One wintry night, I found myself wandering through a magical land, surrounded by colorful shops glistening with thousands of lights and overflowing with candy canes, toys and all sorts of Christmas marvels. The sweet smell of hot cocoa wafted through the air and in the distance, I heard the joyous sound of children’s laughter as they were filled with wonder and cheer at the sight of Old Saint Nick, himself. Soon, a slow powder of snow drifted through the air, covering the village.
No, I hadn’t trekked to the North Pole, but somewhere much closer and alot more Texan — Santa’s Wonderland in College Station.
This 69-acre Christmas village has been bringing the magic of the North Pole to Texas since 1998, and it’s enchanting enough to bring out the Christmas cheer in even the Scrooge-iest of us all.
When you first enter, you’re greeted by the first million lights (possibly an exaggeration…) of the over three million total lights adorning every inch of the Old West village.
Inside the village is everything you’d need for a true Texified Christmas. Dueling guitarists and jammin’ fiddlers play twangy Christmas carols as cowboys and cowgirls sing along. The Town Market and Trading Post provide visitors with the gift shopping of their dreams – offering Texas goodies and Christmas-themed items galore. Radiantly shinning at the far end of the village is the iconic Texas Flag lights display perfect for festive photo-taking.
It’s truly overwhelming in the best way — but that’s not even the best part! If you walk past the Food Village (yes, you read that right — an entire village with every kind of glorious food imaginable) you’ll find the main attraction: a wondrous hayride through a mile of dazzling lights and Christmas scenes.
Along the trail, you’ll be immersed into a spectacular world, lit up with Christmas favorites like glimmering snow scenes, reindeer and Santa’s Workshop!
You’ll see all kinds of animals from dolphins leaping out of the lake to alligators swimming in a stream and squirrels climbing a tree. Since everything’s bigger in Texas (especially Christmas), along the lights trail you’ll find Holiday fun with a Texas twist. See the cannons roar in front of the Alamo, giant Texas flag-decorated cowboy boots and more!
To remind us all of the reason for our Christmas cheer, the lights trail features a glowing portrayal of Jesus’s life and death. You’ll see the Savior born in the manger in the Nativity Scene, as well as the cross where Christ was crucified, an empty tomb and the risen Christ surrounded by a host of angels. It’s a chilling moment as the hayride slows down for you to take it in.
Tip: Be prepared for long lines to this popular hayride and get in line as early as possible to avoid a super long wait. And if you really hate lines, you can buy a carriage ride in the park for a smaller wait time and more private experience. Check Santa’s Wonderland’s Facebook for crowd forecasts.
If you’re feeling cold after the hayride, cozy up to one of the campfires all around the park or roast marshmallows and hot dogs over the fires at the roasting pits (which just happen to be next to a giant screen playing Christmas movies on loop).
Nothing gets you toasty faster than roasting marshmallows by the fire while watching Christmas Vacation.
Add to the fun: towering slides, a petting zoo and a life-sized snow globe that you can climb in to, and you’ve got yourself one Texas-sized Christmas celebration! Yet, as if over 3 million dazzling lights and hours of seasonal fun weren’t magical enough, each night it SNOWS in the main village as Santa rides in on a horse wearing his finest cowboy hat!
Head to College Station to find yourself walking through a TEXAS Wonderland for the Christmas experience of a lifetime! In the words of Santa’s Wonderland: “Merry Christmas to y’all and to y’all a Goodnight!”
Santa’s Wonderland is open daily (including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve) until January 1. Purchase tickets online or at the gate.