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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.

Texas French Bread

6 things to know in Austin food right now: Texas French Bread makes triumphant return

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

Texas French Bread can’t stop making news, returning triumphantly from a large fire — with support from lots of very loyal customers — frequenting farmers markets, and finally setting up a new food trailer. The Airstream is open in the beautiful garden that the bakery previously rented at 2900 Rio Grande St., every day except Monday from 8 am to 2 pm. The kitchen opens at 10 am. All items are first-come, first-serve until the trailer runs out. Customers can get coffee, sack lunches, and the great bakes they’ve been missing. The company commented on Instagram that plans to rebuild are “still up in the air.”

Mini golf and snacks are a match made in nostalgia heaven, but Dirdie Birdie is really kicking that combo up a notch. The restaurant, full bar, and indoor mini golf course is opening on November 18, thanks especially to work by Chef Nic Yanes of very chic, relatively affordable restaurants Juniper and Uncle Nicky's. The adult-focused 12-hole course contains lots of references to Austin, and is “almost like an interactive art gallery,” according to a note from a publicist. Check it out at 10910 Domain Drive. Check the website for hours over Thanksgiving, and expect regular opening hours to resume the following week.

The Toasted Yolk Café arrived in the Austin area for the first time on November 14, at 14105 Ronald Reagan Blvd. in Cedar Park. This giant breakfast and lunch spot (at 5,178 square feet) serves all the classics and, of course, a lot of eggs, but it also offers a full bar, nine TVs, online check-in, and a to-go area. The restaurant donated 10 percent of its opening day sales to The Dog Alliance. Although it’s new in Austin, the chain already has 28 restaurants, mostly in Texas, and lists 16 more coming soon including one in Lakeway. Visit at 14105 Ronald Reagan Boulevard from 7 am to 3 pm every day. Medical professionals in uniform or with ID receive half off drinks from Monday to Thursday until 10 am.

Other news and notes

Geraldine’s, the bar and restaurant at Hotel Van Zandt, is turning seven and celebrating on November 17. To celebrate, it’s relaunching Birds, Bubbles + Blues, a Thursday-night event featuring the restaurant’s spicy fried chicken, sparkling wine specials, and Austin-based blues musicians. The Geraldine’s menu is all about upscale southern foods — often with an interesting twist — so this fried chicken shouldn’t be missed, ambience aside.

On November 20, Aviary Wine & Kitchen will spin out into a series of special Sunday services: Aviary will be manning an all-day happy hour (3-9 pm), and a rotating list of guest chefs will be stepping in to take over the kitchen for pop-ups. That means $2 off glasses of wine, $10 off bottles, and $2 off beer, while chefs from around Austin regale diners with special 4-6 menu items. First Elementary ATX visits, then Che Cazzo, Chef’s Kiss, Penang Shack, and Elementary ATX once more, finishing out the series on December 18. Walk-up service only.

As if we needed any more reasons to fall in love with Camp Lucy, the Hill Country event venue is hosting its 2nd annual Christmas Chili Cook-Off on December 4. The Sacred Oaks venue is an unreasonably beautiful place to be tasting professional and amateur chilis, with whiskey, an open bar with holiday cocktails, a holiday market, a s’mores table, live music, donations for Helping Hands Pantry, and more. All this happens from 3-6 pm. Tickets ($70 over age 21, $45 under) available on Eventbrite.

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.

Courtesy of Wurstfest

Beat the crowds for a weekday jaunt through Wurstfest in New Braunfels

Wurst Week

New Braunfels is a bit of a drive for Austinites, but fans of German beer and food have a great incentive this week, especially if they value shorter lines.

Wurstfest is in full swing again, coming out of its first weekend of 2022 festivities. This year’s fest runs from November 4-13, spreading that massive population influx across two weekends, and shorter days in between. Sweetening the pot, admission is free from Monday to Thursday.

Realistically, although the German food is at least half the draw, Wurstfest could be called Bierfest with the sheer volume of beers it serves. And they’re not expecting too many visitors drinking before business hours end in the rather quaint New Braunfels. So, Wurstfest starts at 5 pm on weekdays, but the five hours it’s open (ending at 10 pm) offer plenty of ways to pass the time.

All weekdays start with live music at 5:30 pm on all five stages across the old German grounds. (For those who haven’t visited, this is basically a theme park: visitors wander through timber framed beer halls, past many, many concession stands, down the Comal River to a fairground, all without stepping out of Germany, it seems.) From those opening sets, there’s near-constant music on three of the stages.

Most of the entertainment comes from live music and the novelty of wandering around amongst the lederhosen and dirndls. (Those drinking less than friends should strongly consider bringing a book — this is from experience.) But there is some light programming every day to break up the drinking and dancing, especially for visitors with kids.

Monday promises a science show and masskrugstemmen (beer holding) contest. On Tuesday, more beers are held and Rapunzel and Flynn Rider make an appearance. Wednesday brings, you guessed it, more beer holding, and a magic show. On Thursday, kids can hear some storytelling, and Friday, Veteran’s Day, honors veterans with a salute. Following crowds will also bring visitors to shopping, sausage-making demonstrations, and children’s fair rides.

