Photo courtesy of TX Whiskey

Autumn often gets lost between long hot summers and the countdown to Christmas. But with consistently cool weather finally here and a couple weeks left in November to enjoy it, the time is right to sip something spirited and fall-spiced. Think rich bourbons, buttered rums, and flavors of pear and pumpkin. Throw on a sweater and check off these five Fort Worth bars for the best of fall cocktails.

Lockwood Distilling Co. Fort Worth
Celebrating its one-year anniversary since opening a location in Fort Worth, this Richardson-based distillery boasts its own portfolio of spirits. The lineup includes gin, straight bourbon whiskey, hibiscus flavored vodka, an array of rums, and the sweater weather fan-favorite bourbon cream liqueur (try it in coffee). All spirits are available for purchase by the bottle to-go (a great gift for at-home mixologists) but stay to find fall vibes at the bar. This month’s featured cocktail is called The Apple of My Rye, which combines straight rye whiskey, apple cider, brown sugar, and fall spices. Feel good about ordering it because a portion of this month’s sales from the cocktail will benefit Mindset Charities, which provides adaptive exercise for multiple sclerosis patients. Folks can also cozy up with new cocktails that will carry over into winter, including Not The Gumdrop Buttons made with bourbon, gingerbread syrup, and holiday spices, and The Nog Days Aren’t Over made with vanilla rum, eggnog, black walnut bitters, brown sugar, and sweet vermouth.

The Basement Lounge
The modern rustic underground bar on Camp Bowie Boulevard creates a cozy atmosphere with its warm fireplace, fluffy pillows, and a slew of cool weather-inspired cocktails. On the menu is Autumn in Ridglea, a bourbon whiskey beverage spiked with vanilla vodka and blended with pumpkin, brown sugar, and nutmeg. (Think pumpkin pie in a glass.) There’s also a fall spin on the classic old fashioned – the Beauregard Old Fashioned infuses Beauregard sweet potatoes with TX Whiskey, brown sugar, and baking spices. It’s served beautifully garnished with a dehydrated ribbon of sweet potato. Also don’t miss the Averna Antica, made with rye whiskey and served in a coupe glass combining hints of orange and licorice with notes of juniper, berries, cloves, and sage. The classic Smoked Old Fashioned, presented in a smoky glass box, is also good for warming up inside and out.

The Fitzgerald
Chef Ben Merritt is going strong at his Camp Bowie Boulevard coastal-inspired restaurant, The Fitzgerald. Weekend brunch is brand new here (it’s reminiscent of a Sunday in the French Quarter, minus the jazz trio) and with it comes new cocktails ideal for finding fall vibes. There’s Hot Buttered Rum made with demerara, spiced butter, and nutmeg; and the refreshing Café de Valencia, made with Valencia orange tequila, coffee liqueur, and cold brew coffee served frothy in a coupe glass. Also don’t miss the Apple Pie Old Fashioned made with bourbon and Granny Smith apples.

Whiskey Ranch
Any excuse to visit the sprawling Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co., known as Whiskey Ranch, is a good one – especially when fall cocktails are calling. Visit the on-site Tavern bar for specialty libations perfect for sipping by the stone fireplace on the distillery’s ranch-inspired Back Porch. The current cocktail of the month – which may be served hot or cold – is the TX Cider, made simply with TX Whiskey, apple cider, maple syrup, and garnished with apple slices and cinnamon sticks. There’s also a Spiced Pear concoction infused with pineapple, fall-spiced syrup, and lemon; and the Pecan Old Fashioned made with TX Bourbon, brown sugar pecan simple syrup, and bitters. Cocktails also come with a sunset skyline view. Note that the Whiskey Ranch Tavern is open select Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and during special events.

The Usual
The OG of craft cocktail bars in Fort Worth, The Usual on West Magnolia Avenue has upped the bartending game in town since 2009. (Don’t ask for a pumpkin spice martini here.) Visit now to experience their fall menu of sophisticated cocktails with elaborate names, like Caught in the Rain. This one starts with apple brandy that’s stirred and shaken with coconut syrup, Bruto Americano bitter apertivo liqueur, and lime juice. Or try the mezcal-based La Pierda Claro, made with agave, celery, and cardamom bitters. This season’s Daiquiri special features aged rum, apple brandy, cinnamon syrup, and lime. Note that happy hour is all night Sunday and Monday, and 4-7 pm Tuesday through Friday.

