The Lights Fantastic
Take a walk on the bright side as you bask in the glow of these five holiday trails.
Christmas Garden of Lights, Amarillo
When the temperature dips, few things other than playoff football games lure Texans outside like winter-night lights. In most parts of the state, having a white Christmas has less to do with frozen precipitation than it does with the annual hanging (and draping and wrapping and blanketing) of millions of light-emitting diodes—er, LEDs—on homes and storefronts, courthouses and streetlights, shrubs and giant evergreens. Unless, of course, you live in the snowy Panhandle, where blizzards aren’t just something you get at Dairy Queen. The dry, windy High Plains might as well be Texas’s North Pole, a frosty idyll where the holiday season is merry, bright, and often actually white.
Amarillo, for one, gets nearly eighteen inches of the stuff every winter, but not even December’s early flurries keep folks from bundling up and going for a long, well-lit walk at the Amarillo Botanical Gardens. Already a lush surprise year-round, the four-acre grounds become even more enchanting this month, when the trees, shrubs, and cacti are bedecked with more than 200,000 lights. Musicians will serenade you with carols as you stroll past the glass pyramid conservatory filled with tropical plants, past the painterly patch of greenery inspired by Claude Monet’s French flower beds, and past the Japanese, xeric, and other themed gardens, all in their holiday best. amarillobotanicalgardens.org
Fiesta de las Luminarias, San Antonio
Strings of twinkle lights tend to stay up all year in San Antonio, but come December, the city glows considerably brighter still. During the first three weekends of the month, more than six thousand luminarias are lit at dusk along the River Walk. These candles set into paper bags weighted with sand symbolically guide Joseph and (a very pregnant) Mary toward Bethlehem, albeit along a path teeming with margaritas and merriment. thesanantonioriverwalk.com
Santa’s Wonderland, Bryan-College Station
What began as a simple driving trail in 1998 has expanded into a 37-acre seasonal theme park, “winterized” with snow machines and campfires and “Texified” with a mechanical bull, dueling-fiddle performances, and Tex Kringle’s synchronized light show. But the main event is still the illuminated route, which is just over a mile long, done up with more than three million lights, and best enjoyed via a hayride or a limo carriage pulled by draft horses. santas-wonderland.com
Concho Christmas Celebration, San Angelo
Revelers traverse the two-and-a-half-mile trail of lights along the banks of the Concho River in just about every form of transportation imaginable. If yours has a radio, turn to local station KCSA 97.1 to listen to Christmas tunes as you make your way through the Tunnel of Lights and past dozens of dazzling displays, from a field of poinsettias to fifty oversized greeting cards with well wishes from local residents. conchochristmascelebration.com
Wonderland of Lights, Marshall
Last year, Marshall called a town hall meeting to discuss the uncertain future of the Christmas festival that’s been enlivening its downtown since 1987. Thanks to some reallocated funds, the merry multitudes will once again enjoy sleigh rides through more than four hundred lighted displays, crafts and cooking demos in Santa’s Workshop and Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen, and spins around the ice rink in front of the 1901 Harrison County courthouse, itself outlined with radiant bulbs. marshalltexas.net