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Photo by Dan Burton on Unsplash

Even Austinites who love to give time and funds on a regular basis — weekly volunteering, donating in friends' names for birthdays, participating in crowdfunding when it comes up — it’s a lot to keep track of. Especially during the holiday season, shopping for friends, family, and busy-time-of-the-year incidentals, a lot of our good intentions fade to the background.

There is a worldwide holiday to keep people on track: GivingTuesday, a recent addition to the Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday pipeline, asks people to take a step back from the consumerist shuffle and think about what they can give outside of their usual habits.

This year, it falls on November 29, and local nonprofit I Live Here, I Give Here (ILHIGH) has a long cheat sheet for Austinites looking to make a difference, including a roster of 26 food and drink businesses donating a portion of proceeds from November 26 to December 2.

GivingTuesday is split into regions, by country and then further by city. ILHIGH, the organization that founded Amplify Austin Day in 2013, is going into its sixth GivingTuesday as the official leader of the Central Texas region, offering a searchable, categorized list of Austin nonprofits that would love some help. The restaurant portion is a little different; organized in partnership with Good Work Austin, a restaurant industry support system that also works against food insecurity, the initiative gets Austinites familiar with local restaurants while knowing their tab is going to a good cause.

The 26 restaurants participating in ILHIGH’s GivingTuesday initiative are:

  • North Austin: Barrett's Coffee, Black Star Co-op, Brentwood Social House, Casey's New Orleans Snowballs, Eldorado Cafe, Epoch Coffee, Little Ola's Biscuits, West Pecan Coffee + Beer (Pflugerville)
  • Northeast Austin: L'Oca d'Oro, Southern Soul Bowl, Taterque, Tso Chinese
  • East Austin: Bento Picnic, Dai Due, Flitch Coffee, Greater Goods Coffee, Hillside Farmacy, The Cavalier
  • Downtown: Little Wu, Olamaie, Swift's Attic, Wu Chow
  • South Austin: Maie Day, Patika, Tso Chinese, House Wine
  • West Austin: Chez Zee, Epoch Coffee

Interested donors who can’t make it for a meal can use amplifyatx.org to donate to ILHIGH directly, or to donate to another organization, to which they may add an additional contribution to the ILHIGH fund before checkout.

More information about the GivingTuesday campaign is available at ilivehereigivehere.org, and on the organization’s social media.

Photo courtesy of Fogo de Chão

6 things to know in Austin food right now: Brazilian steakhouse sizzles into new downtown space

News You Can Eat

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.

Openings

More meat is the guiding principle at Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão, and despite an upcoming closure in Austin, it’s not letting up anytime soon. The restaurant is just relocating from 309 E. Third St. to a slightly more central spot blocks away at 200 Congress Ave., on the bottom floor of The Austonian, a residential tower that’s currently the second-tallest building in the city. It will include churrasco grilling in the main dining room, an outdoor patio, a full bar, and meat lockers for dry aging in-house. A portion of opening week sales will be donated to Keep Austin Fed. For now, the 3rd Street location is still accepting orders.

Other news and notes

The bake sale to put all others to shame, The Festive Mercantile & Chef Susan's Bake Sale, is leveraging award-winning treats by Luties’ pastry chef Susana Querejazu on November 27. The Commodore Perry Estate almost turns the sale into a festival, with lots of opportunities to hang out after snagging the most desirable pastries, including shopping at the Larder Mercantile, wreaths, coffee, whiskey, and more. The sale opens at 10 am and closes when goods sell out.

GivingTuesday, a different kind of winter holiday, happens on November 29 and encourages people to donate funds or time, partially through giving businesses a day to organize special campaigns. In Austin, nonprofit I Live Here I Give Here (ILHIGH) leads the Central Texas area, in a longer event from November 26 to December 2. In partnership with Good Work Austin (fighting food insecurity), 26 neighborhood restaurants will be donating a portion of sales, including Bento Picnic, Chez Zee, Epoch Coffee, Olamaie, The Cavalier, and many more. Full list at ilivehereigivehere.org, under “Dine out for a good cause.”

