Johnson City Lights Spectacular: Setting the Hill Country Aglow!

There are many highlights of the Christmas holiday season, steeped in traditions that go back over a century. Warm gatherings of family and friends; presents under the tree; the anticipation of Christmas morning by young and old alike; Santa Claus; and the religious sanctity and importance the holiday commemorates. Additionally, it just wouldn’t be the holidays without multicolored lights by the hundreds!

Even before the advent of electrical power, celebrants would decorate windows and trees with the fluttering flames of candles, which added magical, reverent, and glittering touches to the season. Once homes and businesses were wired, the sky was the limit! As technology has progressed, the colors, patterns, and affordability of impressive light displays have all improved. We have “chase” lights that twirl in increasingly complex patterns, bulbs that cycle through a full spectrum of colors, and elaborate displays that can be programmed to dazzle in synchronization with music and sound effects.

One Hill Country celebration that embraces the traditions and magic of Christmas lights is the annual Lights Spectacular in Johnson City. It started back in 1989, when county officials started draping the historic Blanco County Courthouse in strings of hanging lights. From these pretty, and comparatively humble, beginnings, the festivities have expanded to over a month in length, and the courthouse grounds are nowadays decorated with over two million lights! “The Twinkliest Town in Texas” now shines so brightly during the holiday season that it’s visible from the International Space Station.

Every year, the Lights Spectacular extravaganza kicks off on Thanksgiving weekend, with an open market and live performances, a visit by Santa and Mrs. Claus, hay and carriage rides, and other family-friendly activities and entertainment. On Friday night, the courthouse lights are turned on, followed by fireworks. The Saturday after Thanksgiving brings much more of the same, along with the festival’s famous Lighted Parade. It’s an amazing and dazzling open to the holiday season, and it’s just the beginning!

Every weekend through the beginning of January brings something special to the Lights Spectacular celebration. There are hay and carriage rides every weekend, special outdoor movie presentations, a living Nativity scene, concerts, family-friendly parties, visits from Santa, a residential and business decorating contest, and a chili cook-off, which is an especially popular crowd favorite. There’s even a visit or two by the Grinch, which are specially supervised so he doesn’t cause any trouble! We also recommend a nice stroll through town to take in all the colorful light displays.

All the words in the world couldn’t do justice to the show Johnson City puts on for their Lights Spectacular! For detailed information and schedules, they’ve set up a useful web page at They’ve also got a Facebook page, loaded with up-to-the-minute updates, at

Whether you’re in the Hill Country for a weekend getaway or extended stay, we also offer a powerful tool of traveler support. For more information on over 20 towns in the Hill Country, take advantage of the Texas Hill Country Travel App! The FREE download provides up-to-date information about local businesses, events, and much more. It’s available on both iPhone and Android!