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 3rd Street Market

These are the 7 best food and drink events in Fort Worth this week

This week in gluttony

Halloween is over and it’s the calm before the storm of holiday events. This week brings several new pairing dinners (including one with mezcal) along with the launch of a new weekend brunch. Break out the comfy clothes for the weekend when there’s an all-you-can-eat barbecue festival and a nacho-eating competition.

Wednesday, November 2

Tocco Wine Dinner at Fitzgerald
The popular Gulf Coast-inspired Camp Bowie Boulevard restaurant will host an Italian wine dinner featuring the time-honored Tocco Vineyards from Barossa Valley. The four-course dinner will be paired with six wines and followed by petit fours for dessert. Dinner is $140 per person, plus tax and service charge, and will begin at 6:30 pm. Also make plans for Fitzgerald’s launch of weekend brunch service on Saturday and Sunday.

Dia de Los Muertos Dinner at Don Artemio
This four-course dinner will honor lost loved ones during the traditional Mexican holiday. Menu highlights include sea bass en mole negro de Oaxaca and chile en nogada. Courses will be paired with mezcal cocktails. Dinner is $115 per person, plus tax and gratuity, and begins at 7:30 pm. Don’t miss the calaveras (Spanish for “skulls”) art exhibition featuring the work of Mexican artists. Arrive anytime from 5-7 pm to meet the artists themselves.

Thursday, November 3

Spanish Wine Dinner at Mason & Dixie
The Southern-inspired Grapevine restaurant will go global with a wine-pairing dinner featuring tastes of Spain. Five courses will be paired with Spanish wines. Dinner is $75 per person, plus tax and gratuity, and will begin and 7 pm.

Pasta Making Class at Rancho Loma Vineyards
Led by handcrafted pasta makers Gnocchi Dokie, this always-popular hands-on pasta class typically sells out. There are just a few spots left for the 8 pm class time (6 pm is full). Class includes your personally created pasta dish and a flight of three Rancho Loma Vineyards wines. Tickets are $40 per person.

Friday, November 4

Chinese Takeout Cooking Class at Indulge Cooking Studio
Create authentic classic Chinese takeout dishes during this hands-on class inside downtown’s new 3rd Street Market, home of Indulge Cooking Studio. Dishes will include beef and broccoli, vegetable chow mein, crab Rangoon, and Chinese greens. The three-hour class is $89 and begins at 5 pm.

Q BBQ Fest
To be held at AT&T Stadium’s Miller Lite House, this three-day national competition among pitmasters features six that are native Texans. The lineup includes Barrett Black of Black’s BBQ, Brandon Hurtado of Hurtado Barbecue, Mike Perez of Loro, and more Tickets range from $15 for general admission (food and drink are available for purchase) to $119 for unlimited barbecue, cocktails, and beer. There’ll also be live music. All tickets include parking and must be purchased for specific timeslots. The event will run through Sunday.

Sunday, November 6

Ultimate Nacho Challenge at El Chingon
It’s National Nachos Day and this West Seventh district Mexican restaurant and bar will host a stacked nacho-eating competition. Teams of two will compete to finish an oversized platter of nachos doused in cheese, Mexican citrus cream, jalapenos, pico de gallo, and guacamole. The quickest duo will win bottle service and Chingon bucks. Check-in begins at 1 pm and the challenge starts at 2 pm. Entry is free.

Photo courtesy of Wicked Wine Run

Wicked Wine Run

Wicked Wine Run is part race and part wine festival. Participants will race through the vines and trails of the Lost Oak Winery. This wine-fueled night out will feature a live DJ, local food trucks, vendors, games, and wine festival.

Photo courtesy of Oktoberfest Fort Worth

These are the 8 best food and drink events in Fort Worth this week

This week in gluttony

Flavors of Germany and Mexico shine this week during events that feature food and drink from both countries. Note that one major Oktoberfest event has a new location this year. There are also two opportunities to try Texas-based whiskeys that may fly under the radar.

Wednesday, September 21

Mexican Wine Tasting at Don Artemio
The popular high-end Mexican restaurant will host an extensive wine tasting featuring wines from Querétaro, Guanajuato, Coahuila, and Valle de Guadalupe Winery in Mexico. There’ll be 10 wines total, along with passed hors d’oeuvres and multiple guest speakers participating. The tasting is $65 per person, plus tax and gratuity, and begins at 6 pm.