As many visit family for the holidays, it can be nice to celebrate home in Texas. On November 30, Austin institution The Driskill is putting together a four-course prix fixe of off-menu items by the hotel’s executive chef, Mark Dayanandan, with drink pairings by sotol-maker Desert Door. The four courses contain a lot more than four items, including stuffed quail, smoked gulf redfish pâté, and tomatillo berry compote. Tickets ($95) available on Tock.

Side Eye Pie, the wood-fired pizza truck at Meanwhile Brewing is offering a football special until January 2; every Monday night after 4 pm, two cheese or pepperoni pizzas will be $30. Although these pies are simple, Side Eye is known for serving up complex pies with lots of fresh and organic toppings, on dough made with local flour and yeast. The bar will be open for lots of beer selections, and other neighboring trucks serve barbecue, ice cream, and more.

As passers-by may have noticed, Japanese South Congress eatery Lucky Robot is bringing Christmas cheer to one of Austin’s busiest streets with the return of its holiday pop-up. Like the installment in 2021, this one brings a “canopy of garland,” with classic holiday decorations like giant gift boxes, Christmas trees, wreaths, and lights. In 2022, the decoration gets even bigger, with more than 1,000 hanging ornaments. It’s Christmas in Tokyo, in Austin.

Photo courtesy of Speak As One

New Austin-based mental health subscription box plans national launch at SXSW 2023

Speak Now and Hold Your Peace

Mental health apps are so alluring, but once you’ve recorded your two-week streak and things are feeling a little more organized, it can be hard to keep going. It’s hard enough to keep up with journaling and a great bedtime routine, and many lovely self-help tools also lose their effectiveness when the novelty wears off.

A smart company might harness that novelty as its hook — and an easily distracted self-helper won’t fall off the wagon. Like many other companies in the mental health space, Speak As One will work on a subscription model, but this one won’t languish, unused on a credit card statement. The service, which plans to launch during SXSW 2023, delivers boxes of tangible mental health tools, inspiration, games, and even sensory objects that act as a monthly nudge to try something new, and curiosity takes care of the rest.

A sample box included:

  • Stress balls with short inspirational phrases by MindPanda
  • An Emotional First Aid Kit containing advice for situations as they come up, like sleeplessness and feelings of inadequacy
  • Tiny colorful putties at different resistances by Flint Rehab
  • A notebook, and two books: Athlete Mental Health Playbook and 1000 Unique Questions About Me
  • Other small items

It’s more than packing and shipping out a few toys each month. The boxes are curated with help from a licensed therapist, who leaves a personal note along with tips on how to use the items inside and additional resources. There is one type of box right now that aims to “reduce anxiety, increase mindfulness, and promote peace and balance,” but for further customization (for $10 more), the team is working on boxes tailored to first responders, veterans, athletes, and people in “recovery.”

Speak As One emphasizes community stories in its branding outside the delivery box, and uses inspiration from “influencers” (less content creators and more so people who can embody a relatable story) to build the specialty boxes. The company’s YouTube channel shares dozens of interviews with founder Julie Korioth, a former board member for Austin’s SIMS Foundation, a well-respected mental health resource for members of the local music industry.

“With hundreds of millions of people struggling with mental health, and COVID making the issue much worse, society continues to ostracize those who openly discuss mental health issues,” said Korioth in a release. “I founded this company so we can change the way the world sees, discusses, and supports mental health. Our goal is to promote empathy, connectedness, acceptance, and thoughtfulness with an innovative toolkit that caters to specific needs."

In addition to offering a nudge, these boxes could make great care packages for a loved one who is feeling introspective or going through a significant life event. It is possible to buy gift boxes, if presentation is your thing, but it’d be just as easy to repackage a box that comes before the receiver ready to appreciate the items at home.

The cost of one box is manageable at $49.99 (especially considering the retail value of products included, which the sample box far exceed), but for many subscribers this adds up fast. Luckily, there is no pressure to continue a lengthy commitment — subscriptions last between one and six months, so users have plenty of time to reconsider and sit with the items that have already been delivered.

"The goal is to meet our audience at any phase of their mental health journey,” said Korioth. “We’re creating change and a global life-long support system for children and adults dealing with mental health challenges. We simultaneously highlight businesses, the tech community, athletes, and artists doing wonderful work in this space.”

