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Courtesy of the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas

Whiskey, wine, and beer dominate our food and drink roundup, although foodies will find a few snack-worthy selections this week as well. For a full list of happenings, check out our events calendar.

Dining Out For Life
Join the fight against HIV/AIDS by chowing down at one of the many restaurants participating in Dining Out For Life on Monday and Tuesday. More than 70 local eateries will donate a portion of their proceeds from the evenings to AIDS Services of Austin. A wide variety of restaurants will be taking part in this charitable event, from Enchiladas y Mas to Wink. Check here for a full list.
Monday, September 14 and Tuesday, September 15

Love146 presents Hope is Brewing
Love146 is hosting a splendid supper at Zilker Brewing Company to raise awareness for the global nonprofit's mission to rid the world of child trafficking and exploitation. Your ticket comes with dinner, drinks, and interactive games. Admission ranges from $35 to $75, and families are more than welcome.
Tuesday, September 15 at 7 pm

Mongers Market + Kitchen presents Raw Night
Mongers is offering off-menu raw dishes such as crudo and ceviche every Tuesday for the rest of the month. There are only three Raw Nights left in September, so get your fix while you can.
Tuesday, September 15

Diez y Seis de Septiembre Pig Roast
Celebrate Mexican Independence Day at El Chilito on Manor Road with a free pig roast. Eat delicious crispy pork tacos, play games (with prizes!), and groove to music from DJ Boyfriends at this fun Diez y Seis fiesta.
Wednesday, September 16 at 6 pm

Whiskies of the World
This is a can't-miss event for whiskey aficionados. Enjoy whiskey tastings, food pairings, and more during this decadent drink expo at the Four Seasons Hotel downtown. Tickets cost $120, but an additional $85 will get you early admission and access to the Bon Vivant Hour.
Thursday, September 17 at 7 pm

Tour de Vin: The New Vintage
The Wine & Food Foundation has revamped its annual Tour de Vin fundraiser to include offerings from some of Austin's top chefs paired with featured wines. Your $70 admission gets you access to this unique event at Fair Market as well as one-of-a-kind sips and bites.
Thursday, September 17 at 8 pm

Easy Tiger Oktoberfest
Witness the debut of Easy Tiger's collaborative brew with Austin Beerworks during this free Oktoberfest party. This will be the first time you can get your hands on Montecore, a new German-style Märzen bier. When you've had your fill, indulge in draft specials and tasty food while you check out live screen printing from Fine Southern Gentlemen.
Saturday, September 19 at noon

St. Philip/Facebook

Popular South Austin eatery ditches bakery, narrows concept, and changes name

Bye Bye Bakeshop

Big changes are coming to St. Philip. The Uchi Restaurant Group's south side eatery is getting rid of its bakery to focus solely on pizza, restaurant officials revealed in a press release on Monday.

The bakeshop will be renovated and folded into the rest of the space beginning Tuesday, September 15. The restaurant has also ditched the "Bakeshop" from its name — from here on out it will simply be known as St. Philip Pizza Parlor.

"We've recognized over the past few months at St. Philip that when we narrow our focus, we do our best work," Uchi Restaurant Group President John Baydale said in the press release. "The bakeshop, while delicious and inventive, diverted our attention from our menu in the restaurant and now we can really devote our full energies to the pizza and small plate offerings for lunch, dinner, and brunch."

The shift in focus comes just one year since the Sunset Valley restaurant opened, although that year has been an eventful one. Former Uchiko chef de cuisine Page Presley took over the St. Philip head chef position in February following the resignation of Philip Speer after a much-reported car accident and DWI arrest. Presley has since departed for the upcoming Emmer & Rye restaurant on Rainey Street, while pastry chef Kerstin Bellah has left for Juniper.

St. Philip regulars may have noticed the shift back in August when the restaurant began streamlining its options. The menu originally featured four sections: shared plates, sandwiches, pizza, and meatballs. Now pizza, plates, and salads are the main attractions. Dessert will stick around, but there's no word yet on which of the bakeshop offerings the team will keep on the menu.

Coco Paloma Desserts/Facebook

7 of Austin's best cake shops for beautifully decorated desserts

Let Them Eat Cake

A cake is a canvas. Artistic, well-trained bakers and chefs whip up these embossed, exquisite towers in fragrant bakeshops in the hopes of earning those coveted “oohs and aahs." And with the rise of social media and other pictorial platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Flickr, and Tumblr, chefs have been thrust into a bold new era of culinary consumerism — one where customers express in acute detail their innumerable, ambitious visions and demands.

