All this bustle: Soon it will be Christmas Day, but until then, plenty of options
Shopping, decorating, caroling are you exhausted yet? You better rally because it's only Dec. 15. Here are some events worth sharing with out-of-town guests or using to entertain out-of-school kids between today and Christmas. And a few movies that are decidedly non-holiday, for a perhaps much-needed break from the sugarplums and mistletoe.
For even more holiday events, including various ongoing "Christmas Carols," ice skating and the Zilker Tree, see our special holiday calendar on Page 26.
— Sharon Chapman, Charles Ealy and Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
Lights: The City of Buda offers its Trail of Lights, a walkable attraction with winter wonderland scenes. Admission is free, and it runs from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. nightly through Wednesday. Go to the Cabela's in Buda to catch the shuttle bus to Stagecoach Park (there's no parking on site). Food, drink and merchandise will be for sale, and carriage rides are $5 a person. ci.buda.tx.us/ calendar/121411-buda-trail-of-lights .
Keep Austin bazaar: The big dog of Austin holiday art fairs, the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, opened Wednesday. A daily live soundtrack comes with the creations offered for sale by more than 160 artist and artisans and today's lineup features the Drakes, Deadman and the BoDeans. Plus, musicians get in free from 5 p.m. to close today courtesy of the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily through Dec. 24. $5-$8. Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road. www.armadillobazaar.com .
The more avant-garde Blue Genie Art Bazaar, free entry, also runs through Dec. 24, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Marchesa Hall and Theatre, 6226 Middle Fiskville Road. bluegenieart bazaar.com .
Screens: The first of the big holiday movies open on this day, and most of them are sequels. The winner of the box-office battle will probably be "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. Guy Ritchie, the Madonna ex, directs this tale that pits the famous detective and his sidekick against Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). The 2009 movie, simply called "Sherlock Holmes," grossed more than $209 million in the United States and about $315 million more worldwide. The biggest competitor will probably be "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked," the third movie in the franchise that was launched in 2007. The first movie grossed more than $217 million domestically (actually more than "Sherlock"), but its foreign grosses were less: about $144 million. The 2009 movie "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel" did slightly better, with a gross of $219 million domestically and $223 million elsewhere.
But "Sherlock" and "Alvin" will have challengers. Yet another sequel, "Mission Impossible — Ghost Protocol," starring Tom Cruise, opens in IMAX theaters on this day, before expanding to regular theaters the following week. Also, two high-profile arthouse films are scheduled to open. They are "Shame," starring Michael Fassbender as a sex addict, and "Young Adult," with Charlize Theron as a young woman who returns home to Minnesota and tries to win back her old boyfriend, who happens to be married with kids.
Shopping: "Austin City Limits," the longest-running music show on television, plans a special holiday gift fairfrom 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday. Items for sale include limited edition posters, Scott Newton's photobook chronicling the first 35 years of the show, the cookbook "Music in the Kitchen" with recipes from musicians who have played the show, plus an assortment of show clothing. That includes hoodies, shirts, hats and even baby onesies. The sale is in the original studio, KLRU's Studio 6A on the University of Texas campus. That's at the corner of Dean Keeton and Guadalupe. Free admission. Directions: www.klru.org .
Music: The Williamson County Symphony Orchestra performs a holiday concert, "A Jubilant Christmas" at 7:30 p.m. today at Leander High School Performing Arts Center, 3301 S. Bagdad Road, Leander, and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at St. William Catholic Church, 620 Round Rock West Drive. www.williamson countysymphonyorchestra.org .
Ensemble VIII performs a historically attentive version of Handel's Baroque masterpiece, "Messiah," with a small chorus and ensemble of period instruments. 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday St. Louis Catholic Church, 7601 Burnet Road. $20-$45. www.ensembleVIII.org .
For something a little different, the Bobby Bones Show Tacky Sweater Party has Gym Class Heroes over at ACL Live, 310 W. Second St. $22. www.acl-live.com .