The company plans to partner with corporations to connect with employees and provide boxes to individuals the company chooses, and will turn some content into session albums with sales proceeds dedicated to mental health research.

More information and links to preorder are available at speakasone.com.

Photo courtesy of the Den Foundation

UT football star gains yards for unhoused Austinites in pledge with local nonprofits

Rushing Forward

To non-football fans, gaining a yard may not really change lives. But running back Bijan Robinson, number 5 on the Texas Longhorns, is making sure the ground he gains is really going the distance for Austin communities, with a $5-per-yard pledge to improve the lives of chronically homeless people.

For every yard Robinson gains, home-building nonprofit the Den Foundation will donate $5 to the Community First! Village, a mixed-income co-op in far East Austin that fosters community among formerly unhoused Austinites and live-in neighborhood ambassadors. The small pledge, dubbed Den5for5, adds up quickly: Robinson has gained more than 2,000 yards in career rushing yards since 2020, and 1,472 of those since the start of the initiative. By November 15, the pledged amount for the season totaled $7,360.

To amplify the contribution, fans at home, or anyone who likes a challenge, are invited to match the pledge or join at one-hundredth of the scale: 5 cents per yard, which by now would total $73.60. (Donors will have to do their own math using a one-time donation form, since there is no automated system.)

Robinson was a clear fit for the initiative as the new team representative on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) at the University of Texas. He joins returning reps Ben Ballard, Jake Majors, and Moro Ojomo, who use their understanding of player needs to coordinate with athletic department administrators.

"After seeing the work that Alan and the Mobile Loaves & Fishes team do at Community First! Village, I couldn't help but want to get involved,” said Robinson in a press release. “It saddens me when I see someone living on the street, and I always try to do as much as I can, but this partnership with Den allows me to help at a higher level. I hope others will be inspired by the CFV story as much as I am, and will join us in making an impact on the Austin community.”

Community First! Village operates a neighborhood of nearly 30 acres, eventually totaling 51 when Phase II of the master plan is complete. The current capacity at Phase I can support more than 200 formerly homeless residents (with disabilities, who meet the standards for chronic homelessness), and folds those residents into a mostly self-sufficient community. Residents take jobs around the neighborhood, and people from surrounding communities are encouraged to visit for events like movie nights, markets, and voting.

The efforts of Community First! Village are deeply in line with those of the Den Foundation, which emphasizes the same goals to provide shelter, champion a healthy artistic community, and provide important advancement opportunities in education. Both organizations work on a foundational belief in well-rounded community care.

“The Den Foundation is honored to be partnering up with Bijan Robinson in our efforts to support Community First! Village,” said Den Foundation Director Jonny Rodgers. “Bijan is a world-class athlete no doubt, but it was his character and faith that made this an easy partnership. We’re proud to stand with Bijan in our efforts to eradicate homelessness right here in Austin, Texas. And remember … what starts here, changes the world!”

A tracker showing Robinson’s yardage since the beginning of the initiative is available at den5for5.com.

Photo courtesy of Yasmeen Magar

8 things to know in Austin food right now: Hot bar hosts industry night pop-up

News You Can Eat

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.

Openings

Famously, the restaurant industry is always battling to keep passion alive and restaurants funded, despite very tricky financial standards. Bar Peached, the cocktail-forward sister eatery to the Peached Tortilla, is hosting an industry night on its usual night off, Monday, November 14. Event curators were given free rein to make any weird drinks they’ve always loved, resulting in an eight-drink special menu featuring items like black pepper and stone fruit pit (consider that Peached). Half of sales from the Chef Bar pop-up (6-11 pm) will pay the staff at the event. Everyone is invited, and other industry professionals are especially encouraged to visit.

Happy Lemon, a boba chain from Taiwan, is opening its first Austin location the weekend of November 12. This is part of a larger-scale Texas takeover, with nine locations already in Dallas and Houston, and more planned soon according to an Instagram post in August. The most recent new location before Austin was in Plano a little more than a month before. The shop is celebrating the grand opening on Saturday and Sunday, from 11 am to 9 pm, with buy-one-get-one drinks and free tote bags for the first 100 customers. Happy Lemon Austin is located at 2501 W Parmer Lane, Suite 650.

