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15 Reasons to Visit Texas During the Winter

By Edited Feb 13, 2014 1 0
Austin Texas Winter Sunset
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The sun sets on a beautiful winter day over Town Lake in Austin, Texas.

Are you huddled inside by the fireplace, trying to stay warm? Is it a daily struggle to keep up with your rapidly-rising heating bill? Do you live in one of the U.S. States not named Texas? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then this article is for you.
During the summer, most areas of Texas can be unbearably hot. I affectionately call it "hell". However, Texans see the benefit of the summer simmer during the winter months of November through early March, when it is often mild and sunny, much like what a New Englander would call "spring" and what a Canadian would call "summer". Many people who have the ability to travel during the winter months enjoy spending time in the sunbelt, and here I'll attempt to argue why Texas should be tops on any snowbird's vacation list. 
Here are the top 15 reasons why I love being a Texan during the (admittedly very short) winter season:
Barton Springs Austin Texas
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Barton Springs Pool in Austin, Texas is open year-round.

1. Barton Springs Pool is still open
The spring-fed pool[1] along Barton Creek near downtown Austin has crystal-clear water that stays the same temperature year-round. Although that constant temperature averages 70 degrees (which is pretty darn cold for anyone), you can always find polar bear swimmers there during the winter and even sunbathers on the grassy hill surrounding the pool on a sunny winter day. 
Jennifer put it this way in her google review[2]:
"I came here on with my roommates last Tuesday, and am so glad that I did. There's something special about it, but I can't quite put it into words. The water is cold when you first get in, but you won't notice that once you start swimming, floating, or splashing around. The water, by the way, is some of the clearest I've ever come across, especially for a natural spring."
Zilker Park Christmas Tree
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
2. The giant Christmas tree in Zilker Park
It's free, it brings glee, it's a giant Christmas tree[3]. This is truly Texan: a holiday tree created by stringing lights attached to a tall radio antennae, with a small snack booth selling hot chocolate, coffee and other hot snacks. Really all it needs is a taco truck to be a "complete" Lone Star State experience.
3. It's the middle of hiking season
Whether in the east Texas woodlands, west Texas desert, or central Tejas Hill Country, there's a plethora of opportunities to adventure outdoors on Christmas day. When the rest of the country is under snow or ice, it can be the perfect exercise weather especially on a sunny day. Here are some of my favorite hiking destinations:
East - Lone Star Hiking Trail
West - Big Bend National Park[4]
Central - Barton Creek Greenbelt[5]
4. It's the middle of hunting season (and it isn't freezing out)
If you're going hiking during the winter months, chances are you'll want to deck yourself out in bright orange because it's also the middle of deer hunting season. Ideally chilled weather also makes for great use of all that camo you're proud to wear in public and which you now have an excuse for wearing. Wear it proudly. 
5. The Marfa lights draw you in
In the middle of nowhere in West Texas there is a small town called Marfa. Topping my Texas bucket list, this little town is actually known as an artist/hipster oasis, replete with art installations, counter-cultural campgrounds, and the famed Marfa lights, which are a kind of Texas version of the northern lights except for the fact that they're actually caused by headlights from a nearby highway. Regardless, Marfa's worth seeing. 
6. If it does happen to snow/ice, it's a holiday!
As I write this article, much of the state's public institutions including schools and government offices are closed due to sub-freezing temperatures. Although here in Dallas it's completely dry, in other areas there is a small bit of ice on the ground. In Texas, ice is unusual. To say the least. So it's an excellent excuse to stay home, order in some pizza (tipping your driver heavily is encouraged), and sip some wine while catching up on Netflix. 
7. The Cotton Bowl, Alamo Bowl and Sun Bowl
8. You can ice skate in downtown Houston, outdoors!
9. It's practically spring here
There's nothing like the feeling of wearing short sleeves on Christmas Day, or working on your tan in January. In Dallas, the temperature changes can be wild and unpredictable - below freezing one day and 70 and sunny the next - but the further south you travel in the state, the more temperate the weather will get. It's sand volleyball time practically all year-round, or in Dallas it's called "patio weather".
10. Charro Days Festival in Brownsville[6]
San Antonio Riverwalk Christmas Lights
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
11. San Antonio's Holiday River Parade
San Antonio's second most famous landmark - aside from the Alamo, of course - is the Riverwalk, which winds through downtown and creates an entire level below the street filled with shops, restaurants, and parks interconnected together. While it's an excellent escape from the summer heat, the River Walk can be especially amazing during the holiday season as over 100,000 Christmas lights are strung from tall Cypress trees on either side of the river. One of the most important local festivals is the San Antonio River Parade, held in November, in which the floats are actually floating! River barges are converted into decorative floats of all kinds for this event. Grab yourself a margarita and some Tex-Mex food from one of the many restaurants and enjoy the spectacle!
12. The Hill Country Christmas Lighting Trail
Is seeing Christmas lights in your city a yearly tradition for you? Is one city not enough? If so,then the Hill Country Lighting Trail might be just your thing. A collection of ten or more small towns in the Texas Hill Country between Austin and San Antonio have combined (and printed a brochure, no less) showcasing their best christmas lights, often centeed on the main street or square in the town. 
13. Kayaking on Town Lake in Austin
Winter can be one of the best times to head out onto Town Lake (or Ladybird Lake as some people say). On a clear day, paddle past a downtown view and let the sun warm you up. Want a different perspective on the largest urban bat colony in the world? Rent kayaks an hour before dusk and paddle under the Congress Avenue bridge (the colony is out of roost between mid November and March, so this is more of a late fall travel tip).
14. Texas's Christmas Tamale Tradition
In Texas, the start of cooler weather signals not only the beginning of the holiday season but the beginning of Texas's tamale tradition! Tamales as a staple Christmas Eve dish have their roots in Mexican tradition, but this tradition has spread across many cultures and become distinctly Texan[7]. 
South Texas Beach in Winter
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
15. The beaches aren't closed
The beaches aren't closed and they're not totally deserted either. While it may not be the first place one would think of as a traditional winter destination, Texas beaches on the Gulf of Mexico provide great scenery, beachcombing and world-class fishing during the winter months. And snow birds are likely to find a pretty great rate on accommodations in Port Aransas or North Padre Island during the off-season.
What is your favorite winter getaway?


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  1. "Barton Springs Pool." City of Austin. 28/01/2014 <Web >
  2. "Barton Springs Review by Jennifer M." Gogle Reviews. 28/01/2014 <Web >
  3. "Zilker Holiday Tree." City of Austin. 28/01/2014 <Web >
  4. "Mountain Hikes." Big Bend National Park. 28/01/2014 <Web >
  5. "Barton Creek Greenbelt." Austin Parks Foundation. 28/01/2014 <Web >
  6. "Charro Days." Wikipedia. 28/01/2014 <Web >
  7. "Tamales for Christmas are a True Texas Tradition." NPR.org. 28/01/2014 <Web >

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