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There are so many great places to live in Fort Worth that it helps to have an expert on your side. The Neighborhood Guide presented by Briggs Freeman Sotheby's International Realty gives you insider access from the agents who live and work there, providing in-the-know info about your possible new community.

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While the term "master planned community" is frequently used, real estate professional Adrianne Holland, GRI, will tell you that Walsh is in a class of its own in this category.

Located in Fort Worth, the new, 7,200-acre development is one of the largest of its kind in a major U.S. city and includes commercial development, residential neighborhoods, and mixed-use areas.

“The developer invested in more than a decade of research and design to ensure every factor that makes a world-class neighborhood was planned out in detail,” says Holland, who was born and raised in Fort Worth. “This included many forward-thinking, long-term investments, such as a tree farm, integration with a top school district, 2,300 acres of green space, and some of the most advanced internet connectivity available in the United States.”

She’s so inspired by the area that she’s building her own custom home in Walsh and will be moving there in 2023.

“From creative neighborhood events that happen year-round to outstanding amenities and the friendly waves of passing golf carts, this neighborhood has a thriving community experience that is missing from so many others,” adds Holland.

One of her greatest joys is helping her clients find their perfect home, for whatever phase they are moving into in life. Another great joy? Halloween decorations! "My decorations definitely lean to scary rather than whimsical, and every year I try to build on what I did the year before," she says.

Holland is also a frozen yogurt aficionado — it's her "kryptonite" — and she will detour on road trips and block time to try new places.

Fro-yo aside, she offered up some of her personal favorites about life in Walsh. Here's her guide to the area:

Where to eat & drink
While Fort Worth is a mere 12 minutes away for anything you might be craving, Holland also suggests two excellent options even closer to Walsh: Fire Oak Grill in Weatherford and Railhead Smokehouse BBQ in Willow Park.

“Both places have Texas-style decor and laid-back ambiance," says Holland. "Definitely ask for my favorite off-the-menu item at Railhead: the fried turkey.”

Where to play
Walsh has 120 acres of green space in addition to a state-of-the-art Athletic Club with sport courts and two huge swimming pools.

But Holland’s go-to hangout is Lake Park — especially in the summer months — where you can rent a kayak, lounge in an Adirondack chair, or go for a swim in the nine-acre lake. There’s also a two-tiered, shaded playground with a cushioned floor to keep little ones safe while they play on swings, slides, and a globe spinner.

Holland also loves Makerspace, a creative lab and gathering place that provides innovative tools and technology like 3-D printers, robotics, laser cutters, woodworking tools, sewing equipment, and kid-friendly arts and crafts. Access to Makerspace is an included amenity for all Walsh residents.

What to see
“Don’t miss a chance to visit downtown Weatherford,” says Holland. “It has a rich Western and pioneer history that can be seen and explored in its downtown square and historic district.”

It’s also the Peach Capital of Texas, and there’s an annual Peach Festival where you can sample many fruity creations.

Where to live
Holland shares that Walsh allows future residents to select from a broad range of architectural styles, with one to suit almost any taste.

There are eight unique styles from which to choose: Colonial Revival, Mediterranean, midcentury modern, Arts and Crafts, modern farmhouse, Texas vernacular, transitional, and Tudor.

“The variety of architecture is so appealing, but if none of those styles perfectly match your taste there are custom-designated areas, such as Cline Park, that allow you to further customize your dream home,” adds Holland.

Holland represented the buyer of 2600 Paladora Drive, which is a quintessential example of a custom home in Walsh.

“Located in Cline Park, this modern hacienda home is elegant, timeless, and welcoming with its beautiful red tile roof, several alfresco gathering spaces, and a neutral color palette that garners a sense of relaxation,” she says.

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Adrianne Holland works and plays in Walsh. For more information on buying and selling a home in the area, click here, email aholland@briggsfreeman.com, or call 817-988-7955.

Photo courtesy of Briggs Freeman Sotheby's International Realty

Agent Adrianne Holland.

Monticello: Nostalgic charm meets close-by cultural offerings

Your Expert Guide

There are so many great places to live in Fort Worth that it helps to have an expert on your side. The Neighborhood Guide presented by Briggs Freeman Sotheby's International Realty gives you insider access from the agents who live and work there, providing in-the-know info about your possible new community.

