Wonderland of Lights Brings Magic to Marshall
The historic downtown courthouse in Marshall creates a magical wonderland with thousands of lights and an adjoining ice skating rink.
Photo by Nancy Pasel
Millions of white lights adorn the historic Harrison County Courthouse as downtown Marshall, Texas, is transformed into a winter wonderland. Nearby businesses and residents likewise go all out with lights and decorations for the enjoyment of neighborhood driving tours.
Children and adults alike enjoy visiting with Santa in the colorful Santa’s Village with a collection of tiny homes and fun activities. Photo by Ben Daily
Wonderland of Lights runs from Wednesday, November 21, to Sunday, December 30, on Tuesday through Sunday evenings from 6-9 p.m. and Saturday’s from 4-10 p.m. All Saturday events are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. unless otherwise noted. There is no admission cost and activity ticket prices vary.
The historic Harrison County Courthouse is the crown jewel of the Wonderland of Lights festival. Located in the center of Whetsone Square, the 1901 courthouse was designed by J. Riely Gordon, and it remains one of the most famous and admired buildings in Texas. A proud recipient of the Texas Historical Commission’s Courthouse preservation program, the courthouse was restored in 1999 and reopened in 2003. It is a frequently photographed building and provides a breathtaking backdrop for Wonderland of Lights.
Activities in downtown Marshall during Wonderland of Lights include Santa’s Village, a parade, and ice skating. Photos by Ben Daily
All ages enjoy the outdoor ice skating rink or catching a ride on the Holly Trolley, Wonderland Express, or a roundabout on a beautifully restored vintage 1948 Herschel carousel. Families make precious memories in Santa’s Village, a collection of perfectly decorated tiny homes, each featuring fun, free activities like building a train, decorating a cookie, and visiting with the big guy himself.
Others enjoy bundling up and taking horse-drawn carriage rides on one of three carriages on call through Historic Downtown Marshall. At Telegraph Park visitors hear live music performed by local musicians, area churches, and school choirs.
Special events are sprinkled throughout the festival season kicking off at 6 p.m. November 21 with the Opening Lighting Ceremony, complete with caroling, special performances, and the countdown to turning on the lights. Wonderland truly begins when the big switch is flipped and the courthouse lights up against the night sky.
On National Small Business Saturday, November 24, shoppers are treated to a Wassail Walk, a competition among the downtown merchants. Wassail is a hot drink traditionally made with either beer, wine, or cider and spices. Reusable Shop Small shopping bags, pins, stickers, crowns, and more are available. Merchants offer a variety of recipes, including non-alcoholic. Upon arrival, guests may check in at the visitors center downtown to pick up an event map, souvenir tasting mug, and go a’wassailing. Attendees are encouraged to take part in the voting and cast their vote for Taste of the Town, a traveling trophy award.
Other notable events include the Lighted Christmas Parade on December 1 and an ice hockey demonstration from East Texas Baptist University hockey team during Tigers On Ice on December 2. Fans cheer on runners at the lit Jingle Bell Run one mile and 5K on December 4 as they dash, dance, and prance their way across the finish line in costumes or covered in lights.
Shoppers make their lists, and can check them twice at the Outdoor Christmas Market on December 8. Vendors line North Washington Avenue and feature gifts and stocking stuffers. Brick-and-mortar merchants are open and ready to serve as well.
Wonderland of Sites — An Art, History, and Home Tour returns December 15 with many new additions. Maps and the shuttle schedule are available at the visitor center downtown.
For last-minute shoppers, StoryFest on December 22 promises a few moments of productivity for families. Participating merchants read a classic or fun holiday book to children while Mom and Dad have a few minutes to complete their holiday gift shopping.
Downtown Marshall is home to a variety of unique, local dining experiences and numerous hotels and bed and breakfasts.
Pre-sale activity tickets are available online at wonderlandoflights.com. For further event information, visit the festival on Facebook at Wonderland of Lights or on the website. Winter weather can be unpredictable. Check the social media sites by 4 p.m. to get up-to-date information on inclement weather arrangements.