Fort Hood’s popular Nature in Lights display is a well-known holiday tradition throughout the Central Texas area, and the military post also offers a number of other activities to celebrate the season, including a free Christmas tree giveaway this weekend for junior enlisted personnel.
While thousands visit the five-and-a-half mile long trail of lights at Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area, which is open 5:30 to 11 p.m. daily through Jan. 5, the Trees for Troops initiative will provide one live tree per family for soldiers E-1 through E-4 (private through specialist/corporal), while supplies last, from 9 to 10 a.m. Saturday at Hood Stadium.
An active-duty military I.D. card is required, and there is a limit of one live tree per family.
Along with the spectacular light show at BLORA, located at North Nolan Road and Cottage Road, other holiday festivities include:
Santa’s Village, located in the park’s enclosed and heated Live Oak Pavilion. Browse gifts, take photographs with Santa and enjoy homemade cookies, hot chocolate and other treats from 5:30 to 11 p.m. now through Dec. 8, and nightly Dec. 12-24.
During that same time frame, Santa’s Depot, located near the end of the trail of lights at BLORA’s Marina Cove parking lot, offers guests concessions under the stars, play time at the Depot Den, train rides and a playground. Train rides are $5; $3 for ages 11 and under; free for lap children. Admission to Depot Den is $5.
The Outdoor Theater offers holiday cartoons on Saturday evenings, 5:30 to 11 p.m., no charge and weather-permitting.
At BLORA Ranch, pony rides are available for $5 from 5:30 to 11 p.m. now through Dec. 8, and nightly Dec. 12-24.
For more information, including driving directions and admission prices to Nature in Lights, go to hood.armymwr.com/calendar/event/nature-lights/3611809/44906.
Along with the special holiday attractions, BLORA regularly offers a number of other family activities to include such things as camping sites, picnic pavilions, hiking, sightseeing, bird watching, hunting, fishing, mountain biking, paintball, 53-foot outdoor climbing wall and an archery range. Admission for military patrons is $3 per car; all others are $10 per vehicle.
The Outdoor Recreation Checkout Center, located within the garrison 14 miles southwest of BLORA, is available to authorized Family and MWR patrons, and offers such equipment rentals as kayaks, canoes, wake boards, skis, knee boards, tubes, camping equipment, pop-ups/travel trailers, accessories and more. Go to hood.armymwr.com for more information.
Fort Hood’s Apache Arts and Crafts Center is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday for those interested in do-it-yourself projects, including picture frames, ceramics and ceramics birthday parties for kids. Also offered at the center, 761st Tank Battalion and 62nd Street, Building 2337, is screen-printing, embroidery and a wood shop.
The center has a Resiliency through Art program that offers a quiet area with art materials for soldiers to create “whatever comes to mind.” It is available free of charge to all active-duty soldiers during the week until 5 p.m. Soldiers may take their work with them, or leave it at the center to be displayed for others to see. For more information, contact MWR.
For some relaxing indoor entertainment, head on over to Central Texas College’s Mayborn Science Theater in Killeen and its ongoing lineup of new weekday matinees, classic movie showings and Laser Friday presentations. Saturday matinees run all day, and weekday matinees are on Wednesdays. Classic Movie Night is the third Friday of every month at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 per person, per show. For complete show descriptions, directions, membership information and more, go to starsatnight.org.
Also in Killeen, indoor athletic enthusiasts will find almost too many activities to mention all in one place at Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park. The complex at 2102 Jennifer Drive, between West Jasper Drive and Highway 190, includes not only trampoline-jumping, but such things as a Sky Rider indoor coaster, ropes course, climbing walls, obstacle course, tubes playground, trapeze, dodgeball and slam dunk zone. For more information on the park, go to www.urbanairtrampolinepark.com/locations/texas/killeen.