AUSTIN, Texas — The limestone walls of the Indian Council Room deep within the bowels of historic Longhorn Cavern near Burnet will ring with the sounds of the holiday season at three special Caroling in the Cave performances. The Longhorn Cavern State Park event is just one of a number of holiday events taking place at Texas state parks and historic sites this season.
This is the third year that the acoustically blessed Longhorn Cavern has hosted the underground Christmas concerts that have proven extremely popular. The Westwood Honors Show Choir from Round Rock will give a performance a cappella from 4:15- 6:15 p.m. Dec. 15. Victoria B & Friends will perform on Dec. 18 (2:15-4:15 p.m.) and Dec. 22 (4:15-6:15 p.m.) Reservations are required and can be made by calling (877) 441-2283.
The holiday season in Texas State Parks kicks off early, Nov. 26-Dec. 20, with a Candlelight Christmas Dinner at the Starr Family Home State Historic Site in Marshall, a town known for its lighting festival. Experience a sumptuous Victorian Christmas dinner from a long ago era in the 1890s Blake Home as accomplished singers serenade you. Call (903) 935-3044 to make dinner reservations.
Throughout December, state parks will host a variety of events, including Christmas on the Border at Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center in Lajitas on the Texas-Mexico border. The festive event will include folklorico dancers, school choirs, Christmas treats and refreshments, and a special visit by Santa. The program will start at 6 p.m. on Dec. 12. For information, call (432) 424-3327.
Holiday events in the parks wrap up on Dec. 19 at 6 p.m. with the 35th annual Tree Lighting at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site in Stonewall. Join the Johnson family for festivities that include performances by carolers, a living nativity, Santa Claus, and a special nighttime tour of the LBJ Ranch and lamp-lit tour of Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm. For more information, call (830) 644-2252.
Other Texas State Parks hosting special holiday tours and other events (most of which charge a fee) this year are as follows:
Big Bend Country
* Fort Leaton State Historic Site Posada del Fortin – Dec. 16. Park staff and Presidio High School student docents will conduct a traditional Texas borderlands Christmas celebration at the old fort. Posada starts at 6 p.m. followed by free refreshments and entertainment by mariachis and folklorico dancers; donations accepted. Located in Presidio County, four miles southeast of Presidio on the River Road to F.M. 170. Call (432) 229-3613.
* Magoffin Home State Historic Site Holiday Victorian Tea – Dec. 5. Begin the Christmas season by joining in an annual holiday tea party. The whole home will be festively decorated with a Christmas tree in each room. There will be two seatings, 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.; fee is $12 per person and includes home tour. Advance ticket purchase is required; no tickets sold day of tea. (Note: this popular event sells out quickly, so contact the park as soon as possible.) Located in El Paso County, in the city of El Paso, east on I.H. 10, exit on Cotton Street; turn right on Myrtle Street, left on Octavia Street, left on Magoffin Street, home is on the right. Call (915) 533-5147.
* Wyler Aerial Tramway State Park Santa at the Tramway – Dec. 16-20, 23-24. Santa will be at the top of Ranger Peak waiting for children to deliver their letters in person and to take their pictures with Ol’ Saint Nick. Noon to 5 p.m.; fees $7 adults, $4 children 4-12. Located in El Paso north of Interstate 10 and west of U.S. 54 North. Exit U.S. 54 North on Fred Wilson; take a left on Fred Wilson, which turns into Alabama Street, follow, Alabama to McKinley Avenue and take a right; McKinley ends at the base of the tramway. Call (915) 562-9899.
* Battleship TEXAS State Historic Site, Yuletide Texas – Dec. 1-31. Christmas was a special time for the sailors and officers who served aboard Battleship TEXAS, and now you can get a glimpse at that history. See the dreadnought adorned with lights, ornaments and decorations in the spirit of the season to replicate what crewmembers did while serving their country. Hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; fees are $5 adults, $4 senior citizens, $3 children ages 6-18, and children five and younger are free. The site is located 22 miles east of downtown Houston via Texas 225 and Texas 134. Call (281) 479-2431.
