Day Trips & Beyond: December Events Roundup

Texas travel tips from Llano lights to Kerrville craftsmanship

Happy holidays to one and all; now get out there and start daytrippin’.

The town of Llano turns on the lights for visitors during the holidays. The county courthouse square is just part of the Christmas spirit. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Land of Rudolph. Every year the lighted jumping deer in front of the Llano County Courthouse installed to welcome deer hunters is transformed into a reindeer for the holidays. The colorful lights around the courthouse are just a small part of the town’s Christmas decorations. Across the river, Badu Park sparkles with thousands of lights. Stroll through the Starry Starry Nights Lighted Christmas Park nightly until Dec. 31. Enjoy a Snow Day in the park on Sat., Dec. 10 from 1-9pm when a 35,000-pound mountain of the white, fluffy fun stuff is delivered.

It’s about an hour and half of a beautiful drive from Austin to Llano. Selecting your cut of meat right out of the smoker at Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que is a year-round destination by itself. Llanite is rare kind of brown granite found in Llano County, which is also found at Enchanted Rock and Jewelry on the courthouse square along with other unique Christmas gifts. Just off the courthouse square, Fuel Coffee House is closed on Sunday, but you might catch a local musician playing while you sip a warm drink any other day of week. A good place to stretch your legs and get a good look at the historic Roy B. Inks Bridge over the Llano River is from Grenwelge Park at the southeast corner of the bridge.
Through Dec. 31, Starry Starry Nights Lighted Christmas Park, Llano, 325/247-5354,

Craftspeople from around the state compete for 10 top prizes including “People’s Choice” award at the annual Texas Furniture Makers Show in Kerrville. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Functional art. When you look around the large exhibition hall at the Kerrville Arts and Cultural Center, you have to wonder how the judges ever decide on the “Best of Show” award among the entries in the Texas Furniture Makers Show. The woodworkers’ skill at shaping the wood is astounding. The warmth of the materials seems to glow from within, and each piece radiates a bit of the soul of its creator.

The annual show, now in its 23rd year, features handmade furniture and accessories by craftspeople and artisans from around the state. Admission is free to the show held at the Arts Center at 228 Earl Garrett St. in downtown Kerrville. The galleries are open Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 4pm. The Center is housed in the former Kerrville Post Office and next door to the Schreiner Mansion Museum and Event Center.
Through Dec. 16, Texas Furniture Makers Show, Kerrville, 830/895-2911,

Travel Notes:

The Beaver’s my buddy. A San Antonio newspaper recently caused quite a stir around office water coolers when they published a list of the best and worst foods at Buc-ee's. Whether you love Buc-ee’s Family Travel Centers or not, everyone seems to have an opinion about the Texas-based travel centers. Just don’t call them a truck stop. That’s why there was a big sigh of relief in the state when Buc-ee Beaver announced that he was bringing bragging rights back to Texas. The company will replace their current store in Luling with the world’s largest convenience store. It will unseat the current record-holder Buc-ee's in Sevierville, Tenn. At 75,000 square feet the new travel center on I-10 will be 1,000 square feet bigger, have 120 fueling stations (no big rigs allowed), and miles of fan favorite foods. The Luling outpost opened in 2003 as the first travel center in the Lake Jackson convenience store’s chain and will remain open until the new building is completed sometime in late 2023.

Underground lights. The latest art installation at the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern in Houston illuminates the former underground drinking water reservoir with lights that evoke an atmosphere of flickering candlelight. Cistern Illuminated, designed by Houston artist and engineer Kelly O’Brien, features colors that shift between warm white and muted oranges, reds, and yellows, emulating the way embers flare up and fade on a dark winter’s night. Tours of Cistern Illuminated are offered every other hour through Jan. 8. Timed tickets are $10.

Trout fishing in Texas. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department has begun stocking 337,469 rainbow trout in ponds and waterways around the state. It’s become a winter tradition that lasts through March 3. Austin has four locations with multiple stockings. Along with the annual Trout Stocking Schedule, TPWD offers tips on equipment and bait. All anglers over 17 years of age will need a state fishing license unless they are fishing in a state park.

Woohoo for the whoopers. Another Texas winter tradition is when the whooping cranes return to the Coast. The first pair of the season were spotted on Oct. 21 on Matagorda Island, and most of the birds arrive at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in December. Whooping cranes are the tallest and rarest birds in North America with a record-high population of 543 in Texas last year. After a 2,500-mile migration from Canada, they spend the winter in Texas before returning north in late March.

Other December Events:

See hundreds of nativity scenes from around the world at Red Barn in Port Lavaca.

