Christmas isn't over till the last light comes down.
Christmas isn't over yet. The holiday season doesn't officially end until the last holiday decoration falls dark. After the hectic pace of shopping, eating, and partying draws to a close, it's time to relax and enjoy the beauty of the lighting displays around the state. Many of the lighting displays turned on right after Thanksgiving last until at least the end of December. The crowds are smaller, and everyone seems less stressed after Christmas. All ages seem to enjoy the colorful lights.
The Wonderland of Lights in Marshall claims to be the largest concerted lighting display in America. Centered on the old Harrison Co. Courthouse, this Northeast Texas display of more than 10 million lights is a wonder to behold and one of the most spectacular in the state. Besides the courthouse decked in white lights, there are figures outlined in lights, carriage rides, and an outdoor ice-skating rink in the parking lot next to the courthouse. From the downtown area, the works of lighting art spread out into the neighborhoods. For a map to the best displays check at the Visitors' Center at 213 W. Austin or call them at 903/936-7868. The lights are on every evening until Dec. 30. For more info, go to www.marshalltxchamber.com.
In San Antonio, the River Walk is lined with colorful lights until Dec. 31 that increase the already-festive atmosphere. To experience a winter wonderland, head over to the Institute of Texan Cultures. The museum has imported tons of snow for games and show. The grounds are illuminated with lights and holiday figures. The admission fee lets you spend the evening walking the paths and enjoying the scenery. For more information, call 210/458-2330 or visit their Web site at www.texancultures.utsa.edu.
For something unusual, visit the Battleship Texas south of Houston at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site. The last warship of its type in the world, the Texas was launched in 1912 and decommissioned in 1948. Every Christmas season until Dec. 31, the battleship is adorned with lights, ornaments, and decorations the way crew members would have done it in the 1940s. Open daily 10am-5pm, the $5 admission fee gives access to several decks and towers on the giant ship. For more info, call 281/479-2431 or point your browser to www.tpwd.state.tx.us.
The shimmering lights of the Walkway of Lights in Marble Falls reflect off the lake to make one of the prettiest lighting displays in the state. Every evening until Dec. 31, the lakeside wonderland fills the park west of the U.S. 281 bridge. It's even more fun to park the car and walk through the canyons of colorful lights. For more info, call the Chamber of Commerce at 830/693-4449 or visit its Web site at www.marblefalls.org.
Marble Falls is one of 11 communities in the Hill Country that are decorated for the Regional Christmas Lighting Trail until Jan. 1. Blanco, Boerne, Bulverde, Fredericksburg, Goldthwaite, Johnson City, Llano, New Braunfels, Round Mountain, and Wimberley are all decked out in their holiday finery. To catch as many as you can, call 830/997-8515.
The Blackland Prairie along U.S. 79 and TX 95 is the perfect dark palette for hundreds of colorful demonstrations on buildings and in fields. Granger, Taylor, Coupland, Bastrop, Hutto, Thorndale, and Elgin are dressed in their colorful best until Jan. 1. For info, call 512/352-6364 or visit www.lightsoftheblackland.com.
Kids of all ages seem to enjoy the 5.5-mile drive-through display at Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area, through Jan. 4, 5:30-11pm. Animated displays, illustrated sculptures, and architectural lighting displays make this a light show worth the price of $7 per car. For directions, call 254/287-2523 or visit www.hoodmwr.com.
To see History in Lights, drive to Goliad and visit Mission Espiritu Santo on the grounds of Goliad State Park. The Spanish mission is outlined in white lights, and the paths are illuminated with luminarias until Jan. 4. Painting the night sky from 5-10pm, this lovely display has the subtlety that the season deserves. For info, call the park at 361/645-3405.
655th in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of Day Trips 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 s/h & tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.