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Here are 18 things to do with holiday visitors in Austin this year, from barbecue to hikes

Earl Hopkins
Austin 360

If your loved ones are headed to Austin for the holidays — and hours of overly competitive board game battles, awkward family dinners and poorly sung renditions of "All I Want for Christmas Is You" are replaying in your head from past years — Austin360 is here to lend a hand. 

Here's a list of things to do in and around town that will give your visitors a good taste of the city. Check individual websites for COVID-19 safety protocols and holiday hours. 

Barbecue

When exploring Austin, a capital of culinary delights, one would be remiss not to visit one of the many joints serving delicious barbeque.

Franklin Barbecue: Among the most bustling spots in Central Texas, Franklin Barbecue, 900 E. 11th St., has no shortage of savory brisket, pulled pork and other smoked meats. Well actually, it might. That stuff goes quick. So, be sure to order ahead or beat the lines that will wrap around the East Austin smokehouse once its doors open. Note that they will be closed Dec. 25-27 for the holiday and will be open for New Year's Day. More information: franklinbbq.com

La Barbecue: Co-owned by LeAnn Mueller, of the famed Mueller pitmaster dynasty, La Barbecue is another great locale for Southern comfort. The barbecue eatery, located at 2401 E. Cesar Chavez St., provides finely made slabs of brisket, chopped beef, pulled pork and sausage that will light up your taste buds. More information: labarbecue.com

Tacos

When you think of Texas, thoughts of mouth-watering tacos usually come to mind. It's a reputation Austin proprietors hold dear to their hearts.

Veracruz All Natural: Home to one of the city's best migas tacos, Veracruz All Natural is known for delicious breakfast tacos and flavor-filled smoothies and juices. And with locations all around town, sisters Reyna and Maritza Vazquez have continued to expand the tasty options. More information: veracruzallnatural.com

De Nada Cantina: If you're looking for handmade tortillas, delicately braised meats and richly flavored margaritas, then this East Austin eatery, located at at 4715 E. Cesar Chavez St., is the place to be. More information: denadacantina.com

Hiking

McKinney Falls State Park: For views of local wildlife, gushing water reservoirs, towering canopies and gorgeous trails, spots like McKinney Falls State Park, 5808 McKinney Falls Parkway, are among the most picturesque locations in Central Texas. Reservations are recommended.

Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail: The Butler Hike and Bike Trail provides another fun, lengthy expedition closer to the city, with a 14.5 mile-long passage that loops around Lady Bird Lake. Parking is available at various points of the trail.

Holiday lights 

Austin Trail of Lights: For an electric showcase of Christmas cheer, the Austin Trail of Lights inside Zilker Park has returned for its 57th year and second year as a drive-thru event. You have to reserve a timed admission ticket for your car. Note: It's closed Dec. 24, 25, 28 and 29, but the nearby Zilker Holiday Tree will still shine bright. More information and tickets: austintrailoflights.org.

Luminations at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Featuring thousands of luminaries, holiday treats and lit-up Fortlandia forts, Luminations at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave., offers families a glowing holiday experience. Note: It's closed Dec. 24, 25 and 31 and Jan. 1. Information and tickets: wildflower.org/luminations

Daytrip ideas

Fredericksburg: Recognized for its German heritage and location along the official Texas Wine Trail, it's no surprise Fredericksburg, roughly 60 miles west of Central Austin, is considered a Hill Country daytrip staple. Whether you want to explore the area's various wineries, tour the Pioneer Museum or hike to the top of Enchanted Rock, Fredericksburg has much to offer. More information: visitfredericksburgtx.com

Johnson City: First things first. This town's annual holiday light display is among the most impressive around, and it's definitely worth the drive. Offering a combination of Texas countryside and U.S. history, a trip to Johnson City, nearly 48 miles west of Austin, just might be worth your while. After hiking through Pedernales Falls State Parks, stop by the childhood home of former President Lyndon B. Johnson. The inside is currently closed, but you can walk the grounds. More information: johnsoncitytexas.info

Take a walking tour

Downtown Austin: It's impossible to truly capture the Austin experience without taking in the downtown skyline, Texas Capitol building and holiday-themed windows along the 2nd Street District. And if you get far enough, you may spot some of the city's other treasures, too.

South Congress Avenue sure has changed a lot, but it's still a popular stroll close to downtown.

South Congress: Filled with local eateries like Magnolia Cafe, boutiques like Tesoros Trading Company and high-quality lodging like Hotel Saint Cecilia, South Congress Avenue, colloquially known as SoCo, is a popular stroll. You'll also find a picture-postcard view of the Capitol.

Other fun activities

Peter Pan Mini-Golf: Family owned and operated for 73 years, Peter Pan Mini Golf, 1207 Barton Springs Road, remains a beloved Austin landmark. With the course's T-rex overlooking Lamar Boulevard and Barton Springs Road, it's recognized for its whimsical sculptures and, of course, a glorious 18-hole course. More information: peterpanminigolf.com

Peter Pan Mini Golf is a time-honored institution for Austinites young and old.

Austin's: Originally known as Austin Park N Pizza, this Pflugerville fixture at 16231 N. Interstate 35 is a family-friendly home to go-karts, bumper boats and an indoor roller coaster. Closed Christmas Day. More information: austinspark.com.

See a concert

Antone's Nightclub: Around the holidays, there's a bevy of musical showcases and concerts to break away from the dullness of Christmas caroling favorites. On Christmas Day, Santiago Jimenze Jr.'s "Blue Christmas" Dance Party will feature Conjunto Los Pinkys and Ysidro Samilpa at Antone's Nightclub, 305 E. Fifth St. More information: antonesnightclub.com

Continental Club: On the same night, country music maverick Dale Watson's annual Christmas Show & Dance will take place at this storied South Congress Avenue venue, 1315 S. Congress Ave. More information: continentalclub.com/austin

See a movie 

Alamo Drafthouse: Sure, this dine-and-watch movie theater chain has spread across the country. But never forget: It all started in Austin. See a blockbuster like "The Matrix Resurrections" or more adventurous fare at one of Alamo Drafthouse's five Austin locations. More information and showtimes: drafthouse.com/austin

Alamo Drafthouse has locations all around town, including on Slaughter Lane.

AFS Cinema: If you're a fan of classic, indie and foreign films, and may even crave a cocktail between the opening and closing credits, Austin Film Society's AFS Cinema is opening its doors during the holidays. Films like "The Thin Man," "Fanny and Alexander," "It's A Wonderful Life" and "The Wizard of Oz" will be shown at the two-screen arthouse venue to close out the year. More information and showings: austinfilm.org.