AUSTIN, Texas – Horse-drawn carriages delivered the official 2012 Capitol Christmas trees the Monday after Thanksgiving. The six trees were donated by the Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association and came from the Elves Farm in Denison. The largest is a magnificent 21-foot Virginia pine.
School and church choirs entertain visitors with traditional holiday music in the Capitol Rotunda throughout the month. Please go to www.capevent.legis.state.tx.us/capevent.aspx for a complete listing of entertainers, dates and times.
Free tours of the majestic Capitol, which was completed in 1888, are conducted daily beginning in the Capitol South Foyer and concluding in the Capitol Extension, an underground addition completed in 1993. Tours last about 45 minutes. The Capitol Information and Guide Service office is located on the first floor of the Capitol near the south entrance.
After your tour, you may want to stop by the Capitol Gift Shop in the Extension to buy the 2012 edition of the Capitol Ornament. This year's ornament showcases the fence finial that surrounds the 22-acre Capitol grounds. It features the historic wrought-iron and cast-iron fencing, installed by 1890. All proceeds support Capitol preservation and education projects.
Capitol ornaments also may be ordered online at www.texascapitolgiftshop.com at a cost of $18 each.
The Capitol Visitors Center, located on the southeast corner of the Capitol grounds, is in the oldest state office building in Texas. Completed in 1857, it had served as the General Land Office until 1918.
The General Land Office is selling uniquely Texas Christmas gifts at its Web site, www.glo.texas.gov/save-texas-history/gifts.html. Every purchase helps conserve historic maps and documents in the Texas General Land Office and fulfill the mission of Save Texas History!
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department also is raising funds by selling unique Christmas ornaments. Each ornament features the natural, cultural, and historical resources that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department serves to protect. You may find images of state parks, wildlife, plants, and some of the numerous outdoor activities that you may enjoy at the more than 90 state parks and historic sites across the Lone Star State.
The ornaments are handcrafted in the United States with images laser-etched into wood in incredible detail. The 2012 Texas State Parks Ornaments may be purchased individually for $8.95 or as a set of three for $19.95. See these and other gifts at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/business/shop/.
Please note that the Visitors Center, Visitors Center Gift Shop and the Capitol will be closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. For tour times and parking information, please visit www.capevent.legis.state.tx.us/. Click under Visitor Information on the right.
A lesser-known Texas jewel worth visiting in December is the French Legation Museum, the oldest house in Austin, which stands as a reminder of life in the Republic of Texas era. On Saturday, December 15, you may enjoy the "Festival of Carols" there from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. To learn about the museum and programs, please see www.frenchlegationmuseum.org.
Best wishes for a very Merry Christmas for you and your family.
This column was written by State Sen. Jeff Wentworth.