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9 Austin holiday activities, including Christmas lights

Lyanne Guarecuco
The Austin Trail of Lights opened Tuesday night and runs until December 23. The Christmas tree is on the south side of Barton Springs Road across the street from the Trail of Lights. 

With Christmas and New Year’s around the corner, here’s a list of activities to get you out of the house when your kids are getting restless from being home during the holiday break. Make sure to check our parenting page for all the latest things to do with the whole crew, as well as our holiday guide and Austin event listings.

Austin Trail of LightsDon’t miss the final days to view the famous Zilker Tree, stunning Christmas lights tunnel (which makes for a perfect holiday photo) and the 1.25 mile trail of Christmas light displays in Zilker Park. General admission is $3 per person, and if you’re not into traffic, you can save yourself the drive by taking a shuttle for $5 (includes general admission fee) from multiple convenient locations around town.

Mozart’s Christmas Music & Light ShowAs if the view of Lake Austin from Mozart’s wasn’t stunning enough, imagine the entire place lit up with thousands of Christmas lights to form one of the best music & light displays in the city. This unique light show starts every hour on the hour from 6-11 p.m. until January 8, and it is completely free to view, although you may be tempted to step inside for a cup of their holiday-flavored hot chocolate options. 

Tuba Christmas at the Texas State Capitol: Tuba Christmas is a series of worldwide concerts that have been occurring around the world for 43 years. In this unique concert, tuba and euphonium players are invited to join and participate in their local Tuba Christmas event by meeting up and playing Christmas carols for the general public. The Austin version of Tuba Christmas will take place on the south steps of the Texas Capitol on Friday, December 23, at noon. Viewing is free, but if you’re interested in playing in the show, registration begins at 10:00 a.m. The registration fee is $10. 

Santa’s Ranch:If there was ever an absolutely crucial time to remember to call “shotgun” when getting into the car, it’s right before you venture out to Santa’s Ranch. This drive-through trail composed of over 1.5 million lights requires driving a little farther out to New Braunfels, but it’s worth it since there’s nothing quite like a ridiculous amount of lights and not having to escape your car heater to get you in the holiday spirit. Santa’s Ranch is open until January 1. You can get in on the illumination from 6-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 6-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The cost per vehicle is $28 plus tax. 

Gingerbread Village at Four SeasonsIf you’re looking for some inspiration for your own gingerbread house decorating session, stop by the Four Seasons Hotel in Downtown Austin to view their “Classic Fairy Tales”-themed Gingerbread Village. The Village is open for public viewing 24 hours a day until Christmas, and all proceeds from sale of the houses and sponsors benefits the Seton Shivers Cancer Center in Austin. 

Ice Skating at Whole Foods: Just because it doesn’t typically snow in Texas doesn’t mean Austinites should be deprived of a classic winter ritual. The ice skating rink on the roof deck of Whole Foods on North Lamar, which is perfect for rookie Texans, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. until January 7. The cost per person is $10, and it includes skate rentals for children and adults. Be sure to check the calendar for potential closures due to private parties and holidays.

‘A Christmas Carol’ at Zach TheatreThis lively original adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic is filled with rock ’n‘ roll, contemporary, soul and classic musical numbers for the entire family to enjoy. The lively cast, elaborate costumes and unique performances are perfect for an evening immersed in Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey to believing in the magic of the holidays. The show runs through December 31, and available seating can be viewed here

Armadillo Christmas Bazaar: The 41st annual Armadillo Christmas Bazaar is a perfect one-stop shop for live music, food, drinks and an overall family-friendly good time. It can also be the ideal solution for last minute Christmas shoppers, since it features the works of over 160 curated artists for sale, all under the roof of the Palmer Events Center. It will be open until Christmas Eve from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m., and tickets are $8 for a one-day pass. 

Holiday Lights & Ice Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa: This 4,000-square-foot indoor ice skating rink offers beautiful views of Austin’s Hill Country, and it’s all for a good cause. A portion of the proceeds benefits Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas. The cost, including skate rentals, is $20 for children and $25 for adults, and it runs through January 1. Daily operating times can be viewed here