Thursday, September 22

Fort Worth Oktoberfest
The three-day Munich-style celebration of German culture is back, but this year, in a new location. Taking place at Trinity Park, Fort Worth Oktoberfest kicks off Thursday with the ceremonial “Tapping of the Kegs.” Guests can expect a weekend full of traditional German food, live music, polka dancing, carnival rides, and an array of contests, including dachshund races, barrel rolling, stein hoisting, and sausage eating. Admission is $10 (or $20 for a three-day pass) and comes with a commemorative stein glass. Admission is free for children under 12. The party starts at 5 pm Thursday and Friday, and 11 am on Saturday.

Loco for Elotes & Wine at Landon Winery
Here’s a new wine pairing partner: elotes. The Grapevine winery will pair four wines with four varieties of Mexican grilled corn slathered in an array of toppings, from chorizo and hot Cheetos to smoked blue cheese fondue. The pairing is $48 per person, plus tax, and begins at 6:30 pm.

Bendt Distilling Co. Dinner at Clay Pigeon Food & Drink
Taste Texas-based whiskeys during this four-course pairing dinner at Clay Pigeon. Each course will come with a Bendt Distilling Co. cocktail and a taste of each whiskey straight. Menu items include tuna crudo, gumbo pot pie, short rib pastrami, and chocolate tart. Even more, each guests gets a bottle of whiskey to take home. Dinner is $150 per person, plus tax and gratuity, and seating times run from 5-8 pm.

Casa Madero 1st Winery in the America’s 1597 Wine Dinner at Don Artemio
Said to be the oldest winery on the continent, Casa Madero opened in Mexico’s Coahuila in 1597. Co-owner Daniel Milmo will be a special guest at Don Artemio to talk to through the Mexican wines during this multicourse pairing dinner. Menu highlights include chile en nogada, duo of cabrito, and ceviche. Dinner is $150 per person, plus tax and gratuity, and begins at 6 pm.

Friday, September 23

Oak & Eden Launch Party: New Whiskey Release at Atico
The Bridgeport-based whiskey producer Oak & Eden will debut its newest release during a tasting party at the Stockyards rooftop bar. Participants will taste Wheat & Honey, a wheated bourbon infused with a honey-soaked wooden spire. (Fun fact: Yellowstone actor Forrie J. Smith created his own coffee-infused bourbon with Oak & Eden.) Meet the founders and enjoy complimentary samples. The event is free and will run from 5-7 pm.

Saturday, September 24

Salad and Go Arlington Grand Opening
To celebrate the grand opening of its new location in Arlington, Salad and Go is giving away free salads - no purchase or coupon required. Beginning at 3 pm, the first 200 guests to visit the new location at 4828 S. Cooper St., will receive a free salad. The offer is for drive-thru orders only, not valid with online or mobile app orders, available only while supplies last.

Monday, September 26

Oktoberfest Beer Dinner at Funky Picnic Brewery & Café
The Near Southside Fort Worth brewery and restaurant will celebrate Oktoberfest with five German-style courses paired with five craft beers, including their own PROSToberfest. Menu items include potato soup, potato pancakes, currywurst, schnitzel, and German chocolate pie. Tickets are $90 per person and include tax and gratuity. Dinner starts at 7 pm.

Photo courtesy of GrapeFest

These are the 5 best food and drink events in Fort Worth this week

This week in gluttony

The first Oktoberfest event of the season happens this week, and it’s a big one that starts with a fun run. This week also brings the 36th annual edition of the largest wine festival in the Southwest. Save room for pumpkin beer and pie — the latter in the form of an inaugural pie-eating contest.

Wednesday, September 14

Hispanic Heritage Month at Central Market
Are you really into comida? The Texas gourmet grocer will showcase top-rated Hispanic brands from around the world for this month-long festival that kicks off Wednesday. New and noteworthy items available for purchase are Spanish-tenderized octopus, Chorizo de San Manuel from Edinburg, Texas, pastel de elote with buttery corn bread, sweetened condensed milk and white corn, and Mexican wedding cookies. The festival will run through October 11.

