Day Trips & Beyond: December Events Roundup

Plenty of fun still to be had in 2019

There’s plenty of holiday cheer to go around as we make plans for New Year’s Eve.

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), The Problem We All Live With, 1963. Oil on Canvas, 36” x 58”. Illustration for Look, Jan. 14, 1964. Collection of Norman Rockwell Museum. (Photo courtesy MFAH)

Norman Rockwell is coming to Houston. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, presents Norman Rockwell: American Freedom. For five decades the artist famously depicted American optimism on magazine covers, illustrations, and paintings. The Houston exhibit examines Rockwell’s Four Freedom paintings – Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Fear, and Freedom from Want. In addition to the touring Rockwell exhibition, MFAH presents a selection of photographs from the Four Freedoms Photography Project by Hank Willis Thomas and Emily Shur, as well as photographs, illustrations, and art from the FDR-era. Established in 1900, MFAH is among the 10 largest art museum in the U.S. with a collection of nearly 70,000 works.
Dec. 15-March 22, "Norman Rockwell: American Freedom," Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 713/639-7300,

Year-round, the playa lakes at Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge in the Texas Panhandle are home to a long list of wildlife, but from October to March the shallow waters are the roost for thousands of sandhill cranes. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

The largest concentration of lesser sandhill cranes in North America call the Texas Panhandle its winter home. The magnificent birds with long spindly legs and a six- to eight-foot wingspan migrate from as far north as the Artic to spend October to March at the Muleshoe and Gulla wildlife refuges between the towns of Muleshoe and Morton, northwest of Lubbock. During the peak months of December to February up to 250,000 of the gray birds with red heads may make their home on the flat plains. The best time to see them is at sunrise and sunset while they are roosting at the refuges’ playa lakes. Established in 1935 for migratory birds, Muleshoe NWR is the oldest federal wildlife refuge in Texas. It has 25 miles of hiking trail and primitive camping, but no potable water. Grulla NWR is about 35 miles west across the New Mexico border. There is no admission fee to the refuges. The closest hotels are 22 miles away in Muleshoe or 31 miles to Littlefield.
December-February, Sandhill Crane Roost, Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge, Muleshoe, 806/946-3341,

Travel Notes:

Get ready to catch your dinner as the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department stocks delicious rainbow trout in 185 ponds, lakes, and rivers around the state. TPWD will release 343,650 of the cold-hardy fish through March. Keep in mind that anglers 17 years and older must have a fishing license unless they’re in a state park. There are several locations near Austin including East Metropolitan County Park, McKinney Falls State Park, Blanco State Park, and Blue Hole Park in Georgetown.

A citizen science project is underway along the Texas Gulf Coast and you can be a part of it by joining the Nurdle Patrol. Nurdles are small plastic pellets used in the manufacturing of plastic products. The pellets escape from factories along the coast by the millions and wash up on Texas beaches. Animals often mistake the plastic for food. It’s easy to be a member of the Nurdle Patrol and only takes a few minutes of treasuring hunting on the beach. The Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve hopes that consistent and numerous sightings will lead to stricter regulations by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Judges and barbecue fans have spoken. The winners of the HOU vs ATX BBQ Throwdown on Nov. 17 in Houston are Eaker Barbecue of Houston with the People’s Choice Award, and Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue from Tomball with the judges’ top prize, according to Chris Reid of Rounding out the People’s Choice Award winners were Brett’s Backyard Bar-b-cue of Rockdale with second and Daddy Duncan’s BBQ of Katy with third place. The judges followed with Eaker BBQ at second place and giving Interstellar BBQ of Austin third place. H-Town is preparing for the next big Houston Barbecue Festival on April 5, 2020, when the best pitmasters from the area come together at the Humble Civic Center.

Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site is closed for a utility project at least through June 2020. The park on Highway 90 east of the Pecos River High Bridge and west of Comstock is home to the ancient rock art at the Fate Bell Shelter, Presa Canyon, and other sites.

Congratulations to Texas finalists in the Good Food Awards. Vista Brewing of Driftwood was recognized for their Stonewall Belgian Lambic-Style Ale with Texas Peaches, and Treaty Oak Distilling of Dripping Springs for their Ghost Hill Bourbon and Waterloo No. 9 Gin. Take a drive and sample their wares. Finalists were chosen after a blind tasting and then rated on their social and environmental excellence. The winners will be announced Jan. 17, 2020.

