Thanksgiving Weekend Activities in Texas

Santa at Christmas parade

Roberto Galan / Getty Images

Across the country, Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season, and in Texas, the time around Thanksgiving weekend is full of activities. Texans get together to celebrate Texas-style Thanksgiving traditions like a deep-fried or beer-can turkey, sides spiced with chile peppers, and pumpkin pie spiked with bourbon.

Texans enjoy big events and holiday parades kicking off the season, from a football-inspired parade in El Paso to a parade that takes place overlooking the San Antonio River.

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Fort Worth Parade of Lights (Fort Worth)

Fort Worth Parade of Lights (Fort Worth)
Courtesy of Fort Worth Parade of Lights

Getting things started a little early, the Parade of Lights is held each year in downtown Fort Worth and features over 100 illuminated entries culminating with the lighting of the Fort Worth Holiday Tree. Held the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, this popular event has been a Thanksgiving season mainstay.

Visitors can look forward to volunteers dressed as Cowboy Santas who collect toys, as well as doing a little shopping and dining downtown. Get in the holiday spirit with a mug of hot chocolate, live music, and more.

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The Sun Bowl Parade (El Paso)

The Sun Bowl Parade in El Paso is a uniquely Texan Thanksgiving Day parade. It originally began in 1936 as a prelude to the Sun Bowl football game held on New Year’s Day. The parade date was changed in 1978 and stuck as a Thanksgiving Day tradition, drawing over 250,000 visitors to the Sun City. Activities at the parade, which kicks off at 10 a.m., include fun floats, a basketball invitational, a fantastic marching band, and more.

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HEB Thanksgiving Day Parade (Houston)

HEB Holiday Parade

 Ed Uthman / Flickr / CC BY-2.0

Recognized as an annual Thanksgiving Day tradition for nearly 70 years, the HEB Parade signifies the official beginning of the holiday season in the downtown Houston area. The parade starts at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning and is free for the community (general seating tickets can be purchased online). The parade showcases entertainers, colorful floats, huge balloons and the arrival of Santa, and is produced by the Mayor's Office of Special Events.​

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Ford Holiday River Parade and Lighting Ceremony (San Antonio)

Over 150,000 spectators gather on the day after Thanksgiving to witness the Holiday River Parade and Lighting Ceremony in San Antonio. The parade hours are 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.

In addition to seeing lighted boats make their way through the hour-long course, spectators will see more than 122,000 twinkling lights illuminate the Riverwalk once the mayor “pulls the switch.” Attendees can look forward to costumed float riders, live Christmas music, and ​free viewing areas.

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Chuy's Children Giving to Children Parade (Austin)

Chuy's Children Giving to Children Parade

Chuy's Children Giving to Children Parade

This unique Christmas parade raises money for "Operation Blue Santa," which provides toys to needy children in the Austin area. The rain or shine event starts at 11 a.m. and lasts for about an hour, stretching from the State Capitol to just north of the bridge.

Attendees are encouraged to bring new and unwrapped toys to donate. Parade units will stop periodically along the route so that you can give your donations to Santa's helpers. This family-friendly event on the Saturday after Thanksgiving includes huge inflatable balloons, special holiday floats, and children's characters to delight the kids.

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