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Photo courtesy of Fogo de Chão

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 Main Event

Entertainment chain Main Event serves up new restaurant at Austin location

Bonus Event

Main Event, the entertainment chain known for its arcade games, sports, and prizes, can’t resist adding even more to its roster. At its Austin location on North US Hwy 183, the games are still the main event, but now dinner is taken care of too — not just a few items at a concession window, but a full restaurant called Family Kitchen that boasts “nearly 50 new and unique menu items.”

These items start with the standard arcade food staples — burgers, sandwiches, pizza — but Family Kitchen applies its own spins for a more creative menu. Whereas before, the entertainment venue served many more generic items, Family Kitchen revamped every item to make sure it was unique to the restaurant, in addition to adding new ones.

A Triple Lava Burger comes with cheese and cheese sauce; a PBB&J Burger combines the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a less-expected blueberry jam and a totally left-field burger, bacon, and cheese; and chicken wings come in eight different sauces and rubs, including a Nashville hot blend and a lemon pepper rub.

“Family Kitchen was developed with extra care, attention to detail and a focus on premium quality ingredients,” said Chef Wiley Bates III, director of culinary innovation at Main Event Entertainment, in a press release. “We’re excited for our guests to experience our new menu offerings, which have been seasoned with salt, pepper and love, and added playfulness that customers experience throughout the rest of the Main Event center.”

As expected at the arcade, the first priority across much of this menu is shareables, including loaded fries, nachos, and pizzas. The shareability does start with volume, with “Family Feasts” bundling commonly ordered items for four to six people, but it also means more inclusive options like vegan Beyond Meat substitutes and salads. Mocktails are also available, although the presence of a “Cotton Candy Shirley” makes it clear these selections are more about being fun for kids than catering to sober adults. (Alcoholic drinks are available at the bar or the restaurant, but are not included on the online menu.)

“The Family Kitchen was largely inspired by Main Event’s brand promise to be a place for families to bond,” said Main Event Chief Marketing Officer Ashley Zickefoose. “From shareable favorites with our Family Feasts to offering something tasty and memorable for everyone in the family….”

Main Event may remind visitors of Dave & Buster’s, for good reason: the two entertainment and food venues are owned and operated by the same parent company. Dave & Buster’s, initially from Dallas, is the significantly larger brand with 148 stores, but Main Event is catching up. The latter is founded and headquartered in Coppell, Texas, and now has 52 locations. Main Event centers are also more kid-focused, and typically larger than those in the Dave & Buster’s, since they offer games like laser tag and escape rooms.

Family Kitchen is accessible to any visitors, whether or not they play any games, but there are food and game bundles to streamline the experience. More information about Main Event and the new restaurant are available at mainevent.com.

Photo by Mackenzie Smith Kelley

5 things to know right now in Austin food: Anticipated rooftop restaurant opens at Lady Bird Lake

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

Nido, the much-anticipated rooftop restaurant on top of The Loren at Lady Bird Lake, is finally open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner, starting Thursday, October 20. A press release makes an old-fashioned claim in a city obsessed with being different: Nido will “focus on classic technique, offering a sense of familiarity to diners.” This hotel restaurant is high class, high above the city, and looks the part. Dinner menu highlights include kabocha squash beignets, wild mushrooms with sourdough fusilli, and Texas pork belly. The cocktail menu offers up more classics with interesting twists, like “Mule Variations” with Desert Door sotol. Reserve on Opentable.

Other news and notes

Biscuit shop Little Ola's is turning one year old. To celebrate, it’s giving away one ticket for free biscuit sandwiches every day for a year. (It lists this as a $3,700 value, if you can actually make it there daily.) Check out the Instagram post and follow the directions to sign up to win. No purchase is necessary. The restaurant is also transitioning to 7-day-a-week service, so customers can enjoy chicken sandwiches, breakfast, and sweet treats all week.

A virtual pie auction with a cause — getting Austin-area students the funds they need for culinary programs — is going on now through October 27. The Piehole Project comprises 20 pies by widely recognized local chefs like Aaron Franklin (Brisket Cottage Pie), Abby Love (Buttermilk Grits Pie), and Amanda Turner (Spiced Heirloom Tomato Pie). This is Austin’s first year running the Dallas-born fundraiser. More pies (starting at $95) and bidding at auctria.com.

The Sustainable Food Center (SFC), a nonprofit that supports farmers and families for healthy food access, shares in a press release that “14.4% of people in Travis County experience food insecurity.” On October 21, SFC is sending a team to Meanwhile Brewing to meet the community. Stopping by is free, but supporters who make a recurring donation of at least $5 will get two drink tickets, a pumpkin to decorate on-site, and a raffle entry for a Patagonia vest. RSVP at sustainablefoodcenter.org.

