Magic awaits you: 2023 Hidalgo Festival of Lights to begin

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“Magic awaits you” is the theme for the 32nd annual Hidalgo Festival of Lights. City officials on Tuesday announced details of the city’s month-long celebration of Christmas, which includes events at Payne Arena, and the Hidalgo City Hall Plaza.

Hidalgo will kick off the festivities with a tree-lighting ceremony at Hidalgo City Hall Plaza on Friday, Dec. 1.

“This is a must-see event,” said Hidalgo Special Events Director Selene Garza. “We’ll begin by lighting our 60-foot Christmas tree at 6 p.m., and then we will have our illuminated Christmas parade at 7 o’clock. We’ll have marching bands, dancers, and decorated floats. There will also be food vendors and an artisan market to add to the festivities.”

Guests participate during the Hidalgo Festival of Lights in this undated photo. (Courtesy photo)

The Hidalgo Festival of Lights opens Sunday, Dec, 3, at Payne Arena, and runs daily through Jan, 1, 2024.The only days the festival will not be open are Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

Guests can drive through the two-mile long illuminated trail, or they can park and enjoy other events in and around the arena grounds, including a carnival, and a “Santa Express” train ride through the lighted trail, which has 500 individual displays.

“Every detail of every display that you see at this festival is designed, planned, and fabricated by our own folks,” said Hidalgo City Manager Julian Gonzalez. “The festival started with just a few displays in the city hall area, and we’re very proud that it has grown to the renowned festival that it is today. People return year after year because of its beauty.”

Special events scheduled to be held during the month include:

>> Christmas Dinning Experiences – Includes a traditional turkey dinner on Dec. 8 and 9, or a roast beef dinner on Dec. 14, 15, 16, and 17. Tickets for either event include a three-course dinner, reserved seating for the Santa Express train tour, community Christmas performances inside the area, and admission to the Illuminated Christmas Maze.

>> Make-A-Wish Foundation Day – On Dec. 11, Hidalgo hosts special events for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Rio Grande Valley. Make-A-Wish families and children will be given special tours and a free luncheon inside Payne Arena.

Santa Claus is seen during the Hidalgo Festival of Lights in this undated photo. (Courtesy photo)

>> H-E-B Snow Day – Slated for Dec. 17, H-E-B Snow Day is an event inside Payne Arena featuring artificial snow, slides and games for children. Because H-E-B is picking up the tab, the event is free to the public.

>> Ramon Ayala Posada – Hidalgo’s favorite son, Ramon Ayala, will host his annual Christmas posada Dec. 20 at the Hidalgo City Hall Plaza. A press conference to announce additional details was pending at press time.

“We want to welcome everybody and their families to come and experience this great tradition,” Garza said. “It’s a month long, which gives our guests ample time to enjoy all the festivities.”

“This a unique, one-of-a-kind experience you won’t find anywhere else in the state of Texas,” Gonzalez added. “We’re proud to welcome everyone to the 2023 Hidalgo Festival of Lights.”

For pricing, a full schedule of events, and other festival details, you can follow the Hidalgo Festival of Lights on Facebook, or visit