* Brazos Bend State Park A Simple Christmas – Dec. 4. Bring the family for an afternoon and evening of Christmas fun, including face-painting, historical interpretation, piñatas, hayrides, storytelling and Santa Claus. It’s from 3 p.m.-8 p.m. and is in Fort Bend County, 20 miles southeast of Richmond on FM 762 or south of Houston on Texas 288 to Rosharon. Call (979) 553-5101.
* Fulton Mansion State Historic Site 21st Annual Candlelight Christmas Carol – Dec. 11. Celebrate the Christmas spirit and sing along with a medley of carols on the front steps. Light refreshments will be served afterwards at this historic home that has been featured on Home and Garden TV’s “Christmas Castles.” Hours are 6:30-8 p.m. and it’s located in Aransas County three miles north of Rockport off State Highway 35. Call (361) 729-0386
* Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historic Site Lone Star Legacy Candlelight Christmas – Dec. 4. Enjoy an open-house featuring free tours of the plantation house adorned in its seasonal finery. Refreshments will be served. It’s from 6-8 p.m., and donations taken for the park’s Lone Star Legacy endowment fund. It’s located two miles north of West Columbia on FM 2852. From Houston, take State Highway 288 south to State Highway 35. Turn south on State Highway 35 and travel 12 miles to West Columbia. Outside West Columbia take FM 2852 to Park Road 51 (1702 N. 13th St.). Call (800) 792-1112.
* Abilene State Park Christmas Lane — Dec. 7-Dec. 24. Abilene State Park joins with Abilene State School to sponsor the event. Local organizations and businesses set up holiday displays for school residents and the general public. The Lane also provides an opportunity for individuals with disabilities to participate in holiday activities. More than 100 business and organizations are scheduled to participate this year. The display will be at Abilene State School, 2501 Maple St. The event is free. Donations for the state school and Volunteer Services Council will be accepted. Call (325) 795-3370.
* Big Spring State Park Holiday Lights Display – Thanksgiving Weekend and Dec. 15-31. The park features a lights display in conjunction with the Festival of Lights, featuring three large poinsettas (eight feet high and 20 feet wide) covered in lights. There will also be an illuminated 10-foot star as part of the display on the edge of the park’s 200-foot bluff that marks the northern limit of the Edward’s Plateau. It’s located in Howard County within the city limits of Big Spring just off FM 700. Call (432) 263-4931.
* Fort Richardson State Park and State Historic Site Children’s Visit with Victorian Santa – Dec. 11. View the parlor decorated for this festive holiday celebration just as the officers’ children did at the fort in the 1870s. Santa is there from 2-4:30 p.m. and the event is located in Jack County, one mile southeast of Jacksboro on U.S. 281. Call (940) 567-3506.
* Texas State Railroad State Park Victorian Christmas Train – Dec. 4, 11, and 18. This is an annual event hosted by the state park and Palestine Convention and Visitors Bureau. Vintage steam trains will offer a quieter, simpler celebration. The trip will feature ladies in early 1900s Christmas dresses, as well as wassail and an assortment of fruitcakes and nut breads from world-famous Eilenberger’s Bakery. Strolling carolers will add to the charm. The hours are 4-6 p.m.; fees are $25 for adults, $10 for children ages 5-13 and younger; and reservations are required. The park is located in Anderson County, two miles east of Palestine on U.S. 84 to Park Road 70. Call (800) 659-3484 or (903) 723-3014.
Prairies and Lakes
* Cedar Hill State Park Caroling Through Penn Farm – Dec. 4. See Penn Farm by candlelight on a lantern-lit tour. Then participate in a Christmas carol sing-along and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies around a campfire; 6-7:30 p.m. Please call to confirm. Located 10 miles southwest of Dallas, four miles southeast of Grand Prairie, and three miles west of Cedar Hill and is accessible via FM 1382. From US Highway 67 exit FM 1382, 2.5 miles north on the left. From Interstate 20 exit FM 1382, four miles south on the right (on the Joe Pool Reservoir). The park is skirted by FM 1382 and Mansfield Road. Call (972) 291-5940 and (972) 291-3900.
