State Parks Getaways: Holiday Edition

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close up of greenery, gold lights and red ribbon

In This IssueGather Your Family for Evergreen Fun Parks Light Up for the Holidays Celebrate Christmas on the Border | Buffalo Soldiers Celebrate 20th Anniversary Cool Campers Leave No Trace Hike into the New Year Hiking Through History: Mission Tejas Fall for Texas State Park Stocking Stuffers


Gather Your Family for Evergreen Fun

two screen shelters

Maybe this is the year that holiday spirit persuades you to head for the hills – state park hills, that is. Think greenery, natural beauty, and wildlife - the deer you see may even look a bit like Donder or Blitzen.

Create some evergreen family memories by reserving a group facility at a Texas state park. Relatives, friends and kids will find plenty of room and plenty to do.

For a simple outing, pack a picnic and go for the day – great for kids and grandparents alike. Or, with a little more planning you can have an overnight stay. Check out the group facilities in more than 70 state parks. For all group and cabin reservations, please call 512-389-8900.  For same day reservations, please contact the park directly. 


Parks Light Up for the Holidays

outdoor tree decorated, lighted window background

Try going over the river and through the woods for some uniquely state park holiday cheer. The Battleship Texas celebrates Christmas throughout the month of December. A Brazos Bend State Park event includes Dutch oven cooking and live music, Cedar Hill does lanterns and caroling. Enjoy “Breakfast with Santa and the birds” and other special events at Estero Llano GrandeLonghorn Cavern has special events each weekend with storytelling and live music. You can go on a very unique Santa Hat Hike at the Wyler Aerial Tramway. Monument Hill & Kreische Brewery State Historic Sites are well-know for their holiday festivities.

Christmas cheer and the crisp scent of pine just go together, and East Texas has plenty for everyone. Sunset over Wright Patman Lake at Atlanta State Park reveals an array of twinkling stars, while other areas of the park will shine bright with lights and decorations. Nearby, enjoy community celebrations and holiday decorations at Lake Bob Sandlin State Park.

Other east Texas parks with holiday festivities include

Create a family event to remember with the help of this printable Holidays in the Parks flyer and its full itinerary (more than 30) of festive road trip destinations. Visit the Holiday Events Calendar for more holiday opportunities in the parks. And remember, you can even shop for special holiday gifts at the park stores!


Celebrate Christmas on the Border

rustic cart, covered with white and red lights

The holiday season comes with an entirely different feel along the U.S. – Mexico border in the Big Bend region, where shouts of "Feliz Navidad" and "Feliz Año Nuevo" replace “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year”.

Join Fort Leaton State Historic Site in Presidio for a traditional Mexican posada on December 18, when visitors will walk and sing with Mary and Joseph as they search for shelter. See the historic structure come to life in the candlelight of 600 luminarias, and of course, be ready to enjoy a traditional piñata and its sweet treats.

Nearby Barton Warnock Visitor Center in Terlingua will host its annual holiday event on December 12, when local performers will entertain guests awaiting the arrival of Papa Noel (Santa Claus).


Buffalo Soldiers Celebrate 20th Anniversary

Buffalo soldier, seated with tent and lantern

Buffalo Soldiers helped settle the west but the contributions of these African-American soldiers are often overlooked. Meet one man who is determined to teach this often forgotten chapter of history to today's eager students.

The Buffalo Soldiers program at Texas Parks and Wildlife is celebrating its 20th anniversary of activities preserving and promoting the history, heritage and culture of the famed Black Soldier units of the 9th and 10th Cavalry and 24th and 25th Infantry regiments of the U.S. Army.

The Buffalo Soldiers served at various frontier outposts across Texas during the Indian Wars campaign from 1866-1892. The Buffalo Soldiers unit of TPWD staff and volunteers travels the state as a living history exhibit. Check the Buffalo Soldiers Schedule of Operations to see when they will be on duty at a location near you.


Cool Campers Leave No Trace

fishing line left as trash

Our State Parks are beautiful places to camp in nature.  Following a few simple “Leave No Trace'’ principles while camping will keep them that way while keeping you safe.

Two of the most important principles include disposing of trash properly and making sure your campfire is in the designated fire pit and extinguished completely. Keep wildlife healthy by not sharing your food and securing it in your vehicle; not your tent! Staying on the trails while exploring the park will keep you out of poison ivy and other potential hazards, and it helps protect wildlife habitat.

Want to learn more about Leave No Trace camping? Join a Park Ranger for a Texas Outdoor Family camping workshop.


Hike into the New Year

family, kids jumping across rocks, pools of water

If it’s January, it’s time for hiking. To get started, join a growing nationwide tradition: First Day Hikes. First day of the new year, that is, and there’s no better place to join the movement than at a state park.

Meander or trot off your holiday feast, walk a one-mile nature trail or launch yourself into a strenuous uphill climb to a wide Texas horizon. State park hiking trails offer scenery, wildlife watching, tranquility, and a wide variety of terrain and trail lengths.

Check the calendar in December to find special First Day hike events to suit your mood and ambitions. Check the Hiking calendar anytime for organized walks and hikes with a park ranger or volunteer. 

Can’t make it on Day 1? No worries. You have 364 more opportunities!


Hiking Through History: Mission Tejas

log mission replica among pines, peaceful

Discover Mission Tejas State Park and Historic Site – a beautiful and less-well-known Pineywoods park just on the edge of the Davy Crocket National Forest.

Rich in rustic wooded beauty, here you can walk in the footsteps of Davy Crockett on El Camino Real or tour the restored Rice family log home family built in 1828. You’ll also find a replica built by the Civilian Conservation Corps of the first Spanish mission in the province of Texas established in 1690. Preview this quiet park with this video.

Snuggle into a great campsite, hike trails with new bridges, and enjoy a true taste of the Pineywoods.


Fall for Texas

colorful fall trees, reflected in pond

Heading outside this weekend? Share your nature photos and show us what’s making you “Fall” in love with Texas State Parks right now. Let's see what fall looks like around Texas! To get your best shots, you can follow the foliageRead some tips on how to make your photos even better.

Show us your photos on Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest by using these two hashtags:  #Fall4Tx and #StateParkName.

See some of our favorite views on our Pinterest board “Fall in Texas." 


State Park Stocking Stuffers

state park pass

What better gift than a reminder that life's better outside? Here are some stocking stuffers that fill the bill.

• Texas State Park ornaments (yes, you CAN hang the Battleship Texas on your tree!)

Texas State Parks gift cards, available for $5 or more, may be redeemed for entrance and camping fees, State Parks Passes and more! 

 Loblolly pines planted in Bastrop to help with the wildfire recovery through a donation to the Arbor Day Foundation - $1 per tree.

Bluebonnet license plate showing your Texas State Parks pride all year long.

For more great gift ideas, shopping details and donation information or to make a year-end, tax-deductible donation to Texas State Parks, visit the Shop Page.

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