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Family Travel Files Ezine Family Vacations Resource
Santa Trains and Holiday Lights - Texas Style Celebrations. Throughout Texas magical holiday lights and make believe journeys to the North Pole provide families with great ways to make memories. 

Here's the scoop.
From animated displays and enchanting costumes to festive singing and holiday treats, seasonal excursions add a lively dimension to family fun. I have assembled a short list of terrific options for creating your own family holiday tradition. Winter Wonderland in Marshall Texas

Wonderland of Lights in Marshall - Christmas Music with a Boogie Woogie twist.
Bells are indeed jingling in the Piney Woods during the Christmas holiday season. Recognized as one of the best Christmas lighting events in Texas, Marshall’s Wonderland features hundreds of thousands of white lights adorning the historic Harrison County Courthouse on the city’s central square. The Festival is open from November 25 through December 31, with live performances of both traditional and contemporary Christmas music Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. Bonus Points: Adjacent to the lighted courthouse is the only outdoor ice skating rink in East Texas, joined this year by a beautifully restored 1948 era carousel. Wait for it! The celebration of Christmas through music has always been robust in the Piney Woods, especially in the city of Marshall, which is also the Birthplace of Boogie Woogie, the music of logging camps in the 1870s.  (Details at Lights River Walk San Antonio Texas

River Walk Magic in San Antonio - Mariachi Music, and the Best City Party Ever.
San Antonio’s magical holiday season begins just after turkey day with the twinkling of thousands of tendrils of lights dancing from tree branches along the historic River Walk. This festive urban walkway is one of my favorites any time of year but during the holiday season it is simply the best because the kaleidoscope of sounds, musicians, laughter, luscious aromas and thousands of luminarias define the fun. Nothing is more lively and festive than the music of world famous Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan and they are part of the holiday season on San Antonio. Checkout the family style holiday atmosphere at Tamales in the restored Pearl Brewery and you will find all things tamale including dozens of tamales from traditional to dessert, plus storytellers, dancing, live music and fireworks. Wait for it! It is possible to enjoy the magic of the city with a sky view on an invigorating Holiday Lights Tour with Alamo Helicopter Tours. Here’s the deal! On the last day of the year enjoy spectacular fireworks, live music on multiple stages, food booths, family activities and festivities for free (Details at

Whistle Stop Christmas Lights in Cleburne, Texas – Holiday Music and Train Whistle Blowing
(End of November to end of December). More than a half million lights adorn Hulen Park creating an impressive holiday atmosphere for families. Visitors are invited to get a photo taken with Santa & Mrs. Claus and children are encouraged to blow the whistle on the historic 3417 Steam Engine. Bonus Points: Train rides for tykes and horse drawn wagon rides for families add to the fun for everyone. (Hulen Park 900 S Hillsboro Cleburne, TX 76033 or  www.whistlestopchristmas.comNorth Pole Express Grapevine Texas

Grapevine Vintage Railroad In DFW Area – Ride the North Pole Express (Late November to mid December). Puffy a circa 1896 steam engine provides families with a Texas-style Polar Express. Kids are encouraged to arrive in their P.J.s and enjoy the enchantment and magic of the classic train journey as the magic of Christmas comes to life. The depot area is decorated with thousands of lights, animated characters, and holiday cheer; once on board there is singing, and story time. Passengers return and enter a winter wonderland through a Christmas tree maze where Santa’s helpers and costumed characters provide a traditional Christmas Show that culminates with the arrival of Santa. Santa greets the audience and a merry Christmas and then shares his frosty chocolate snow milk with all the children. Santa also gives every family a voucher for a family photo with him at the North Pole General Store. Bonus Points: Not far from the station is LeTheatre de Marionette - "North Pole Texas" a fast paced musical holiday show with holiday puppets including ELF-IS, dancing mice, an ice-skating penguin, dancing elves, a rapping snowman, a candy cane juggling teddy bear, caroling Christmas trees, a country cowboy sing-a-log, Jack & Jill Frost, Christmas clowns and Jolly Ol' Saint Nick. The rail experience: Ride the Trinity River Route to Fort Worth --"Cowtown, USA." Puffy travels along the western edge of downtown Fort Worth providing awesome views of the city and the countryside once on the edge of the frontier. "Puffy" the steam engine operates on Saturdays and the Vintage Diesel locomotive operates Fridays and Sundays. (Grapevine Vintage Railroad. Grapevine/Fort Worth. (817) 410-3132 or Palestine Railway Christmas with santa

Texas State Railroad from Palestine to Rusk – Ride the Polar Express
(weekends November through the end of December). Departing from the Palestine depot, magic begins by boarding the train then reading along with the story as the train makes its round trip journey to a Texas version of the North Pole. To make the story even more real, children are encouraged to wear their pajamas, robes, and comfy slippers. Along the way passengers have the chance to meet Santa, enjoy caroling, yummy hot chocolate, a holiday treat, and, for those young ones who believe there is a special gift. Bonus Points: To make the outing extra special ride the Polar Express™ in a first class, private coach complete with top notch provided by dancing chefs serving delectable cookies on silver trays, and Polar Express™ mugs filled with luscious hot chocolate. The rail experience: When not traveling to the North Pole, Texas State Railroad offers both steam and diesel train excursions reminiscent of days gone by. Passengers may board excursion trains at either the Rusk or Palestine depots where southern hospitality is the norm. (Texas State Railroad, toll-free 1-888-987-2461 or

West Texas & Lubbock Railroad - Ride the Polar Express
(Mid November through December). Just board the train and let the magic begin as the Polar Express comes to life. Passengers will travel along the rails into the clear West Texas night and enjoy the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack as the story reading begins and the book's characters come to life.  Then, Santa will greet each child onboard the train and give each one their own special Christmas bell. The atmosphere is guaranteed to be filled with warmth, laughter and Christmas carols. Dancing chefs will serve hot cocoa and cookies to all riders in a merry fashion as the doubting hobo wanders through the train. Bonus Points: Just like in the book, children may wear their own pajamas on the train. (West Texas & Lubbock Railroad, toll-free 1-800-872-4661 or

Best Ever Santa Trains and Holiday Lights
Look for more Santa Trains & Holiday Lights in the Southwest or view the even more holiday options throughout the US and Canada. 

Content researched and posted by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files with images courtesy Marshall texas CVB, Al Rendon, San Antonio CVB, Texas State Railway, and Grapevine Railway. Copyright updated 2016.

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