Given the astonishing rise in expectations, chefs are pressed more than ever to live up to the pressure. But as is the case with many Austin talents, a number of local bakers and chefs are not only surpassing expectations, they're earning much-deserved praise and fanfare in the process of doing so.

On the hunt for a beautiful wedding, birthday, or just-because cake? Check out our list of the best local cake decorators in the city.

Coco Paloma Desserts
Celebrated by wedding-centric outlets like The Knot and Brides magazines, the Coco Paloma cake studio assembles breathtaking cakes for any and all occasions. Floral embellishments, all-natural ingredients, and beautiful artistry make these wedding cakes a worthwhile splurge. Graphic-designer-turned-pastry-chef Paloma Efron started designing and assembling wedding cakes at The Driskill Hotel before breaking off and opening her own studio in 2006. Her impeccable style and elegant creations have even inspired Martha Stewart Weddings to dub her a Top Pastry Pro.

Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop
Playful and whimsical, Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop is a long-standing Austin favorite. The shop is disciplined enough to create an intricate 10-tier wedding cake and then turn right around and prepare a sweet but simple children’s birthday cake. Propelled to fame after designing Kayne West’s birthday cake in 2014, Sugar Mama’s can pull off just about anything.

Sweet Treets Bakery
While Sweet Treets specializes in a wide range of baked goodies including cupcakes, cookies, cake balls, pies, and cheesecakes, cakes are the star of the show here. In addition to working with special dietary needs (vegan, gluten free, dairy free, etc.), the shop also utilizes high-quality ingredients like Valrhona chocolate, Madagascar bourbon vanilla, fresh fruits, and homemade buttercream frosting instead of highly processed fondant.

LoveBirds Sweets
Her education at New York’s prestigious French Culinary Institute and experience alongside some of the industry’s greatest pastry minds, including Bill Yosses and Ron-Ben Israel, molded Denise Even’s impeccable talent in the competitive baking and pastry-arts world. Studying Even’s portfolio, it’s evident the chef carries a certain elegant, enviable aesthetic that you'll be hard pressed to find anywhere else.

Simon Lee Bakery
Marvelous architectural wonders —
that’s what Simon Lee Bakery is well known for. The bakery is most noted for the Pinterest-popular University of Texas Tower cake, which Simon Lee Bakery baked and assembled for former UT quarterback Colt McCoy’s wedding. It's not all fun, fondant, flowers, and frosting with Simon Lee’s work, however. The coveted Austin bakery must consider strenuous height and weight requirements when piecing together these well-engineered treats.

Tina’s Treats Texas
After taking an introductory Wilton cake course years ago, Tina Mendiola
became hooked on designing and decorating homemade cakes. The baker started slow making close friends and family members' cakes before eventually diving in and opening her own business. Though all of her works are captivating, the pastry chef's hand-painted cakes are our favorite.

Delish Bakery
Delish Bakery’s Instagram profile is like a dream. Think unicorns, Sesame Street cupcakes, dinosaur cookies, and Fruity Pebbles macarons. Delish pays great tribute to both craftsmanship and flavor profiles, so there’s no need to worry about biting into a beautiful but devastatingly bland cake. And with the recent arrival of Callie Speer as Delish's pastry chef, there are inevitably even greater things to come from this shop.

Martha Stewart Weddings dubbed Paloma Efron of Coco Paloma Desserts a Top Pastry Pro.

Coco Paloma Desserts/Facebook
Martha Stewart Weddings dubbed Paloma Efron of Coco Paloma Desserts a Top Pastry Pro.
Photo by Paul Bardagjy

This elegant Austin condo defines sophisticated downtown living

Downtown Living

Modern art and elegance are the main events of this sophisticated high-rise in the heart of downtown Austin. Designed by Robin Colton Studio, this private 1,700-square-foot condominium features a master bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living room, and dining room, topped off with sweeping views of the city.

