It’s never hard to find things to do in Tyler, but during the holidays what you’ll be wishing for is more time. Starting mid-November the pumpkin patches disappear and light displays start to blaze in the early dark. This year the cold came early.
With sweater weather comes hot cocoa served with fuzzy slippers, sugar cookies and a hint of nostalgia. Whether you’re visiting Tyler or here all the time, the days are short and there’s much to do. Here are the Tyler holiday events you don’t want to miss.
Mistletoe and Magic
Every year around the middle of November people from all over the state come to this shopping extravaganza. If you’re visiting Tyler before Thanksgiving, find out if your trip coincides with this four-day experience. The Junior League of Tyler holds this annual fundraiser for local non-profits and community agencies. More than 90 specialty boutiques and vendors gather at Harvey Hall Convention Center. They open stall after stall of wonders that overflow with the following:
- Gourmet foods
- Original artwork
- Seasonal decor
- Men’s, women’s and children’s clothing
- handmade jewelry
Mistletoe and Magic is as much about the entertainment as it is about the sales. Planners pack the event schedule with brunches, live music, photos with Santa and style shows. There are delicious treats to sample around every corner. Your biggest challenge will be finding room in your trunk for all your fabulous finds.
Rose City Christmas
Officially welcome the Christmas season when you visit Tyler with the Rotary Club of Tyler’s Christmas Parade. The 2018 parade is November 29 starting at 6 p.m. It winds through downtown and finishes with the arrival of Santa Clause and a Tree Lighting Ceremony on the Square.
Follow up with the Holiday in the Garden and Bazaar at Tyler Rose Garden Center. More than 60 vendors offer specialty and gift items at this Tyler holiday event. Kids enjoy the seasonal scavenger hunt, stories with Mrs. Clause and a mini train ride.
The whole family can get in the holiday spirit with ice sculptures, live music, holiday food and crafts. After, Tyler Rose Garden Christmas lights stay on display until early January.
In spring Tyler’s Azalea District is awash in color from rioting azaleas, pastel tulips and sunny daffodils. Now during the holidays, it’s just as colorful. The Azalea District Trail of Lights started in 2016 and gets a little bigger and better with every passing year.
Go on an evening walking tour or catch an open-air shuttle in the parking lot of First Presbyterian Church on Rusk and Dobbs Street. Shuttle rides run from late November through mid-December, and most trail lights stay up until January.
Downtown Tyler museums like the Discovery Science Place, Cotton Belt Depot Museum, Gallery Main Street and Goodman LeGrand House and Museum hold their holiday open house the first weekend in December. Each participating museum has special events, activities and refreshments. The 2018 Open House date is December 8 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The Polar Express
You may have read the children’s classic by Chris Van Allsburg or seen the Warner Brother’s movie, but unless you’ve experienced the Texas State Railroad version recently you might be missing out. Last year a Utah-headquartered railroad association took over the train’s operation after the old operator’s contract ran out.
This year’s Polar express has the same historic locomotive, vintage rail cars and historic depots. However, the new operators are focused on adding more comforts and amenities.
The track is only 25 miles long, so the 60-minute round-trip is manageable for little ones. On the way to the Rusk Depot passengers enjoy hot chocolate and sugar cookies, read the book and sing Christmas carols. The Depot has been transformed into The North Pole. There Santa and his elves board the train to visit with each child one-on-one.
Best Tyler Holiday shopping
The Village at Cumberland Park is the go-to holiday shopping destination for area residents and people who visit Tyler to see family during the holidays. Currently, the outdoor shopping center has more than 30 retail outlets, restaurants and a Studio Movie Grill. World Market, Hallmark, Petco and Zales are advertising huge Black Friday sales, and all vendors have promotional deals through the end of the year.
The shopping center continues to expand. A new Nike Outlet just opened. This past year Goodman’s became Overstock Furniture.
If the people you’re shopping for appreciate experiences more than material gifts, why not get them a gift card for some of the many things to do at The Village at Cumberland Park? Urban Air Tyler is an adventure park with 30,000 square feet of trampolines, dodgeball courts, slam dunk tracks and obstacle courses. Hotworx is a newly opened destination for yoga in Tyler.
Drive Through Light Parks
Sing Christmas carols, view millions of lights and drink hot cocoa without having to stand around in the cold at Lindale’s Santa Land, a drive-through Christmas park. East Texas residents say they remember going with their parents every year as children, now they’re continuing the tradition with their own families.
On I-20 drivers are greeted by a gigantic, brightly lit wreath. Santa Land’s Tunnel of Lights surrounds vehicles in more than 25,000 flashing lights as they drive through a 250-foot tunnel. Coming out the other side, families see towering toy soldiers, pass brightly lit trees and enjoy holiday-themed displays.
The park sells hot cocoa and photos with Santa. They also recently added a toy department so kids can take home a memento of the experience. Santa arrives at the park every night at 6 p.m., and reviews recommend you arrive early to avoid long waits.
If you don’t want to make the drive to Lindale, Tyler’s Up In Lights is a mile outside Loop 323 and Highway 155 South. Drive through or walk starting the night after Thanksgiving. The park’s Facebook page says the park offers free hot chocolate and S’mores and is pet-friendly. If Fido is on a leash, he can walk too.
Tyler Holiday Arts and Entertainment
The East Texas Symphony Orchestra and Tyler Junior College Academy of Dance partner for this year’s 35th annual production of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. The classic ballet is a favorite for all age groups because of the iconic musical score, sublime costumes and powerful dancing. Revisit an old favorite or experience it for the first time this December 1 at UT Tyler Cowan Center.
Marshall’s Wonderland of Lights
When you visit Tyler, if you have time for a drive head to Marshall Texas on any Tuesday through Sunday from the middle of November until New Year’s Eve. The small town’s light festival started in 1987 and now it’s one of the biggest in the nation. Visitors celebrate the season with the following:
- ice skating
- trackless train rides through downtown Marshall
- Face Painting
- Live music in Telegraph Park
- Vintage carousel rides on a restored 1948 Herschel carousel
- Horse-drawn carriage and wagon rides
- Crafting and cookies with the Big Man in Santa’s Village
If you’re visiting Tyler during the holidays, opportunities for celebrating are everywhere. We wish you all the joys of the season and happiness in the year ahead.