Some say it’s the most wonderful time of the year, and Lake Highlands offers oodles of ideas to make it feel that way. The neighborhood is brimming over with seasonal spirit — from Christmas concerts and Nutcracker performances to holiday markets and, of course, a visit to Scrooge at NorthPark Center. Here you will find the ultimate list of holiday celebrations, all within an easy 5-mile radius of our neighborhood, so you can enjoy the season without ever entering a freeway.
14 community holiday celebrations
12 Days of Christmas
The beloved carol “The 12 Days of Christmas” was first printed in England in 1780, but didn’t become the classic song we know today until 1909 in an arrangement by English composer Frederic Austin, who added the iconic “five golden rings.”
Over at the Dallas Arboretum, they take the traditional tune to new heights. Want to see nine ladies dancing or seven swans swimming? The botanical garden sets up fanciful scenes with painstaking attention to detail, right down to the rhinestone-encrusted pears surrounding a rotating partridge.
Called “12 Days of Christmas at Night,” the event offers a rare chance to tour the arboretum after dark. The expansive gardens glow with the twinkle of more than 500,000 holiday lights, which are paired with classic carols for a festive holiday evening. Tickets are $12.
The historic DeGolyer House will be open on select nights, serving up robust meals like roast pork with raspberry chipotle sauce in a merry setting. The entire home is expertly decorated for the season, and this year will feature Claus Collection Santa Exhibit, a display dedicated to St. Nick in his many iterations. Dinners are $55 a person and reservations are a must by calling Emily Gavin at 214.515.6511. Tours of the home are available during normal garden hours. —Emily Charrier
12 Days of Christmas at Night
Nov. 9-Dec. 30, 6-9 p.m. (except Christmas Eve and Christmas)
Lake Highlands’ bright nights
For many, the ritual lighting of an evergreen tree, ideally a ginormous one, marks the beginning of the holiday season. Until last year, Lake Highlands did not have a tree-lighting ceremony to call its own. The Lake Highlands Junior Women’s League’s light up lake Highlands changed that, launching a late-November family festival that includes the illumination of a 30-foot fir, performances from Lake Highlands High School choirs, Santa appearances and free food from In-N-Out Burger. The timing was perfect, following 2015’s distressing discontinuation of the Casa Linda Plaza tree-lighting extravaganza, which had been a decades-long White Rock-area tradition.
This free event takes place at Lake Highlands North Recreation Center, 9940 White Rock Trail from 4-6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27. The lighting is at 5:50 p.m., but if you miss that, fret not — the fantastic flora glows each evening at 5:30 until 2 a.m. through mid-January.
An even bigger tree
The biggest indoor Christmas tree in the country, perhaps? Look just outside our neighborhood, at Galleria Dallas, I-635 and Dallas Parkway. The iconic North Dallas mall annually showcases a 95-foot, ornament- and light- laden faux fir encircled at its base by ice that becomes a wildly popular winter break destination. “Millions of guests each year visit the tree,” Galleria spokesperson Kelly Hunter says. Pomp aplenty accompanies the annual tree installation, in the form of famous, champion ice skaters and a stunt-skating Santa known as Missile Toes. Friday, Nov. 25 at noon marks the first lighting of this season’s tree, but the month of December presents ample opportunities intended to instill in spectators bounteous holiday cheer: Olympians Johnny Weir and skating champs Ricky Dornbush and Ryan Bradley perform Saturdays, Dec. 3, 10 and 17, respectively. All shows are free, begin at 6 p.m. and feature young local and regional athletes. Each production closes with the flashy back-flipping Missile Toes lighting the Galleria Dallas Christmas Tree with what promoters call “pyrotechnic flourish.”
Parade into the season
For the 44th year, Richardson’s Christmas Parade showcases bands and dance teams from Richardson ISD schools and benefits Network, a charity that helps lower-income families in the district.
Floats and other acts travel north on Plano Road from Richardson Square to Apollo Road and end in the Huffhines Park lot. Festivities begin at 9 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 3. A tree-lighting ceremony and opening of Santa’s Village, which welcomes the public all month, follows the procession.
Holiday home tour
“The Lake Highlands Women’s League Home Tour absolutely kicks off the holidays for me,” says reader Karen Clardy, a faithful participant. The Holiday in the Highlands Home Tour this year falls on Friday, Dec. 2.
Ticketholders peek inside four architecturally attractive neighborhood homes, all decked out for the season: 10905 Cactus Ln., 10025 Estate Ln., 6807 Hyde Park Dr. and 9552 Highedge Dr. Tickets are available at lhwl.org. Proceeds support the LHWL scholarships for Lake Highlands High School students.