Music: "Santa Loves to Boogie," according to Asleep at the Wheel, who play a show with that title tonight at the Paramount Theatre. Expect a rollicking holiday program with a Western swing twist. 8 p.m. $30 to $40. 713 Congress Ave. www.austintheatre.org .
At ACL Live, Robert Earl Keen's Merry Christmas from the Fam-O-Lee includes Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines. $29 to $49. www.acl-live.com .
Holiday fun: Girlstart, which works to empower girls in science, technology, engineering and math, is sponsoring a Winter Wonderland Extravaganza today at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. They're promising two hours of free family fun, including snowflake chemistry, igloo engineering and gingerbread architecture. Noon to 2 p.m., 1800 N. Congress Avenue. www.girlstart.org .
More gingerbread fun — also free — is ongoing at Lakeway Resort and Spa. From 6 to 8 p.m. today and Friday, you can tour a gingerbread village, make ornaments and hear live music, among other activities. "Gingerbread Nights"includes a bar for the adults and hot chocolate for kids. 101 Lakeway Drive. www.lakewayresortandspa.co m
Lights and a contest: Mozart's Coffee Roasters says it's doubled the time and the number of lights in its annual Trans-Siberian Orchestra-accompanied synchronized light shows. They're 10 minutes long and happen at the top of the hour for multiple shows each night. The coffee house also has a map of other area light displays worth checking out. And you have until 5 p.m. today to upload your memorable Christmas lights photo to AllAboutTexasChristmasLights.com . There are some rules — the photo must be from this season, taken in Texas and have a caption. All the details are on the website. The contest is sponsored by Mozart's and Precision Camera and Video, and Mozart's will host a party at 7 p.m. Tuesday to announce the winner (with free drip coffee and hot chocolate). Mozart's is at 3826 Lake Austin Blvd. mozartscoffee.com .
Music: The Austin Girls' Choir performs a program of Christmas classics beginning at 4 p.m. today. A $10 donation is requested. Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, 2200 Justin Lane. 453-0884, www.girlschoir.com .
Screens: Two modern-day holiday classics play as a double-feature today and Monday at the Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave. "Scrooged," starring Bill Murray, is at 2 and 6:55 p.m. today (and 9:10 p.m. Monday), and "Love, Actually,"with a slew of British greats, is at 4 p.m. today (and 6:35 p.m. Monday). $6 to $10. One ticket is good for two screenings, if the films are viewed back-to-back. Details: www.austintheatre.org .
Theater: A couple of holiday one-man shows tonight.
Charles Dickens probably didn't realize how classic his "A Christmas Carol" was in the writing. The story stands up to both time and interpretation. The latter includes the one-man "Bah Humbug!"performed by J. Damian Gillen. With the help of costume changes, special effects and Celtic music, Gillen will play all roles from Tiny Tim to Scrooge to the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. 7:30 p.m. today at the Dougherty Arts Center, 1110 Barton Springs Road. $12 adults, $6 kids ($15 at the door). www.bahhumbug.info ; 800-838-3006.
Over at the City Theatre, Alex Garza becomes a Mexican-American grandmother to share warm and funny holiday moments inspired by his own life. "Abuelita's Christmas Carol" will be performed at 8 p.m. through Wednesday. $10. 3823 Airport Blvd. Suite D. 524-2870, www.citytheatreaustin.org .
Screens: The Vortex Movies Under the Stars series offers a seasonal double feature with "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"and "Charlie Brown Christmas." 8 p.m. Free admission. Limited seating; bring your own blankets and chairs. No outside food or drink. 2307 Manor Road. www.vortexrep.org .
Music: The Celtic Cultural Center of Texas presents an evening of contemporary and classic holiday Irish and Scottish traditional music with featured vocalists Brett Barnes, Danny Johnson and Stephanie Prewitt and bodhrán player Máirtín de Cógáin. 7:30 p.m. today (and Monday) at St. Mary Cathedral, 10th and Brazos streets. The $25 seats are sold out for both nights, but $20 standing room only tickets will be available at the door on a first-come, first-served basis. www.celticchristmasaustin.com .