Photo by Paul Bardagjy
Modern art and elegance are the main events of this sophisticated high-rise in the heart of downtown Austin. Designed by Robin Colton Studio [https: /porch.com/projects/austin-downtown-living-austonian-private-condominium], this private 1,700-square-foot condominium features a master bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living room, and dining room, topped off with sweeping views of the city. Take a tour of this unique downtown Austin condo found on Porch.com [https://porch.com/] to see luxury living at its finest.
Photo by Cheryl Bemis/Fashionably Austin

Project Runway has a plus-size moment, but will Austin contestant make the finals?

Project Runway Finalists

After 14 seasons, Project Runway had a plus-size moment, and it felt good. Although this season of the hit reality TV series is far from over, with 10 contestants still remaining in the competition, the work of only six were shown September 11 at New York Fashion Week. Their names weren't revealed because, with the magic of editing, only three will be featured as "finalists" who show at fashion week in the final episode later this fall.

But — spoiler alert! — fans of the show could easily determine whose collection was whose, based on what went down the runway.

It wasn't hard to pick out the work of Ashley Neil Tipton, the zaftig contestant who is easily the most compelling personality among them, surviving snubs by a trio of mean girls and other slights thus far. Tipton has been a strong advocate for plus-size women, and her collection featured 10 curvy models not usually seen on New York runways because of their size.

Tipton boldly sent out the models in sheer shirts and lace crop tops that expose the midriff, form-fitting gowns, patterned shorts, and Carmen Miranda fruit headdresses. Despite some spotty sewing, it is a free-spirited collection, which clearly won over the audience that included celebrity judges Carrie Underwood, Kelly Osbourne, and Glee's Matthew Morrison, now starring on Broadway in Finding Neverland.

Fans of the show could also spot the Indian influence in contestant Swapnil Shinde's work, with sequined sari-like gowns; the Goth vibe in Candice Cuoco's leather collection; the sexy forms of Edmund Newton; and the '80s looks of questionable taste from Kelly Dempsey.

Cheryl Bemis, editor of Fashionably Austin, and I are not sure if Austin contestant Lindsey Creel has made the final six. Creel's aesthetic is clean and minimal, and only one collection, featuring fitted trousers and crisp white cotton shirts that flow longer in the front, fit that definition. But they were accessorized by red hats on each model — a trademark of another contestant, Merline Labissiere.

Viewers will have to stay tuned to find out.

Ashley Neil Tipton featured plus-size models on the runway.

Photo by Cheryl Bemis/Fashionably Austin
Ashley Neil Tipton featured plus-size models on the runway.
Photo by Shelley Neuman

See and be seen: 13 of the season's hottest events in Austin

On the Scene

Austinites, brace yourselves. Your fall calendar just got full beyond all reason. Autumn is upon us and it’s bringing an enjoyable agenda that promises to keep you busy. We’ve gathered some of the season’s hottest events you absolutely won’t want to miss.

2015 Tour de Vin
Thursday, September 17 at 8 pm
Travel the world with your taste buds at the 2015 Tour de Vin. This year, the event will bring more than 35 wineries to Fair Market for a day of sampling in style. Channel your inner sommelier and try dozens of wines from across the globe while pairing exclusive Tour de Vin bites from some of Austin’s rising chefs. Upgrade your tour with VIP tickets and enjoy a lounge and bottle service. Prepare your palate and get ready to fill your glass.
Tickets are $55 for members and $75 for general admission.

Lone Star Le Mans at Circuit of The Americas
Thursday, September 17 Saturday, September 19 at noon
Start your engines with a Texan twist at this new Lone Star State event. For three days, Circuit of The Americas will transform into a racing wonder full of Texan charm and complete with a fireworks show and live music. This weekend is sure to be a treat for the whole family.
Tickets start at $49. Admission is free for ages 15 and under.

2015 House of Torment
Friday, September 18 Saturday, November 14
It’s never too early in the Halloween season to get a good scare. Austin’s oldest and beloved haunted house is back for another year of good thrills. This year, the fright factory is cranking out three new themed attractions: the Dead End District, Hex of the Harvest, and Laughterhouse. Work up your nerve and grab some friends that don’t scare too easily and head to the House of Torment for a night of perpetual goose bumps.
Tickets start at $13.