Other news and notes

Watertrade, the Japanese-style cocktail bar inside omakase restaurant Otoko, is known for its sleek, modern atmosphere and, of course, its Japanese ingredients. Now it may be known for something exclusive; its own private-label sake. Revenge of the Third Son, brewed in Kyoto and inspired by Otoko chef Yoshi Okai, has “gentle ginjo aromas & a dry, crisp, yet matured aftertaste,” according to a press release. It is available to try at Watertrade and Otoko, or to purchase by the bottle in gift sets (starting at $120) via Tock.

On November 10 from 7-11 pm, the American Cancer Society is hosting its second annual Thomas J. Henry Fork Cancer fundraiser, which doubles as a tasting event for several highly-regarded Austin restaurants including Loro, Via 313, Juliet Italian Kitchen, TenTen, and Intero. Supporting entertainment at The Belmont includes live music, a silent auction, and live screen printing by Feels So Good. There are still plenty of tickets ($95 general admission) on GiveSmart.

Speaking of those screen printers and record label, Feels So Good, the recent rebrand is not complete without an official party at FSG Fest on November 12. The multifaceted festival mostly focuses on music (of course), but has plenty of food and drink options planned. There will be four food trucks on-site: Hajima Food Truck, Austin Oyster Co, Fase Cafe, and the Corn Dog Company. Plus, there will be free beverages while supplies last, and some of the proceeds will benefit the Austin Music Foundation. Tickets ($20 in advance) available at fsgprints.com.

Future Front ATX, the events superstars behind Front Fest, are doing it again with a four-weekend market at Ani’s Day and Night. The house-turned-coffee shop and miniature food truck park are making space from November 12 to December 3 for rotating brunch and drink specials, goods by women and LGBTQ+ makers, DJ sets, and “surprise pop-ups.” There are more than 400 vendors participating in 2022. More information about the Front Market at thefrontmarket.com.

Uchi has a busy five days of collabs coming up. Fierce Whiskers Distillery is hosting a sold-out preview of Uchi’s new yakitori eatery, Uchiba, on November 13. Next, on November 16 and 17, Asian smokehouse Loro is teaming up with the sushi restaurant to create an exclusive tasting menu ($74.95) with items like edamame jalapeño hummus and sesame pecan noodles. The dinners will be at Loro, does not accept reservations.

Desert Door Texas Sotol is also busy, but that’s not news for the event-happy distillery. From November 16 to 20, Desert Door is celebrating its fifth anniversary with $5 ranch waters, samples in the tasting room, food by Lo Salvaje, and live music to keep the party going. RSVP on Eventbrite. The sotol distillery recently partnered with Garrison Brothers, a bourbon distillery, to make sotol finished in bourbon barrels called Midnight Cowboy ($75). The public is invited to the Desert Door facility to celebrate that achievement, too, from November 10 to 13. RSVP on Eventbrite.

Photo courtesy of Defend the Dream Foundation

These sporty nonprofits are bringing athletes and inspiration to The Tailgate

Work Together

If you've been psyching yourself up for The Tailgate on November 3 (keep reading for a ticket deal), you likely already know what we'll be serving and what you might want to wear.

But a key component of our newest party is shining a spotlight on sports-related nonprofits — and you'll even get to meet some of the athletes that champion these important causes.

Read up on who's going to be there and how you can get involved in their life-changing work:

The Muny Conservancy (Save Muny)
As the first public course in the South to racially desegregate, Lions Municipal Golf Course is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Muny Conservancy was created in 2019 to help permanently preserve and improve this iconic Austin recreational green space, and to help make sure all 141 acres are saved for future generations to enjoy, with affordable golf, public accessibility, the civil rights history of the site, and promotion of the game in mind. The wildlife, heritage oaks, and 18 holes of golf have been an important part of Austin's parkland since 1924.

For almost a century, Lions Municipal Golf Course has leased the land on which it sits from the University of Texas. Now, the University is ready to determine a permanent use for these 141 acres. Once the course is preserved, The Muny Conservancy has plans to restore and improve the course with award-winning golf course architecture firm Coore & Crenshaw, and create a dynamic public facility where everyone can not only play golf, but gather and enjoy community activities like farmers markets, music events, and more.

