Nothing quite says the holidays like Austin Christmas lights, a collection of twinkling, multi-colored decorations that cover everything from the Zilker Park tree to the Texas State Capitol to festive neighborhoods. In addition to all the Christmas events taking place around town (and stocking up on presents at the best gift shops), some of the best things to do in Austin this season include a trip to one of these spectacular light shows.
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Austin holiday and Christmas lights
Brave the crowds for the Trail of Lights and you'll be handsomely rewarded: The 53rd annual event transforms Zilker Park into a trippy display with over two million colorful lights, plus food trucks, parties, interactive experiences and live music. The Zilker Park tree will also be lit nightly until December 31.
Every year, Mozart's Coffee Roasters loses its mind around winter and turns the lakeside coffeeshop into one of Austin's most popular—and extravagant—light shows. Bundle up and arrive early to order some of the cafe's killer hot chocolate, which comes in specialty flavors like cinnamon, pumpkin spice or peppermint, before watching the show that occurs from 8-11pm.
Join 20,000 of your closest friends at the Capitol on December 2 for an evening that starts with a special night market and a sing-along and ends with a downtown stroll. Watch the Capitol Christmas Tree illuminate, then enjoy dance performances, live music and carnival games as the festive spirit settles over Congress Avenue. The tree will stay lit throughout the holidays.
Winter Wonderland premiers at Circuit of the Americas on December 1 and 2, then returns on December 8 and will continue throughout the holidays until December 30. In the words of SNL's Stefan, it has everything: A petting zoo. Holiday movies on the lawn. A walking light trail. A human snow globe. Santa's workshop. A tunnel of lights. Did we mention the lights? Yeah, there's approximately one million of them. Ticket prices start at $16, but you can also add experiences to your package, like a hot air balloon ride, skating on a giant ice skating rink, camel rides and photos with Santa Claus.
As one of Austin's premier shopping destinations, the Domain houses roughly 100 restaurants and retail stores in a neighborhood-like setting. They also go bananas around Christmas, with a light show every evening at 6, 7 and 8pm. Find the bedazzled Christmas tree between Dick's Sporting Goods and Dillard's.
Shady Oak Drive, Georgetown
You know that neighbor that always has to go above and beyond when decorating their home? Yeah, this is that neighbor. Head to 107 Shady Oak Drive in Georgetown (Sun-Thu 5:45-10pm; Fri, Sat 5:45-11pm) for a multi-colored light display synched to 95.3FM. Bring a thermos of hot cocoa and you're golden.
The Old Settlers Association in Round Rock is transforming into the family-friendly Christmas Towne, an annual fête that features an incredible tunnel of lights—plus carnival rides, go-carts, a petting zoo and more. The festivities will take place Dec 14-23 starting at 5pm on weekdays and 2pm on weekends.
Over 10,000 lights are displayed along this Cedar Park cul-de-sac, a synchronized spectacle that incorporates 54 songs (walk clockwise around the area for the best experience). While the display is free to attend, Anna Court will once again be collecting toys and donations for Blue Santa (a Cedar Park organization helping underprivileged youth) and Safe Place (an Austin shelter for women and families).