Learn how to set up a hoophouse greenhouse by helping raise a plastic and hoop structure for the New Farm Institute at Green Gate Farms of Bastrop. Skills learned at the free workshop on Dec. 8 and 15 will translate to backyard farms of any size.

Other December Events:

International Peace Market/Mercado de Paz
Dec. 1, San Antonio,

Christmas Wine Affair
Dec. 1-15, Fredericksburg,

Nativity Figures Display
Dec. 1-31, Comfort,

Eisbahn Outdoor Ice Skating
Dec. 1-Jan. 5, Fredericksburg,

The Ice (Texas’ largest outdoor ice skating rink)
Dec. 1-Feb. 2, Houston,

Walk Through Bethlehem
Dec. 3-4, Boerne,

Sights and Sounds of Christmas
Dec. 4-7, 11-14, San Marcos,

Dec. 5, La Grange,

Dec. 5, New Braunfels,

Holiday Artisans Market
Dec. 5, Victoria,

Christmas in the Park
Dec. 5-7, Clute,

Santa Claus Museum
Columbus, Dec. 5-22,

Light the Night Christmas Parade and Afterglow
Dec. 6, Fredericksburg,

Festival of Texas Fiddling
Dec. 6-7, Blanco,

Journey Through Bethlehem
Dec. 6-7, Huntsville,

Dec. 6-7, New Braunfels,

Open Weekend at Davis Mountains Preserve
Dec. 6-8, Fort Davis,

Dickens on the Strand
Dec. 6-8, Galveston,

Waco Wonderland
Dec. 6-8, Waco,

Main Street Bethlehem
Dec. 6-8, 13-15, Burnet,

Bethlehem Revisited
Dec. 6-8, 13-15, Waxahachie,

Dickens in Downtown
Dec. 6-16, Plano,

Weihnachts Parade
Dec. 7, Boerne,

Gumbo Cook-off
Dec. 7, Castell,

Museum of Illusions Grand Opening
Dec. 7, Dallas,

Lighted Christmas Parade
Dec. 7, Elgin,

Pearl Harbor Day Observance
Dec. 7, Fredericksburg,

Christmas at the Courthouse
Dec. 7, Giddings,

Gruene Town Lighting
Dec. 7, Gruene,

Huntsville for the Holidays
Dec. 7, Huntsville,

A Frontier Christmas
Dec. 7, Johnson City,

Eliza Gilkyson in Concert
Dec. 7, La Grange,

Old Town Christmas
Dec. 7, Leander,

Lighted Christmas Parade
Dec. 7, Llano,

Luckenbach Christmas Bazaar and Hondo’s Birthday Party
Dec. 7, Luckenbach,

Parade of Lights
Dec. 7, Odessa,

Pfestival of Lights and Christmas Parade
Dec. 7, Pflugerville,

Lighted Christmas Parade and Street Dance
Dec. 7, Round Top,

Holly-Days at the Gardens with Santa
Dec. 7-8, Corpus Christi,

Redbud Artisan Market
Dec. 7-8, Dripping Springs,

Christmas at the Caverns
Dec. 7-8, 14-15, 21-23, Garden Ridge,

Lighted Christmas Parade
Dec. 9, Monahans,

Corsicana Ghost Walk
Dec. 13, Corsicana,

Marcia Ball with Shelly King and Carolyn Wonderland in Concert
Dec. 13, La Grange,

Brisco Ranch Barbecue Cookoff
Dec. 13-14, Uvalde,

Festival of Bonfires
Dec. 13-15, Lutcher, La.,

German Christmas Market
Dec. 13-15, Tomball,

Farmer’s Market
Dec. 14, Lake Jackson,

Christmas on the Creek
Dec. 14, Lampasas,

Snow Day
Dec. 14, Llano,

Christmas at Winedale
Dec. 14, Round Top,

Heritage Hike
Dec. 14, Sugar Land,

Nighttime Kites
Dec. 14, Surfside Beach,

Pilgrimage to Bethlehem
Dec. 14-15, Taylor,

Christmas Market Days
Dec. 14, 15, 21-22, Boerne,

Campfire Christmas
Dec. 14, 21, Richmond,

Deutsche Weihnachtsfeier
Dec. 15, San Antonio,

LBJ Tree Lighting
Dec. 15, Stonewall,

Come and Taste It
Dec. 19, Gruene,

Winter Solstice Celebration Circle with Rudi and the Rudiments
Dec. 21, Boerne,

Bird Banding
Dec. 21, Lake Jackson,

Luckenbach Christmas Ball
Dec. 21, Luckenbach,

Boxing Day Celebration
Dec. 26, Stonewall,

Gli Unici – Three Tenors, Goodbye 2019 and Hello 2020
Dec. 28, Boerne,

Llano County Courthouse decorated for the season. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Holiday Lights:

Winter Lightfest
Dec. 1-29, Abilene,

History in Lights
Goliad State Park, Dec. 1-31,

Christmas Lane
Abilene, Dec. 6-23,

Christmas in the Gardens
Dec. 5-8, 12-15, 19-22, Amarillo,

Texas Christkindl Market
Arlington, Through Dec. 22,

Christmas Park
Athens, Through Jan. 3,

Holiday Light Stroll
Bastrop, Through Dec. 31,

Bastrop River of Lights
Bastrop, Through Jan. 3,

Comanche Trail Festival of Lights
Big Spring, Dec. 8-25,

Old West Christmas Light Fest
Boerne, Through Dec. 25,

Christmas on the Ranch
Boerne, Through Dec. 23,

Holiday Village
Brownsville, Through Jan. 1,

Whistle Stop Christmas
Cleburne, Through Dec. 31,

Santa’s Wonderland
College Station, Through Dec. 30,

Christmas in the Park
Cuero, Through Jan. 1,

Holiday at the Dallas Arboretum
Dallas, Through Dec. 29,

Christmas on the Square
Frisco, Through Dec. 31,

Iceland/Festival of Lights
Galveston, Through Jan. 12,

Lasers & Lights
Galveston, Through Jan. 1,

Gaylord Texan’s Lone Star Christmas
Grapevine, Through Jan. 15,

History in Lights
Goliad State Park, Dec. 1-31,

Christmas Village at Bayou Bend
Houston, Dec. 12-30,

Lights Spectacular
Johnson City, Through Jan. 5,

Christmas on the Creek
Lampasas, Through Jan. 1,

Starry Starry Nights Lighted Christmas Park
Llano, Through Dec. 31,

Santa Land
Lubbock, Dec. 10-23,

Lighted Yule Trail
Luling, Through Jan. 1,

Walkway of Lights
Marble Falls, Through Jan. 1,

Wonderland of Lights
Marshall, Through Dec. 29,

Santa’s Ranch
New Braunfels, Through Jan. 4,

Holiday Model Train Show
Round Rock, Through Dec. 26,

Hometown Holiday Lights
Round Rock, Dec. 1-31,

Miracle on 34th Street Radio Play
Round Rock, Through Dec. 21,

Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Round Rock, Through Dec. 22,

Alamo Lights
San Antonio, Dec. 6-29,

Fiesta de las Luminarias
San Antonio, Dec. 6-8, 13-15, 20-22,

Holiday Lights on the River Walk
San Antonio, Through Jan. 13,

Sights & Sounds of Christmas
San Marcos, Dec. 4-7, 11-14,

Dancing Lights of Mill Pond Park
San Saba, Through Jan. 5,

Holiday Sandcastle Village
South Padre Island, Through Jan. 13,

Nature in Lights
Temple, Through Jan. 6,

Trail of Lights
Wimberley, Through Dec. 28,

New Year’s Eve Parties:

Roaring '20s New Year’s Eve Party
Dec. 31, Alpine,

New Year’s Eve Dance with Bret Graham and Band
Dec. 31, Blanco,

New Year’s Eve Party
Dec. 31, Bryan,

Roaring '20s New Year’s Eve Bash
Dec. 31, Fredericksburg,

USO-Style New Year’s Eve Hangar Dance
Dec. 31, Fredericksburg,

Luckenbach New Year’s Eve Celebration
Dec. 31, Luckenbach,

New Year’s Eve at Gruene Hall
Dec. 31, Gruene,

New Year’s Eve Historical Bash
Dec. 31, Richmond,

Gerald McLeod has been traveling around Texas and beyond for his "Day Trips" column for more than 25 years. Keep up to date with his journeys on his archive page.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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Day Trips, holiday lights 2019, New Year's Eve 2019, Norman Rockwell, wildlife refuge, Nurdle Patrol

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