This winter, get in the holly jolly spirit by joining in Austin’s beloved holiday traditions—the ones locals have loved for years. We’re talking Christmas tree farms, magical holiday lights displays, shopping festivals and sure, maybe even a seasonal cocktail or two. Make the season bright and merry with this winter bucket list.

Trail of Lights entrance
Courtesy of Trail of Lights.

1. Marvel at glittering holiday lights displays.
With more than two million lights and 40 displays, it’s hard to not feel awestruck by the glorious spectacle of Austin Trail of Lights at Zilker Park. Take it all in as you walk or jog through the 2.1-mile Fun Run. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, stroll through a botanical oasis decked out in sparkling holiday lights during Luminations, where holiday music and free taffy add to the festivities. Join in the annual Holiday Sing-Along and Downtown Stroll on December 2, culminating in the lighting of the tree in front of the Texas State Capitol. At Mozart’s Coffee Roasters, sip on a steaming cup of hot chocolate while watching the dazzling lights display, which is choreographed to lively music.

2. Lace up your skates and glide across an ice skating rink.
We dare you not to smile as you put on some ice skates and enjoy a holiday pastime straight from your childhood. In Downtown Austin, head over to the Whole Foods flagship store for ice skating on the Plaza. 

Ballet Austin performing The Nutcracker on stage
Ballet Austin's The Nutcracker. Credit Tony Spielberg.

3. Watch a classic holiday theater production.
Ring the whole family to be mesmerized by the magic of the theater when you take them to see a beloved classic or a new twist on an old standby, such as the Motown-infused “A Christmas Carol” at ZACH Theatre, “The Nutcracker” with Ballet Austin at the Long Center, “Handel’s ‘Messiah’” performed by the Austin Symphony and Chorus Austin at Hyde Park Baptist Church, and “A Christmas Story: The Musical” at the Long Center.

4. Pick the perfect Christmas tree at a local tree farm.
Breathe in the fresh air and the crisp scent of pine as you stroll the acres of St. Nick’s Christmas Tree Farm in Fredericksburg or Evergreen Farms in Elgin. Kids will love exploring the countryside and getting to cut down their very own Texas-grown Christmas tree. (Don’t want to cut your own tree? No worries—they’ve got plenty of pre-cut trees that are ready to go.)

Dale Watson & band on stage at Armadillo Christmas Bazaar
Dale Watson & band at Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. Credit Jennifer M Ramos.

5. Check off your holiday gift list at special shopping events and bazaars.
From November 16–19, 2017, shop for holiday gifts while helping a good cause during A Christmas Affair fundraiser for The Junior League of Austin. At Blue Genie Art Bazaar, more than 200 artists and makers showcase their handmade wares from November 24–December 24, 2017. Shop nutcrackers, handmade ornaments and more while enjoying German specialties at the German-Texan Annual Christmas Market at the historic German Free School of Austin. Support local artist mentorships while scoring a unique piece of artwork when you attend the Cherrywood Art Fair, held December 9–10, 2017. Peruse fine art and handmade gifts by local artisans while indulging in festive drinks and listening to live music at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar from December 14–24, 2017.

6. Relive your favorite holiday movies on the silver screen.
This holiday season, kick back with a beer at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and have a laugh as you watch classic holiday comedies such as “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” or “A Christmas Story.” Paramount Theatre also offers an annual series of Christmas films including "White Christmas" and "Elf," so be sure to check the schedule for upcoming flicks. Celebrate the season with Hollywood holiday classics at the Austin Film Society's AFS Cinema this December.

couple dining at aviary in front of bar and wine racks
Aviary. Courtesy of Resplendent Hospitality.

7. Sip a winter warmer at a cozy cocktail lounge or wine bar.
Warm up your belly with a glass of wine from the vast selection at Vino Vino, or nosh on a cheese and charcuterie board while enjoying a glass of wine at Aviary Wine & Kitchen. For a boozy cocktail, sneak behind the bookcase that doubles as a secret door at Firehouse Lounge, or slide into a velvet booth at The Roosevelt Room to enjoy a high-octane libation.

9. Fill up on classic comfort food.
Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry, so be sure make the most of it with a stop at one of the many incredible restaurants in Austin. Austin is all about al fresco dining and winter is no different; enjoy an old fashioned on Moonshine's heated patio or a hot toddy cozied up by the fire pit at Contigo. Dig into French-style roasted chicken at the new Le Politique, or nosh on classic Texas-style dishes at the original Hyde Park Bar & Grill, where the lights display is sure to cheer up any diner; warm up with the lentil soup or treat yourself to the famed pork shoulder atop a bowl of creamy mac and cheese.

10. Celebrate the New Year with a fireworks extravaganza.
Say howdy to 2018 as you celebrate Austin’s New Year 2018, an all-out party at Auditorium Shores in Downtown. Get down to live music on multiple stages, chow down on mouthwatering cuisine served up by local food trucks, and count down to a fireworks spectacle with the illuminated city skyline as the backdrop. It’s one good time you won’t want to miss.

Need more festive and cold-weather events and things to do? Explore our events calendar!