Although holiday celebrations look a little different this year, Texas State Parks and the Texas Historical Commission State Historic Sites are hosting more than 50 events across the state to help bring in some holiday cheer. Starting on Nov. 21, 32 Texas State Parks and six State Historic Sites are presenting Thanksgiving and Christmas themed scavenger hunts, self-guided walks and virtual events.
Anyone planning a trip to a Texas State Park should keep in mind that parks are operating at a limited capacity, reserving a day pass in advance is highly recommended since some parks are expected to reach their capacity limit. Day passes can be reserved online though the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) website or over the phone by calling 512-389-8900.
“We encourage our visitors to follow posted rules including wearing a mask when inside buildings or when gathered with others at a Texas State Park. Local and statewide limitations and restrictions apply and can change rapidly, so we recommend checking social media or calling the park directly for updates before traveling,” the announcement reads.
At Bastrop and Buescher State Park, visitors can enjoy two self-guided scavenger hunts everyday throughout November. The “Happy Harvest Hunt” scavenger hunt will help parkgoers discover the edible and helpful plants in the Lost Pines ecosystem. Visitors can also learn to identify the tracks and signs of turkeys and other wildlife on the “Turkey Trails” scavenger hunt. Anyone wanting to participate in the hunts can grab a laminated scavenger hunt sheet and marker from the kiosk at the Piney Hill restroom at Bastrop State Park or the headquarters at Buescher State Park and head out on the trails.
From 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19., visitors at Brazos Bend State Park can take part in a self-guided holiday hike. Visitors can pick up a guide at the Nature Center and start their walk at the Creekfield Lake trail to experience some holiday cheer and learn about the park. This easy hike is ADA accessible, kid friendly and can be done at your own pace. After completing the hike, parkgoers can return back to the Nature Center and share what they’ve learned to receive a prize.
Visitors are invited to enjoy a free drive through Cooper Lake State Park– Doctors Creek Unit and see how campers transform their campsites into a winter wonderland from 6 p.m. — 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18 – Saturday, Dec. 19. Reservations are required for anyone wishing to camp.
Anyone visiting Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site during the first three Saturdays of December can grab a self-guided tour packet, walk the grounds for free and learn about how Christmas was celebrated in north Texas during the 1890s (when Dwight Eisenhower was born) and 1940s (when the Denison community preserved the Birthplace house). Children’s craft kits will be available for purchase through the site’s retail-to-go program while supplies last. Birthplace house tours are available with advance reservation and payment. For more information, call 903-465-8908.
In South Texas, families can pick a spot in the day use area of Falcon State Park to view the Second Annual Falcon Lake Christmas Boat Parade from 7 p.m. -10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12. Visitors will be able to see decked out boats float by in cheerful Christmas lights.
The grounds of Kreische Brewery and Monument Hill State Historic Sites are being transformed with holiday lights during the evenings from 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m. Dec. 4-6, 10-13 and 17-23. This annual event has been expanded to 14 nights to allow plenty of opportunities for social distancing. Guests will also be able to enjoy the walking trail with new light displays and photo opportunities in a safe, outdoor venue. The exterior of the Kreische House will be decorated in the 19th century German tradition.
At South Llano River State Park, visitors can burn some of those Thanksgiving calories during the 3rd annual Turkey Trot 5K from 10:30 a.m-12:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 26. The park is home to a large Rio Grande Turkey roost, so anyone walking or running can see if they can spot some gobblers on their way to the finish line. This event is free to the public to participate in with regular park entrance fees. Runners must register by email before Monday, Nov. 23 by emailing Rebecca.Manning@tpwd.texas.gov and include the number of adults and kids (ages needed).
For more information about holiday activities at Texas State Parks, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website. A full calendar is available online on the TPWD calendar page. For more activities at THC’s State Historic Sites, visit the Texas Historical Commission website.
Want to bring Texas State Parks home for the holidays? Commemorate parks and the holidays with a Texas State Park ornament. For more than 15 years, the annual park Christmas ornament has featured some of the most recognizable Texas State Parks landscapes. The 2020 metal ornament features photo-quality artwork in stunning color with rich, laser-etched textures and detail.
This year, the ornament celebrates the increasing popular sport of kayaking, showcasing paddlers at Sea Rim State Park, located near Beaumont on the upper Texas Coast.
The annual Christmas ornament can be purchased exclusively online for $19.95 each. Purchase by Thursday, Dec. 10 for likely arrival before Christmas. Tax and shipping fees apply.
Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine is also offering a special subscription deal for the holidays. Buy one gift subscriptions for $10 and get additional gifts for only $5 each. Don’t want to feel left out? Give yourself the gift of the outdoors too! Subscriptions can be ordered online at https://tpwmagazine.com/specialoffers/.