If you missed the state fair or just couldn’t get enough, Independence Brewing Co. is throwing a state fair-themed party on October 22, to celebrate 18 years in business. From 3-10 pm that means 18 beer tappings along with carnival foods and games. It would be easy to phone this one in with beer and corn dogs, but this free event is pulling out all the fried food stops from oreos to kimchi pancakes. There’s also live music, screen printing, and CBD drinks. RSVP on Eventbrite.

Photo by Dani Parsons

7 things to know in Austin food right now: Classic San Marcos pizza joint returns

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

Movie pitch: a third-generation pizza joint gets reincarnated in its original building in San Marcos. It’s true! Valentino’s served the community for more than 35 years in a century-old building at 110 North LBJ Dr., before suddenly closing in 2018. The interior has been completely rebuilt, but owners Harlan Scott and Cody Taylor repurposed what they could and stayed true to the original menu (“pizza, salad, subs, wings, and the famous Valentino’s cheese breadsticks”). The new-old restaurant is open Sunday through Wednesday from 11 am to 11 pm, and until midnight all other days, selling slices until 3 am.

One unique Austin restaurant, plant-based gastropub the Beer Plant, is launching another August 25. Named Tellus Joe by day and simply Tellus by night, this Oaxacan restaurant and bar is completely plant-based while staying true to regional cuisine. Tellus Joe is keeping things casual with organic coffee, pastries, and breakfast tacos, while Tellus turns up the atmosphere for finer dining featuring tlayudas, aguachile negro, and cauliflower steaks with carrot mole. The restaurant at 3108 Windsor Rd. is very small; reservations should be made by phone or email (512- 220-0459 or reservations@tellusjoe.com).

Other news and notes

Cookie baker Tiff’s Treats and sign maker — uh, Tex-Mex restaurant — El Arroyo are teaming up to deliver cookies in style. El Arroyo signs featuring cookie one-liners will be printed as stickers for all one and two dozen cookie boxes starting August 25. The Tiff’s Treats truck will also make a stop at the restaurant from 10 am to 7 pm that day, handing out free cookies and delivery coupons. Photo opps are, of course, promised.

[Updated from last week's food news, which included the wrong date.] August 26 is National Dog Day, and surely in a place like Austin there will be plenty to do. Here’s one: Asian smokehouse Loro and dog treat makers the Pawstin Barkery are teaming up to provide free gourmet dog snacks on the restaurant’s patio, while they last. They’re made with peanut butter, bananas and Loro beef tallow. Loro is an easy place to eat with dogs year-round, and serves barbecue by James Beard award-winning chefs Tyson Cole and Aaron Franklin.

The ever-classy Watertrade cocktail bar announced a new bar manager in Nadia Hernandez, and a new cocktail menu along with her. The menu is inspired by the sekki, 24 short seasons used to organize agriculture, and includes a wide variety of alcohols and even some nonalcoholic spirits. The bar is more accessible than Otoko, the sushi restaurant where it resides, which now lends some hosomaki rolls (small maki rolls) so bar patrons can taste the fish, too.

September is National Bourbon Heritage Month, so Garrison Brothers Distillery is going on tour. Restaurants and bars nationwide are incorporating the distillery’s Small Batch or HoneyDew Bourbon into limited edition dishes and cocktails. Five Austin locations are participating: Eureka!, III Forks Steakhouse, and Blue Corn Harvest in Georgetown, Cedar Park, and Leander. Follow the itinerary and track your progress on the Bourbon Takeover of America Passport app.

It’s fun to indiscriminately inhale tacos, but why not kick it up a notch and learn something? Tacos of Texas, a podcast by James Beard nominee Mando Rayo, launched its second season on August 16, and has already covered the “intersection of tacos and music,” focusing on “screwmbia,” and LGBTQ+ taco lovers. Airing on Tuesdays, this KUT and KUTX joint production will explore culture through tacos in 12 more episodes this season. Listen on kutkutx.studio.

Courtesy of Smokin’ Oak Wood-Fired Pizza

Smokin' wood-fired pizza chain sizzles into Austin for first Texas location

Smokin' Oak

The Lake Travis area is set to welcome a new wood-fired pizza franchise to the neighborhood in the coming weeks. Smokin' Oak Wood-Fired Pizza & Taproom will open its first Texas location in late August or early September.

The new Austin restaurant and self-pour taproom will be located at 8300 N FM 620, Ste. K200., operated by locals Tiffany and Gary Lauchlan and Tiffany's brother, Ed Juline. Also working with family are: architect Andrea Corn of Nuvu Interiors ATX, general contractor Robert Juarez of DKC Construction Group, and construction manager Ty Estes of ECR.

