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Want to unplug from the modern-day holiday madness? Experience Texian festivities from the mid-1800s at the Washington on the Brazos State Historic Site.
On March 2, 1836, 59 delegates bravely met to make a formal declaration of independence from Mexico halfway between Austin and Houston. For almost 10 years, the Republic of Texas proudly existed as a separate nation, meaning Washington on the Brazos is, indeed, “Where Texas Became Texas.”
Run by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, the Washington on the Brazos Historic Site is open daily and has many on-site amenities, including an incredible schedule of events and programs. On the grounds of this 293-acre state park is Independence Hall, where the representatives met to sign the declaration of independence in 1836; the Star of the Republic Museum, administered by Blinn College and featuring collections honoring the history, cultures, diversity and values of early Texans; and the Barrington Living History Farm, where interpreters dress, work and farm as the earliest residents of the original farmstead did. The Fanthorp Inn State Historic Site is a wonderfully preserved 19th-century stagecoach inn located nearby in Anderson, Texas.
In addition to its rich interactive experiences and many living history events, Washington on the Brazos hosts two holiday events that are especially magical: Twilight Firelight and Christmas on the Brazos. Both include frontier festivities, period music, visits with interpreters and candlelit venues.
On Nov. 25, board a replica stagecoach in downtown Anderson and travel back to 1850 at Twilight Firelight at the Fanthorp Inn State Historic Site. Enjoy candlelit tours of the historic Fanthorp Inn while visiting with interpreters dressed in period clothing. Tap your feet to the sweet sound of old-time music or join in the barn dance. A mule-drawn coach and wagon leave from downtown Anderson near the courthouse beginning at 4:30 p.m. with the last ticket being sold at 7 p.m. Rides run continuously during the event. Last ride departs Fanthorp for downtown Anderson at 8 p.m. Dress appropriately for the season as parts of the event are held outdoors, and the wagons and stagecoaches are open-air. The barn and first floor of Fanthorp Inn are accessible. Tickets will be available beginning at 4:30 p.m. on the day of the event in the Grimes County Courthouse parking area, where stagecoach and wagon rides to Fanthorp Inn will begin. Contact Jon Failor at 936-878-2214 for more information.
The historic Christmas traditions of Texas will transport visitors into the past at the Christmas on the Brazos celebration at the Washington on the Brazos on Dec. 9. The day culminates in the park’s popular Candlelight Christmas event at Barrington Living History Farm, featuring vignettes of Texian frontier festivities with music, musket firing, dancing and a candlelit tour of the farm. No-cost and low-cost holiday activities occur throughout the day and are staggered throughout the park for all ages, including An Afternoon With Dickens at Independence Hall at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Staff dressed in period clothing will regale visitors with tales of Olde Time Christmas, as told by the great author Charles Dickens. The Star of the Republic Museum will host make-and-take period crafts (regular admission fees; no charge for the crafts); and it will be open for extended hours from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Regular farm admission fees apply.
Candlelight Christmas at the Barrington Living History Farm runs from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. (with the last tickets sold at 8 p.m.). Guests are welcomed back into the 1850s to experience the sights, sounds and smells of a historic Christmas against the backdrop of a star-filled night sky. Meet St. Nick; fall in with some noisy, rowdy revelers; watch the Jones family light the Christmas tree; attend an evening service with a traveling minister; and discover how enslaved people celebrated Christmas. Small groups will be guided around the site to view historic vignettes focused on the holiday season. Tours leave every 15 minutes starting at 5:30 p.m.; last tickets will be sold at 8 p.m. Advance reservations are strongly recommended and will be accepted beginning Nov. 15 at 936-878-2214. Regular admission fees apply. Contact Barb King at 936-878-2214, ext. 246 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Washington on the Brazos and Fanthorp Inn are open most of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday weekends. Washington on the Brazos (including the Star of the Republic Museum, Independence Hall and Barrington Living History Farm) will be closed on Nov. 23 for Thanksgiving Day; all will reopen on Friday morning for the weekend. Washington on the Brazos will also be closed Dec. 25 for Christmas Day. The Star of the Republic Museum will close Dec. 24 and will reopen Jan. 2, 2018. Fanthorp Inn is open year-round only on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The entrance to the park grounds, Visitor Center and parking are always free; fees apply for the Barrington Living History Farm and the Star of the Republic Museum, and guided tours of Independence Hall. The expansive park grounds provide a beautiful setting for picnicking and bird-watching, and include four geocaching sites. A Conference/Education Center, outdoor amphitheater and two pavilions are available to rent for meetings and events.
Washington on the Brazos State Historic Site is located at 23400 Park Road 12, in Washington, Texas off of State Highway 105. For more information, call 936-878-2214, visit www.wheretexasbecametexas.org or find the Washington on the Brazos State Historic Site on Facebook.
Fanthorp Inn photos courtesy of TPWD, Christmas photos courtesy of Scott Hill, Brenham Portrait Gallery
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