The goal is to keep Muny as a place where families and children of all ages can learn and practice the core values that golf teaches, like honesty, integrity, and good sportsmanship. There are also plans to build a teaching center that honors the historic integration of a legendary public golf course, and the courageous people who made that happen.

Save Muny co-chair Scotty Sayers, board member Ed Clements, and local golf professional Joe Beck will be at The Tailgate to talk all things Muny and golf.

Score some sweet Save Muny merch (with all sales going to the nonprofit), sign a petition to preserve the course, play some putt-putt, and enter to win four tickets to the second annual Imagine Muny Gala in February, 2023.

Defend the Dream Foundation
Derrick Johnson, a former Texas Longhorn who played with the Kansas City Chiefs and garnered prestige in both positions, started Defend the Dream in 2012 to connect low-income and inner city youths with better resources and opportunities. He moved back to Austin in 2019 to help support the nonprofit even further.

Recently, the foundation presented Austin’s first Discovery Den to Oak Springs Elementary School, in East Austin near Airport Boulevard. Defend the Dream has been installing Discovery Dens in other schools for years, transforming school library spaces into well-stocked, football-themed reading areas with bright colors and lots of seating.

The goal is to create a comfortable and engaging space to encourage reading. In this case, it’s nearly $58,000 of donations for a “multi-functional space,” with donated furniture, bookshelves, and new flooring. In addition to a more exciting atmosphere, this donation covers more than 1,000 new books, selected for diversity, in an effort to modernize the current library selection. Langford Elementary and Pickle Elementary schools are next to receive their own Discovery Dens.

You can meet Johnson at The Tailgate, as well as pose for pics and get his autograph.

How to buy tickets
Fired up to make a difference in your community? Show up to The Tailgate on November 3 at Distribution Hall, where delicious food and drink, fun games, and representatives from both nonprofits will be waiting.

Get your tickets now, and use promo code DONATE to get 50 percent off your ticket price. Plus, CultureMap will donate 100 percent of your ticket purchase back to these participating charities.

Photo courtesy of Defend the Dream Foundation

Derrick Johnson is connecting kids with better resources and opportunities.

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Mobile vet company brings its no-rush, stress-free services to Austin homes

Home Is Where the Vet Is

Austin, one of the largest no-kill shelter cities in the United States, already knows a lot about adopting instead of shopping. A puppy is a wonderful addition to the family, but senior dogs need love (and are loved), too. As many have learned firsthand, taking care of a senior pet can be challenging — with higher medical bills, potentially heavy lifting as joints stiffen, and tough decisions to make about what kind of care is necessary — but also incredibly rewarding.

November is National Senior Pet Health Month, calling for awareness about an older pet’s needs, and providing opportunities to celebrate wins all over local news. In Austin, one of those wins came in scrubs. The Vets, a mobile veterinary service that makes house calls, expanded into Austin in 2022 (after launching the year prior), eventually bringing the national count to 16 locations including Houston and Dallas. Texas and California are tied for the most locations, at three each.

“Among the top reasons that pet owners avoid or postpone their visit to the vet clinic include the stress of transporting their pet, restrictive pet carriers, and crowded waiting rooms,” explained a statement from the company. “Our no-rush visits give your pet the time to bond with our vet and you the opportunity to ask questions. And you always have the option to rebook the same vet to help grow that special relationship over time.”

This team provides care for every stage in a pet’s life, and most of their needs, too; that’s everything from routine wellness exams, microchipping, nutrition consulting, and even emergency services including those with specialized equipment like ultrasound machines. When the time comes to ease a pet’s end-of-life transition, the team also offers at-home euthanasia, dramatically reducing stress for both pets and people who don’t want a sterile environment or a tearful drive home.

The American Veterinary Medical Association lists many needs for senior pets, including increased medical care, vaccinations, and pet parents that are observant about environmental concerns like house structure and stimulation. With a home vet, pet owners might consider asking for opinions on how to streamline some of these interactions, without having to worry about having to write notes, try to remember potential issues in the space, or miss any important details a professional would see right away.

