Since it began in 1965, the Austin Trail of Lights has grown into one of Austin’s largest events, attracting an average of 400,000 people per year. Every holiday season, Austin’s iconic Zilker Park is transformed into the Trail of Lights with over two million lights, 65+ displays, 30 food trucks, three entertainment stages, 50 private holiday parties and interactive experiences throughout the park.
The annual tradition continues to grow, celebrating the quirky, independent character that Austin is recognized for across the country. New attractions and enhanced areas will be found throughout the Trail. Some new highlights include a 13-foot illuminated carriage, 12 seven-foot lighted guitars commemorating Austin’s musical roots and a 25-foot spiral holiday tree.
This year’s official Grand Opening of the Austin Trail of Lights will be on Monday, Dec. 10 where general admission will be free to the public. The Trail of Lights will remain open Dec. 11 - 23 with gates open from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. every evening. General admission for children under 12 is always free at the Trail. The Trail of Lights Foundation is committed to keeping general admission to the Trail free for the public on seven out of the 14 nights of the event, with a nominal general admission fee on the remaining seven nights. Early entry ZIP Fast Passes, VIP Platinum, parking and shuttle passes are also available for purchase on select nights.
Other specialty nights include:
- Sunday, Nov. 25: The Annual Zilker Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony kicks off the holiday season in Zilker Park. Now in its 52nd year, the Zilker Holiday Tree stands 155 feet tall and is built around one of Austin’s historic moontowers. Food vendors and other merchants will operate at the tree throughout the month of December.
- Saturday, Dec. 1: The Annual Trail of Lights Fun Run, a 2.1-mile course which takes thousands of fun runners through the sights of the Austin Trail of Lights, ending with a celebration in the center of Zilker Park - the Finish Line Festival and Expo.
- Dec. 2, 3 and 4: The Fifth Annual STARS at the Trail program hosts up to 20 nonprofit organizations for private tours of the Trail, along with additional program expansion. The Trail of Lights will be closed to the public on these nights.
- Saturday, Dec. 8: Night Lights, the Fifth Annual Preview Party, serves as the Trail of Lights Foundation’s annual fundraising event, with funds going to help keep the Trail of Lights accessible for all in the community. The event will feature headlining entertainment, food tastings from Austin restaurants and specialty activities not available during the general run of the Trail.
- Monday, Dec. 10: Austin Trail of Lights Grand Opening will officially open the Trail of Lights to the public with a countdown ceremony and entry tunnel lighting, presentations by community leaders and a special celebration for Trail of Lights sponsors. Event entry on Grand Opening night is free and open to the public.
- Tuesday, Dec. 11: Heroes Night will feature specialty programming and honor all first responders, including current and veteran military, police, fire and EMS personnel with special ZIP access for Heroes and their families.