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Imagine strolling along tree-lined streets, waving to other families who are out with their strollers and dogs, yet still being close to Fort Worth's cultural offerings.

"This is such a vibrant community," says real estate agent Ashley Mooring, who has been working in the Monticello neighborhood for more than a decade.

A native Texan with a BBA from the University of Texas, Mooring cheers for both the Longhorns and her home team, the TCU Horned Frogs.

She is actively involved in her son’s school, Fort Worth Country Day, and supports many local organizations and philanthropies.

Mooring offered up a few of her personal favorites about life in Monticello. Here's her guide to the area:

Where to eat & drink
Though Mooring loves to cook at home, she'll never turn down a meal at Michaels Cuisine (the tortilla soup is addictive, she says), the No. 12 Outdoorsman sandwich at The Great Outdoors, the El Capitan tacos at Salsa Limon, or kolaches and a "dynamite" burger from Pearl Snap Kolaches.

Head to Winslow's Wine Cafe for its patio or the bar at Eddie V's, where Mooring enjoys the live music while dining on the "wonderful steak and seafood — the crab fried rice is a must!"

Where to play
You'll always bump into someone you know at River Crest Country Club or the Westside Little League baseball field, which Mooring says is a happening spot.

The Monticello neighborhood park is also a great place for playdates and gatherings, and as an added bonus, "some of the area private schools have buses that pick up the neighborhood kids at the park for school," says Mooring.

What to see
Fort Worth is the epicenter of cowboy culture as well as fine arts, which is very apparent in the city's Cultural District. Pop into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Kimbell Art Museum, and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.

"All the museums have great gift shops," Mooring says, "and members often get invited to exclusive parties. The Kimbell hosts especially great workshops for kids."

"Dickies Arena is the place to be!" Mooring says. "The venue hosts the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, awesome concerts from a variety of music genres — Chris Stapleton, Parker McCollum, The Eagles, etc. — and a number of sports events like NCAA basketball tournaments, tennis, lacrosse, and more. The Avion Club at Dickies makes for a special evening before any event."

Where to live
"A lot of the traditional-style homes from the 1940s have been beautifully remodeled and added on to," says Mooring, "but there's also some new construction happening, with precautions being taken to preserve the traditional appeal of the neighborhood."

Some of the most popular architecture styles you'll see in Monticello include brick Tudor, traditional two-story, foursquare, Spanish Revival, and Colonial. But above all, residents can expect to enjoy lots of beautiful trees and peaceful, winding roads.

"The upcoming Crescent development on 7th Street will bring a hotel, shops, luxury residential units, and excitement to the area," says Mooring.

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Ashley Mooring works and plays in Monticello. For more information on buying and selling a home in the area, click here, email amooring@briggsfreeman.com, or call 817-706-6344.

Westover Hills: Fort Worth's best-kept secret for easy entertaining

Your Expert Guide

There are so many great places to live in Fort Worth that it helps to have an expert on your side. The Neighborhood Guide presented by Briggs Freeman Sotheby's International Realty gives you insider access from the agents who live and work there, providing in-the-know info about your possible new community.

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Fun fact: Westover Hills is one of the wealthiest towns in Texas. This incorporated city sits just 4.5 miles west of downtown Fort Worth; has its own town hall, city council, and police department; and boasts generally lower property taxes than other nearby neighborhoods.

"Westover Hills is a quiet community known for its luxury homes with large, landscaped lots that are located on peaceful, tree-lined streets," says real estate agent Caren Parten. "A majority of the homes are larger and ideal for either indoor or outdoor entertaining, and the 'hills of Westover' are the best walking streets in town."

Parten, who lives nearby, has been selling homes in Westover Hills for the past 16 years. She says she typically walks through the neighborhood on a daily basis, enjoying its wide streets and namesake hills.

Parten offered up a few of her personal favorites about life in Westover Hills. Here's her guide to the area:

Where to eat & drink
The iconic, completely renovated Roy Pope Grocery Store is just a bicycle ride away, and offers both indoor and outdoor dining.

Parten also hits up Lucile's for American cuisine, Olivella's Pizza & Wine for "the best thin crust pizza," Kincaid's for its great burger, Mariachi's Dine-In for vegan Mexican, and "a special favorite" Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop.

Paris 7th, Righteous Foods, and Cafe Modern are also favorites, though Parten advises that "the best fun is accomplished in a private home with an open patio showing a fabulous view of the sunset."

