By Julianne G. Crane
Writer’s Note: During the COVID-19 pandemic, I am highlighting places that can be safely experienced from the road or in an outdoor public space such as a park or college campus. If you know of cities with outstanding public art collections, or unique places, please let me know so I can feature them.
The Lone Star State is celebrating “the holidays safely this season” with 32 Texas State Parks and six State Historic Sites hosting “re-imagined,” socially distanced Christmas-themed scavenger hunts, self-guided walks and virtual events. Other happenings include drive-through light shows and holiday hikes.
Over the past decade, my husband, Jimmy, and I have spent five holiday seasons as Winter Texans. We are great fans of the park system and have camped at many of the parks featuring holiday events. One of our favorite stops is Mission Espiritu Santo at Goliad State Park.
“History in Lights” – Mission Espiritu Santo
Take a walk through the history of Mission Espiritu Santo as “lights and shadow transport visitors back in time.”
Goliad State Park and Historic Site hosts the “History in Lights” exhibit, which runs 6 to 8 p.m. nightly through the month of December. Walk the same path taken by Native Americans and Spanish Franciscan priests so many years ago.
Remember to keep 6 feet apart from other visitors, and wear a face mask. For more information, please call (361) 645-3405.
Entrance fees are $4 for adults, and free for children 12 and under. You can purchase a day-use permit online at Texas State Parks – Reserve America.
“Christmas in the Park” – Daingerfield State Park
Looking for a Piney Woods Holiday? Head to Daingerfield State Park in northeast Texas for fishing, wandering forest trails and “Christmas in the Park” Dec. 16 to 19.
Almost 90 years ago, two companies of Civilian Conservation Corps men built this park – from the dam for the lake to Bass Lodge, group hall and pavilion. Learn more about their work at The Look of Nature: Daingerfield.
Park rangers say to just follow the lights through the pine forest where campsites and the day-use area will be alight with Christmas cheer. Feel the holiday excitement and maybe catch a glance of Jolly Old St. Nick. While there is free entrance into the park, donations are welcome. For information call (903) 645-2921. Check out camping site availabilities.
“Holiday Hike” – Brazos Bend State Park
Brazos Bend State Park, near Houston, has more than 30 miles of multi-use trails where it is common to see alligators, white-tailed deer and hundreds of different bird species.
It is definitely the place to be on Saturday, Dec. 19, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. for a self-guided holiday hike around Creekfield Lake.
Pick up a guide at the Nature Center and meander along the Creekfield Lake trail and learn about the park. This easy ADA accessible hike is kid friendly and can be done at your own pace. Click here for Brazos Bend Trails Map.
Entrance fees: $7; 12 years and younger: free. Capacity limits in place, advanced reservations are highly encouraged. (979) 553-5101. To read more about our camping experiences at Brazos Bend, click here.
A full calendar of holiday events is available on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) calendar page. For more activities at Texas Historical Commission’s State Historic Sites, visit the website.
Striving for a COVID-19 Safe Holiday
“The health of park visitors is of the utmost importance. Holiday events have been re-imagined to ensure everyone can follow recommended social distancing guidelines,” states the TPWD website. “Please follow any posted rules, including wearing a mask when inside buildings or when gathered with others.”
Call the park or check social media for updates before heading out for your visit. We found out that one of our favorite parks, South Llano River State Park, is temporarily closed by checking on up-to-date closures.