Nativity Exhibit
Dec. 1-4, Port Lavaca,

Texas Furniture Maker’s Show
Dec. 1-16, Kerrville,

Quarter Horse Racing
Dec. 1-17, Grand Prairie,

Christmas at the Gardens
Dec. 1-23, Amarillo,

A Christmas Wine Affair
Dec. 1-23, Fredericksburg,

Christmas Tree Forest
Dec.1-25, Big Spring,

Ice Land: A Caribbean Christmas
Dec. 1-Jan. 7, Galveston,

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

Winter Colorland
Dec. 1-Jan. 31, Houston,

Mandela: The Official Exhibition
Dec. 1-April 23, College Station,

Dickens on the Strand
Dec. 2-4, Galveston,

A Dickens of a Christmas
Dec. 2-4, Llano,

Christmas at Old Fort Concho
Dec. 2-4, San Angelo,

Bethlehem Revisited
Dec. 2-4, 9-11, Waxahachie,

Pearl Bluegrass Jam
Dec. 3, Gatesville,

Carol of Lights
Dec. 3, Lampasas,

Tropical Christmas in Rockport offers entertainment and festivities all day, ending with fireworks over the harbor.

Tropical Christmas
Dec. 3, Rockport,

Santa’s Railroad Wonderland
Dec. 3-18, San Antonio,

Open Days at the Garden
Dec. 3, 17, Hempstead,

Christmas at the Caverns
Dec. 3-23, San Antonio,

Eastside Market
Dec. 4, Waco,

Walk in Bethlehem
Dec. 6-7, Boerne,

Holidays at the Heard
Dec. 9-10, McKinney,

Umlauf and His Influence
Dec. 9-Feb. 5, San Angelo,

Christmas Past and Present
Dec. 10, Baytown,

Music in the Cave
Dec. 10, Boerne,

Bison Field Harvest
Dec. 10, Fredericksburg,

Snow Day
Dec. 10, Llano,

Dec. 10, New Braunfels,

Lighted kites illuminate the sky in Surfside Beach Dec. 10.

Island of Nighttime Kites
Dec. 10, Surfside Beach,

Islamic Arts Festival
Dec. 10-11, Spring,

Geminids Meteor Shower Peak Nights
Dec. 13-14, everywhere,

Christmas in Fulton
Dec. 14-15, Fulton,

Come and Taste It
Dec. 15, Gruene,

Schmeckenfest on the Square
Dec. 15, La Grange,

Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball
Dec. 15-17, Anson,

Christmas Ball
Dec. 16, Luckenbach,

La Gran Posada
Dec. 16, San Antonio,

A Lost Pines CCC Christmas
Dec. 17, Bastrop,

Lighted Christmas Parade and Market
Dec. 17, Blanco,

Music in the Cave: Winter Solstice
Dec. 17, Boerne,

Meyer Observatory Open House
Dec. 17, Clifton,

Bird Banding
Dec. 17, Lake Jackson,

Star Party
Dec. 17, Round Mountain,

Countdown to the New Year
Dec. 31, Fredericksburg,

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

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

New Year’s Eve Fireworks Display
Dec. 31, Port Aransas,

Holiday Lights 2022:

Baytown's Magical Winter Lights offers a fresh take on holiday light shows.

Magical Winter Lights
Through Jan. 7, Baytown,

Comanche Trail Festival of Lights
Dec. 4-25, Big Spring,

Christmas Spectacular
Dec. 3-Jan. 1, The Colony,

Whistle Stop Christmas
Through Dec. 31, Cleburne,

Holly-Days at the Garden
Dec. 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, Corpus Christi,

Holiday at the Arboretum
Through Dec. 31, Dallas,

Prairie Lights
Through Dec. 31, Grand Prairie,

Zoo Lights
Through Jan. 8, Houston,

Lightscape Houston
Dec. 1-Jan. 1, Houston,

San Antonio Botanical Garden is illuminated by over 1 million lights for Lightscape, open through Jan. 8.

Lightscape San Antonio
Dec. 1-Jan. 8, San Antonio,

Lights Spectacular
Through Jan. 8, Johnson City,

PEC Holiday Lights
Through Jan. 8, Johnson City,

Holiday Lights Along the Llano
Through-Jan. 1, Junction,

Trail of Lights
Dec. 9-23, La Grange,

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

Logansport Christmas Lights
Through Jan. 1, Logansport, La.,

Walkway of Lights
Through Jan. 1, Marble Falls,

Wonderland of Lights
Through Dec. 30, Marshall,

Natchitoches Christmas Festival
Through Jan. 6, Natchitoches, La.,

Walk of Lights
Through Jan. 1, Palestine,

Through Jan. 8, San Antonio,

Zoo Lights
Through Jan. 1, San Antonio,

Sights & Sounds of Christmas
Dec., 1-10, San Marcos,

Wild Lights
Through Dec. 31, Waco,

MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights
Through Dec. 26, Wichita Falls,

ElectriCritters: A Lighted Christmas Display
Through Dec. 23, Wichita Falls,

Trail of Lights
Dec. 3-4, 7-11, 14-23, 26, Wimberley,

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 and follow him on Facebook.

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