Road Trip

Check into these Texas hotels for a festive holiday getaway

Texas resorts and hotels are offering unique, festive experiences this holiday season.

Photo courtesy of Marriott

Texans may prefer a pickup to a one-horse open sleigh, but that won't stop any of us from dashing around the state this season. But instead of going to grandmother's house, consider checking into a fabulous hotel to make spirits bright. Not just any hotel, though. Here are places that stage Texas-worthy celebrations perfect for a holiday getaway.

Boardwalk Inn — Kemah

Kemah Boardwalk Inn

Photo courtesy of Boardwalk Inn

The Kemah Boardwalk provides a great spot to catch the area's Christmas Boat Parade, held Saturday, December 14, starting at 6:30 pm. Hundreds of brightly decorated power and sailboats float down the Clear Lake channel from South Shore Harbour Marina and Nassau Bay Lagoon to Galveston Bay. Stay at the Boardwalk Inn and also take in Jingle on the Boardwalk, December 7, 8, 14, 15, and 22. It includes shopping, a variety of live entertainment, activities, pictures with Santa, and more.

JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa — San Antonio

Photo courtesy of Marriott

At the ritzy JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, new activities for this year's holidays include Santa's Workshop with children's activities such as writing letters to Santa, making snow globes, and painting clay ornaments. Kids also can search for toy elves on the Elfie Selfie Scavenger Hunt. Other festivities include JW Elf tuck-ins, JW Elf Express train car making, certified JW Elf classes, a polar bear plunge challenge, a Sandy Snowman Building Contest every Saturday morning, and Sunday Brunch with Santa and Mrs. Claus at 18 Oaks restaurant.

​Hilton Americas — Houston

Hilton Americas-Houston Christmas

Photo courtesy of Hilton Americas-Houston

The Hilton Americas lobby transforms into a lighted wonderland, complete with gingerbread walls spanning the lobby and a holiday chocolate display made from more than 2.5 tons and 6.5 million calories of chocolate. Have Breakfast with Santa on Saturday and Sunday mornings December 7 through 22 — photos and cookie decorating included. Just steps away, Discovery Green offers ice skatingevery day through February 2, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. On Saturdays now through Christmas, Santa Claus hits the ice from 5 to 6 pm. Also nearby in Hermann Square is the setting for a Gingerbread Build-Off competition on Saturday, December 7, from 10 am to 5 pm.

​Hilton Anatole — Dallas

Photo courtesy of Hilton

The Hilton Anatole transforms its outdoor area into Peppermint Park, a winter wonderland with train rides; light displays; photos with Santa; and a variety of activities from face painting to miniature golf, s'mores, and contests. Open 5 to 9 pm to all hotel guests. A Breakfast with Santa package available weekends from now through December 22 includes late check-out, breakfast for two adults and two children with Santa, complimentary entrance into Peppermint Park, and holiday movie night. VIP Experience weekends include a meet-and-greet reception with Santa and Mrs. Claus, a photo with Santa, cookies and refreshments, breakfast with Santa, entrance into Peppermint Park, holiday movie night, valet parking, and late check-out.

​Hotel Galvez & Spa — Galveston

Hotel Galvez Christmas

Photo courtesy of Hotel Galvez

Hotel Galvez & Spa kicked off the holiday season on the island with the Galveston Holiday Lighting Celebration on Thanksgiving weekend. The fun continues with Sunday Brunch with Santa, each Sunday through December 22 and the Night Before Christmas Gingerbread Village on view in the Hotel Galvez lobby. The Downtown Lantern and Lights is also underway, and includes a timed laser light show illuminated on the American National Insurance Company building. Watch it from The Rooftop Bar at The Tremont House, and stop by the special Polar Express-themed gingerbread house on public display in the Tremont lobby.

Hotel Van Zandt — Austin

Hotel Van Zandt Christmas

Photo courtesy of Hotel Van Zandt, Instagram

An adult take on the holidays, Geraldine's restaurant on the fourth floor of this Rainey Street hotel stages a South Pole-style pop-up December 17 to 21 starting at 6 pm. It features a snow machine, igloo lounges on the pool deck, an artisan market, holiday-themed cocktails, appearance by Southern Santa, and Geraldine's annual Motown Christmas performance. Igloos, available by reservation for up to eight, are decked out in "TexMas" décor and complete with record players, board games, and more.

