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By Rebecca Parvaresh

Every year, the Christmas decorations begin to fill the department stores right about the time we are shopping for our Thanksgiving turkeys. So often we blink and then the holidays are quickly gone in a blaze of leftover turkey sandwiches and a wallet full of credit card receipts.

This year, we’ve compiled a list of just a few alternative offerings that the Texas Hill Country has planned over the next several weeks. Add one to your calendar today, and hopefully add a few extra meaningful memories to the ones that keep us all warm and wishing for holiday time again.

1. Santa’s Ranch – New Braunfels

Photo: Tammy (Flickr)

Santa’s Ranch is entering their 14th year of sparking the Christmas holiday spirit. You and your family can take a drive though over a mile through twinkling lights and animated displays. Stay warm with homemade cocoa and freshly made kettle corn. The magical displays open each night at 6 p.m. from November 6 through January 2. You can purchase a season pass for $56 plus tax or have a one night show for $28 plus tax per vehicle. They are located at 9561 I-35 North in New Braunfels. You’ll spot them easily by watching the skyline for their 50 foot Christmas tree!

2. Operation Turkey – Austin, San Marcos, and San Antonio

Photo: Operation Turkey Austin (Facebook)

Started in 2000 with the first meal given by Richard Bagdonas, Operation Turkey may be a perfect opportunity for you and your family to give back this holiday season. Handfuls of volunteers from ages 7 to 70 come together and smoke over 450 turkeys in the annual “Turkey Tailgate” the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (November 25th this year). The next morning, all the meals are put together, packaged and then distributed across Austin to the homeless and those in need. Children are encouraged to participate alongside a guardian. The event seems to encompass the essence of the holiday, as those receiving meals offer thanks to all the food and love being given. Check out their website for more information including meet up times each day for each city.

3. Wild Game Dinner – Junction

Photo: junctiontexas.com

The Junction Kimble County Chamber of Commerce hosts an annual Wild Game Dinner the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This year it will fall on November 28, and the dinner will be served at 6 p.m. For an admission donation of $10 per person, you can have a wild game dinner and a chance to win the grand prize of a Half Hex Blind on 5ft Metal Stand with stairs. There are various other raffles for guns, hunting gear, a Costa Rican vacation, and a South African hunting trip. After hitting all the Black Friday shopping, take Saturday off and let your dinner plans get a little wild! This family friendly event will be held at the Coke Stevenson Memorial Center located at 440 US Highway 83 North.

4. Hill Country Holiday Feast & Baking – Wimberley

Photo: blairhouseinn.com

The Blair House Inn Bed and Breakfast routinely offers a variety of cooking classes throughout the year. On November 28 – 30, they are offering a three-day session that will get your mind and skills ready for the holiday season. They’ll show you how to dust off a few favorites like Classic Pecan Pie and give you tips on dressing up the next showstopper for you holiday meal. Receive the skills needed for Mesquite Smoked Turkey, Chocolate Truffles and Sausage Stuffed Pork Tenderloin to name a few. Enjoy the amenities of their Bed and Breakfast as a relaxing treat for yourself before the family arrives on your doorstep. Give them a call today for pricing at 512-847-1111.

5. Lights Spectacular – Johnson City

Photo: Johnson City Chamber of Commerce (Facebook)

The annual Johnson City Lights Spectacular will kick off this November 27 as the over-three city blocks, including the Courthouse will be lit up with over a million twinkling lights. The sky will not be left out, as it will be lit by a marvelous fireworks display as Santa makes his arrival into town. The following day will be filled with events from the “Lighted Hooves and Wheels Parade” to the lamplight tour of the LBJ boyhood home, which will be decorated in traditional 1920’s holiday dressing just as it would have been during his childhood. The events will include downtown merchant shopping, a Chuck Wagon food court and even a 5K run with the beautiful backdrop of the lighted display. This is surely an annual tradition that your family could adopt as a way to slow down the hustle and bustle of this holiday season.

6. Turkey Trot – Gruene

Photo: comalcopsforkids.org

Interested in a che3se1f3 healthier tradition this season? Make your way down for the annual Gruene Turkey Trot, a 5k Run or Walk event for all ages. You’ll make your way through the Gruene Historic district as you work off that extra slice of pumpkin pie. Registration Fees vary and proceeds benefit local law enforcement charities that benefit community children such as the New Braunfels Police Department Blue Santa and Comal County Sheriff’s Office Green Santa Programs. The event starts at 6:30 a.m. on November 26. Please call 830-629-5077 for more details.

7. Dickens on Main – Boerne

Photo: dickensonmain.com

An annual celebration full of Dickens Period costumed shopkeepers, traditional wassailing, caroling, and horse drawn carriage rides. The two night kickoff will put you in the holiday spirit starting November 27 and 28 from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. each day. There will be a live band on each night and a petting zoo with pony rides for the kids. For more information, contact the Boerne Chamber of Commerce by calling 830-249-7277.

8. Holiday Model Train Show – Round Rock

Photo: roundrockarts.org

The Tinplate Trackers come together again for a holiday showcase of model trains. The group designs the theme and operates it free of charge for guests beginning November 25 through January 2. They’ll be open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. at 231 E. Main St. in Round Rock. Over 7,000 people viewed last year’s spectacular display. Make sure not to miss this event with all the little conductors in your life!

9. Eisbahn Outdoor Ice Skating – Fredericksburg

Photo: Eisbahn Outdoor Ice Skating Rink (Facebook)

Once you’re done gobbling down turkey leftovers and doing your online Black Friday shopping, take the family for a little Texas treat at the Eisbahn Outdoor Ice Skating rink. Eisbahn is German for “ice rink” and this rink is located in the Marktplatz, the downtown square of Fredericksburg. The decorations will put you in the Christmas spirit as you whirl around the ice. The all-day pass is $10 per person which includes your skates. The rink will be open daily from the day after Thanksgiving (November 27th) all the way through New Year’s weekend. You can call them for information at 830-997-6597 or check out their website.

10. Teddy Bear Teas – Austin

Photo: 123hdwallpapers.com

For those with children in Austin, the Four Seasons Hotel has a tradition that involves singing, Santa, and the ability to help a good cause. Their annual “Teddy Bear Teas” offer a chance for everyone to put on their fanciest outfit and attend a tea service complete with holiday carols. Santa himself makes his appearance as he reads “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by the fire. Each attendee is asked to bring a new, unwrapped teddy bear that is donated to the Dell Children’s Hospital. The events take place November 28 and 29 as well as multiple dates in December. For reservations and more information, call 512-685-8300.