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Texas Lights Up for the Holidays! Luminous Landmarks

Lavaca County Courthouse, Hallettsville

Amazing, isn’t it, how lights add excitement and festive flair to holiday celebrations? From the flicker of Hanukkah candles to the twinkle of multihued bulbs on pungent pines, lights help set our senses aglow for the season.

Here in the Lone Star state, cities and sites offer spectacular displays of holiday luminosity. Many of those lighting extravaganzas adorn and brighten beloved and well-known state landmarks. On these pages and on the cover, we show you shining samples of these seasonal spectacles. Some of them boast millions of lights, some of them evoke nostalgic reflection, and all of them harness the power to propel you into the holidays with feelings of hope and happiness.

Courthouses, such as those in Johnson City, the seat of Blanco County, and in Hallettsville, seat of Lavaca County, blaze with bold outlines and lacy tendrils of brightness. In Marshall, the 1901 Harrison County Courthouse boasts more than 125,000 lights, while thousands more of the shining orbs bedeck downtown buildings and neighborhood homes. Each year, these lovely, lighted landmarks enliven Texas skies and delight onlookers from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.

Elsewhere, larger cities and historical sites add holiday splendor in their own ways. The Metroplex twinkles vibrantly—from Sundance Square, Fort Worth’s popular entertainment area, to Dallas’ downtown Neiman Marcus, the famed retailer’s flagship store. El Paso’s historic heart, San Jacinto Plaza, pulsates with lights that outline holiday icons such as snowflakes, Santa, and toy trains, while, in Austin and San Antonio, majestic, lighted trees take center stage at the Capitol and in front of the Alamo. All across the state, throughout the season, shimmering displays shine and beckon.

So, go…light up your life…treat yourself and your family to a firsthand view of the luminous landmarks nearest you! It’s a brilliant way to celebrate the holidays.

The Illustrious sites here represent only a handful of the many lighting displays that illuminate the state from late Nov. through Dec. (and some into Jan.). Locate lighted exhibits near you by calling your local chamber of commerce or convention and visitors bureau. Be sure to call regarding the following lighted sites to verify dates.

Austin

The lighting of the 40-foot-high cedar tree at the south end of the Capitol walkway, 11th St. & Congress Ave., begins at 6 p.m. on Dec. 6, along with a holiday sing-along led by KUT-FM's John Aielli. The tree remains lit through Jan. 1. Call the Downtown Austin Alliance, 512/469-1766; www.downtownaustin.com. For more information on holiday festivities in the Capital City, such as the annual lighting display and tree in Zilker Park, Dec. 7-31, call the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau, 512/583-7200 or 800/926-2282; www.austintexas.org.

Dallas

For the holidays, Neiman Marcus lights its flagship store, 1618 Main St., Nov. 28-Jan. 1. Call 214/741-6911. For information on Dallas seasonal celebrations, call the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, 214/571-1301 or 800/232-5527; www.dallascvb.com.

El Paso

The festive displays in downtown's San Jacinto Plaza are lit from Dec. 6 to around the first week of Jan. For information, call the El Paso Convention & Visitors Bureau, 915/534-0600 or 800/351-6024; www.elpasocvb.com.

Fort Worth

Sundance Square, bounded by 2nd, 5th, Calhoun, and Throckmorton sts., dresses up for the holidays Nov. 27-Jan. 1. The Verizon Wireless Parade of Lights takes place downtown on Nov. 28; call 817/870-1692. For information about additional activities, call the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau, 817/336-8791 or 800/433-5747; www.fortworth.com.

Hallettsville

Lighting displays begin during the town's "Festival of Lights" on Nov. 29 and last through Jan. 6. Victorian-themed festivities on Nov. 29-30 include a lighting extravaganza at 6 p.m. on Nov. 29 and a parade. Call 361/798-3969; www.festivaloflightstx.com.

Johnson City

Blanco County Courthouse and other buildings sparkle splendidly with more than one million lights during the city's "Lights Spectacular," Nov. 28-Jan. 1. A weekend celebration includes a popular lighted parade on Nov. 29, carriage rides Nov. 30, Santa, and more. Call the Texas Hill Country Visitor Center, 830/868-5700, www.hillcountryinfo.com; or Johnson City Tourism, 830/868-7684, www.lbjcountry.com.

Marshall

Marshall's magnificent "Wonderland of Lights" illuminates the city and countryside with 10 million-plus lights, Nov. 26-Dec. 30. Numerous holiday activities include home tours, carriage rides, ice skating, and a parade (Dec. 6). Call the Marshall Chamber of Commerce, 903/935-7868; www.marshalltxchamber.com.

San Antonio

The lighting of the approximately 50-foot-tall tree at the Alamo in Alamo Plaza, downtown, takes place Nov. 28 at 6:30 p.m. The tree remains lit through Jan. 1. Other holiday lighting events in the Alamo City include the impressive Holiday River Parade and Lighting Ceremony (Paseo del Rio Assn., 210/227-4262), Nov. 28, that heralds the season along the River Walk, and the lovely Feria de Santa Cecilia, Nov. 28-30, that features mariachi music and the festive lighting of Market Square (210/207-8600). To learn about the intriguing diversity of holiday events in San Antonio, call the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau, 800/ALAMO-07; www.sanantoniovisit.com.

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