Just wait for the parade of pickup trucks dripping with Christmas lights.

Texas has a small town culture that rivals any Southern state in its beloved traditions, deep-rooted history, and interesting customs. That's why it's so easy to love the quirky charm of its many small towns, one of which loves Christmas as much as we do. Bellville, Texas—only about an hour and a half northwest of Houston—is unabashedly thrilled about Christmas, all year long. Here's what makes this festive town stand out.

What to do

The town hosts its annual "Small Town Christmas" on the first weekend of December every year, and you can join in the weekend full of holiday fun at its 35th celebration this season, starting Friday, December 1st. Participate in the scavenger hunt for Santa around the charming downtown shops, compete in the gingerbread house decorating contest, or slide down the snow slide that is made with real snow. In Texas.

Our very favorite tradition, however, is the annual Pickup Parade. The town's residents deck out their pickup trucks and classic cars with the most Christmas lights they can load on, as well as generous amounts of tinsel and garland, and occasionally a full nativity scene in the truck bed—and the entry fees collected help keep the town's Christmas lights twinkling bright all year around.

Where to go

Want a little higher dose of Christmas? Visit Martin Farms, where it's Christmas all 365 days of the year. The self-proclaimed Christmas hotspot, no matter the season, is the destination for Texas Christmas Trees, holds monthly cooking classes in its North Pole Kitchen, and offers license-to-carry gun classes every month (this is Texas, after all).

Newman's Castle
Credit: Pinterest

Take a trip over to Newman's Castle to tour a medieval-style castle complete with a working drawbridge that crosses a full moat, a 62-foot tall bell tower, a chapel, and a dungeon. Mike Newman built his castle, in typical Southern gentleman fashion, by himself without a hired contractor (but with a little help) and also happens to own the beloved Newman's Bakery back in town, the go-to place for breakfast, lunch, and delicious pastries.

If you're from the South, you know every small town has its quintessential meat place. In Bellville, that's the Bellville Meat Market where you can stock up on Summer Sausage and the likes for great holiday food gifts. If you have a loved one that likes Old Westerns and rustic renegades, head to Phenix Knives to pick out a custom hand-forged knife created by craftsman Cowboy Szymanski, the master bladesmith and cutler. Finish the day with authentic Southern barbecue at Silver Saddle Smokehouse, and you've had a bonafide Texan day.

There's nothing better than getting the small town Christmas experience down here in the South—let us know what hidden holiday gems to check out next!