Over the years, our traditions evolve and these traditions become a part of how we celebrate the holidays.
Enjoying that first cup of eggnog or a pumpkin latte might be what helps you kick off your holiday season.
For many of us, digging to the back of the closet or the corners of the attic for boxes of Christmas decorations that hold memories from yesteryear is almost as much fun as trimming the tree.
For thousands of Central Texas residents, the holidays haven’t really started and certainly aren’t complete until they’ve made a trip to Santa’s Ranch Christmas Light Park.
Proudly celebrating its 8th consecutive season, Santa’s Ranch has earned its place in the hearts of visitors who know that they can count on awe-inspiring experience each time they take the mile-long drive through the 12-acre wood park conveniently located between San Marcos and New Braunfels.
With 1.5 million twinkling and sparkling lights, Santa’s Ranch is the only Christmas park of its kind in the Central Texas region.
Frank Bass started the light park with his wife Melanie in 2003.
“I grew up in Northeast Texas, near Longview. There were several good Christmas parks in that area. That’s where I got my inspiration,” Bass says.
Before Santa’s Ranch opened eight years ago, light parks in New Braunfels and Boerne tried to make a go of it but weren’t successful.
“After the closing of the other Christmas parks, we knew it was time to make Santa’s Ranch a reality,” Frank says. “This area needed a place where people could bring their families and friends to see Christmas lights, and we knew we could make this park one of the best in Texas.”
Santa’s Ranch has not only continued year after year, but has added more lights and displays each season.
In the meantime, Schlitterbahn’s Hill Country Christmas in New Braunfels, which opened in 2008, announced that it would not reopen for a third season. The City of Austin also announced that the longtime Trail of LIghts at Zilker Park would not return this season. With these two area parks going dark, Santa’s Ranch is the only Christmas Light Park in the Austin/San Antonio area.
For a one-time visit at $20 per vehicle or a season pass of only $40 for unlimited visits, a drive through Santa’s Ranch is one of the most unique and economical holiday treats for families and friends to share — by the carload!
During their 20-minute cruise, visitors will enjoy a 50-foot tall Christmas tree, a blue “river” filled with 800 feet of twinkling lights, and numerous scenes from the Bible, including a 60-foot-long Noah’s Ark and the complete town of Bethlehem. They’ll also be treated to a village scene, a toy mill, Santa tubing on the river, and a scale-model replica of the space shuttle with a 40-foot wingspan and decorated with over 5000 lights.
“We are glad to continue offering this holiday tradition for our Central Texas friends and neighbors,” Frank says. “I may be partial to the place because I’ve been working on it for so many years, but there is definitely a ‘warm-fuzzy’ feeling when you take a drive through the park at night. It’s a place where memories are made.”
Santa’s Ranch is located between New Braunfels and San Marcos, at 9561 I-35, two miles south of Tanger Outlet Mall. From New Braunfels, go about 6 miles on I-35 North to Exit 199 (Posey Road). Take the Exit 199 to the turn around and go back south on I-35 access road about 1 mile to the park entrance on the right. From San Marcos, go south on I-35 for about 2 miles to the Exit 199 (Posey Road). Take the exit and stay on the access road for about 1 mile to the park entrance on the right. The park is open every night from Nov. 6 - Jan. 2; hours are 6-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 6-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission is $20 per vehicle; season passes are available for $40. For more information, visit online at santasranch.net, or call 830-743-1293.
Linda C. Jacobson is a freelance writer living in Fischer, Texas.