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Written by Jane Kellogg Murray

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For more than 25 years, the annual Christmas in Goliad festival has ushered in the holiday season with holiday performances, shopping, and the arrival of good ole St. Nick. During the first weekend in December, Dec. 1-2, this tiny town of fewer than 2,000 people will double in size with visitors from across the United States who have traveled to Goliad to partake in the food, music, and celebration. The celebration has come a long way from its first year in 1983: The lighted parade that was once over in minutes has grown into an hour-long occasion with more than 70 entries. More events have been added over the years, including a living Nativity scene and Presidio La Bahía’s 21st century adaptation of the ancient trade fair. Goliad may be a small town, but for a quarter century, the people have proven that it sure has big Christmas spirit.

 

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’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the zoo, not a creature was stirring—not even the black howler monkeys, sea lions, and kangaroos. Every winter, the Houston Zoo and its more than 6,000 animals get that festive feeling when the park undergoes its annual holiday makeover: Zoo Lights. During this Houston tradition (Nov. 18-Jan. 14, closed Christmas Eve and Christmas), staff will flip the switch and illuminate more than 2 million lights—a 15-mile display of eco-friendly LED lighting presented by TXU Energy. Visitors can enjoy festive carols, hot chocolate, and Holly Berry: a 1958 Cadillac with a lightshow set to music. Last year ushered in a new tradition: a 33-foot-tall Christmas tree adorned with colorful decorations—the ideal backdrop for holiday selfies.

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Blend the holiday spirit with a tropical getaway to Galveston’s Moody Gardens as it unveils its annual chilly spectacle, Ice Land, Nov. 11-Jan. 7. A team of expert ice carvers from Harbin, China, travel to the Texas island each fall to spend more than a month creating sculptures and works of art from two million pounds of ice to fit the year’s theme. This year, expect to see frozen versions of a Rainforest Holiday—including playful monkeys, exotic birds, and flitting butterflies—as you walk through a colorful maze of equatorial delights. Gloves, scarves, and hats are necessary accessories (parkas are provided for all guests) as the space is kept at a bone-chilling 9 degrees Fahrenheit. While it may be a challenge to have a true White Christmas in the Lone Star State, you can at least experience a cold one.

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Jingle all the way to weekend fun at these events happening across the state—including winter-themed activities in The Woodlands, Wimberley, San Antonio, Tomball, Arlington, Houston, and Austin.

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The holidays are already in full swing with new seasonal favorites returning—including Holidays at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, Ice Land at Moody Gardens in Galveston, and a Lone Star Christmas complete with ice slides and sculptures at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine.

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November means it's finally time for the holiday season to begin—and with it, events full of holiday spirit. Get your holiday shopping done early this weekend at the Texas Book Festival in Austin, in Tyler during the city's annual Rose City Christmas, or at the Galleria Dallas as it unveils its iconic 95-foot Christmas tree.

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Head to Galveston's Island Oktoberbest, a haunted version of the Texas Zoo in Victoria, or the final weekend of Six Flags Over Texas' Fright Fest—no one will think twice if you spend all of Halloween weekend in costume. 

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Still haven't ironed out your weekend plans? We have plenty of fun event ideas that can take your mind to someplace new.

Futuro House

What: Futuro House

Where: 9573 State Highways 276 in Royse City

When: Year-round

As you near Royse City, just east of Rockwall, the scenery becomes a little extraterrestrial. Situated along the highway, an orange spaceship catches the eye of nearly every driver that passes by. Truth is, it’s not a spaceship at all, but a lost relic of 1960s architecture—a portable, prefabricated, and outright peculiar structure designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen. Fewer than 100 Futuro houses were ever produced, and now the approximately 50 that remain across the globe—from Texas to New Zealand—stand as testaments to the Space Age fascination with alien life. While the Royse City Futuro has been completely gutted and covered in graffiti over the years, two more exist on private property in Texas—one painted green and pink landed only 11 miles away in Rockwall. The other found a home on the Yates Cattle and Conservation Ranch in Austin; it (and the 385-acre property it sits on) is currently on the market for $7.2 million.

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This weekend's events offer art forms from many mediums: music, Western swing dancing, food, and new art exhibits.

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Known as The Mushroom Capital of Texas, Madisonville will host the 16th annual Texas Mushroom Festival on Oct. 14—complete with cooking demonstrations, coveted mushroom fajitas, and other delicious fungi foods. The festival attracts some 15,000 people each year, and in addition to celebrating all things mushrooms it also features a car showcase, photography and art contests, a 5K run/walk, Texas wine and craft beer tastings, a quilt show, arts and crafts, children's activities, and live entertainment.

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Boots, beaches, books, and biergartens—that's the so-called "theme" of this weekend's varied events, with offerings like South Padre Island's 30th annual Sand Castle Days, Fredericksburg's Oktoberfest, and the Texas Teen Book Festival in Austin.

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