A good vet can make animals comfortable no matter what, but The Vets emphasizes the stronger relationships that its team can build in a comfortable, stress-free environment. In addition to a more convenient and comfortable experience, this can also mean better care for a pet that doesn’t have an entire puppyhood to adjust.

More information about The Vets, including scheduling, is available at thevets.com.

Austin-area pig rescue wins Airbnb contest to build one-of-a-kind pig-themed guest house

This Place is a Pigsty

KVUE — From tens of thousands of entries from around the world, 100 aspiring designers, architects, DIYers, and makers from more than 20 countries and regions have been chosen to bring their unique space ideas to life as part of the $10,000,000 Airbnb OMG! Fund.

One of those winners is Tracey Stabile, director of the Central Texas Pig Rescue (CTPR) in Austin. Tracey and Dan Illescas, founders of Central Texas Pig Rescue, will receive up to $100,000 to create a one-of-a-kind pig-shaped guest space. Over the course of the next 10 months, they will design, construct, and outfit the space to be guest-ready by summer 2023.

"Basically the OMG! Fund contest was a way for people to be really playful and kind of invent a really cool dwelling that would be something that's totally notable to people and be a destination," said Stabile.

Stabile said Airbnb left all of the freedom of creativity up to them. They went through several rounds of design and planning and review.

"Each step of the way, we were like, 'We're one step closer.' It was very exciting. Just getting those emails at each milestone and seeing that we were actually contenders in this contest. Then the fact that we, of course, won and now we're going to be able to build this amazing thing that we absolutely never would have been able to build under other circumstances. It's just an amazing opportunity," stated Stabile.

Stabile said she wanted to build something that was a little bit unpredictable and wanted to avoid some of the shapes that people might expect. The current pig sanctuary in Smithville, about 45 minutes outside of Austin, is home to over 200 pigs that were saved from abandonment. The sanctuary houses a mix of all different types of pigs, mostly potbellied pigs, and is 100 percent volunteer run and 100 percent donation based.

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Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.

Texas state parks beckon this holiday season with festive events and peaceful escapes

Silent nights

If roasting s'mores and hiking in the great outdoors sounds fun, pack up your family and visit one of Texas’ state parks this holiday season.

Texas state parks and historic sites are ringing in the holidays with a number of festive events. There are drive-thru light tours, special holiday hikes, arts and crafts for the kiddos, and more.

Reservations fill up quickly, so be sure to visit an individual park's website before you head out. And check the Holidays in the Parks page for many more fun options, pricing information, and more information.

Austin/San Antonio-area parks

Bastrop State Park
Follow ornaments with clues through the park every day in December during the annual Fa La La Through The Forest Scavenger Hunt. Enjoy the Lost Pines Christmas Parade, a collaborative event with Bastrop and Buescher Parks, at 6 pm December 10. Tour the inside of the historic Refectory and see how the Civilian Conservation Corps celebrated Christmas away from home during A Lost Pines CCC Christmas 9 am-12 pm December 17.

Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site
Visit the popular attraction during December to learn how the farm staff get ready for das Weihnachten (Christmas). Return to the park at 5:30 pm December 18 for the 53rd Annual Tree Lighting, a holiday tradition started by President and Mrs. Johnson.

Garner State Park
Join the Buffalo Soldiers program and friends as they stop into Garner State Park before leaving for Christmas break during the Marching Towards Christmas event 10 am-2 pm December 10. Christmas activities will include hand-dipped candles, frontier Christmas painting, Christmas-themed hard tack in Dutch ovens, and stories of the Buffalo Soldiers.

Buescher State Park
On the Fa La La in the Forest Scavenger Hunt, you can follow ornaments with clues through the park to secure a prize at the end, December 1 to January 1. Enjoy the Smithville Festival of Lights and Lighted Parade, a collaborative effort between Buescher and Bastrop parks, on December 3.

Hill Country State Natural Area
See how art, history and state parks are connected; learn some basic watercolor techniques and paint a card or two to take home during the Watercolor Christmas Cards event 2:30-4 pm December 3. Come back for Horses in History & Ornament Craft from 2:30-4 pm December 22 and learn how horses played important roles in the lives of vaqueros, native people, ranchers and more. Then, play a round of horseshoes and paint a horse ornament to take with you.

