NOTE: This article was written in 2014, but events happen each year. Click links for current dates.
I love visiting other locales during the holidays. Even though I'm way past being an excited kid at Christmas, there's still something magical about all those trees decorated in ornaments, lights twinkling on every building and carolers singing those once-a-year classics. And for me, as a 20-year Phoenix implant who still misses white Christmases in Colorado, I'm all about a place with cold weather, some snow and a crackling fire in the fireplace. The next few weeks, I'll be sharing some of my favorite places—some in cold locales and some in warmer weather destinations—to visit during the holidays.
For some real holiday magic, head to Grapevine, Texas for Christmas fun and cheer. Although you don't normally expect to find snow in Grapevine, that's exactly what I found when I visited Grapevine in December 2013. It was a magical Winter Wonderland and everything was sparkling and shining with lights, bows, ribbons and Christmas trees. But whether or not you find real snow in Grapevine, you will find plenty of holiday cheer. Come along and explore Grapevine at Christmas.
Grapevine, a Dallas suburb that sits just minutes from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, is known as the Christmas Capital of Texas. And for good reason. During the holidays, Grapevine transforms into a Winter Wonderland. In fact, the city celebrates with 1,400 events over 40 days in November and December. Here are a few of the magical holiday events you can enjoy in Grapevine.
Lone Star Christmas at Gaylord Texan
One of my favorite spots in Grapevine is the Gaylord Texan Resort and it is especially gorgeous during the holidays, featuring ICE! and Lone Star Christmas from November 13, 2014 through January 3, 2015.
Driving up to the resort is a treat with 1.5 million twinkling lights, 12,000 ornaments, a 52-foot-tall rotating tree and a life-sized gingerbread house.
Even if you don't stay at the resort, go for the lights and be sure you buy tickets for ICE! This chilly indoor wonderland—it stays a brisk 9 degrees—has a different theme every year. For 2014, stroll through the Frosty the Snowman themed exhibit featuring 2 million pounds of ice carved into adorable and intricate ice sculptures. There's always a breathtakingly beautiful nativity scene every year that you won't want to miss.
As you stroll through the exhibits (heavy parkas provided but bring your own gloves!), you can also go sliding on the ice slides, tubing down the show hills, have your photo taken with costumed characters, sip to chocolate and check out the unique ornaments for sale in the shop. Ticket prices vary for ICE! depending on day, date and age. Visit here for details and to purchase tickets.
Snowland! at The Great Wolf Lodge
Just down the road from Gaylord is Great Wolf Lodge. Throughout December (from November 29, 2014 through January 4, 2015), you can sing along with carols in the lobby every evening and the little ones can enjoy nightly stories and wander through the life-sized gingerbread house. Great Wolf Lodge is known for its indoor waterpark—open year round and maintained at a balmy 84 degrees—but there's an added bonus at Christmas with the Polar Bear Race.
While it is (usually) sunny and too warm for snow outdoors, you will find it snowing in the lobby every day. While you enjoy the lights, the little ones will love attending the North Pole University for Elves, where they can help make Christmas gifts.
North Pole Express
Hop a ride on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad's North Pole Express for an unforgettable journey to the North Pole. Be sure to don your jimmies for the ride where elves lead passengers from Grapevine to the North Pole. Kids of all ages will enjoy singing carols on the way and getting a special silver ball from Mrs. Santa. Then, you will all disembark to explore Santa's workshop. Of course, the trip wouldn't be complete without a cup of Frosty Chocolate Snow Milk in a keepsake mug and a visit with the big man himself. You'll even have a chance to take a family photo with Santa.
Check out all the details and purchase tickets online here. The train runs weekends, November 28 to 30, December 5 to 7, December 12 to 14 and December 19 to 23. Price is $25 and advance reservations are required. The tours fill up quickly, so purchase your tickets early.
Be sure to check out the North Pole Neighborhood while you're there. The North Pole General Store sells unique North Pole Express gifts, toys and more. You can take a photo with Santa, have fun with costumed characters, write a letter to Santa and check out the artists. Hot chocolate is available for $1 to benefit Grapevine's Sister City Program.
