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North Hills Monthly

Celebrate the Holiday Spirit in the Christmas Capital of Texas

Nov 30, 2017 01:18PM ● By Vanessa Orr

ICE!, an annual display featuring hundreds of ice sculptures at the Gaylord Texan Resort

I’ve heard a lot of people say that “Christmas is for kids,” and in many ways, they’re right. Who doesn’t love watching a child tear open that stayed-on-their-best-behavior present, or seeing their eyes light up at the sight of Santa? 

But grown-ups can get in the holiday spirit, too, and there’s nowhere better to channel your inner elf than in Grapevine, Texas, where more than 1,400 events take place over 40 days. Known as “The Christmas Capital of Texas,” this historic city located in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area has something for everyone—including snow.

I couldn’t believe my eyes as the flakes fell down from the ceiling of the Great Wolf Lodge, where about 30 kids enjoyed a jammy jamboree in Snowland. Suddenly, I was 6 years old again, amazed by the fact that despite being in an 84-degree water park, I was sticking my tongue out to catch snowflakes. I did control myself enough not to try to lick the life-sized gingerbread house on display, despite the temptation—made of 1,000 pounds of flour, 750 pounds of sugar, and 75 pounds of candy, the struggle was real.

The Gaylord Texan Resort put on quite a show, stringing more than 2 million lights throughout its nine-story lobby and filling every inch of floor space with massive decorations, Christmas trees, wandering carolers and even the jolly old elf himself; I seriously doubt the North Pole could have done any better. 

Kris Kringle, Rudolph and even the Burgermeister Meisterburger made an appearance at the resort as part of ICE!, an annual display featuring hundreds of ice sculptures carved by 40 master ice artisans from Harbin, China. The show also included a manger scene that took my breath away—well, that and the fact that it was 9 degrees and even the parka that the resort provided couldn’t quite quell the chill.

Grapevine’s historic downtown district is a gorgeous place to visit at any time of year, but there’s something extra special about wandering among the lights and through the more than 80 locally owned shops and restaurant sharing the holiday spirit. While it took me a little while to get used to celebrating the season when it was 60 degrees, a stop at the hot chocolate bar and happy hour at Dr. Sue’s Chocolate put me right in the mood—as did a walk along the city’s urban wine trail. Did I mention that Grapevine got its name from the wild mustang grapes that grow in the area? These people know their vino.

I moseyed (cause I was in Texas) into a couple of North Texas’ most acclaimed wineries, including family-owned Messina Hof, which is located in a replica of the Wallis Hotel and makes you feel like you’re sipping elegantly in a 19th-century parlor. I also loved the funky ambiance of Homestead Winery, where every inch of the walls is covered by visitors’ signatures from all over the world. That tradition started when the winery was celebrating its first birthday and employees signed their names on the wall behind the door; the idea took off, and now everyone signs—including yours truly.

So you wouldn’t think that holiday libations could get even better, but leave it up to Grapevine to create its own version of an adult Polar Express—the Christmas Wine Train. Not only do you get to enjoy products from a local Grapevine winery, but you even get a boxed Christmas dinner—all the fixins included. Santa even joined us on our jaunt along the tracks, ensuring that we erred on the side of nice instead of naughty.

Speaking of food, I guarantee that you’re going to put on holiday pounds in Grapevine, so re-up your gym membership before visiting. There are wonderful restaurants on every corner, from the Main Street Bistro & Bakery—oh my lord, the opera cake—to Tolbert’s Restaurant and its famous Bowl of Red (that’s chili con carne for those in the know). Make sure to stop into Great Scott for the housemade mozzarella and to JudyPie for well, pie. You’ll thank me later.

One of the coolest things about Grapevine is that everywhere you look, something gets you in the holiday spirit. This is especially true if you’re in town for the Parade of Lights, the largest lighted Christmas parade in North Texas. More than 100 lighted floats and marching bands make up the hometown extravaganza, and this year, you can also enjoy the Whoville Experience at the Town Square Gazebo throughout the Christmas season.

Though I was busy rediscovering the wonder of Christmas as an adult, there are, of course, many things to do as a family in this festive city as well. At Vetro Glassblowing Studio, you can create your own ornament, or have them make one for you. SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium and LEGOLAND Discovery Center are located in a nearby mall, and you can even take a behind-the-scenes tour at the aquarium, which is pretty amazing. And yes, kids also get to enjoy their own train ride on the North Pole Express®, which includes a show, hot chocolate, and a walk through a snow-filled wonderland for a visit with Santa himself.   

To learn more about The Christmas Capital of Texas, visit