Perhaps needless to say, the food is legitimately excellent; this is, at its heart, a culinary event, and serves more than standard fried fair foods. Obviously, sausage is a great choice, but there are potatoes, gravy, pickles, and sauerkraut to go around. Returning revelers are thrilled to share their best recommendations for the food and imported beers. Pacing yourself, three to five hours is a very reasonable stretch for trying as much as possible and returning to old favorites.

Wurstfest tickets (free Monday to Thursday, $18 online for the weekend) are available now at wurstfest.com, along with more information and entertainment schedules.

Photo by Alison Narro

The best bites with nearly no lines at the Austin Food & Wine Festival

Fast Food

“This is what ACL used to be like,” said an attendee of Austin Food & Wine Festival near its close on Sunday, snacking on H-E-B nachos as the truck tried to reduce its stock. (It was one of the only vendors still open at 4:30 pm.) One pitmaster was putting the finishing touches on a roast, with a gaggle of sort-of-drunk onlookers leaning against the fence.

The Food & Wine Festival is a fascinating mix of ultra-prepared and laid-back. Wineries and local restaurants set up booths in rows that just keep popping up to foot traffic turning yet another corner. Troughs are filled with ice and canned drinks to grab in passing, and a DJ keeps the mood up for anyone who wants to step under the dance tent. But is the food good? Absolutely.

Chefs show an independent approach to offering samples, stepping away from signature menu items toward more unique recipes. Still, some trends emerged. Saturday, November 5, was swimming in fish, especially raw dishes like ceviche. Licha’s Cantina served an excellent one with a light touch: sweet and milky with chamoy and sesame, avoiding the tougher textures in many mixes.

Sunday, November 6, was, frankly, nearly over when I got there at 3:30 pm, thinking the previous day was a good indication that things would last. One attendee waiting in line for barbecue announced that she preferred the food on Sunday, but the atmosphere on Saturday. If Hillside Farmacy’s contribution — a very salty and tender meat with sweet root veggies — was any indication, this attendee’s rankings were likely shared by many.

Some other highlights from the Austin Food & Wine Festival:
  • Bento Picnic brought king salmon daikon rolls, with cucumber and furikake. The tiny veggie rolls tasted fresh, light, and not overly fishy. Blind Salamander toed that line with smoked salmon in mini seaweed waffle cones. One attendee grew suspicious of the tobiko (flying salmon roe), turning away from what he thought was an insect product. The seaweed cone was delicious and unique, but the highlight was the misunderstanding.
  • The National Audubon Society participated in a talk about grasslands and cattle ranching, revealing to many that the bird protectors certify some ranchers as operating “bird friendly land.” The audience learned that grasslands are even better carbon sinks than forests, because when fires consume them, the stored carbon tends to stay underground instead of being released back into the atmosphere, as it would be by a burning tree.
  • The Cantu Group served delicious and fall-ready “harvest margaritas” in little salt and cinnamon sugar-rimmed paper cups. The recipe is available on Instagram, using Rey Del Mundo Blanco tequila, apple cider, lime juice, and maple syrup. Fans of pumpkin beers (try these with a honey and cinnamon rim, too) will love this refreshing, but mild marg.
  • Casper Fermentables brought a simple dish with especially tasty ingredients — something chefs talk about a lot, but don’t always get to show off in casual environments. Casper’s egg salad is super simple; it just tastes like eggs. But its pinkish-orange color drew attention to the Arkansas-laid eggs, with bigger, darker yolks that gave a bit more richness to the mix. (The “fermentable” was a cute little pickle slice, by the way.)
  • The Nicolett represented that slice of gastronomy that shows foodies tricks they’d never think possible, with candied mezcal. The plain flavor was my favorite (reader, if you’re noticing a trend in my taste, you’re onto something). The mini pucks of dehydrated jelly are sweet, pure in flavor, and delicately crunchy. It wasn’t smoky, as I’d expected. The other flavors — charentais melon and hoja santa — were stronger, but still very demure. The Nicolett doesn’t sell them in bags yet, but they’re getting enough requests to get those cogs turning.
  • One festival producer, who deflected any questions about a restaurant and casually walked off minutes later, produced a delicious beef tongue romesco sloppy joe. It’s the only time I’ve enthusiastically enjoyed that cut of beef, which is usually served in slices, but was this time pulled and served on a bun with pickles. Sloppy joes are not exactly the height of culinary achievement, but this fatty, tomato-forward sandwich was the perfect close to the day.

Aside from the barbecue lines (which were, admittedly, punishing), the Food & Wine fest can be done with little to no waiting. You’ll sacrifice a chance to taste the bites people are really crazy for, but you won’t leave hungry. Going with a buddy helps pass the time, but tasting solo is a fun way to broaden horizons and really think about what’s on the plate. Plus, there are other interesting people doing the same thing. You might leave with a new friend.

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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.