Christmas Wine Trains
If you love the idea of hopping the train in Grapevine but you'd prefer wine and cheese to singing with the elves, there are two wine trains scheduled for December. On Thursday, December 11, 2014 and Thursday, December 18, 2014, the train departs the Grapevine Vintage Railroad at 7 pm. On December 11, Homestead Winery (try their all-Texas Malbec) will be pouring wine with food by Chill Sports Bar. December 18 will feature wines of Sloan & Williams (be sure to try the 2012 Serendipity – a blend of Carignan, Consult, Tempranillo, Mourvedre and Cabernet Sauvignon) and food by Main Street Bakery & Bistro.
This over-21 ride requires reservations and advance purchase of tickets, which are available online here for $40 per person.
Christmas on Main
Main Street in downtown Grapevine is on of the most charming downtown areas in the US. I loved shopping the little boutiques. It is especially charming at Christmas, when every store is decked out in lights, ribbons and bows. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from November 28 through December 21, downtown comes alive with tractor-drawn wagon rides and entertainment. You can get a wagon ride from the Gazebo for $1 per person from 2 to 5 pm, Fridays; noon to 5 pm, Saturdays; and 1 to 4 pm, Sundays. Head to the Gazebo every Saturday afternoon in December from noon to 1 pm for live free entertainment when OhLook Performing Arts Center performs from its “A Christmas Carol.”
As you stroll along Main Street, you will also find several locations with extra decorations, designated as great photo op spots for the holidays. these are at Liberty park (215 S Main Street), the Christmas tree at the Gazebo (325 S Main Street), North Pole Neighborhood (705 S Main Street) and at the Grapevine Visitor Information Center (636 S Main Street).
While you're on Main Street, take time out for some one-of-a-kind shopping. I love all the little boutiques—more than 80 locally-owned shops with everything from fits, clothes and jewelry to Christmas ornaments, wine and food items. Be sure to stop by VETRO Glassblowing Studio at Gallery at 701 S Main Street to take home a blown glass ornament or lovely bauble for someone special. Between November 22 and December 27, there are limited slots available for you to create your own unique glass ornament, with help from VETRO's experts, for $30.
Grapevine twinkles with lights on every street during the holidays. the downtown is decked out in more than a million lights as well as tons of bows and garland. Here are a few of the formal events where you can enjoy the lights in Grapevine this Christmas:
- Carol of Lights at Town Square Gazebo is held at 7 pm on Monday, November 24. The city's mayor flips the switch turning on more than one million lights along Main Street. The free event includes entertainment and hot chocolate.
- Light Show Spectacular is at Main and Dallas streets in downtown (a new location for 2014). Every night from November 24 through Christmas, you can enjoy this choreographed lights and music show from 6 to 11 pm. Free.
- Parade of Lights in downtown Grapevine, scheduled for 7 pm on Thursday, December 4, is the largest lighted Christmas parade in North Texas. you'll be able to see more than 100 lighted floats and bands—plus Santa of course.
- Twinkle Light Boat Parade is on Lake Grapevine, Sunday, December 6 from 6 to 9 pm. the floating parade begins at Twin Coves Marina and boats join the procession, all brightly decorated, along the way at each marina, including Scott's landing and Silver Lake. The free event can be viewed form the shores of Lake Grapevine or from the Glass Cactus Nightclub at Gaylord Texan Resort.
If you plan to head to Grapevine, Texas for the holidays, be sure to check out the Grapevine, Texas website at http://www.grapevinetexasusa.com. In addition to the events listed above, you can find plenty more to do in Grapevine during the holidays here.
There are so many amazing places to eat in Grapevine, you can't really go wrong if you stroll down Main Street and pick a spot. Some of my top picks include:
- Chill Sports Bar & Grill (814 S Main Street)
- Dino's Steak & Claw House (342 S. Main Street)
- Main Street Bakery & Bistro (316 S. Main Street)
- Napoli's Italian Café (309 S. Main Street)
- Winewood Grill (1265 S Main Street)
- Riverwalk Cantina (inside Gaylord Texan Resort and a great spot for a pretty awesome margarita)
- Old Hickory Steakhouse (inside Gaylord Texan Resort)
If you don't want to rent a car while visiting Grapevine, you can use the Grapevine shuttle, which circulates throughout downtown, as well as a variety of restaurants, hotels and attractions. For complete information visit http://www.grapevinetexasusa.com/shuttle/.