This will be the Lauchlan family's first Smokin’ Oak Wood-Fired Pizza & Taproom, with plans for additional locations in the near future. The longtime Lake Travis residents wanted to enter into franchising and instantly fell in love with Smokin’ Oak, founded in Rochester, Minnesota, in 2009 and franchising since 2017, as a perfect fit for Austin.

“The Austin community has been growing rapidly these days and residents need a restaurant that provides an experience for the whole family to enjoy,” says Tiffany Lauchlan in a release. “At Smokin’ Oak Pizza, you can have a delicious meal in either 15 minutes or enjoy the self-pour taproom and linger for longer, so it’s perfect for every occasion. I know local families will love this concept because kids can have fun watching their food being made while parents relax with a drink from the Taproom.”

According to the release, Smokin’ Oak is the fastest-growing wood-fired pizza franchise in the U.S. The expansive menu features wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches, salads, starters, and desserts, with dough and sauces made in-house, fresh-cut veggies throughout the day, and meats roasted in the wood-fired oven to infuse real oak wood flavor. The oven reaches about 900 degrees to produce delicious pizzas in about two minutes, while an open-plan kitchen allows customers to customize and watch their pizzas cook right in front of them.

A self-pour tap wall offers beer, wine, and cider. After guests start a tab, they receive an RFID-enabled bracelet and can proceed to the tap wall to explore at will. Pour size ranges from one to 16 ounces at a time, allowing for freedom to try different wines, beers, ciders, and other local beverages without traveling from Blanco to Dripping Springs to East Austin.

“We are thrilled to open our first location in Texas and Tiffany, Gary, and Ed are the perfect Franchise Owners to do so with,” says Matt Mongoven, CEO and co-founder of Fourth Avenue Restaurant Group, the franchisor of Smokin’ Oak Wood-Fired Pizza. “I am confident that our unique restaurant concept will become a regular spot for the Austin community, and they’ll truly remember our wood-fired signature menu items and have fun exploring the drinks on the taproom wall.”

The opening of the Austin location marks an important step in Smokin’ Oak Wood-Fired Pizza & Taproom’s continued national expansion, with the website also touting upcoming locations in Dallas and Frisco.

To celebrate the grand opening of the Lake Travis location, each guest can enjoy one free individual sized pizza from noon to 7 pm when the restaurant officially opens its doors, which is still TBD. Check back here on CultureMap for updates, or find the Coming Soon page on the Smokin' Oak website.

Photo courtesy of Delucca Gaucho Pizza & Wine

Brazilian-style pizza chain brings unlimited slices to first Austin location

A Piece of the Pie

What if we told you you never have to face that last-piece-of-pizza feeling again? At Dallas-born Delucca Gaucho Pizza & Wine, servers operate in a Brazilian rodízo style, bringing slices to anyone who waves them down. (And don’t rush to gatekeep “authentic” pizza; Brazil’s Italian consulate claims 11 percent of Italians outside of Italy.) This Dallas treasure is opening an outpost in Austin on Monday, July 25, in the space that used to belong to Provision Dining House.

Delucca has been open since 2018, now with locations in Southlake, Dallas, Forth Worth, Plano, and, starting today, Austin. Brazilian owners Vanderleia "Dede" Mallmann and Evandro Caregnato have worked to make sure Delucca pizza is made with “traditional Italian processes” even within the Brazilian steakhouse model (the dough is fermented for 36 hours), resulting in some interesting flavor combinations.

“We have always wanted to create a pizzeria that captures the essence of our Brazilian roots while incorporating a high-end and sexy experience," said Mallmann in a press release. "We are grateful for the success we have had within the DFW area and are ecstatic to bring the same experience to the Austin community."

On the five-course prix fixe menu ($24.50 per person, including non-pizza items such as house-made fior di latte mozzarella and Kobe beef meatballs), diners have 18 choices of pizza — served in small slices even though it would still be a herculean effort to try all of them in one sitting. A Mexican elote slice comes with crema and cilantro, and a Turkish lamb slice is topped with sumac onions. A more classic hot sopressata slice is sweetened with honey, and a small selection of dessert pizzas rounds out the bunch (see: the “Romeo and Juliet” with sweet mascarpone and Brazilian guava).

The restaurant also boasts a hefty wine list of all the usual-suspect provenances, plus a few from Argentina. Like the pizzas, the cocktail list spans several cultures while remaining relatively traditional (the Brazilian caipirinha, not uncommon to see at bars in Italy, and the more Canadian maple old fashioned). And again, like the pizzas, there’s always room for boozy desserts.

The 200-person dining room and patio is open from 4:30 pm to 9 pm Sundays through Thursdays, and until 10 pm Fridays and Saturdays, starting July 25, at 4200 W. Braker Ln., Ste. B. Delucca strongly recommends reservations, which can be made at delucca.com.

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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.