The Hill Country’s best and brightest holiday celebrations

By JANIS TURK

All is calm, and all is bright as twinkling lights, night parades, Christmas shopping markets and warm Yuletide fun fill the calendar in towns throughout the Hill Country this season. Families are busy making merry once more, enjoying ice-skating rinks, tree-lighting ceremonies, Christmas arts and crafts fairs,
spooky Dickens plays and warm wassail. From Boerne to Blanco, Fredericksburg to Floresville, Kerrville to Kyle and beyond, trees are decorated, tinsel glistens, light fills the night, and love is in the air.

Make your family’s holidays extra merry and bright by joining in the happy Hill Country fun. Jingle on over to…

Bandera
Bandera celebrates the best of the holiday season with a lighted night parade on December 2, along with a visit with Santa, Christmas caroling, musicians, cowboys and after-hours shopping in local stores. Locals and visitors alike love the annual Cowboy Capital Campfire, which will be held this year on December 3 in Bandera’s City Park on the Medina River, with cowboy singers and storytellers and a living nativity scene. Bring a lawn chair, enjoy hot cocoa and cookies, and stroll through a display of 100+ lighted Christmas trees and holiday scenes at the Bandera Trail of Lights at City Park, which opens each evening at dark. Bandera is the perfect day-trip town for authentic cowboy Christmas fun.

Boerne
hcg-boerneBoerne kicks off the holiday season November 25 and 26 (Thanksgiving weekend) with a Hill Country Christmas event of epic proportions at the 17th Annual Dickens on Main celebration. Be a part of the magic as Boerne’s Main Street, known as the Hill Country Mile, transforms into a vintage Christmas experience, complete with great shopping, visits with Santa Claus, children’s craft activities, unique vendors, food trucks, snow on Main Street, ice sculpting and music, theatrical performances and an amazing 60-foot ice slide for sledding. Spend the day on the Hill Country Mile dining, shopping and visiting Santa, then make your way up and down Main Street as the entertainment delights folks from 4 – 10 p.m. each night. Find unique holiday gifts from the many darling shops along Boerne’s Hill Country Mile. This year will feature a new free photo experience, so you can take professional-looking pictures to share with friends and family or for your holiday card. Check www.dickensonmain.com for a full schedule of events.

Fredericksburg and Luckenbach
Thanksgiving weekend kicks off the holiday season with the Lighting of the German Christmas Pyramid and Community Christmas Tree on Friday, November 25. The 26-foot, carousel-like Weihnachts pyramide, or “Christmas Pyramid,” is a large version of a traditional German decoration dating back to the 16th century. Fredericksburg’s Christmas pyramid, handcrafted in Germany, is illuminated each year on the Friday evening following Thanksgiving, kicking off the Christmas season in Fredericksburg and remaining lit through Epiphany, the first week of January. That same weekend, the seasonal Eisbahn (“ice rink” in German) returns to Marktplatz for its 12th consecutive year and remains open daily (except on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) through New Year’s weekend. Enjoy outdoor ice-skating on real ice; Eisbahn uses special refrigeration units to keep the ice frozen even when the weather is warm outside. Then, in early December, Fredericksburg enjoys its Light the Night Christmas Parade and AfterGlow. AfterGlow festivities take place at Marktplatz, and the parade takes place on Main Street on Friday, December 2. Enjoy free Santa photos, holiday gifts, local foods and wine and holiday cheer. For events in the nearby community of Luckenbach this December, look online or call the Luckenbach Post Office and General Store for upcoming dates for the annual Luckenbach Christmas Tree Lighting and Hondo Crouch Birthday Celebration, (830) 997-3224. For a full list of holiday events in and around Fredericksburg, visit www.VisitFredericksburgTX.com.

Johnson City, Blanco, and Stonewall
Christmas crowds will gather at the Old Blanco County Courthouse on the Friday after Thanksgiving to watch the lighting of 100,000 twinkling lights at the old courthouse square in Blanco. Afterward, visitors can take pictures with Santa, take a carriage or hay ride through the town or shop for Christmas ornaments. The event continues through January 1, with various activities each evening. For more information, contact the Old hcg-fredericksburgBlanco County Courthouse Visitors Center at (830) 833-2211. That same weekend, and lasting through New Year’s, Johnson City will present its 27th Annual Lights Spectacular, with one of the largest light displays in the state, featuring more than one million lights at the Pedernales Electric Co-Op Headquarters. To learn more, visit www.lbjcountry.com. Holiday celebrations also take place each year in Stonewall at LBJ State Park & Historic Site and its Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm visitor complex, as well as at the Johnson Settlement in Johnson City. Be sure not to miss the LBJ Tree Lighting at LBJ State Park & Historic Site, a free time-honored Texas Parks and Wildlife family tradition started years ago by President and Mrs. Johnson. For more information on this year’s holiday events at the LBJ Ranch in Stonewall, call (830) 644-2252. For more information about holiday events at the Johnson Settlement and LBJ’s Boyhood Home, call (830) 868-7128 x231.

Kerrville and Ingram
Kerrville and Ingram are home to a sleigh-full of holiday fun, including Kerrville’s 16th Annual Holiday Lighted Parade & Courthouse Lighting Ceremony, which will be held Nov. 19, at 6 p.m. at the Kerr County Courthouse, with a night parade featuring lighted floats, a 45-foot tree and lighting ceremony and the arrival of Santa Claus. Another not-to-be-missed holiday event in the nearby town of Ingram is Tiny Tim’s A Christmas Carol. In this play, a healthy grown-up Tiny Tim shares his behind-the-scenes account of what really happened to change the bah-humbug heart of Ebenezer Scrooge, (830) 367-5121. For more information on all the exciting Kerrville holiday events, call (830) 257-8000 or visit www.kerrvilletexascvb.com. For information on the lighting ceremony call (830) 459-0566.

New Braunfels and Gruene

hcg-grueneNew Braunfels celebrates in style on Friday, November 18, at 6 p.m., when friends gather to enjoy the Downtown Lighting Ceremony and Santa’s Arrival, a free annual event celebrating the spirit of the season. There will be treats for sale and photo opportunities with Santa on the bandstand. Then on Thursday, December 1, come enjoy Wassailfest downtown from 6-9 p.m., an evening of music, food, shopping, thousands of holiday lights and warm wassail. Then in the adjacent community of Gruene, on Saturday, December 3, turn out for the15th annual Gruene Pony Express Ride into town, when kids can take photos, with Cowboy Kringle. Then stop and shop at Old Gruene Market Days and stay until dark to enjoy the Gruene Town Lighting, (830) 629-5077.

Wimberley
Wimberley lights up the night on Saturday, November 26, at dusk (5:15 p.m.) during the EmilyAnn Theatre & Gardens’ Tree Lighting Ceremony that heralds the opening of the EmilyAnn’s Trail of Lights, which runs through December 29. The trail is open Sundays through Thursdays from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m., and on Fridays and Saturdays from 6 until 10 p.m. Along the trail, enjoy 8 acres of decorated wonderland with the town’s Ye Olde Yule Log burning nightly, weather permitting. There is no admission to this walking Trail of Lights; however, donations are accepted. Much of the trail is now wheelchair accessible; golf cart rides are available for those who need assistance. Locals and visitors alike also enjoy the Second Saturday Gallery Trail from 4-7 p.m. at art galleries and shops throughout the downtown on the second Saturday of every month. (512) 847-9438. www.wimberley.org.