Thursday, September 15

The largest wine festival of the Southwest returns for its 36th annual four-day run. Held in historic downtown Grapevine, GrapeFest features the best of Texas-grown wines, as well as guest wineries from the Sonoma Valley region in California and Sicily region of Italy. New this year is a cork shoot-off, charcuterie workshops, and VIP tasting experiences. Headlining acts include Texas country singer Jack Ingram (Saturday) and '80s pop star Taylor Dayne (Friday). GrapeFest opens at 11 am daily. Admission is free on Thursday and all day Friday until 5 pm. After that, adults are $10 ($5 for 62-plus and children 6-12). Note that admission does not include tasting experiences, including the popular People’s Choice Wine Tasting Classic, which is $25 per person (in advance) and booked in 90-minute increments throughout the weekend.

Saturday, September 17

Rahr & Sons Oktoberfest 5K
Now in its 13th year, the popular 5K race and post-party takes place Saturday morning right at the Rahr brewery. Registration includes an official race shirt, finisher medal, on-course whiskey shot by Acre Distilling Co., and finisher pint glass to be filled with three Rahr brews. Note that registration ($55) closes Friday at 5 pm and the race begins promptly Saturday at 8:30 am. The event will include stein-hoisting competitions, costume contests, and lots of live music.

Pumpkin Fest at Martin House Brewing Company
The Riverside brewery will drop three different pumpkin beers during this afternoon “almost-fall” festival. Go for face painting, pumpkin decorating, pumpkin chucking, kettle corn, food trucks, and live music. The $20 entry fee includes a pint glass and four pours. As always for Martin House Saturday events, kids are welcome.

Pie-Eating Contest at Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop
The Arlington outlet of this popular pie chain will host its inaugural pie-eating competition, where participants get to pick their pie. The entry fee is $7.50 per person ($8.50 for gluten-free pie, booked in advance). In a unique twist, a round will take place every 15 minutes and the number of participants in each round determines the size of the prize — which is more pie to take home. Large groups may book a time slot in advance. Rounds will run from 1-4 pm.

Photo courtesy of Visit Lubbock

3 unexpected — but delicious and fun — reasons to travel to Lubbock

1, 2, 3

Looking for a getaway that's full of music, wine, and good food? Look no further than Lubbock, a northwest Texas city that has all this and so much more.

Wine country
The Lubbock area is located within the Texas High Plains AVA, which accounts for 90 percent of all Texas wine grapes grown and produced.

With more than a dozen wineries, and six award-winning wineries in the Lubbock area, wine tastings are available for all palate preferences.

Drop in for a glass or two at Burklee Hill Vineyards and McPherson Cellars, the latter of which is owned by winemaker Kim McPherson, a two-time James Beard Award semifinalist.

Just outside of city limits, Reddy Vineyards, Llano Estacado, and English Newsom Cellars offer full tastings and tours of the vineyards on property.

Llano Estacado is the second oldest winery in the state and hosts multiple wine festivals per year, including Grape Day, an annual event in October that celebrates the end of harvest season.

High Plains cuisine
You'll find that the food here offers a distinct West Texas flare that pays tribute to the ingredients grown and raised in the area.

Not only does the locale have a large influence on the dishes served in local restaurants around town, but Lubbock’s diverse culture is also on display in each plate.

From La Diosa Cellars, a Spanish tapas restaurant, to Llano Cubano, a Cuban food truck, the offerings for dining in Lubbock are as extensive as they are rich.

Restaurants of note include The Nicolett — home to chef Finn Walter, a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef: Texas — Dirk’s, The West Table, Claraboya, Thai Pepper, Stella’s, Evie Mae’s BBQ, and Rave On at The Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences.

Standing ovation
Music lovers and theatergoers will be thrilled with the diverse lineup of performances onstage in Lubbock nightly. From Broadway performances like Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen to national headlining acts like Tim Allen and Lady A, the Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences offers shows for all preferences.

As the birthplace of Buddy Holly, Lubbock is no stranger to good music and local talent. The legacy of Lubbock legends such as Buddy Holly, Mac Davis, Waylon Jennings, and Josh Abbott take center stage at one of the many music festivals, including JABFest in October.

Fun fact: Lubbock currently boasts the most live music venues per capita in the Lone Star State.

To start planning your itinerary of Lubbock's restaurants, wineries, and attractions, head over to VisitLubbock.org.

La Diosa Cellars serves a stellar Sunday brunch.

Photo courtesy of Visit Lubbock
La Diosa Cellars serves a stellar Sunday brunch.
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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.