March of Dimes presents Signature Chefs
Thursday, September 24 at 6 pm
Gather at the JW Marriott Austin for a showcase featuring Austin’s top culinary masters. The night is a foodie’s dream: exquisite cuisine prepared by the most skilled hands in the city, spirited cocktails, and more. Wow your significant other with an indulgent experience your stomachs will love. Among the notable chefs in attendance are Olamaie’s Michael Fojtasek and Grae Nonas and Contigo’s Andrew Wiseheart.
Tickets are $350.

Strange Pilgrims preview and reception
Friday, September 25 at 6 pm
Join some of artsiest Austinites at the exclusive preview and opening reception for the exhibit of the season. The Contemporary Austin welcomes Strange Pilgrims, a large-scale exhibition full of breath-taking installations, to its repertoire in chic style. Guests at the members-only reception will enjoy a look at the collection’s Laguna Gloria installations and sip on drinks by Pedernales Cellars, Circle Brewery, and Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Music by Austin’s own Manga Carda will set the mood for an evening of art you won’t want to miss. Get your Contemporary Austin membership now to RSVP.
Membership prices start at $35.

CultureMap Social: Style Edition
Monday, September 28 at 6 pm
Meet with the most stylish young professionals in Austin for the CultureMap Social: Style Edition. This month’s social is centered around the city’s best dressed. Schmooze with Austin’s first-ever Stylemakers at The Belmont and enjoy the evening’s trendiest locals. Your $25 ticket includes two premium beverages, tasty bites, and live entertainment. Grab your spot now, as our social is sure to sell out. Now to bigger, more important questions — what’re you going to wear?
Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.

Billy Idol in concert with Ryn Weaver
Thursday, October 1 at 8 pm
Didn’t get to snag Austin City Limits Music Festival tickets? No worries. In advance of his ACL performance, legendary Billy Idol will play at Stubb’s with opening act Ryn Weaver. Rock out with a music icon to some of the genre’s most memorable tunes.
Tickets are $35 to $275.

2015 Austin City Limits Music Festival
Friday, October 2 – Sunday, October 4; Friday, October 9 – Sunday, October 11
We would be remised if we didn’t mention one of the biggest music events of the year. This year’s ACL Festival is set to be one for the record books. Musical acts including Drake, Disclosure, The Weeknd, Florence + The Machine, and The Strokes are set to grace the stage. Tickets are still available but are sure to sell out soon. Grab yours here.
Tickets are $100 per day; $250 for a three-day pass.

Les Dames d’Escoffier of Austin presents En Garde! Food Fight
Sunday, October 4 at 5 pm
Head to East Austin gem laV for an evening celebrating women in the culinary, wine, food, and hospitality industries. Guests of the food fight will enjoy carefully curated wine selections by laV’s Advanced Sommelier Vilma Mazaite and hors d’oeuvre pairings from Chef Sean O’Leary. This evening treat is a perfect girl’s night out or romantic date night.
Tickets are $50 to $60.

Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden presents Oktoberfest Celebration
Thursday, October 15 – Sunday, October 18
Spend your weekend at Rainey Street favorite Banger’s Sausage House and celebrate all things hops and grain. The Oktoberfest celebration will include handmade sausages, sips from featured brewery Live Oak Brewery, and live music. Grab your buds and get ready for a good time.
Admission is free.

La Dolce Vita Food & Wine Festival
Thursday, October 15 at 7 pm
The Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria hosts an evening of fabulously delicious food and wine tasting. Explore the culinary world of Central Texas with a fork and a wine glass. Bring a date or gather a group of foodie friends for a memorable night.
Tickets are $175 to $200.

Easter Seals Central Texas presents Dia de los Muertos Festival
Saturday, October 17 at noon
Round up the family and head to Fiesta Gardens to celebrate the holiday. The third annual festival will feature live music, cultural performances, vendors, and more. The kid-friendly event is also budget friendly with free admission for children 12 and under.
$15 for general admission, $100 for VIP; children 12 and under get in free.

2015 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix
Friday, October 23 – Sunday, October 25
Gear up for the world’s most sophisticated and glamorous motorsport and a weekend full of excitement and class. This year’s Grand Prix includes festivities like a post-race performance by Elton John, an international art show, and more. Spend the weekend at the track for the event of the season.
Tickets start at $99.

Get ready for the music event of the season — ACL Music Fest is October 2-4 and October 9-11.

Photo by Shelley Neuman
Get ready for the music event of the season — ACL Music Fest is October 2-4 and October 9-11.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

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.