Lights from great heights
Dallas neighborhoods go all aglow each holiday season, and packing into the family SUV for a tour de dazzling decor is a time-tested tradition, but what if you could enjoy a bird’s-eye look at all that illumination in one 30-minute ride? Lake Highlands couple Connie and Ken Pyatt followed their passion in the 1990s when they opened Sky Helicopters; now they operate the heliport, at 2559 S. Jupiter, from where you can launch the perfect December date night. Holiday lights tours fly over some of Dallas’ most impressively ignited neighborhoods — White Rock, Park Cities, North Dallas and the Galleria, Farmers Branch and Downtown Dallas.
The 30-minute flight runs $375 for two people. Add a third for $59. And, when seeking the perfect gift for that aspiring pilot in your life, Sky offers a flight-simulator lesson/flight combo — for $159, receive 30 minutes of instruction followed by 30 minutes in-the-air practice in a controlled environment. Visit skyhelicopters.com for more information.
12 houses mark 12 days of Christmas
One Lake Highlands cul-de-sac is known for its 12 days of Christmas display, which for more than a decade has enchanted sightseers with maids a milking, dancers dancing, swans a swimming and all the rest.
Visit throughout December at Timberhollow Circle in the Oak Highlands neighborhood.
The nutcracker has been a symbol of the Christmas season since they were first presented as gifts of luck and protection in Germany in the 15th century. The holiday ballet of the same name, however, didn’t become a holiday tradition until more recently. While it was first danced in St. Petersburg in 1892, it wasn’t until the San Francisco ballet debuted the show on Christmas Eve in 1944 that it became an American holiday tradition. Here in the neighborhood, the Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts is also taking on Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s classic and spinning the tale with an age-old art form: puppets.
This year will also be the 20th anniversary of the family friendly event being performed at the Dallas Children’s Theater Nov. 18 – Dec. 21. For deaf viewers, a special performance will also be held in sign language on Dec. 4 at 4:30 p.m. Both performances will be held at the Rosewood Center, 5938 Skillman. Get tickets and more info at dct.org.
Snow in Dallas, if it comes, usually doesn’t arrive until after Christmas, but in 2012 — by some meteorological magic — the city awoke on Dec. 25 to a wonderful white-flake blanketed world. In Lake Highlands, dozens of families, after tearing into presents, attending to various holiday traditions and church services, took advantage of a rare opportunity. Heading to our neighborhood’s highest peak, Flag Pole Hill, toting cardboard, trashcan lids and boogie boards, snow deprived Texans took part in the pinnacle of snow-day ritual — that is, sledding down our slushy “mountain.” If you’re fortunate enough to see snow at all this winter, you are required to give this a try — we suggest helmets, especially for beginners.
Ride the hills
Take one sled bursting at the seams with brightly wrapped presents, and add a light- and tinsel-bedazzled flatbed trailer brimming with giddy, candy cane-stoked kiddos — it’s a recipe for a wild, memorable Jingle Ride in the White Rock Valley neighborhood. Amazingly, the gifts are from, not for, most of the children in attendance. They bring them for families in need, identified through nonprofits such as Pamper Lake Highlands and Feed Lake Highlands.
This year’s ride takes off the evening of Dec. 17.
With no crib for a bed and in a manger not far away, a Baby Jesus proxy lays down his sweet head. Our area is home to two thoroughgoing live nativity scenes, complete with The Holy Family, Three Wise Men and fabled farm animals. Wilshire Baptist, Abrams at Mockingbird, transforms its entire community hall into a Bethlehem marketplace, offering crafts, instrument demos, food and costumes of the day. The immersive event is free during the Advent season. Visit wilshirebc.org for times.
Ascension Episcopal Church at 8787 Greenville offers live reenactments of the nativity story every 45 minutes beginning at 5 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 18.
Our very own Santa
During his offseason — approximately January through November — you can call him Stan Garinger. At home in Lake Highlands, he wears casual khakis under a blue T-shirt, his bushy grey-white beard grazing the collar. When he shakes your hand and smiles, you’ll swear that, behind wire-rimmed spectacles, there is a twinkle in his eye. During December, when he sports the familiar red and white suit, you might spot him at the St. Pat’s Shamrock Jingle Bell Run, J.J’s Café, Top Golf or Whole Foods, with eager tots on his knees and in line at his feet, waiting to spill their holiday wishes.
Just two weeks before candles are lit and gold coins are doled out, the Jewish Community Center is hosting Hanukkah Hoopla to ensure local families are in the holiday spirit.
“We were trying to figure out a way to give back to the community … and what better way than shop and play,” says Ashley Bundis, the marketing services and program director of the JCC.
At the inaugural event, get a head start on holiday shopping. Parents can peruse jewelry, clothing, home décor and other wares, while children can create DIY arts and crafts. Two kids launching their own businesses debut their products at Hanukkah Hoopla, too.
The menu includes latkes, of course, but also expect food typically found at festivals, like Dippin’ Dots. Indoor and outdoor activities ranging from game trucks to train rides are part of the afternoon festivities. In case the kiddos become overwhelmed with all the excitement, Jewish Family Services is staffing a quiet room to help them calm down.
Noon-4 p.m. Dec. 11