• September 8, 2023
  • Lauren Critzer
  • 0

Get Your Jingle On: An Insider’s Guide to Celebrating Holidays in Austin, Texas

Nothing quite catches the spirit of the holiday season like Austin, Texas. While mild weather can sometimes leave the snowflakes at bay, the city’s vibrant celebrations and festivities always light up, ensuring Austin is a winter wonderland. If you’re carving out a holiday plan somewhere special, this locals’ guide to celebrating holidays in Austin is your perfect playbook.

Experience the Holidays, Austin-style!

When thinking about celebrating holidays in the heart of Texas, the warm winter weather might seem out of place. However, Austin paints the town red and green in its own unique way. Christmas in Austin is a genuine winter spectacle!

Austin’s Holiday Light Extravaganzas

Austin holiday fervour is tenfold, and the cityscape transforms into a portal straight into Santa’s wonderland, decorated with millions of brilliant lights.

  1. Trail of Lights: This classic Austin holiday tradition held at Zilker Park is a citywide event transforming the park into a magical, glowing landscape featuring over 2 million lights! Live among the twinkle and the sparkle, with access to mouth-watering food served from numerous food trucks, vibrant live music to get you in the holiday mood and an immersive atmosphere of celebration. Make a beeline for the exciting, gigantic Ferris wheel stationed at the center of the park, providing a fantastic overview of Austin’s skyline.

  2. Austin Country Christmas: A quintessential drive-through light show, Austin Country Christmas offers a immersive holiday experience right from the comfort of your car. Synchronized to music, the lights dance in rhythm, winding throughout the natural landscapes of nearby Hutto. This mesmerizing display is a highlight of Central Texas’s holiday season and is a must-see for Christmas-loving photography enthusiasts.

  3. Mozart’s Christmas Light Show: Mozart’s Coffee Roasters, a local favorite, transforms its outdoor deck into a magical stage for a fabulous, free-of-charge light show. Sip on their delicious hot cocoa while watching the spectacle of glittering lights on the shores of Lake Austin. Sometimes, you might even be lucky enough to witness choir performances, adding an extra layer of holiday cheer to the already vibrant atmosphere.

Austin’s Dazzling Holiday Performances

While known for keeping it weird, Austin also knows how to keep it festive. Take a break from the outside cold and indulge in Austin’s artistic scene this holiday season.

  1. The Nutcracker Ballet: A cherished Austin tradition, The Nutcracker Ballet is the city’s most famous holiday performance. Presented by Ballet Austin at the Long Center, the choreography, the music, the costumes, and the charged holiday atmosphere combine to offer an unforgettable experience. With the combination of Tchaikovsky’s familiar music and a story loved by all, the holiday season in Austin isn’t complete without a trip to the ballet.

  2. A Christmas Carol Musical: At the ZACH Theatre, the classic Charles Dicken’s story is jazzed up an Austin-style musical retelling. Complete with catchy musical numbers and charming comedy skits, this modern spin on the tale of Scrooge delivers holiday cheer in heaps. The performance demonstrates how Austin takes the traditional and makes it its own, which is the fundamental ethos of celebrating holidays in Austin.

Taste the Holidays with Austin’s Festive Specials

The holiday celebrations aren’t complete without a food and drink round-up. In Austin, the holiday dining scene is electric, with unique seasonal treats only available during this magical time of year.

  1. Austin’s Christmas Ale: Austin’s local Live Oak Brewing Company releases their special, rich, malty, dark Christmas Ale available only for the holiday season. The taste and smell of the brew is reminiscent of the holiday season, making it a perfect drink to keep warm and spread some Christmas cheer.

  2. Geraldine’s Christmas Dinner: Located on Rainey St., Geraldine’s is a local favorite any time of year. The restaurant ups its game during Christmas, serving a luxurious, specially curated course on Christmas Day. With delicious food, drinks, views overlooking the city, a live performance space, and a pool, it’s an exceptional spot to end your Austin Christmas eve on a high note.

