Take your holiday travel to new destinations! Conveniently located between San Antonio, Austin, and Houston, Columbus is where you can make new memories and get a start on holiday memories. Write your letter to Santa, go on a family friendly safari, enjoy delicious restaurants, and pick up gifts at unique shops.
**FULL DISCLOSURE: THIS POST WAS PART OF A SPONSORED PROJECT IN CONJUNCTION WITH MEMBERS OF THE TEXAS TRAVEL ALLIANCE TO FEATURE THEIR MEMBERS. THE PARTNERSHIP INCLUDED LODGING, FOOD & BEVERAGE, AND COMPENSATION FOR THE TRIP. THE OPINIONS REFLECTED ARE HONEST AND BASED UPON THE INDIVIDUAL BLOGGER EXPERIENCE.
Santa Claus Museum
Santa Claus is coming to town, but not just any town, he’s headed specifically to Columbus, Texas! The Santa Claus Museum in Columbus is the only one of its kind in the south. Having it here in Texas makes it a definite tourist destination for the holidays. The museum currently boasts over 4,000 different Santas including figurines, music boxes, dolls, dishes, ornaments, artwork, and needlework. These Santas come from all over the world and tell a story about how different cultures in different areas celebrate Santa Claus.
The Santa Claus Museum was recently featured on the Texas Bucket List!
A few highlights from the collection include a nearly life-sized Santa Claus that was previously displayed in the Priesmeyer Department Store during the 1950s. You’ll find Duncan Royal Santas from around the world, Russian nesting Santas, artwork by Norman Rockwell and Thomas Nast, Lladró ceramic Santas, as well as a complete collection of Haddon Sundblom Coca-Cola Santas.
As an avid crafter and baker I loved seeing all the exquisite Santa needlepoint pieces, the vintage Santa molds, and even a crocheted Santa.
The Santa Claus museum is open Fridays and Saturdays from December 1-19 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
While admission during the holiday season is free, monetary donations are gratefully accepted.
Can’t make it those days? The museum is open by appointment only on other days, with an admission of $5 per person. Contact the museum to schedule a visit.
Hatari Wildlife Park
Drive through the Dunes, a sandy rocky terrain with dry foliage and sparse grasses, then into the Lower Grasslands, like the savanna, providing plenty of tall grass for grazing, and take a walk through Lowland Forest, filled with dense live oak trees and flooded swamp. At Hatari Wildlife Park you can experience all of these areas while interacting with a diverse set of animals.
Brand new to Columbus, the Hatari Wildlife Park opened just this year. As soon as you enter the park you know you’re in for a grand adventure. Hatari is primarily set up as a drive-thru, where you can make friends with lots of animals. In fact, the animals were there to greet us as soon we drove through the gates! We met Roan, Emu, Sable, Gemsbok, Ostrich, Wildebeest, Bison, and even a Camel.
When you enter the park you’re given a bucket of food for the animals with directions on how to feed them as well as a Safari Wildlife Guide to help you identify all the animals who come up to your car to visit.
After driving through the Dunes range and then the Lower Grasslands, you’ll have the opportunity to stop by Explorer’s Retreat. Here you can get a bite to eat, visit the git shop, dig for artifacts, pet the barnyard animals, and, probably my favorite part, take a stroll through the Lowland Forest range on a 3000ft boardwalk. The boardwalk is where you’ll see Kangaroo, Bongo, Peacocks, Red River Hog, and many more animals.
The Explorer’s Retreat is also where you can visit the Sahel range and feed the giraffe from an elevated platform.
You’ll have a blast discovering your own wild side at Hatari.
History awaits you around every corner in Columbus. Right around the corner from the Santa Claus Museum you’ll find the Abram Alley Log Cabin, dating from the time of the Texas Revolution. The two-room log cabin was built in 1836 and gives visitors a look at early Texas pioneer life.
From there is another short walk to the Colorado County Courthouse built in 1890, where you can see this stunning Tiffany-style Glass Dome. The Glass Dome can be viewed inside on the second floor of the building and is open as long as court is not in session.
Directly across the street from the Courthouse is the Stafford Opera House. Built in 1886, the Stafford Opera House is not only the largest flat-floored opera house in Texas, but is the only flat-floored opera house still in existence in the state. The historic home next door is where the Stafford family lived, and it is said that Mr. Stafford could watch the live performances on stage from his balcony. At various times the building has been a car dealership, a roller skating rink, and private apartments, but it has since been restored.
Download the Columbus, TX app for a full driving tour of historic Columbus.
Where to Stay and Where to Eat
Charming Bed and Breakfasts, hotels, vacation rentals, and RV parks are all available in Columbus. I chose a vacation home rental in the heart of downtown Columbus, within walking distance of the Santa Claus Museum. The bungalow, named Mary’s Nest, offered a large front porch for relaxing with family or friends. With three bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 living rooms, and a full kitchen, it was everything we needed and more.
Other recommendations for where to stay include The Carriage Step Bed and Breakfast.
When dining in Columbus you can quickly see the influence of German, Mexican, Austrian, and Czech ancestors as you dine on kolaches, klobasneks, Texas BBQ, burritos, and down-home southern cooking.
For dinner, we picked up some to-go seafood pasta from Joe’s Italian Restaurant & Pizza and took it back to our rental and enjoyed dinner at the kitchen table. Dessert was a walk to Kay Klauber Candies for some brittles, peanut patties, and gourmet chocolate. Breakfast was an easy choice, kolaches. (Though Becky’s Cafe also looked tempting for a more sit-down breakfast fare.) I picked up a new to me flavor, cottage cheese, at Keyser’s Market located in downtown, and then enjoyed eating it outside on a bench near the courthouse.
There is so much to explore and enjoy in Columbus, at the holidays or any time of the year. It’s a town full of rich history and adventures. Nestled between Houston, San Antonio, and Austin, it’s a perfect day trip or stop along your way, with something for everyone to enjoy.
Wear your mask. When visiting indoor destinations, like the Santa Claus museum, wear your mask and carry hand sanitizer with you. As this is a museum there isn’t any touching, so it’s pretty easy to keep your hands to yourself.
Enjoy outdoor activities. Hatari Wildlife Park is primarily a drive-thru tour, and contact with those outside of your group is minimal. Explorer’s Retreat is a wide-open space equipped with hand washing and sanitizing stations.
Social distance. It’s easy to get food to-go from locally-owned restaurants and either dine outside on their patio or take the food back to your vacation rental.
If you can’t get enough of Columbus, head over to read this post on the Julie Measures blog, Holiday Adventures in Columbus, Texas.
And take a tour of all of the awesome small businesses in Columbus (video made before mask mandates).