Where to play
There are also great gyms and the beautiful Trinity Park, with access to the Trinity Trails with walking/cycling paths throughout the area.

The private Shady Oaks Country Club draws members looking to work on their golf, tennis, and swimming.

Feel like shopping? Head to Birdie, Hale House, You Are Here, Initially Yours, PS The Letter, Lawrence's, Zoe & Jack, Babies on the Boulevard, and Toy Works.

What to see
The nearby Cultural District includes Fort Worth's world-class museums: Kimbell Art Museum, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, and "a special hidden gem," as Parten calls the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

A major highlight of the area is Dickies Arena, which hosts great touring entertainment and the famous Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.

Where to live
"Homes in this neighborhood come in so many different styles, including soft contemporary, Tudor, Mediterranean, French Provincial, Colonial, Georgian, and — my favorite — Spanish Colonial," Parten says.

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Caren Parten works and plays in Westover Hills. For more information on buying and selling a home in the area, click here, email cparten@briggsfreeman.com, or call 817-229-9826.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Onscreen intrigue in Don't Worry Darling blunts off-screen drama

Movie Review

Opportunities for female directors have only been growing in recent years, a development that’s taken too long to happen. One of the beneficiaries of this sea change is Olivia Wilde, who made her directorial debut with 2019’s well-received Booksmart. Now she’s back with her highly-anticipated (for an assortment of reasons) sophomore film, Don’t Worry Darling.

The film stars Florence Pugh as Alice Chambers, who lives in a utopian small desert town with her husband, Jack (Harry Styles), who works for a company called Victory. The town has all the trappings of an idyllic version of the 1950s, from the style of the houses to the cars to the way the wives dote on their husbands. But right away it’s clear there’s something off about the town, especially since everyone seems to hold up the company’s leader, Frank (Chris Pine), as some kind of infallible person.

Olivia Wilde and Nick Kroll in Don't Worry Darling Olivia Wilde and Nick Kroll in Don't Worry Darling Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Alice starts to sense the cracks in town’s veneer, and gradually tests the boundaries that everyone else adheres to faithfully. Her suspicions only deepen when another wife disappears, and anyone with whom she chooses to confide gaslights her into thinking that she’s losing her mind. Trying to figure out what’s real or not drives her to do many things that threaten the whole town’s way of life.

Collaborating once again with Booksmart writer Katie Silberman, Wilde creates a mysterious and tension-filled film that is about as far away from the revelry of her previous film as you could get. There are times when the story starts to become too enigmatic for its own good, but Wilde seems to know exactly when to add on a new layer to keep viewers interested in where the story will take them next.

Wilde and Silberman also continue to explore gender politics through this well-told allegory. The actions of Alice and the other women (which include Wilde, Gemma Chan, Kiki Layne, Kate Berlant, and others) come off as Stepford Wives-ish, but they also act in ways inconsistent with people who have been brainwashed. When secrets finally start to be revealed, the story takes on a deeper meaning of male insecurity and female empowerment.

Chris Pine in Don't Worry Darling Chris Pine in Don't Worry Darling Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The behind-the-scenes technical team greatly aids in the mood of the film. The production design by Katie Byron is impeccable, and it and the desert landscape are shot extremely well by cinematographer Matthew Libatique. Especially standing out is the score by John Powell, who utilizes unconventional sounds and voices to create music that elevates every scene to which it’s attached.

Pugh has already been a star for several years, and she shows yet again why she’s held in such high esteem. She brings just the right level of angst, confusion, and anger to the evolution of her character, making her compelling throughout. Styles acquits himself well in his biggest role to date, never coming off as just a singer pretending to be an actor. Pine is also great as the creepy-but-charismatic Frank, demonstrating skills that every good cult leader needs.

Don’t Worry Darling holds a lot more than what it shows on the surface, making it a great second film for the talented Wilde. With a proven ability to jump between genres effortlessly, she should be given many more opportunities to tell stories on the big screen.

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Don't Worry Darling is now open in theaters.

Don't Worry Darling | Official Trailer www.youtube.com

Photo courtesy of Bandera CVB

Saddle up for a summer of rodeo fun in Bandera, the Cowboy Capital

It's Rodeo Season

Sick of the hustle and bustle of modern city life? Then the “Cowboy Capital of the World” is calling your name.

