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Written by Jane Kellogg Murray

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Make this three-day weekend count with our picks of the best festivals, parades, and historical happenings across the Lone Star State—from one of the largest MLK Day parades in the country to the kickoff of the legendary Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.

Three hundred years ago—before Davy Crockett became a household name, before the Chili Queens served hearty bowls of red on San Antonio’s Military Plaza, and long before Fiesta San Antonio became an annual 11-day party attracting some 3.5 million visitors to the Alamo City—Spanish missionaries founded Mission San Antonio de Valero, best known these days as the Alamo.

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Bootstrap your way into the new year with these Texas traditions old and new—the largest fireworks display of its kind in the Central time zone, polar bear plunges in the Gulf of Mexico, and San Antonio's dazzling New Year's celebration as it kicks off its tricentennial year.

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Start a new family tradition this holiday weekend—listen to carolers on the San Antonio River Walk or underground at Natural Bridge Caverns, or do some last-minute gift shopping at markets like Austin's Armadillo Christmas Bazaar.

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Enjoy the holiday season in true Texas fashion, with made-in-Texas gifts at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, special holiday concerts from Asleep at the Wheel and Bruce & Kelly, and the annual tree lighting at the LBJ State Park & Historic Site.

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 The weekend lights up with holiday events galore—a lighted boat parade in Rockport, a historic Christmas at Lubbock's Candlelight at the Ranch, and Austin's annual favorite, Trail of Lights, debut this weekend.

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While it may be challenging to have a true "White Christmas" in the Lone Star State, at least you can experience a cool one this weekend, with events like Galveston's Dickens on The Strand, Natural Bridge Caverns' annual underground Christmas at the Caverns, and Frost Fest in Palestine.

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There's so much to be thankful for this weekend—including Holiday Wonder, a new, family-friendly holiday lights display in Dallas; San Antonio's Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza, the largest and longest-running mariachi music festival in Texas; and Galveston's Brewmasters Craft Beer Festival, rescheduled to this weekend after Hurricane Harvey.

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The parades, marches, and celebrations surrounding Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 15, honor the man and his nonviolent approach in the civil rights movement. Here are just a few of the events scheduled across Texas.

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From its humble beginnings in 1932 as a cattle showcase, the Houston Rodeo (Feb. 27-March 18) has evolved into a 20-day bonanza filled with the usual rodeo offerings like bull riding and steer roping, but with the addition of amusement park rides, deep-fried treats, shopping, and big-name headliners—this year, two-time Grammy winner Garth Brooks performs on opening night. The event ropes in big-city folk with a spirited parade featuring marching bands and floats through downtown Houston on Feb. 24.

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Rock climbers from all over the world will head to Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site in El Paso Feb. 16-18 to dangle from the rocky hills during its 25th annual Hueco Rock Rodeo, an outdoor bouldering competition. Participants climb without the use of traditional gear—that means no ropes and harnesses—as they scale the sides of the park’s enormous boulders by gripping on to naturally occurring holes and ledges. If you prefer your feet firmly on the ground, the event features several non-bouldering events, including a dance party, a food truck circus, and tons of outdoors and fitness vendors.

 

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Since starting in 1975 as a way for homesick Brazilians studying at the University of Texas at Austin to get a taste of home, Carnaval Brasileiro—which will be held this year on Feb. 10—has recreated the joyous, rowdy, and energetic street parades that Rio de Janeiro is famous for. The main event of the evening is a performance by Maracatú Texas, in which dancers and musicians stage a roving musical theater production. Austin’s Carnaval Brasileiro has become the largest indoor carnaval celebration in the United States, with 4,000 attendees packing into the Palmer Events Center to get lost in the intoxicating rhythms of samba drums.

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