There’s certainly no shortage of things to see and do in Austin. With the generally mild winter weather, that means most of the attractions can be enjoyed just as much in the winter as they are in the summer. Add in the warm, fuzzy feelings that come with the holidays and you’re all set to enjoy Austin in the wintertime.
1. Mozart’s Christmas Light Show
Mozart’s Coffee Roasters is more than just an amazing coffee shop, it’s also the home of the wildly popular Christmas Light Show where guests can enjoy breathtaking light displays along with hot chocolate and warm treats. For many families, seeing the holiday lights is part of annual traditions and the season wouldn’t feel the same without going. Fortunately, the lights are still on this year – the café’s owners have worked to create a “glorious and safe 2020 ‘COVID Cautious Christmas Light Show.” With socially distanced tables and limited capacity, you can feel safe and sound continuing the tradition this year.
2. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
With a different take on holiday lights, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center hosts Luminations where guests can stroll the paths and gardens with thousands of luminarias lighting the way. Meander down a one-way path through the beautiful Texas Arboretum, experience audio and visual art installations from Collide Arts, and bathe in the lights of an open-air illuminated tunnel on the trail. To keep the experience safe, tickets are being limited and admission will be timed, but don’t worry, Luminations has been extended to run for five weeks so there’s plenty of time to experience the magic.
3. Trail of Lights
The Trail of Lights is an authentic Austin community celebration and has become one of the longest running holiday traditions of its kind. The Trail features more than 2 million lights illuminating the park, 90 lighted holiday trees, and more than 70 other holiday displays and lighted tunnels. As with everything in 2020, The Trail will be a little different by returning to Zilker Park as a drive-thru only event. While the usual live entertainment may not be available, guests can tune in to Trail of Lights Radio to listen to curated music as you drive through and enjoy Candy Land, Santa’s House, Santa’s Workshop, and more. Enjoy this one-of-a-kind holiday magic to create treasured memories and close out the year.
4. Shopping experiences
Downtown Holiday Stroll – Explore downtown with festive activities happening all through December. While the annual tradition has to be reimagined from previous years to allow for safety and social distancing, guests can still enjoy holiday shopping experiences, window and light displays, photo-ops, and the signature 45-foot downtown holiday tree. Grab a Downtown Holiday Passport filled with deals, discounts, and activities that make it fun and easy to explore downtown and support local shops and restaurants.
A Christmas Affair – Now in its 45th year, the five-day holiday gift market kicks off the giving season and hosts more than 150 regional and national retail merchants. For 2020, this iconic holiday event has been reinvented to be fully virtual with an online marketplace and Party Pack pick-ups. Party Packs include a Girls’ Night In with a cocktail kit and interactive holiday styling experience and a drive-thru brunch experience with local bites and shopping perks. For the kids there’s a virtual sing-along and cookie decorating kit, a virtual dance party and gingerbread house kit, llama ornament decorating kit, and much more.
Armadillo Christmas Bazaar – After more than four decades as a holiday shopping tradition in Austin, the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar is pivoting from the normal in-person event and launching an online shopping site. The Armadillo Art Concierge is a searchable site that allows users to browse and shop from award-winning artists using curated searches or personal shopper concierge services. While it’s not quite the same as the usual festive tradition of dancing in the aisles to live music while shopping and discovering art, it’s a great way to support incredible artists who may be struggling during the pandemic.
5. Ice skating on the Whole Foods rooftop
The Whole Foods Market Downtown offers ice skating right on the rooftop of their flagship store. Enjoy your time on the ice then head inside for a cup of cocoa or cider – it’s a fun way to experience the ice (since it isn’t seen much in Austin!).
6. Santa’s Ranch
Bring your friends and family to enjoy one of the best holiday light exhibits in the state at Santa’s Ranch. You’ll take a drive through over a mile of winding country roads while enjoying beautiful lights, animated Christmas displays, and lit up gingerbread houses while savoring homemade hot cocoa, kettle corn, and snacks. Purchase either a single pass for one visit or a season pass so you can visit all holiday season long.
7. Ballet Austin’s presentation of The Nutcracker
Ballet Austin is bringing a favorite tradition home for the holidays by transforming its 58th annual production into an interactive, multimedia experience available to audience members in the comfort and safety of their homes. Content will include on-demand access to The Nutcracker digital film, holiday recipes and decorating ideas, holiday-themed dance lessons, family-friendly contests and games, and more.
There are plenty of reasons to move to Austin and the ability to enjoy the variety of attractions available all year both indoors and out is a big one. Even with the challenges of the pandemic, the heart of Texas beats with a fun and quirky rhythm regardless of the season.