* Lake Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway Cross Timbers Cowboy Campfire Christmas – Dec. 10-12. Bring the entire family for a weekend of holiday fun. Friday and Saturday nights will feature a Christmas-theme campfire program at the Lone Star Amphitheater with cowboy music, poetry and a sing-along from 6-8 p.m. From dusk to 10 p.m., Friday through Sunday, take a drive through the park to see the light display. The park is located in Park County, four miles east of Mineral Wells on U.S. 180 or 15 miles west of Weatherford on U.S. 180. Call (940) 328-1171.
* Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Site Trail of Lights – Dec. 10-11, 17-18. Enjoy a fantastic quarter-mile trail illuminated with thousands of lights that decorate the park. Walk a trail overlooking the town of La Grange. Experience the more traditionally decorated, 1850’s-era home of H. L. Kreische, bedecked in holiday splendor and reflecting a Texas-German style. Bring your children to tell secrets
to Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus and enjoy the genuine seasonal hospitality of the Friends of Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery, sponsor of the event. Hours are from 6-8 p.m. and fees are $3 for adults and $1 children ages 3-12. It’s located in Fayette County, a mile south of La Grange off U.S. Highway 77 to spur 92. Call (979) 968-5658.
* Sam Bell House Maxey State Historic Site Old-Fashioned Christmas for Kids – Dec. 11. Children and their families are invited to make old-fashioned Victorian Christmas decorations. Children in grades 2-4 are scheduled at 9:30 a.m.; children in grades 5-7 are scheduled at 1:30 p.m. and reservations are required. It’s located at 812 S. Church St. in the heart of Paris. Call (903) 785-5716.
* Sebastopol House State Historic Site Tour of Homes – Dec. 11-12. Sebastopol House will be showcased on the Seguin Conservation Society’s 2004 Annual Tour of Homes. The tour includes some of Seguin’s oldest and finest homes, decked out in holiday splendor. Tickets are available at Gifts & Gourmet (830) 379-1242. It’s located in Guadalupe County, in the city of Seguin. Turn south at State Highway 46 and go one mile to U.S. Highway 90A (Court Street); turn east and go one mile to the park entrance. Call (830) 379-4833.
* Stephen F. Austin State Park — Pancake Breakfast With Santa – Dec. 11. Have a breakfast of homemade pancakes with homemade syrup, sausage, juice and coffee and let Santa know your dreams and wishes for this Christmas. It’s from 8-10a.m. and the fee is $3 per person. Or go on a caroling hayride Dec. 11 from 6-8 p.m. through the park and enjoy cookies and hot chocolate afterwards. Located in Austin County, three miles east of Sealy off I.H.10, take exit F.M. 1458, go north two miles, turn left on Park Road 38 to entrance. Call (979) 885-3613.
* Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site/Barrington Living History Farm Candlelight Christmas – Dec. 10-11. Come share a traditional Christmas with the Anson Jones Family at their annual gathering of friends and neighbors. Enjoy a festive atmosphere filled with 1850’s music and dancing. Wassail and cookies will be served. It’s from 6-8 p.m. and fees are $6 adults, and $4 for children 12 and younger. It’s located in Washington County, eight miles southwest of Navasota off Texas 105 and FM 1155. Call (936) 878-2213.
* Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site – Old Fashioned Christmas at Ike’s House, Dec. 4 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Come experience an old time Christmas in the park with arts and crafts vendors, entertainment featuring Bell Ringers, Varsity Choir, and Symphonic Band. The Birthplace is decorated in festive 1890’s style. Santa will also be making an appearance! Tours are available and the event is free. The park is off US Hwy 75, exit Morton St (FM 120 E) to US Hwy 69 (Austin Ave) and go right to Main Street. Call (800) 792-1112.
South Texas Plains
* Goliad State Park — History in Lights – Nov. 25-Dec. 31. Accentuated by a unique lighting display, the history of Mission Espiritu Santo comes to life to celebrate the holiday season. It’s from 5–10 p.m. daily and there is a Christmas Concert on Dec. 4 from 8-9 p.m. It’s located in Goliad County, 1/4 mile south of Goliad on U.S. Highway 183/77A, to park entrance. Call (361) 645-3405.
Visit the Web (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/) or call (512) 389-8900 for more information about events and campsite or lodging accommodations. – Lake Mohave
– Lake Mohave