Deck the Hill Country
6 magical Hill Country towns with Hallmark-worthy holiday light displays
The Texas Hill County always rolls out the red-and-green carpet for the holidays — even in 2020.
Of course there's no bad time to visit the Hill Country. It's become a magnet for tourists relaxing and exploring its numerous wineries, distilleries, restaurants, hiking trails, and many lodging options.
But the region is particularly magical in December. Although some activities are slightly scaled back, or large events like parades are canceled, there is still plenty to see and celebrate this year in its tiny towns and quaint cities.
After you've taken in all the Christmas lights around Dallas, grab the family or members of your quarantine bubble, and hit the road for Hallmark-worthy celebrations sure to get you in the holiday spirit.
First stop, Marble Falls. This year's holiday light display is the 30th anniversary of the city-run event. The lights are free and although a few festivities have been canceled, such as the annual holiday parade and Santa, the Walkway of Lights is still on through January 2, 2021, from 6-10 pm, nightly. This stunning display in Lakeside Park includes 2 million lights, and is made even more dazzling by lights reflected in Lake Marble Falls.
Next, mosey on to Johnson City, a short, scenic drive of just over 20 miles to the presidential hometown of Lyndon Baines Johnson, aka "the Twinkliest Town in Texas." The Lights Spectacular is a free event back for its 31st year and running through January 3. This year will also feature blue lights as a tribute to healthcare workers.
A 30-minute drive to the west and you have arrived in the historic town of Fredericksburg. As other towns in the region, holidays are a bit different this year, but 55 Nights of Fredericksburg Lights, a light and music show is still being held from through January 6, 2021. Head to the main square, Marktplatz, to see the iconic 26-foot German Christmas Pyramid and Community Christmas Tree. Songs and a brief history of the area start each night at 6 pm.
From there, travel 70 miles south to San Antonio. The world-famous River Walk was conceived during the FDR administration as part of the New Deal, and today is one of the state's most lauded attractions. During the holidays, however, the two and half miles of pedestrian-friendly, walkable trails turn into a brilliant holiday display. This year, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg ordered the free Holiday Lights on the River Walk to be switched on early to bring a smile to all. The lights are scheduled through January 4, 2021, and are lit from sundown to sunrise. For those interested in an alternative mode of transportation to view the lights, boats are available for rent through Go Rio. Caroling boats are also offered during the holidays.
Traveling from San Antonio, head 93 miles northeast to Bastrop (though, it's a shorter drive if you cheat and just come from Austin). Downtown Bastrop, located along the Bastrop River (also the Lower Colorado River) is home to its own river walk that transforms into the Bastrop River of Lights during the holidays. This half-mile trail at Fisherman's Park is filled with seasonal lights through January 1, 2021, every evening until 10 pm. Bastrop also offers other holiday activities such as an artisan market and even a holiday-themed haunted house.
Leaving Bastrop, and head northwest toward Georgetown for about an hour drive. Lights around the historic downtown square ("the Most Beautiful Town Square in Texas") and county courthouse have been turned into a veritable winter wonderland during Merry Moments in Georgetown. Instead of the annual official lighting ceremony, the city shared a video of the program on social media, complete with the countdown, lighting, and music for home viewing. Check the city's event calendar for special holiday events all month long, including live music, Christmas theater productions, and markets.