​Gaylord Texan — Grapevine

Photo courtesy of Marriott

Gaylord Texan resort creates a 125-acre winter wonderland including millions of twinkling lights; 2 million pounds of hand-carved ice for ICE! Featuring a Charlie Brown Christmas; a tubing hill made from 2 million pounds of snow; more than 200 Christmas trees, including one 54 feet tall; an outdoor ice-skating rink; and extravagant decorations including miniature train sets, 25-foot-tall Nutcrackers, wreaths, and more. Activities include breakfast with Charlie Brown, gingerbread decorating, and reading with Mrs. Claus. The over-21 crowd can chill out in the ice bar. Runs through January 5, 2020.

​Stagecoach Inn — Salado

Stagecoach Inn Christmas

Photo courtesy of Stagecoach Inn

Make Stagecoach Inn your home base for Salado's annual 12 Nights of Christmas Stroll December 6-8 and 13-15. The weekends feature live entertainment, a Nativity performance, and a lighted holiday parade along Main Street. Carolers and other special activities happen at the historic inn, which was extensively renovated in 2018. Stagecoach Inn guests enjoy complimentary mulled wine, hot toddies, or hot cocoa with marshmallows; and comfy Mexican blankets in each room; photos with the seasonal decor; and Santa's Workshop on December 15. Built in 1861 and once a stop on the Chisholm Trail, the Inn also houses the oldest restaurant in the Lone Star State, which serves a sumptuous Christmas dinner buffet.

​Tapatio Springs Hill Country Resort — Boerne

Tapatio Springs Hill Country Resort Christmas

Photo courtesy of Tapatio Springs Hill Country Resort

Tapatio Springs Hill Country Resort, owned by country music legend George Strait, gets gussied up Texas style and serves a Christmas Prime Rib Dinner on the big day. Enjoy outdoor activities such as paddling, hiking, and fishing, plus shopping in downtown Boerne and visits to the numerous area wineries.

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This story originally appeared on AutomotiveMap's sister site, CultureMap.

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The Santa Fe Hybrid offers plenty to like.

Hyundai

The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid is all-new for 2021, and features an impressive list of standard features, great safety scores, and family-friendly space. If you're looking for a new SUV, it's hard to imagine a better fit for an urban family, or any other family, for that matter. Beyond a few small complaints, the Santa Fe Hybrid offers plenty to like.

Here are three things to like about the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid The Santa Fe Hybrid brings great passenger space and an upscale interior.Hyundai

It offers plenty of passenger and cargo space

The Santa Fe offers roomy seating for up to five adults with more than reasonable head and legroom in both rows. Second-row passengers have room to move, and don't end up jockeying for position with taller front-seat passengers. When the SUV is packed with people and needs to haul gear, it's more than capable of doing that, too, as it offers 36.4 cubic feet of space behind the second row and up to 72.1 cubic feet with the second-row seats folded down. Making the space more accessible, power-folding second-row seats and a hands-free power liftgate are standard.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid All trims come decked out with safety equipment.Hyundai

It delivers excellent fuel economy

The Santa Fe Hybrid returns impressive fuel economy numbers, especially in town, making it an excellent urban family runabout. The EPA estimates that the SUV can deliver 33 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway, and 32 mpg combined. The Santa Fe Hybrid Blue returns 36 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway, and 34 mpg combined. That's several miles per gallon better than the standard Santa Fe and better than some sedans.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid Fuel economy is better than many smaller cars.Hyundai

It earned great safety scores

The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe earned a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). That score is due in part to the Santa Fe's Good marks in crash tests, but the SUV's long list of standard safety kit helps, too. All models come with forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian, cyclist, and junction turning detection, lane keeping assist, driver attention warnings, lane following assist, and a rear occupant alert system. Optional features include blind spot collision-avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist, a parking distance warning system, and a highway driving assist system.

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The Corolla Cross hits a sweet spot in terms of size and price.

Toyota

Smart move! Every automaker is trying to grow their lineups. Toyota is no exception, and has now filled the white space between the C-HR subcompact utility vehicle and the compact RAV4 with the 2022 Corolla Cross, an entry-level offering that marries the Corolla sedan to an all-new model with crossover styling and utility. The venerable Corolla isn't simply well-known -- it's the best-selling nameplate of all time and is marketed in 150 countries with over 50 million in sales to date. And, even though the segment that Corolla Cross will join is filled with close to two-dozen offerings, it's attracting more buyers than ever as consumers choose crossovers over sedans.

