Winter is an outstanding time to visit the Lone Star State, as there are plenty of things to do during the winter months—including holiday celebrations and romantic getaways. The surprise to most out-of-state visitors is the array of outdoor activities available in Texas during the winter season. Thanks to a relatively mild climate, visitors to Texas during the winter can go to the beach, play a round of golf, and even go trout fishing.
Most folks probably could never guess where the largest celebration of George Washington’s birthday is held. Surprisingly, it is staged each year in the border city of Laredo, Texas. Laredo throws the largest and oldest birthday celebration for the nation's first president.
Founded in 1898, this month-long celebration attracts more than 400,000 visitors each year. The event has grown to include a variety of entertainment and activities. This year’s celebration is scheduled to include a parade with majestic Clydesdale horses leading the way, concerts, colonial-themed pageants, fireworks displays, a carnival, fun run, BBQ cook-off, tequila tasting, and more. Many traditional events have a George or Martha Washington theme—attend a grand ball, a Commander's Reception, and more. There really is something for everyone at this “international celebration of a traditional American holiday.”
Texas is home to some of the nation's top golf courses. Although this has been a well-kept secret in the past, recent years have seen an increasing number of golfers traveling to Texas to take advantage of these world-class courses.
During the winter months, the weather is mild enough (on most days) to allow for a pleasant round. But beware—shorter daylight hours coupled with an increased number of golfers in popular snowbird areas can lead to more crowded courses.
Ideal places to golf in the winter include:
- Brackenridge Park Golf Course: Brackenridge is a historic golf course in San Antonio and, having opened in 1916, is the oldest 18-hole public golf course in Texas.
- Pine Dunes Resort: This is one of those undiscovered places. The small resort, located about two hours southeast of Dallas, is rated high by The Dallas Morning News—second in the state among public courses. The course in the pine-studded dunes was designed by world-renowned architects Jay & Carter Morrish.
- South Padre Island: Reportedly one of the most fun courses at this vacation destination is at the South Padre Island Golf Club, which overlooks Laguna Madre. This full-service course is known for its scenery, especially the sunsets.
Although the weather has cooled, there are still plenty of fun opportunities on Texas beaches. When most people think of Texas beaches, they immediately think of such locations as Galveston, with its long public pier and waterpark; Corpus Christi, with its beautiful beaches and state aquarium; and South Padre Island, with its historic lighthouse and sea turtle preserves. Each of these coastal towns is a year-round destination.
There are dozens of other beaches to discover in small coastal towns in Texas, offering visitors year-round activities such as fishing, birding, shelling, and more. Some winter beaches to discover include:
- San Jose Island: This is a privately-owned island near Port Aransas and is an ideal place to go birding and enjoy the 21 miles of uncrowded, natural beach. Go shelling and find sand dollars. Access is permitted only on public land, which is the beach only.
- South Padre Island: You can actually find large unspoiled areas to investigate on the island if you follow the main road up to where you can see the pristine, 609-square-mile Laguna Madre to the west. As you drive, you'll find that civilization disappears and you'll encounter 20-foot-high dunes. When you reach the end of the road, you'll be able to enjoy the natural setting with birds, crabs, and very few people.
Texas has a number of towns and cities that are perfect for a romantic Valentine's Day vacation. From the Gulf Coast to the Texas Hill Country, there is a Texas town to accommodate anyone's preferences and tastes. Major cities such as Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio offer plenty of Valentine's Day activities, but so do more quaint locations such as German-heritage Fredericksburg and the artists' village of Wimberley.
The Texas Hill Country has long been appreciated as a romantic getaway. You can stroll the shops and galleries in Fredericksburg and stay at a romantic B&B such as the award-winning Rose Hill Manor. They serve a complimentary three-course breakfast and bistro-style meals, and can point you in the direction of wine tasting at a nearby winery.
Another great place to stay, especially if you have your own plane and want to fly into Fredericksburg, is the Hangar Hotel, a 1940s-style hotel (yet built new from the bottom up) with upscale amenities plus a WWII vibe. Drop into the "Officer's Club" for a cocktail before heading out to downtown Fredericksburg for some great German food.
Few folks outside of Texas realize that portions of the Guadalupe River in the Texas Hill Country offer some excellent rainbow trout fishing on a year-round basis. Located a short drive from Austin, the Canyon Tailrace, a stretch of the Guadalupe that extends several miles below Canyon Lake, maintains a low enough water temperature to support a good population of rainbows and a few browns as well.
There is not a wide variety of trout fishing options available throughout the year, and summertime trout are pretty much relegated to the Canyon Tailrace. However, the winter trout population in the Lone Star State grows rapidly as the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department goes about their annual winter trout stocking program from December through February.
While there are quaint towns with enticing antique stores dotting their main streets, the serious antique hunters head to the huge antique markets that Texas is famous for. Fredericksburg Trade Days are held through the winter and offer 350 vendors in seven barns and even invites shoppers to relax in their beer garden.
Round Top, located between Houston and Austin, is known for its huge antique shows. There are three shows each year: the world-renowned Spring and Fall Antiques Fairs and the newer Winter Antiques Show in the Big Red Barn.
Head down to the River Walk and hop on one of San Antonio’s informational boat tours to see the city and the holiday lights from the river. The famous holiday lights on the River Walk are turned on each year the day after Thanksgiving and remain on from dusk to dawn daily till just after the first January.
You can take a dinner ride on the boats and enjoy the floating musicians as you float and dine along under the entrancing lights.
Get in the winter mood and go ice skating at The Galleria in Houston. There’s a huge Christmas tree right in the middle of the rink to enjoy as you circle the rink. They offer lessons and special holiday events. If you are a gawker vs. a skater, you can look down upon the festive rink from the second-floor railing.
Grapevine offers more than 1,400 holiday events within a 40-day time period and has proclaimed itself the Christmas Capital of Texas. There's the North Pole Express Train, ICE!, an ice sculpture exhibit featuring gingerbread houses, and gala parades with lighted floats.
You can stay at the Gaylord Texan Resort, which goes all out with decorations at Christmas and has a 52-foot-tall rotating Christmas tree and a life-sized gingerbread house.
On December's final day, there will be plenty of New Year's Eve parties and celebrations throughout Texas. Virtually every city and town in Texas will see New Year's Eve celebrations of all sizes. In the larger cities, dozens of clubs, bars, hotels, and restaurants throw New Year's Eve parties.
Additionally, Texas' biggest cities also host some of the most exciting New Year's celebrations like "Celebrate San Antonio," a downtown community celebration with multiple events and a fantastic fireworks display.
Not all the New Year's Eve fun is limited to the big cities. The iconic Texas towns of Gruene and Luckenbach, offering country-western dancing, are always popular New Year's Eve destinations.