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A CAPITAL Christmas



Austin offers, per tradition, heaps of holiday fun and cheer. From historic displays to fine art and music festivals, here’s how to get in on all the fun during a weekend getaway.


The 59th Annual Trail of Lights in Zilker Park lights up the evening with two million lights and a whopping 96 trees dressed in glowing bulbs. Add 70 other radiant displays, and you have a highlight, if you will, of the Capital City Christmas. Tons of kid-friendly displays bring familiar characters and cute creatures to life-size form, drawing in the starry-eyed attendees into the gleaming spectacle. Remember to dress warm for this outdoor event, and don’t forget to bring your camera for a few photos under the glowing rainbow tunnel. Open for two weeks in December, the Trail sets half the days aside for free entry and the other half for paid access only.


Crowned by a ten-foot star, this “tree” is really more of a massive tent made of string lights. Centered around one of Austin’s last remaining Moonlight Towers, the giant tree is visible across town. It’s most fun, however, to stand directly beneath and look up at a swirling light pattern created by local City of Austin electricians. Visit the Trail of Lights and then mosey toward the 155’ tall tree for a spectacular evening with maximum sparkle enjoyment. In a tradition dating back to 1967, the Zilker tree shines from a few days after Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day. Visitors are welcome for free between the 6 PM lighting time and 10 PM park curfew each day.


A perfect shoreline perch makes Mozart’s Coffee hard to beat any other time. During Christmas, it’s immersed in music and razzle-dazzle. While guests usually grab any open table near the floor-to-ceiling windows, under a sprawling and shady tree, or in the full glory of lakeside sunshine, tables are reserved during annual evening Light Shows in the winter. In pounds of tinsel on a festooned deck aglow with a cheerful nighttime atmosphere, the show features a live musician playing piano and singing their heart out for half an hour while a colorful light projection prances on the walls nearby. Book a Nautical Light Show Cruise to view from the water, and don’t forget to sample the heaps of tasty, themed treats from the cafe’s always-tempting dessert case. The huge sleigh out front usually has a line, so get there early to hop in for a photo.

More info: Annual-Christmas-Light-Show


Grab a hand-crafted, locally-made souvenir at Austin’s curated holiday markets. These markets don’t offer your typical trinkets or mass-produced tchotchke. Instead, you’ll find one-of-a-kind prints and other lovingly made fantastic frippery — fine art and live music round out the list.


Possibly the best of both worlds, this event combines the luminous awe of a Christmas tree lighting ceremony with a Christmas marketplace and uses the Texas State Capitol as a stately backdrop. Join in on the 29th Annual Tree Lighting, Sing-Along and Stroll from 5 to 9 PM on December 2 for a chance to meet Santa, shop for a few gifts, and ring in the holiday season with festive music, family, and friends.

Just stroll over to Congress Avenue and head towards the granite dome, and you’ll find the party set up between 9th and 11th Streets. More info:


Head out to Airport Blvd. for Blue Genie, a wonderland filled with all manner of unique clothes, soaps, teas, toys, and especially art from local makers. Everyone from jewelers to purveyors of handmade candles, toys for all ages, and puppy treats can be counted on to offer the best of their collections and more. Free admission.


For a little Christmas finery, visit the annual Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, where local and nationally recognized fine artists display and sell exceptional paintings, prints, and sculptures. Want something custom? Artists accept commissions and are usually on hand to chat. The yearly event also doubles as a music festival, flipping the stuffy image of fine art on its head.

Expect four live music acts to Armadillo Christmas Bazaar perform on each day of this year’s nine-day event run with some of the best local singer-songwriters and musicians Austin has to offer. Last year saw Sir Woman, Tomar and the FCs, Suzanna Choffel, and more. Artists like Dan Grissom and Rita Marie Ross make up the diverse visual lineup, and all are allowed ample space to show their work. You can certainly buy souvenirs and small gifts here but think of this as your stop for fine art collectors and admirers, first and foremost tickets required.


You’ll get one day to enjoy the crafted items from Austin’s German Free School and gardens. Sip on German hot-spiced wine and shop crafts imported from Erzgebirge, an area in Eastern Germany. Tickets required.


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