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Nautical... and Nice! Christmas on the Coast

Holidays ahoy! Winter Tate poses on the bow of John Shepherd’s boat (named <I>Shade</I>) at the Harbor Lights Festival and Boat Parade in Corpus Christi.

Dashing through the…sand? Deck the…palms? Here we come a-was sailing?Ah—it must be Christmastime on the coast, where Frosty is a sandman and seagulls we have heard on high.

Cities and towns up and down the state’s shoreline will shine again this season with seaside Yuletide festivities. And ol’ Jack Frost doesn’t usually show, though he did pop in unexpectedly in 2004. On these pages, we bring you a photo-roundup of some semitropical holiday happenings, stretching from Port Arthur’s Las Posadas to Port Isabel’s Lighted Boat Parade. If we’ve left out your favorite Coastal Bend Christmas event, do drop us a line. (But keep it nautical … and nice!)

If you’re dreaming of a white- (or brown-) sand Christmas this year, answer the call of the coast, where all is balmy, all is bright. Season’s greetings to everyone!

Corpus Christi

The Sparkling City by the Sea gets Christmasy at the 25th Annual Harbor Lights Festival and Boat Parade (Dec. 2, 2006, 2 p.m.-9 p.m.). With an anniversary-appropriate theme of “Silver Bells,” this year’s holiday hoopla on the Bayfront includes a children’s parade, arts and crafts, foods, games, a grand entrance by Santa (who lights a 75-foot tree), an illuminated boat parade in the harbor, a laser-lights show with downtown as the backdrop, and a fireworks display. Admission: Free. Call 361/985-1555; www.harborlightsfestival.com. For information on other holiday events in Corpus Christi, call the Corpus Christi Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800/766-2322; www.corpuschristicvb.com.

Galveston

Feeling Moody? Moody Gardens’ 5th Annual Festival of Lights kicks off November 18 this year, when Santa parachutes in to flip the switch on the more-than-a-million twinkling lights and dozens of illuminated displays that bedazzle the grounds. Through January 6, fest-goers can enjoy outdoor ice-skating, live holiday music, and IMAX 3D showings of The Nutcracker, Santa vs. the Snowman, and The Polar Express. Ask about special holiday packages for groups (including luxury bus transportation and a holiday buffet at The Garden Restaurant), and Festival of Lights packages (with extra treats and activities for kids) at the Moody Gardens Hotel. For ticket/package prices and other information, call 800/582-4673; www.moodygardens.org.

If a time machine is on your wish list this year, then spend a day (or two) at the 33rd Annual Dickens on The Strand. The event (Dec. 2-3, 2006) transforms The Strand National Historic Landmark District into a 19th-Century cityscape teeming with hundreds of costumed attendees and performers (imagine carolers, bagpipers, and other roving street musicians). More than 150 vendors sell food and Victorian-inspired crafts, clothing, and other great gifts. Fun for the young ones includes Scrooge’s Scavenger Hunt. Three parades, plus six stages with nonstop live entertainment, equal a good, old-fashioned time for all. For ticket prices and other in-formation, call 409/765-7834; www.dickensonthestrand.org and www.ticketmaster.com.

Fulton

Fa la-la la-la…at the Fulton Mansion State Historic Site’s annual Christmas Caroling at the Mansion (Dec. 9, 2006). Lend your voice to some traditional caroling on the palm-studded grounds of this 1877 mansion overlooking Aransas Bay. Afterward, enjoy gingerbread and cider, and tour the mansion’s festive first floor. Call 361/729-0386; www.tpwd.state.tx.us.

Ingleside

The Community Christmas Celebration (the evening of Dec. 1, 2006) at N.O. Simmons Park rings in the season with live music, cookies and cocoa, and an appearance by Santa. The lighting of the town’s 25-foot tree tops off the night. Call 361/776-3438.

La Porte

The annual Yuletide Texas (Dec. 1-31) has the Battleship Texas State Historic Site shipshape for Christmas and bedecked with lights, ornaments, and other holiday frills. At the vessel’s Santa’s Swingin’ ’40s Christmas, on December 9 this year, kids (of all ages) can take photos with Santa, mail their wish lists from the ship’s post office, and partake of cookies and wassail, all while ’40s music fills the air. Call 281/479-2431; www.tpwd.state.tx.us.

Port Arthur

The 6th Annual Las Posadas/ Bethlehem on the Boardwalk takes place December 9 (starting at 5 p.m.). The Las Posadas procession (re-enacting Mary and Joseph’s search for an inn) winds through downtown and leads to a manger scene on the Boardwalk, which overlooks the water. A Lighted (land) Parade follows. Call 800/235-7822; www.portarthurtexas.com.

South Padre Island

SPI’s holiday party, the Here Comes Santa Weekend (Dec. 1-3, 2006), includes horseback-riding, sandcastle-building, and dolphin-watching with St. Nick, along with the Island of Lights Parade and the Beach Bicycle Bash Road Race. Ask about special rates at area lodgings. Call 956/761-6433 or 800/SOPADRE; www.sopadre.com.

Port Isabel

At the 20th Annual Lighted Boat Parade (the evening of Dec. 2), a procession of dozens of glowing boats illuminates the Laguna Madre all the way to South Padre Island. Call 956/943-2262 or 800/527-6102; www.portisabel.org.

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