Lebanese Grill on April 29-31. Hurtado Barbecue will return May 13-15.
  • 421 Food Hall. Located on the upper concourse near Section 225, this space features buffet-style dining with a mix of open seating at picnic and high-top tables, along with an exclusive lounge for season ticket holders. It's named for the Rangers' first game in Arlington on April 21, 1972.
  • The High Ball bar. Adjacent to the 421 Food Hall, it will serve specialty cocktails and beer and is accessible to fans near Section 223. The release says it features a "cocktail lounge vibe," with couches, lounge chairs, side chairs, and a mix high-top and traditional tables. Got all your seating options, yes it does.

Food items
In a statement, Casey Rapp, Delaware North's inimitable general manager at the ballpark, says their culinary team "has been hard at work this offseason, creating a fun mix of new items for the 2022 season that feature creative twists on fan-favorites – with a range of regional flavors and products."

New food items include:

  • Alligator Corn Dog: Alligator Andouille sausage in corn dog batter, available at the Bullpen Grill at Section 125.
  • Chicken Fried Brisket Sandwich: Nolan Ryan brisket, smoked in-house, battered, and fried, then piled on Texas Toast with pickles, red onions and Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce, available at the Sweet Baby Ray's stand at Section 125.
  • Brisket Egg Rolls: Created by a Rangers fan in 2020 as part of a recipe contest, with shredded brisket and Napa cabbage, rolled in an eggroll wrap and fried. Served with Togarashi-seasoned fries and Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce. Available at the Go Deep Fried stands at Sections 121, 225, and 230.
  • Vegan Bratwurst: Impossible vegan bratwurst served on a vegan roll with grilled onions. Available at the Vegan Cart at Section 101.
  • Vegan Chicken Salad: Classic salad sandwich, with vegan chicken. Served with Terra Chips and sliced vegan bread. Available at the concession locations at Sections 101 and 205.
  • Golden Chick Loaded Fries: Golden Chick battered fries topped with Ricos Nacho Cheese, bacon bits, and Ricos Jalapenos. Available at the Golden Chick stand at Section 128.
  • Mac and Cheese Nachos: Tostitos tortilla chips with Ricos Cheese Sauce, mac & cheese, pico de gallo, Ricos Jalapenos, and sour cream. Available at concession stands at Sections 106 and 225.
  • Cornbread Chili Pie Dog: Texas chili Angus beef hot dog with cornbread subbing in for the bun, topped with Texas Chili chili, cheddar cheese, and Ricos Jalapenos. Available at concessions stands at Sections 132 and 225.
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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.