  3. Lala’s Holiday Bar: Craving more holiday spirit? Lala’s Little Nugget is your destination. A kooky Austin dive bar known for being Christmas-themed all year round, Lala’s turns every visit into a holiday celebration. The festive music, colorful lights, classic tinsel trees, mechanical Santas, and an excellent Bloody Mary is the perfect mix to keep your spirits high.

Welcome the New Year, Austin-Style!

Winter festivities in Austin don’t just stop at Christmas. When it comes to celebrating the New Year, the city pulls out all the stops.

Celebrate with Fireworks at Auditorium Shores

Austin rings in the New Year in grand style with the annual fireworks extravaganza at Auditorium Shores. Grab a blanket, a thermos of hot cocoa, and line up along the shores of Lady Bird Lake to watch a magnificent explosion of fireworks at the stroke of midnight. The colorful display reflecting off the waters of the lake is truly a sight to behold, making for some incredible memories and photo ops to ring in the New Year.

Austin’s New Year (ANY) Art & Music Festival

Experience the city’s loud and proud music scene while welcoming the New Year at the Austin’s Art & Music Festival. This all-day festival showcases a diverse range of music and art, interactive exhibits, and food trucks, making it a fantastic way to spend New Year’s eve with the whole family.

Luxury Galas and Street Parties

As the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin nightlife is an entity of its own. Come New Year’s Eve, the clubs and bars of Austin pull all the stops. You can bet on having the time of your life at any of these traditional NYE celebrations:

  • Dirty 6th Street: If you’re looking for a wild night, Dirty 6th Street is your best bet. Illuminated with neon lights, this street transforms into a vibrant party scene with every bar and club hosting their unique New Year’s Eve parties, all in one lively stretch.

  • The Driskill: For a more upscale New Year’s celebration, there’s no place like The Driskill. This historic hotel hosts a New Year’s Eve gala that’s known for its elegance and charm. Think champagne, a trendy crowd, swanky attires, and exquisite music for a classy welcome to the New Year.

Hidden Gems: Austin’s Lesser-known Holiday Favorites

Austin locals preserve their holiday traditions in many intriguing ways. Some lesser known, but stellar ways to enjoy celebrating holidays in Austin include:

  1. Blue Genie Art Bazaar: Known as an Austin holiday tradition for over 20 years, the Blue Genie Art Bazaar is a unique holiday art market showcasing handmade artwork from more than 200 local and regional artists. It’s a fantastic place to find one-of-a-kind presents for your loved ones.

  2. Capitol Christmas Tree: The holiday season sees the Texas State Capitol adorned with a magnificent tree covered in thousands of lights. Underneath the towering tree, you’ll find a display of the 12 days of Christmas. This location offers an intimate holiday atmosphere that locals love, it’s a peaceful getaway from the crowded events.

  3. Winter Wonderland: The Circuit of The Americas (COTA) hosts this annual holiday extravaganza, featuring a dizzying array of activities including light displays, a tunnel of lights to drive through, ice skating, a petting zoo for the little ones and much more!

In Austin, Texas, the holiday season isn’t just a time of year—it’s an immersive and festive experience! Whether basking in the glow of millions of holiday lights, laughing with Scrooge, sipping on the town’s best holiday-themed beers, or dancing away the year at a lively street party, Austin does it best. So why wait? Pack your festive cheer and head to Austin for a special holiday experience that will keep your spirits jingling all the way!

Lauren Critzer

I was born in Charlottesville, Virginia and after college, I moved to San Francisco to explore new opportunities and broaden my horizons. I fell in love with the city's vibrant culture and unique atmosphere, but eventually, I moved again, this time to Austin, Texas.

As much as I loved living in different parts of the country, having a baby boy brought me back to my hometown in Charlottesville, where I now live with my husband, our little one, and two furry friends. I enjoy going to wineries, taking my pups everywhere, and spending quality time with my family.

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