South Llano River State Park
At Christmas at the Ranch, 2-5 pm December 3, guests can warm up with hot chocolate and cider, listen to live entertainment, enjoy crafts and cookie decorating, and anticipate Santa's visit while taking in the twinkling lights and Christmas decorations at the historic Ranch House that now serves as Park Headquarters.

Dallas-Fort Worth-area parks

Tyler State Park
Enjoy Reading Ranger Campfire Stories around a cozy campfire at 3 pm December 3. Head back December 9-10 for A Pineywoods Christmas, when you can stroll or drive through the Lakeview and Big Pine campgrounds to take in campers' elaborately decorated sites and take a Winter Wonderland Hike.

Lake Tawakoni State Park
Drive through or stay at the park and decorate your campsite with your favorite Christmas decorations to receive your second night of camping free during your stay. There will be a decorating contest, complete with awards, as well as a reading of The Night before Christmas — all part of Twinkle Tour 2022, 5-8 pm December 3.

Daingerfield State Park
Drive through the park lit up like Santa Land during the 10th annual Christmas in the Park drive thru lights tour December 14-17 (times vary). Marvel at the decorated campsites and lights, and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies while waiting for a chance to visit with Santa.

Eisenhower State Park
Help those in need and spread holiday cheer — and as a bonus, get free entry to the park — by bringing one unwrapped donation item to the park’s Holiday Donation Drive through December 19. Visit December 9-10 to visit the Light Up the Park drive-thru lights event, featuring milk and cookies with Santa. This year, the park is taking unwrapped toys to donate instead of collecting entrance fees for the event.

Cleburne State Park
Enjoy Pancakes With Santa and make pinecone bird feeders 9-11 am December 10.

Cedar Hill State Park
Search for birds taking their winter break at the park during their Winter Birding Walk, which takes place 7:30-8:30 am December 13. Explore Christmas on Penn Farm on December 17: Learn about the history and pioneers of the Penn Family and the farm they built 150 years ago.

Lake Mineral Wells State Park
Experience Christmas, cowboy style, at Cross Timbers Cowboy Christmas, December 3. Park ranger and cowboy poet David Owens will gather guests around a campfire at the Lone Star Amphitheater for an evening of cowboy culture through songs, stories and poems.

Dinosaur Valley State Park
In partnership with Toys for Tots, the park is hosting Christmas in the Valley, a full day of ranger-led events, programs, family friendly activities, arts and crafts, food and more. Bring a new and unwrapped toy for free admission for the whole family. The event takes place 1-4 pm December 17.

Houston and Gulf Coast-area parks

Brazos Bend State Park
Holiday in the Park is an all-day affair on December 10. Events include a self-guided "Elf Hike," Christmas crafts, "Pup Parade," s'mores, and more.

Goose Island State Park
See the park in lights, enjoy holiday activities, and camp for free when you decorate your campsite during Christmas in the Park on December 17. Guests are invited to "Santa's Village" at the CCC Recreation Hall for holiday crafts, games, hot chocolate around the campfire, and to drop off letters to Santa in the North Pole Mailbox.

Lake Corpus Christi State Park
Get in the holiday spirit with the second annual Holiday Light Drive Thru, 6-9 pm December 10. Visitors can enter the park for a drive through the lighted areas of Javelina and Opossum Bend camping loops, plus the Old Pavilion.

West Texas and the Panhandle-area parks

Franklin Mountains State Park
On December 3, make ornaments and holiday cards with recycled materials as part of the Art in the Parks series. During Cookies and Cocoa, you can decorate and take home your own Christmas treat while sipping on a cup of hot chocolate 2-4 pm December 23. Come back on Christmas Eve for a guided, two-mile Santa Hike at 11 am.

Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site
Bring your family out for Home for the Holidays guided family hike on December 10 and moderate hike on December 17.

San Angelo State Park
Enjoy a drive-thru tour of lights and optional pictures with Santa and Smokey Bear during Holly-Days in the Park, 6-8 pm December 10.