Photo courtesy of TX Whiskey

Whiskey Ranch Maple Apple Cider, featuring TX Whiskey.


Healthy new salad restaurants crisp up 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. Fort Worth gets healthy with 3 salad-themed restaurants opening at once. Fort Worth is enjoying an extravaganza of healthy new eating options, with three restaurants opening in the FW area that are all about salads, bowls, and good-for-you food. Get your greens on at these three new spots.

2. Southlake Town Square welcomes a bounty of new shops and restaurants. Southlake's best-known shopping center, Southlake Town Square, is poised for an infusion of new shops and restaurants. The 130-acre mixed-use development with 120-plus retail shops and restaurants will be home to a host of new brands over the next few months.

3. Where to drink in Fort Worth right now: 5 spooktacular bars for Halloween sips. For October's Where to Drink column, here are five Fort Worth bars for grown-ups to celebrate ghoulish Halloween shenanigans all month long. Some are so close together, they'd make for a creepy crawl.

4. World's first water coaster of its kind catapults into Texas amusement park. A popular Texas amusement park is set to welcome a new water flume coaster: Catapult Falls will open at SeaWorld San Antonio in 2023. Called a "launched flume" coaster, the ride will be the first of its kind and will feature the world's steepest drop in a flume coaster.

5. Minus the Dixie, The Chicks make it a family affair at Dallas-Fort Worth concert. The last time the band now known as The Chicks played in Dallas-Fort Worth in 2016, they still had the word "Dixie" attached to their name. The group likely didn't intend for it to be six years before they returned, but they made up for lost time in a 2+ hour concert at The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory in Irving on October 10, the first of two straight nights at the venue.

Photo courtesy of Nickel City

Where to drink in Fort Worth right now: 5 spooktacular bars for Halloween sips

Where to drink

Halloween month is the ideal time for bars to jump on board a current Instagrammy pop-up trend in spooky fashion. While the haunted holiday is taking over a few Fort Worth establishments, others are launching Halloween-themed drinks – some sweet like trick-or-treat candy and others as scary as their horror flick inspirations. Here are five Fort Worth bars for grown-ups to celebrate ghoulish shenanigans all month long. Some are so close together, they'd make for a creepy crawl. The last one is a beer haunt with new Halloween brews.

Nickel City
The award for “spookiest bar in DFW” goes to Nickel City, the Austin-based neighborhood bar on South Main Street. Now through the end of the month, it's home to a super scary pop-up bar concept called Black Lagoon, currently appearing in just nine cities across the U.S. and Canada (but not in Dallas). Life-sized coffins, skeletons, and goth-themed décor combine to create a spooktacular atmosphere with Halloween-themed craft cocktails to match. Try the Screaming Banshee, made with gin, pineapple syrup, and Greek yogurt; or the Hellraiser, made with Hornitos tequila and spiced rum. Drinks are served in eerie glassware, like skulls and bony hands, which are also for sale. Monster mash to the beat of sinister Black Lagoon playlists while there. The pop-up will run through October 31.

Nickel City Black Lagoon Halloween pop-up Nickel City is one of just nine bars in the U.S. to host the Black Lagoon pop-up.Photo courtesy of Nickel City

This longtime Magnolia Avenue cocktail lounge – which sets a high bar for expertly crafted drinks – typically goes all out for Christmas with festive décor and libations. But this year owner Lisa Little-Adams is letting her team go wild with a Halloween pop-up themed after the cult favorite movie, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Cocktails with ties to the movie include the Hot Dog – a nod to the star character, Dr. Frank N. Furter – made with vodka, pineapple, lime, tonic water, and bitters; the Hot Mess, made with tequila blanco, lime, peach puree, crème de cassis, and Tajin; and the Dammit Janet, made with gold rum, apple syrup, lemon, curacao, and walnut liqueur. The pop-up officially kicks off on October 17 and will run through Halloween.