Put a weekend trip to Bandera, Texas, on your calendar. There’s plenty of authentic Texas fun to be found in this little town, located just an hour northeast of San Antonio.

Saddle up
Rodeo has been the heart of this little Texas town for nearly a century, and Bandera’s biggest rodeo of the year is just a few days away: the Memorial Day Weekend Stampede Pro Rodeo.

On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, cowboys and cowgirls will be showing off their finest skills at the Mansfield Park Arena. All seven pro rodeo events — bareback riding, team roping, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, barrel racing, and bull riding — will be shown all three nights.

Gates to the arena open at 6 pm and the Grand Entry starts right at 8 pm, with tickets available at the gate or online.

Ready to two-step? Grab a partner, because 11th Street Cowboy Bar will be providing the dance on Friday and Saturday nights at Mansfield Park.

The weekend will be jam-packed with rodeo fun, so make sure to wander Main Street during the day.

For Memorial Day, horseback riders will parade down Main Street in honor of those lost in service on Saturday at 11 am.

Courthouse Square in downtown Bandera will be packed with vendors all weekend for the Memorial Day Arts and Crafts show. While you’re there, be sure to check out the bronze monument on the courthouse lawn that honors the many past National Rodeo Champions from Bandera.

The Bandera Cattle Company will be performing a special three-show edition of their weekly gunfights on Saturday at 11 am, 12 pm, and 1 pm

If you can’t swing the trip this weekend, Bandera’s rodeo season will be proudly roaring all summer long.

Rodeos at Mansfield Park will continue on Friday nights through August 5, and barrel racing and mini bull riding events will be held monthly on Saturdays through October.

Make it a weekend
Once the staging area for the Great Western Cattle Trail, Bandera’s authentic cowboy roots are still going strong.

For the true cowboy experience, stay at one of Bandera’s iconic dude ranches. Definitely plan for a long drive or bike ride along Highway 16 and take in the Texas Hill Country’s unique and unforgettable vistas.

Cool off by the Medina or Sabinal rivers or boat, fish, or picnic at Medina Lake. And at night, two-step or waltz the night away at a local honky-tonk with live music.

Check out all that Bandera has to offer, and start planning your getaway, here.

Memorial Day weekend marks the start of rodeo season.

Photo courtesy of Bandera CVB
Memorial Day weekend marks the start of rodeo season.
Photo by Werner Segarra Photography

The Texas Hill Country is waiting for you — and so is this hotel deal

Welcome Back to Texas

Summer travel is officially upon us, and while there are plenty of options to consider, the Texas Hill Country definitely needs to be on the top of your list. Here's why: The JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa is gearing up for summer and ready to welcome you back to travel with big summer savings.

Book your next vacation by May 18 for travel May 1 through August 31 and you'll save 10 percent on four-night stays and 15 percent on reservations of five nights or more.

Here's what's waiting for you at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa:

Stay a while
You'll find respite in the upscale accommodations, which includes 1,002 guest rooms with expansive floorplans, plush furnishings, and breathtaking views of the Texas Hill Country. The property itself is nestled amid 600 acres of oak-covered hills, a luxury haven in a stunning landscape.

Relax and rejuvenate
Find your balance at the luxurious Lantana Spa, which offers indulgent spa services and treatments as well as a private spa pool and hot tub. With 28 luxurious treatment rooms, guests can indulge in a full menu of personalized treatments using the highest-quality products and latest in spa technology.

Time for play
Enjoy Hill Country views while playing at TPC San Antonio, the resort's private, two 18-hole PGA TOUR golf courses. The 23-acre practice facility provides ample space to hone your skills, along with access to world-class golf instruction by the club's team of skilled PGA professionals.

Following a game of golf, thrill the family with the nine-acre water park that comes complete with water slides, a 1,100-foot-long lazy river, multiple activity pools, and a sandy beach play area.

Order up
After a full day of sightseeing or relaxing by the pool, guests can savor delectable fare at the resort's many award-winning restaurants. Culinary adventures await at 18 Oaks Steakhouse, offering a true taste of Texas, and at Cibolo Moon, offering cultural dishes of the region.

To plan your summer getaway to the Texas Hill Country with this incredible offer, visit here.

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Keep up with the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

The longer you stay, the more you save.

Photo by Werner Segarra Photography
The longer you stay, the more you save.
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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.