Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from the opera in Houston and Friday night lights in Odessa to surfing along the coast and hiking in the mountains. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
[DEC 31–JAN 6]
New Year’s Squeeze
Flaco Jimenez is as much a cultural ambassador as he is a master of the accordion. The 71-year-old San Antonio native converted the German and Polish polkas and waltzes learned by his grandfather—and later transformed by his father into conjunto music, a Mexican strain born in the U.S.—into his own hybrid of bilingual honkytonk called Tex-Mex. But Mr. Jimenez didn’t stop there: He brought that music out of the cantina and into the rock-and-roll fold, most notably with fellow Texan Doug Sahm but also with Ry Cooder, a renowned salvager of bygone regional music, and even the Rolling Stones. In short, Mr. Jimenez made the old-fashioned instrument relevant again, and he continues to inspire musicians to forgo the allure of the electric guitar for the squeezebox. But which squeezebox? A good starting point in your accordion research is the New Year’s Eve Best of Texas Live concert. It will be a rare chance to see Mr. Jimenez, a five-time Grammy winner, play his glittery gold Corona II signature accordion, created last year by Hohner and available for sale.
Boneshakers, Dec 31, 7 p.m.
An H-town New Year’s
Tim Burton could not have dreamed up a New Year’s Eve celebration as extravagant as Gloworama. Organizers of the free event in downtown Houston have a “more is more” philosophy that continues to captivate the masses. Why stop at the standard entertainment fare, like ice-skating and live music, when you can have a parade of art cars, dueling Tesla coils projecting twelve-foot-long rays of electricity and a video display projected onto the George R. Brown Convention Center that vacillates between looking like an M.C. Escher drawing come to life and an Acid Test at its peak? How about some street performers and fireworks? While you’re at it, why not encourage everyone to dress outlandishly? Even if there’s no ball dropping at the stroke of midnight, it’s doubtful you’ll miss it amid this conglomeration of high-octane spectacle.
Discovery Green, Dec 31, 7 p.m.
Walk Around the Clock
Don’t waste time getting started on your New Year’s resolution to exercise more often: Lace up for the Midnight Volkssport Walk in Fredericksburg. This six-mile ramble on New Year’s Eve is an annual tradition. Your motivation, should you need some, will be a wine and cheese social prior to the walk, an excuse to roam through a pretty Hill Country town rich with German heritage (keep your eye out for the large German Christmas pyramid with rotating nativity scene) and, finally, at the finish line, a limited-edition stamp to commemorate the experience. (Members of the American Volkssport Association, an offshoot of a German sporting organization for non-professional athletes, keep a Volkssport passport of sorts to document their accomplishments.) “Our oldest walker is a German lady who is about 92,” said Phyllis Eagan, the event’s organizer. In other words: You really have no excuse not to participate.
St. Joseph’s Halle, Dec 31, midnight.
Blue Year’s Eve
Twenty years after legendary blues shredder Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicopter crash and cut short a trailblazing career, his older brother and guitar tutor is hitting yet another groove in his own career. We last heard from Jimmie Vaughan as a soloist with the release of his Grammy-winning album Do You Get the Blues? That was nine years, a pair of twin daughters, and a duet album with Omar Kent Dykes ago. But rust did not set in on Mr. Vaughan, whose subsequent album, Jimmie Vaughan Plays Blues, Ballads & Favorites, out this summer, just scored a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Blues Album. It’s mostly a covers record: retro-sounding, jazz-inflected takes on songs from Mr. Vaughan’s days growing up in Oak Cliff. “We wanted it to sound like it was coming out of a jukebox,” he said. Mr. Vaughan, an Austin resident, plays live all the time but rarely with the Tilt a Whirl band on his new album. That means a horns section and the vocal interplay of longtime running mate Lou Ann Barton on New Year’s Eve at Antone’s, the blues club Ms. Barton and Mr. Vaughan helped put on the map in the seventies.
Antone’s, Dec 31, 9 p.m.
The mall may seem like the last place you want to be right now, but this is the final weekend of the Trains at NorthPark, the annual run of electric model trains, upgraded this year to 1,600 square feet of track on a 4,000-square-foot tableau rife with U.S. landmarks.
NorthPark Center, Dec 31–Jan 2, various times.
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND
Join participants in the annual South Padre Island Polar Bear Dip and be born again when you masochistically submerge yourself into hypothermia-inducing ocean water on the first day of the new year.
Boomerang Billy’s Beach, Jan 1, noon.
• • • • •
Seven more gotta-see, gotta-do events that you can’t afford to miss.
By Melanie Gasmen
Classical Mystery Tour
Hear four musicians who look and sound like the Fab Four play thirty Beatles favorites, including “Yesterday” and “I Am the Walrus,” in their purest form.
Palmer Events Center, Dec 30 & 31, 8 p.m.
Old 97’s With the O’s and Whiskey Folk Ramblers
Rock out on New Year’s Eve to the Dallas-based headliner who redefined alt-country.
House of Blues Dallas, Dec 31, 9 p.m.
Sun Bowl Fan Fiesta
If you didn’t score tickets to this year’s Sun Bowl, don’t let it stop you from joining in on the festivities. Bring the whole family for the free event, featuring face painting, a battle of the university bands, live music, magic, games, and a fireworks show to top off the night.
Williams Convention Center, Dec 30, 4–9 p.m.
American Modern: Abbott, Evans, Bourke-White
Works from Berenice Abbott, Margaret Bourke-White, and Walker Evans—three photographers who pushed documentaries to the public and newly opened galleries with their groundbreaking images.
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Dec 28–Jan 2, various hours.
Midnight in the Gardens—A New Year’s Eve Gala
Ring in the New Year during this premier party that features tables of food, clever champagne toasts, and more.
Moody Gardens Hotel, Dec 31, 7:30 p.m.–1 a.m.
Ars Lyrica: Musical Resolutions
The grand performance showcases a mix of concerti and suites by Bach and Telemann, alongside Handel’s cantata, “Apollo e Dafne.” A gala reception with champagne and hors-d’oeurves follows the program.
Zilkha Hall, Dec 31, 8:30 p.m.
Celebrate San Antonio
Join the more than 250,000 revelers downtown for this massive event—think four stages featuring back-to-back performers until the fireworks show at midnight—ushering in the new year.
Alamo Street (between Durango and Market streets), Dec 31, 6 p.m.