The winter holidays are a wonderful reason to explore the Hill Country region, picking up bits of history and learning about the region’s culture along the way. Below are several opportunities suitable for family adventures–and one grown-up activity–slated for December 2017.
Watch Santa Arrive
Boerne, Saturday, December 2 at 6 p.m. Free
What says “Merry Christmas” more than a small-town parade? Boerne does this tradition up big, shutting down Main Street to regular traffic and inviting folks to line the sidewalks as up to 100 floats roll past in the annual Weihnachts Parade. To keep things interesting, there’s a different theme each year. (For 2017, it’s “Lone Star Christmas.”) Plan to arrive a little early to shop the stores along the famous Hill Country Mile before you select a spot along the parade route. Oh, and Santa? He shows up on his sleigh at the end of the night, direct from the North Pole. Ho, ho, ho!
Toast the Season
New Braunfels, Thursday, December 7, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Free
Time to break out the lederhosen for a cheerful evening in downtown New Braunfels. For one night only shopkeepers set out the traditional wassail and stay open late to greet customers and friends. Wassail Fest is smaller and less familiar than the annual Wurstfest, but it’s definitely memorable—especially if you pop into Naegelin’s Bakery, the oldest bakery in the Lone Star State, for one of their sweet treats. (Their gingerbread cookies are legendary among children of all ages.)
Sip and Stroll
San Saba, Saturday, December 9, 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. $20 per person
Looking for a fun, impromptu getaway with friends? Then designate a driver and head up to San Saba for the Chamber of Commerce’s fifth annual Sip and Stroll. The event pairs area wineries with local businesses, including several of the region’s best pecan merchants, making it a perfect opportunity to pick up a few gourmet gifts, too.
Visit the Pyramid
Fredericksburg, every evening through January 6. Free
No, not the kind made by ancient Egyptian rulers! This Hill Country treasure is a Christmas pyramid, or Weihnachtspyramide, a wooden structure imported from Germany. Folk experts believe the European novelties inspired the modern Christmas tree. Typically small enough to sit on a living room side table, the one in Fredericksburg’s downtown Marktplatz is 26 feet tall with electric candles. (In a home version, heat from the candles would spin a fan on top, prompting figures on tiers below to move. This one, however, uses a motor.) The structure gives a nod to the mid-nineteenth century wave of German immigrants who settled Fredericksburg, one of the oldest communities in the state. To add to the fun the city pairs it with a giant Christmas tree, a beautiful manger scene, and several kid-friendly gingerbread structures perfect for photos.
Skate with Friends
Fredericksburg, open daily through New Year’s Day, hours vary. $15 per person
Literally a stone’s throw from the Christmas pyramid is a temporary ice skating rink. Hard to believe, given our warm climate, right? But, yes, beginning Thanksgiving weekend the Kinderhalle Pavilion is converted into Eisbahn Outdoor Skating Rink for the holidays. (Eisbahn means “ice rink” in German.) Look for wintery treats on offer, too, at a snack booth just inside the gate. Proceeds from ticket sales benefit local charities.
See the Lights
Johnson City, every evening through New Year’s Day. Free
With most area towns going out of their way this time of year to show their Christmas spirit, one of them goes above and beyond the competition. With the help of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Johnson City presents a stunning downtown Lights Spectacular designed to be a “bright beacon of light like a guiding star welcoming visitors with good old fashioned Christmas cheer.” Folks travel near and far to experience it. One might be inclined to consider the thousands of lights a nostalgic nod to one of LBJ’s greatest achievements as a U.S. congressman, bringing electricity to the rugged Texas Hill Country. Johnson City was, after all, the late president’s boyhood home.
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