Dec 3, 2022 - Things to Do

10 must-do holiday activities in and around Austin

Illustration of holiday string lights in the shape of a heart.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

'Tis finally the season, meaning it's time to partake in local holiday traditions. Here are some ideas to get you started.

1. Walk the Trail of Lights

The magical favorite returns to Zilker Park Dec. 8 and runs through Dec. 23.

  • Cost: General admission tickets range from $0-$5, depending on the night. Buy them online.
  • Details: Kids ages 11 and under are free to enter with a ticketed adult.
  • Pro tip: For $20-$25, consider purchasing the ZIP pass, which gets you in early and is a popular option for people with young kids.
trail of lights at Zilker Park in Austin
Trail of Lights. Photo: Kimberly Brotherman / Contributor, Getty Images
2. Explore Peppermint Parkway

Corral a group and enjoy the drive-thru spectacular at Circuit of the Americas through Dec. 30.

  • Cost: Admission is sold by the vehicle and starts at $40. Get tickets online.
  • Details: The parkway is open 6:30-9pm. Organizers suggest arriving after 8:30pm to avoid the rush.
3. See "The Nutcracker"

One of the most iconic holiday traditions, Ballet Austin's annual production of "The Nutcracker," runs through Dec. 23.

  • Details: Watch hundreds of dancers perform choreography by Stephen Mills, with live accompaniment from Austin Symphony Orchestra.
  • Cost: Single tickets range from $15-$125. Buy them online.
  • If you go: Here's what you need to know about parking at the Long Center.
4. Enjoy a festive drink

Get in the holiday spirit with a drink (or two) at one of these cheery spots.

πŸ•Ž Kitty Cohen's annual Hanukkah pop-up bar is back through Dec. 30.

  • We recommend getting a Latke Punch or a Mezcal Mitzvah at the East Austin patio.

🌺 Sip tropical drinks with Santa at dive bar Nickel City on East 11th Street.

πŸŽ„ The North Pole meets Central Texas at Lala's Little Nugget, off Burnet Road, which celebrates Christmas year-round.

❄️ And, of course, there's Miracle on 5th Street. The pop-up at The Eleanor downtown is decked out with wall-to-wall decorations and plenty of photo ops.

  • You need tickets to get in this year, with general admission passes starting at $5. Reserve your spot online. Open through Dec. 27.
a blue cocktail sitting on Hanukkah-themed menus
Kitty Cohen's Hanukkah offerings. Photo courtesy of Kitty Cohen's
5. Go ice skating

Whether you're a beginner or an aspiring Olympian, sharpen your skills at Chaparral Ice.

  • Details: The facility at 2525 W. Anderson Lane offers public skating daily. Register online for a session.
  • Cost: Standard admission is $12 and skate rental is $6 for children and adults.
6. Catch a family-friendly musical

For a fresh take on a classic, check out ZACH Theatre's adaption of "A Christmas Carol" through Dec. 31.

  • Details: Performances run through Dec. 31.
  • Cost: Tickets range from $25-$160. Get them online.
7. Shop local for everyone on your list

There's no shortage of Austin-area businesses offering the perfect gifts for your loved ones. Here's a sampling.

πŸ§€ For the one who loves to host: Cheese and charcuterie trays, plus classes and tastings at Antonelli's Cheese Shop.

β˜•οΈ For the coffee fiend: A bag of a favorite blend or classes covering latte art, cupping and more at Greater Goods Coffee Co.

πŸͺ΄ For the one with a green thumb: Plants or accessories from one of Austin's numerous plant shops (East Austin Succulents, The Great Outdoors and Plant Party, to name a few).

πŸ₯ƒ For the whiskey drinker: A distillery tour and tasting at Still Austin Whiskey Co., or some of their hip tees, drinkware and other merch.

πŸ“š For the bookworm: A gift card or e-gift code to BookPeople for a good read, then treat them to a glass at Vintage Bookstore and Wine Bar.

πŸͺž For the one who appreciates the finer things: A ceramic oil dispenser, porcelain mug or other elevated home goods item at Take Heart boutique.

a pair of coffees at Greater Goods
A pair of cold brews at Greater Goods. Photo: Sami Sparber/Axios
8. Visit Santa's Ranch

Head to New Braunfels and drive through more than a mile of gleaming country roads.

  • Cost: Admission is $35 for a single vehicle. Tickets are valid for any night of the event, which runs through Jan. 1, 2023. Get them online.
  • Details: Ranch hours are Sunday-Thursday 6-10pm; and Friday-Saturday 6-11pm.
9. Peruse a market for festive finds

Spend a lovely afternoon shopping from vendors at a couple of local marketplaces.

  • The Front Market showcases women and LGBTQ+ creatives, makers and artists from Texas. Admission is donation-based to the event Dec. 3-4 and Dec. 10 at Ani’s Day and Night.
  • Blue Genie Art Bazaar is open through Dec. 24 and offers shopping in-person and online, with options to pick up your items in-store or ship them anywhere in the U.S.
Ani's Day and Night coffee shop and bar
Ani's Day and Night. Photo: Emily Sparber
10. Cozy up at Mozart's

Sip lattes and stay for the iconic light show at Mozart's Coffee Roasters on Lake Austin.

What's your favorite Austin holiday tradition? Email us at [email protected], and we may feature your idea in an upcoming newsletter.

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