A Sweet Spot in a Crowded Segment

Toyota's goal was to seek a sweet spot in the value-priced small crossover market, marrying engaging driving features with cargo-carrying functionality, and to endow the 2022 Corolla Cross with a long list of technology, infotainment and safety features. On sale in October, starting at $22,195 for the front-drive base model (an all-wheel drive version adds $1300) and up to $27, 625 for a top-of-the-line AWD (delivery and handling adds $1,215). Grades include L, LE and XLE; all can pull up to 1,500 pounds. This weight will accommodate personal watercraft on a trailer. Fuel economy is estimated to be 32mpg on the FWD and up to 30 on the AWD. Wheel options include 17-inch steel on L and 18-inch alloy on XLE. It will be built at the new Mazda Toyota Manufacturing plant, in Huntsville, Alabama on Toyota's high-strength TNGA-C platform.

2022 Toyota Corolla Cross The Corolla Cross brings an impressive list of standard features.Toyota

Look to the compact RAV4 and even the midsize Highlander for some of the Corolla Cross' styling cues. This is especially from the back end, where Toyota has installed an integrated spoiler and LED lighting. This new stretched crossover/hatchback has a high belt line and strong arching shoulders above the wheel wells, and starts with a chiseled front grille with LEDs. It's 5 inches shorter than the RAV4 and 3 inches longer than the C-HR. The idea was to attract young, diverse, multicultural buyers who are smart and tech savvy, so designers penned looks meant to catch their eye in a way that is "refined with an urban edge". Hence, our drive to test the new model took place in the hip environs of Austin, TX. I drove both the FWD base model and the top-level AWD and liked each, with the biggest differences found the in distinguishing trim elements outside and, as expected, a more upscale interior on the XLE.

Strong List of Standard Features

There are a number of impressive features on this 5-passenger runabout with 60/40 folding rear seats include standard heating and air conditioning vents for rear passengers. Up-level models and options include SoftTex-trimmed 10-way power seats, a power moonroof, as well as either single- or dual-zone automatic climate control, a power lift gate with height adjustability, and a host of available accessories such as a roof rack with crossbars, an activity mount for carrying sporting goods such as bicycles, a tow hitch and all-weather floormats. Cargo Capacity with the 2nd Row in place is 26.5 cu.ft. for FWD/ 25.2 for the AWD; with the second row folded, it expands to 66.8/65.5 (slightly less for each for models with the moonroof).

2022 Toyota Corolla Cross The Corolla Cross sits between the C-HR and RAV4 in the Toyota lineup.Toyota

Fuel Economy Over Power

Power comes from Toyota's sophisticated Dynamic Force 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) that makes 169 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque and is shifted through a CVT. During my 100-mile-long drive, I found this powerplant has ample horsepower and torque to motivate it around town and on the highway; I found the AWD XLE a bit quieter overall and especially on hard throttle. A physical first gear provides a more punchy and better fuel economy. Also aiding in fuel economy is Toyota's Dynamic Torque Control system that directs up to 50 percent of power to the rear wheels when it's needed – and disengages completely when not. The suspension for AWDs is a fully independent set-up while, while FWDs feature a brand-new torsion beam system in the rear. Impressive is the 8 inches of ground clearance, close to that of the RAV4, that will allow some backcountry and dirt road travel.

The interior will remind consumers of the Corolla sedan and hatch in looks and layout, with quality materials, good visibility and sensibly-placed controls. A 7-inch multimedia touchscreen comes on the L and LE, while XLE features an 8-inch touchscreen. There is a long list of in-car entertainment and connected functionalities, including standard compatibility for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

2022 Toyota Corolla Cross Styling is somewhere between a RAV4 and a Highlander.Toyota

Wireless charging is standard on LE and XLE, and all trims have conveniently-located USB media ports. The LE and XLE grades bring two USB charging ports for rear seat passengers. Also onboard are Audio Plus multimedia with Remote Connect and a nine-speaker JBL sound system as well as Amazon Alexa connectivity. Standard is a three-month SiriusXM Platinum subscription. Of note, XLE owners can get key info at a glance, courtesy of an available 7-inch Multi-Information Display with various vehicle and systems info to choose from.

All grades come standard with nine airbags and both the Toyota Safety Sense suite of advanced active safety systems, as well as Toyota's STAR Safety System. Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert come standard on LE and XLE, while Front and Rear Parking Assist with Automatic Braking is standard on XLE. Other top features in the safety bundle include Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Lane Tracing Assist, Road Sign Assist, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Automatic High Beams, Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, and Traction Control.

2022 Toyota Corolla Cross The Alabama-built Corolla Cross goes on sale in October.Toyota

The 2022 Corolla Cross also comes standard with complimentary ToyotaCare that covers normal factory-scheduled maintenance for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first, and two years of Roadside Assistance, regardless of mileage.

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