The twinkliest town in the Hill Country

If you want to see trees made of light and a charmingly illuminated main square, go visit Johnson City, a small town of 2,000 residents, located about an hour west of Austin. Every December they turn their town into a beautiful spectacle of light — called Lights Spectacular — and it’s all completely free and free of traffic jams.

We finally escaped a monster traffic jam near downtown Austin during Wednesday rush hour, and from there it was an easy drive with Texas-style Christmas tunes playing on Sun Radio. Ever heard Kacey Musgraves’s “A Willie Nice Christmas”?: May we all get higher than the angel on the top of the tree.


The most incredible display is at Pedernales Electric Co-op, where 1.2 million LED lights transform dozens of mature live oaks around their headquarters into branching, dazzling nebulae. Photos cannot convey how magical it is.

Being live oaks, the trees still have all their leathery leaves, which faintly reflect the lights, creating a cloud-like halo above the sinuous trunks.

And ah, those trunks and branches and limbs of light! Each one is picked out in exquisite detail through masses of lights. Larger lights thread through the leafy canopies above.

Kids run around under the lights, couples hold hands, and families gaze upward, their faces illuminated by the arboreal glow.

After walking around the co-op to view all the trees, we strolled a couple of blocks over to the town square to admire the waterfall effect of lights hanging from the Blanco County Courthouse.

On the courthouse lawn a reindeer paddock contains Santa’s herd until Christmas Eve.

The surrounding businesses get in on the action too.

Lots of lights and plenty of small-town charm.

Maybe some of these are residential homes?

I love this one.

This house has its own tree of light.

Back at the co-op, a light-adorned tractor was pulling hayriders around, and a food truck offered cups of hot chocolate. A guy playing a guitar sang Christmas carols under the trees.

This place will take the stress out of your holiday.

And as Kacey sings in her Willie song:

I hope you have a really
A really, really Willie nice Christmas
And Willie Happy New Year too
Have a Willie happy Hanukkah
Feliz Navidad-ukkah
A Willie happy Kwanzaa ’cause it’s all the same
A Mele Kalikimaka, hey
Whatever way you wanna say
Just have yourself a
Really, really, really
A really, really Willie nice Christmas

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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin next May 3-6, 2018! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

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7 Responses

  1. Kris P says:

    I hope you have a really nice Christmas too, Pam! I loved the light displays, particularly those on the oak trees.

  2. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Mercy. If these lights don’t put you into the mood nothing will. Outstanding.

  3. Tom E says:

    We enjoyed traveling with you as always, and we love touring all of central Texas in person these days. We basically live a “gardening and grandkids” lifestyle and it’s pretty darn good! (You’ll have to write the book…) It was a good daylily year with many fall additions that we will see for the first time in Spring 2018, and I’m looking forward to adding Flying Down to Rio this spring after seeing it on the cover of the AHS winter journal.

    Merry Christmas!

  4. OK – Johnson City has our luminaria overload beat. The juxtaposition of white and blue on those live oaks (?) is too much. That song about “high”…ha ha!!

  5. Oh my, that is fantastic–especially the bright lights along the branches of the Live Oaks! Wow! We are hoping to spend some time in the Hill Country after the Fling in May. Of course, it will look different then, but I know there are fun things to do there (and in Austin) in every season. Merry Christmas, Pam!

  6. hb says:

    Wow those live oaks are indeed magic! And just about anywhere without traffic is a wonderful place to be.

    Thank you for the tour.

  7. Wow, that was magical even by proxy!

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