A couple of decades ago, at Christmas, Amarillo families would bundle up, pile into the station wagon, and head out to look at Christmas lights. They had precisely two destinations to choose from: the elegant homes of the Wolflin subdivision and the more rural Bishop Hills community to the northwest, whose ornate Christmas light displays date back to the 1960s.
Family holiday traditions have changed a lot since then – and so have the destinations. Today’s Amarillo families can create holiday memories throughout the month of December at a variety of events and opportunities.
Wolflin: Wolflin is still a prime viewing locations for Christmas lights, of course. Trolley Express, operated by Royal Limo Service, has become a unique way to cruise the Wolflin area in a heated, replica trolley – complete with steaming hot chocolate.
Bishop Hills: This community still goes all-out at Christmas time for those willing to take a short drive outside the city limits. Continue a little further down Tascosa Road to Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch, which has also become a destination for Christmas lights.
Belmar: Back inside the city limits, a two-block section of Gainsborough Street in the Belmar area lights up like Amarillo’s version of Times Square this time of year. (Residents of The Colonies and Greenways communities quickly put their newer neighborhoods on the holiday map as well.)
Amarillo Botanical Gardens: One of Amarillo’s newest traditions has surged in popularity the last few years, thanks to the hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights decorating the Botanical Gardens every December.
Enchanted Acres Nights of Lights: A brand-new venue that just opened for the 2016 Christmas season, this 10-acre horse farm at 6505 S. Osage St. features more than 300,000 Christmas lights along a half-mile drive. It’s open from 7 to 10 p.m. nightly (and until 11 p.m. on weekends), and costs $10 per car – no matter how many jolly elves are packed inside.
Lone Star Ballet: The Ballet’s annual presentation of “The Nutcracker” has become a family favorite, year after year. Catch Clara, the Nutcracker Prince, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and other beloved characters at the Amarillo Civic Center. This year’s performances are scheduled for Dec. 9–11.
Christmas in the Canyon Balloon Glow: For most residents, America’s Second Largest Canyon is a summer destination, but the state park’s rock walls light up on Dec. 17 thanks to the noisy fires of colorful hot-air balloons. The event lasts from 5 to 8 p.m. and is free with a donation of non-perishable food items for High Plains Food Bank. Hot chocolate will be served.
Don Harrington Discover Center: Enjoy a merry and delicious breakfast with Santa Claus at this unique family event on Dec. 3, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The morning includes hands-on crafts and activities plus a printed 5x7-inch family photo with Santa. Tickets are required for everyone older than age 1, and cost $10 (members) or $15 (non-members) in advance, or $12/$17 at the door.
ZooLights Safari: During the month of December, the Amarillo Zoo decks out its grounds in thousands of holiday lights. Costumed characters, Christmas games, and hot chocolate are also part of the experience – along with the animals themselves (though some may be off exhibit during cold weather). This year’s dates are December 9-10 and 16-23, beginning at 6 p.m. each night. Admission is $4 for adults or $3 for seniors. Children ages 3-12 are $2. Kids younger than 2 are free.
Westgate Mall: It’s not Christmas until your child has posed adoringly in Santa’s lap and proclaimed what he or she wants for Christmas. Santa’s never hard to find this time of year –despite Amarillo’s distance from the North Pole – but one of his most accessible locations is always in the Center Court of Westgate Mall. Don’t want to wait in line? Reserve an appointment by purchasing a Santa FastPass.
by Jason Boyett
Jason is a journalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, and the author of more than a dozen books. His most recent is “12 World Religions: The Beliefs, Rituals, and Traditions of Humanity's Most Influential Faiths”, published by Zephyros Press. Learn more at jasonboyett.com.