Hot Dog cocktail, Proper The Hot Dog cocktail at Proper.Photo courtesy of Proper

Tarantula Tiki Lounge
Call this South Main Street tiki bar “Tarantula Terror Lounge” this month as the tropical drinking establishment has launched a full menu of creepy cocktails, shots, and party bowls for sharing. Morbid concoctions include the Ghoul Summer, made with two kinds of rum, banana, pineapple, coconut, and spices; and Mai Time to Die, a play on the traditional Mai Tai. Knock back the pink-hued Rocky Horror Picture Shot, or share the Ghouls Gone Wild – made with three rums, mango, guava, and passion fruit – with a friend or two.

Tarantula Tiki Lounge Ghoul Summer at Tarantula Tiki Lounge.Photo courtesy of Tarantula Tiki Lounge

The Back Room at Funky Picnic
This brand new South Fort Worth speakeasy, opened recently in the former Black Cat Pizza space (401 Bryan Ave.) by the owners of neighboring Funky Picnic Brewery & Café, serves cocktails, small plates, and wood-fired pizzas. The Back Room is strictly 21-and-up – but bring the fur babies because there’s a cute little covered pet-friendly patio. Drinks here are pretty, like the Trick-or-Treat Martini, a special this month featuring peanut butter-infused vodka, chocolate liqueur, chocolate syrup, and a graham cracker rimmed glass garnished with a toasted marshmallow. Try one during limited opening hours, which are Friday through Sunday from 3-11 pm.

Halloween cocktail The Back Room's Trick-or-Treat Martini.Photo courtesy of Funky Picnic

Martin House Brewing Company
The Sylvania Avenue brewery along the Trinity Trails – which has gained national attention for its quirky beer flavors – just brewed up four new Halloween-themed brews. Collectively called Marty’s Little Monsters, the limited releases are available on tap at the brewery and in a four-pack of cans in select stores. The lineup includes Battle Bats, a vanilla milkshake IPA; Gummy Ghost, a strawberry cream sour; Mr. Mummy, a vanilla toffee crunch stout; and Wicked Wolf, a peanut butter marshmallow blonde. The taproom is open daily, but expect a busy scene on Thursdays and Saturdays when the brewery sells $15 wristbands good for a souvenir pint glass and four 8-ounce pours.

Martin House Martin House has brewed up several new Halloween-time beers.Facebook/Martin House

Photo courtesy of Rice Village

Buzzy new ice cream shop tops this week's 5 most-read Fort Worth stories

This week's hot headlines

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

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

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

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

Pizza with mushroom and shaved asparagus. Funky Picnic

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Anderson Distilling

Where to drink in Fort Worth right now: 5 best new bars in the 'burbs

Where to drink

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

19 Degrees Sports Bar & Grill
Hidden inside the lobby area of the Children’s Health StarCenter in Euless — a community ice rink owned by the Dallas Stars offering ice skating and youth and adult hockey leagues — this two-level bar and grill just opened in August. It’s a satellite location of the McKinney original, which is also tucked inside a StarCenter. Patrons can visit any day of the week for a casual dinner menu of burgers, pizza, and fancy fries (think truffle, Buffalo-style, and poutine with brown gravy and fried cheese curds). But the upstairs bar is only open Friday night and all day Saturday and Sunday, serving cocktails, wine, and beer and tap. Guests don’t need to ice skate or have a ticket to a game to walk in for drinks like Victory Green Tea, made with Irish whiskey; or The Hitchcock, with Buffalo Trace bourbon. The under-the-radar spot is also great for game-watching with multiple TVs.

Anderson Distillery & Grill
Roanoke’s hottest new destination is Anderson Distillery & Grill, where the drink menu exclusively features spirits made in-house. The lineup includes vodka, rum, gin, bourbon, and whiskey, which may be served straight or in an array of craft cocktails. (Note that because the establishment is a distillery, no beer or wine is served here.) Signature cocktails include The Birdie, made with lemon vodka, lavender syrup, and lemonade; and The Key Lime Pie, made with orange vodka, cream, lime juice and a graham cracker garnish. Guests can also create their own shot flights with custom flavor infusions, like rum with pineapple or coconut or white dog (raw, un-aged whiskey) with apple pie or cinnamon. There’s also a full food menu with apps, sharables, and sliders, many items featuring the owners’ branded spice rub called Joe Rub. Go for Thursday trivia night and weekend live music.