A little farther south, Two Tons of Steel starts what could become a tradition — at least they're calling it the First Annual Two Tons of Steel Christmas Show. The band's new holiday CD, "Tangled in Tinsel," will be for sale at the show, which starts at 8:30 p.m. at Gruene Hall, 1281 Gruene Road in New Braunfels. $5. www.gruenehall.com .
Screens: Daniel Craig returns to the big screen in the highly anticipated "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," the English remake of the 2009 Swedish arthouse hit. Co-star Rooney Mara is getting raves for her portrayal of Lisbeth Salander. David Fincher directs.
For more family fare, you could check out "The Adventures of Tintin,"directed by Steven Spielberg. In a bit of a box-office oddity, Craig will be battling with himself since he voices one of the main characters in this animated tale about a treasure hunt. Also, the new "Mission: Impossible" will be expanding to regular theaters on this day.
Music: Guy Forsyth and Carolyn Wonderland perform their well-received and now traditional holiday concert, "Holidays by Candlelight," a mix of original and classic songs of the season. 7:30 p.m. today and Dec. 22-23. $39. The Rollins Theater in the Long Center for the Performing Arts, 701 W. Riverside Drive. www.thelongcenter.org .
Music: Some 200 cities around the world take part in "Tuba Christmas" a free concert of traditional Christmas music. "Merry Tuba Christmas Austin" brings more than 200 tuba and euphonium players to the steps of the Capitol for a holiday serenade. The event will be conducted by Anthony Marinello, assistant to the director the University of Texas Longhorn Band. Noon, Dec. 22. Texas State Capital. Free. www.tubachristmas.com
Over at the Zilker Hillside Theatre, 2206 William Barton Drive, the city's Music Division and Parks Department is putting on show. On the lineup: Tje Austin(6:30 p.m.), Nakia (7:30 p.m.) and Casino (8:30 p.m.). The show — and parking — are free. www.cityofaustin.org/music .
Dance: Ballet Austin's production of the "The Nutcracker" continues, and this performance features the winner of the dance troupe's "Mother Ginger Contest." Freddy Herrera, a Forest Trail Elementary first grade teacher, received more than 27 percent of the votes and will wear the iconic and elaborate costume in Act 2 of tonight's performance at the Long Center, which begins at 7:30 p.m. (Other performances: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Dec. 21, and 2 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Dec. 23.) $15 to $74. www.balletaustin.org ,
Screens: The big family movie for this day is "We Bought a Zoo," a comedy from director Cameron Crowe. It stars Matt Damon as a father who moves his family to the countryside to reopen a down-on-its-luck zoo. Scarlett Johansson and Elle Fanning co-star.
But the more serious-minded might want to check out "The Artist," the critically acclaimed black-and-white silent movie that's a surefire Oscar contender. Also, there's "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," a spy thriller starring Gary Oldman and Colin Firth. It deals with veteran agent George Smiley, who's trying to find a mole in Her Majesty's service. And for the analytical sorts, there's "A Dangerous Method," starring Michael Fassbender as the psychoanalyst Carl Jung and Viggo Mortensen as his mentor Sigmund Freud. Keira Knightley co-stars as a Jung's troubled patient.
Music: You cannot go wrong with a Miss Lavelle White show, especially her annual Christmas Eve affair, where she'll be joined by Reed Turner, Jackie Bristow and the Lisa Marshall Band. Take your out-of-towners for a taste of Austin's soul; this is also a benefit for Miss White and some of her biggest fans (who are also musicians) might drop by. Besides cash — 100 percent of the proceeds will go to Miss White — donations of blankets and household items are welcome. $10. 7 p.m. 1320 S. Lamar Blvd. www.thesaxon pub.com .
Screens: As is often the case, one of the best movies is being saved for last. The big movie opening on this day is Steven Spielberg's "War Horse." The synopsis makes it sound like it'll tug at the heartstrings: A boy and his horse are separated when the horse is sold to the cavalry in World War I. The boy eventually ends up in the trenches and tries to save his pal. Jeremy Irvine stars, making his feature film debut.