Spending the holidays in Austin? Celebrate like a local and join in some of our city’s most beloved holiday traditions, from over-the-top holiday lights displays to shopping markets and live performances of Christmas classics. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Courtesy of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center..
Holiday Lights Displays
New this year is Peppermint Parkway, a drive-thru holiday experience held November 27-December 27, 2020 at Circuit of The Americas, complete with millions of twinkling lights synchronized to holiday songs, dancing elves and an appearance by Santa. With more than two million lights and 40 displays, it’s hard not to feel awestruck by the glorious spectacle of the Austin Trail of Lights at Zilker Park, which will be a drive-thru event this year, held in December. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, stroll through an outdoor botanical oasis decked out in sparkling lights during Luminations, held from November 27-January 3, with limited capacity and plenty of space to explore. Join in the annual December Holiday Sing-Along and Downtown Stroll, which includes the lighting of the towering tree in front of the Texas State Capitol, live music, shopping and more. At Mozart’s Coffee Roasters, sip on a steaming cup of hot chocolate while watching the shop’s dazzling lights display choreographed to lively music nightly from November 11, 2020 through January 6, 2021 (reservations required).
The Nutcracker, Ballet Austin. Credit to Tony Spielberg.
The whole family will be mesmerized by the magic of a beloved classic with a new twist. This year, Ballet Austin presents the virtual “The Nutcracker – Home for the Holidays,” a multimedia experience that includes signature dances from “The Nutcracker,” interactive experiences with the cast and on-demand featurettes. ZACH Theater is kicking off the season with a live, socially distanced and stream-able holiday concert. "POP! A Rockin Holiday Concert" will be spreading cheer in The Topfer at ZACH Theatre, backed by ZACH’s house band will take the holiday classics and party favorites to the next level.
Downtown Holiday Stroll. Credit Bob Daemmrich.
Local Christmas Tree Farms
Breathe in the fresh air and the crisp scent of pine as you stroll the acres of Elgin Christmas Tree Farm or nearby Evergreen Farms. 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 both offer pre-cut trees that are ready to go.
Courtesy of the Paramount Theatre.
Holiday Movie Screenings
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 “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “White Christmas,” so be sure to check the schedule for upcoming flicks.
Courtesy of Blue Genie Art Bazaar.
Local Shopping Events & Bazaars
During the Blue Genie Art Bazaar, more than 200 artists and makers showcase their handmade wares in person and online from November 13-December 24, 2020. From November 17-22, 2020, virtually shop for holiday gifts while helping a good cause during the A Christmas Affair fundraiser for The Junior League of Austin. Head to Fredericksburg to shop nutcrackers, handmade ornaments and more while enjoying German specialties. Or get your German baked goods and handmade gifts on December 5, 2020 at the annual German-Texan Christmas Market. Peruse fine art and handmade gifts by local artisans from the comfort of home with the new Armadillo Bazaar Art Concierge from the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar.
Courtesy of The Driskill.
Tune in to watch as the Grand Lobby tree at The Driskill hotel is lit on December 1, 2020 (virtual event). The historic Driskill hosts holiday events throughout the season, including Victorian holiday teas. Hotel Van Zandt celebrates the season with a lineup of evening festivities throughout December, including holiday trivia nights, pictures with Santa Paws, live music and more.
Courtesy of Lala's Little Nugget.
Holiday Themed Bars
It’s always Christmas at Lala’s Little Nugget, where the holiday decorations are up all year round and tunes are blasted from a vintage jukebox. From early November through late December, holiday pop-up bar Miracle returns to transform The Eleanor (The Roosevelt Room’s next-door event space) into Miracle on 5th Street, complete with Christmas-themed cocktails and holiday decor. Do some boot scootin’ surrounded by snowflakes, ornaments and thousands of glittering lights at Donn’s Depot (temporarily closed). Spider House Cafe and Ballroom, located near the University of Texas campus, features a courtyard strung with hundreds of holiday lights. Other spots sure to get you in the holiday spirit include Hyde Park Bar & Grill (located in a lovely 1920s home), and the kitschy and colorful Ranch 616.
New Year's Eve Events
Say howdy to 2021 as you celebrate Austin’s New Year, an all-out party usually held at Auditorium Shores (details TBD). Get down to live music on multiple stages, chow down on tasty 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.