Roots and Water
Oenophiles, take note: Southlake is now home to an exclusive members-only wine destination with the opening of Roots and Water. Founded in Dallas with a second location that opened in May in Southlake’s Kimball Park, the high-end wine storage facility doubles as a wine retail shop. Bottles can range from a pocketbook-friendly $12 to a celeb-caliber $4,000. “It’s where true wine collectors can come drink and share impossible to find wines,” says general manager Blake Maso. But no matter their budget, all guests will receive the exact same level of service, promises Maso. He hired longtime Pappa’s Bros. Steakhouse sommelier, Barbara Werley, to help customers navigate the wine world at their pace. There are approximately 650 different wines available for purchase here, and those interested in wine club memberships may inquire within for details.

Social Oak
Trophy Club just got a little swankier. Social Oak, a stylish new wine and whiskey lounge with a unique self-pour dispensing system, opened on August 29. Serving more than 50 wines and nearly 30 whiskeys by the pour, the 21-and-up-only establishment lets guests navigate their own tasting experience. High-end whiskey pours range from one to two ounces and wines from around the world range from one to five ounces. Lounge furniture in gold and jewel tones create posh seating nooks for which to sit and sip. There’s also a tapas menu with high-end bites like escargot, truffle deviled eggs, and fried soft shell blue crab. Go for happy hour, Monday through Friday from 4-7 pm, when all self-dispensing wines and whiskeys are 20 percent off, and select cocktails and appetizers are half-price.

Sport City Taverna
Located a half-mile from Old Town Keller, this new sports bar offers plenty of TVs for game-watching, along with a string-lit covered patio equipped with the all-important fans and misters. Opened in July, the laid-back spot is already popular for football watch parties and a casual dining menu that spans beyond basic bar food. Wings are big here, but so are Buffalo-style shrimp tossed in sauces like mango habanero and garlic parmesan. There’s a full bar with a dozen domestic and craft beers on tap. Open daily until 2 am, the bar fills a void for late-night options in Keller. But early risers can get started at 8 am on Saturday and Sunday with weekend brunch, featuring $4 mimosas and bloody Marys.

The Key Lime Pie at Anderson Distillery.

Photo courtesy of Anderson Distilling
The Key Lime Pie at Anderson Distillery.
Jon's Grille

Chef's long-awaited burger grill fires up 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. Anticipated burger joint debuts and more Fort Worth restaurant news. This roundup of Fort Worth dining news includes some cool openings that have been in the works for a while, plus a few tasty new dishes and an enticing new beer. Here's what's happening in Fort Worth restaurant news.

2. Girl Scouts unveil radical new flavor for 2023 cookie season in Fort Worth. The Girl Scouts are up to something radical: They're adding a new flavor for the 2023 season that's a spinoff of their trademark Thin Mints cookie. Called the Raspberry Rally, it's a thin, crispy cookie that looks and acts like a Thin Mint, with the same chocolaty coating. But instead of a minty center, it's infused with raspberry flavor.

3. Kimbell Art Museum celebrates 50th anniversary with a week of free events for Fort Worth. Fort Worth's Kimbell Art Museum is celebrating its milestone 50th birthday this fall, and everyone's invited to the party — even the kids. On October 4, 1972, the Kimbell opened the Louis I. Kahn building to great acclaim. Accordingly, the week of October 4-9 will be prime celebration week for the city's premier art museum, with the biggest event happening Saturday, October 8.

4. Where to drink in Fort Worth right now: 8 best bars for '90s-cool espresso martinis. Call it a comeback. The espresso martini, the hottest drink in the current world of cocktails originated in the 1980s and picked up steam in the '90s, and its recent resurgence has bar owners scrambling to stock coupe glasses and coffee beans. Here are eight of the best hot spots to sip them in Fort Worth.

5. Distillery and grill in Roanoke fulfills all your eating and drinking needs. The city of Roanoke is home to an ambitious new spot that's a restaurant and distillery in one. Called Anderson Distillery and Grill, it just opened at 400 S. Oak St., right by Roanoke City Hall, where it's serving a roster of spirits made in-house, along with cocktails and a menu of bites.

There's a new burger in town.

Jon's Grille
There's a new burger in town.
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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.