Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   


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Park Pick: Holiday Lights in East Texas

Head east for a collection of parks with lots of holiday cheer.

By Barbara White Parmley

The crisp scent of pine evokes Christmas cheer, and East Texas has plenty of both in store for visitors this month. Forget the long lines and noisy crowds at the mall. Instead, plan a drive through the colorful Christmas light displays at various Texas state parks.

Be sure to come early to stroll the hiking trails or wet a line at one of the lakes (no fishing license required when fishing from the bank at a Texas state park). Everyone’s welcome, so bring your camera to capture photos with Santa and friends.

Campers, volunteers, community friends and park staff have dressed up several East Texas parks for holiday events and old-fashioned celebrations featuring sparkling light displays, new and vintage decorations, candles and lanterns, and refreshments.

The sunset view over Wright Patman Lake at Atlanta State Park transforms into an abundance of twinkling stars, while other areas of the park are shining bright with lights and decorations. Visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and you may spot Smokey Bear!

Holiday lights 

Not too far away, enjoy a celebration of community featuring decorations in the park and surrounding area, hosted by Lake Bob Sandlin State Park. Shop for Christmas gifts at the park store after a drive through the park.

Driving from east to west in this region of the state, you see the landscape begin to change, with fewer pine trees and more tall, stately oaks. Bring your camera to capture memories of a festive holiday drive through Cooper Lake State Park — Doctors Creek Unit.

Traveling farther south, discover more pines in the winter forest at the Sunset Winter Wonderland Hike at Tyler State Park, and enjoy refreshments after driving though the holiday decorations.

Campers will make Christmas in the Pineywoods a memorable time at Martin Creek Lake State Park, so come enjoy the refreshments and decorations.

The Twinkle Tour hayride, the highlight of the season at Lake Tawakoni State Park, is a delight for children and adults. Tell Santa your wish at the amphitheater, shop for presents at the park store and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies after you drive through the display of lights.

Fun is in store at Purtis Creek State Park, where staff will host a celebration reminiscent of Christmas in Goshen during the late 1800s. Gather at the pavilion and enjoy hot chocolate, coffee and cookies, then venture to the park store to shop for last-minute gifts.

Close to the city lights of Dallas, step back to a slower time as you take a lantern-light tour of historic Penn Farm at Cedar Hill State Park, while listening to stories of the Penn family and their pioneering spirit. Learn about life farming and raising livestock here. Enjoy holiday refreshments around a glowing campfire and sing all of your favorite Christmas carols.

Come outside with us and celebrate the season while you explore East Texas state parks. Find out more at www.texasstateparks.org.


Related stories

Park Pick: Atlanta State Park

Park Pick: Cedar Hill State Park

Park Pick: Lake Tawakoni

See more state park articles on our State Parks page

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