Austin holiday events in 2020: A guide to Christmas fun and more
Pandemic or not, the holidays are here. They look different, but hey, they’re here. Check out our guide to some of the merry events happening this month. Did we miss your fave? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll update this list.
Check websites for individual events before going or tuning in, as plans might change. (Some previously scheduled events were canceled as we were writing this list.)
Through Christmas: Animated light show at Domain Northside. Domain Northside's 27-foot tree has an animated light show every hour on the hour from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday-Friday, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Go to domainnorthside.com/events for more info.
Through Jan. 3: Austin Trail of Lights. Never fear. The pandemic can’t keep a good tradition down. Every year, a dazzling display of Christmas light displays takes over Zilker Park, and this year, the Trail of Lights is a drive-thru event. You can see more than 2 million lil’ twinklers through Jan. 3 (with a few blackout days, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day). As you drive, you will be able to tune your car radio to hear holiday music, history and more. Vehicle ticket prices vary according to night, time and tier. Go to austintrailoflights.org for more information and to purchase tickets.
Through Jan. 3: Lights Spectacular in Johnson City. The Hill Country razzle-dazzle lives on for its 31st season. Face coverings and social distancing are required to go see the light displays outside in the Johnson City square off Main Street. Head over to lightsspectacular.com for more information, including a helpful driving tour map.
Through Jan. 3: Peppermint Parkway. More drive-thrus! Circuit of the Americas hosts Peppermint Parkway this year on select nights through Jan. 3. It’s a mile-long attraction featuring lights, 30-foot decorations and a 6-story light show tree. Tickets are $35 per vehicle (add-ons available) and are on sale at peppermintparkway.com.
Through Jan. 3: Luminations. See the grounds of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center aglow with luminarias and lights. It runs from 6 to 9 p.m. nightly except Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. To get tickets, go to wildflower.org/luminations. Tickets are free for kids 4 and younger, $10 for kids ages 5-17 and $18 for everyone else. 4801 La Crosse Ave; go to wildflower.org for more info.
Through Jan. 6: COVID Cautious Christmas Light Show at Mozart’s. For the past decade, lakeside coffee shop Mozart’s has been celebrating the holidays with festive holiday light shows. This year, the show will go on, with pandemic safety protocols. Holiday revelers can book a socially distanced table or standing spot for one of six hourlong shows that will take place between 6 p.m. and midnight each night. Go to mozartscoffee.com/pages/christmas-light-show for more info.
Dec. 3-Jan. 3: City Square Holiday Lights in Kyle. Holiday lights will be turned on nightly from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. on the Kyle City Square. Practice social distancing if you come out, the city asks. (cityofkyle.com/recreation/2020-december-events)
Dec. 4: Jelly's 8th annual Christmas Jam at Empire Garage. If you like your holiday gigs simmering with soul, this is your jingle jam. Honey drip queen Tameca Jones is joined by Zach Person, Sir Woman, Jelly Ellington and Torino Black. There will also be an all-star jam with Sam Houston, Curtis Lee and more. The venue will operate at limited capacity with masks required and temperature checks at the door. Tickets are sold by the table with prices ranging from $180-$300 for four to eight guests. Some proceeds from the event will benefit Save Our Stages. (empireatx.com)
Dec. 12-13:Robert Earl Keen’s Merry Christmas From the Fam-O-Lee Secret Santa Christmas at Gruene Hall. The historic Texas dancehall is presenting seated shows with table service. Tickets to the Saturday show and indoor seats for the Sunday show are sold out. At press time, there were still outdoor tables in the beer garden for the Sunday show; $225 for a table of six. (gruenehall.com)
Dec. 14: Michael Martin Murphey's Cowboy Christmas at Paramount Theatre. The cosmic cowboy brings his 25-year-old holiday tradition back to the historic downtown theater, which is operating at 25% capacity with COVID-19 safety precautions, including mandatory mask use. Tickets run $55-$75; show’s at 8 p.m. (austintheatre.org)
Dec. 17-19: Robert Earl Keen’s Merry Christmas From the Fam-O-Lee Secret Santa Christmas at ACL Live. Keen’s annual family-friendly Christmas shindig continues with limited capacity and COVID-19 safety adjustments. All three performances are technically sold out. (acl-live.com)
Dec. 19: Winter Solstice with Zoumountchi at Sahara Lounge. You can celebrate the changing of seasons with the East Austin hideaway’s signature event, Africa Night. The club is operating at limited capacity with table service. $10 cover includes an African buffet plate. (saharalounge.com)
Dec. 24: Hotel Free TV presents the Nightmare Before Christmas. Nolan Potter’s Nightmare Band and Blank Hellscape join Hotel Vegas’ virtual residency series for a dark holiday pregame. Free to stream, with donations accepted through Patreon. (hotelfreetv.com)
BAZAARS AND SHOPPING
Dec. 5: Holiday Market at the Far Out Lounge. More than 20 vendors spread out across 3 acres of land. Masks required; it runs from noon to 5 p.m. (thefaroutaustin.com)
Dec. 5-6: The Shop at the Contemporary Holiday Sale. A two-day holiday sale at the museum’s Laguna Gloria location, 3809 West 35th St., as well as online. It runs 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for in-person shopping, and Friday is a preview day for museum members. Saturday is open to all. A free, timed ticket must be reserved for in-person shopping, with pandemic safety measures in place. The Laguna Gloria grounds will be open to explore until 3 p.m. each day. Reserve tickets at thecontemporaryaustin.org and shop at shopatthecontemporary.com.
Through Dec. 24: Blue Genie Art Bazaar. While the Blue Genie collective has beefed up its digital services, including an online store that launched earlier this year, it has also arranged its physical location for pandemic safety. The protocol includes reservations for a “no-wait”’ entry, but walk-ups that might require a wait are still welcome. The bazaar at 6100 Airport Blvd. runs 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., except on Christmas Eve, when it will close at 6 p.m. (bluegenieartbazaar.shop)
Through Dec. 31: Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. We’ll miss the in-person celebration of Austin music, art and culture this season. Yet the Armadillo Art Concierge is a searchable site “allowing customers to browse and shop from the award-winning Armadillo Bazaar artists using curated searches or personal shopper concierge services.” (artconcierge.armadillobazaar.com)
Through Christmas: 2nd Street Window Walk. Walk along the shops of the Second Street District and see the annual displays from St. Edward's University students. This year, Luxe Apothetique, Sneaker Politics, CRÚ, Austin Rocks, Bonobos and OrangeTheory Fitness will all have decorated windows. You can vote for your favorite window display through Dec. 16 on the Second Street District's Facebook page. (2ndstreetdistrict.com)
Through Christmas: Hearth & Soul Advent Window. The Tarrytown store worked with Flatfork Studio to create an Antarctica wonderland that provides a penguin Advent calendar. The store window at 2727 Exposition Blvd. features 25 penguins and an iceberg. Each day of Advent the store will offer a different giveaway. (hearthandsoul.com)
Dec. 4, 11 and 18: “A Christmas Carol.” Sam Bass Theatre in Round Rock puts on a children-friendly production of the Dickens tale. But this time, those ghosts are visiting you online. Tickets to view the show from home are $5, and the magic starts at 7 p.m. each night. (sambasstheatre.org)
Dec. 5: “The Hip-Hop Nutcracker.” A dance spectacle set to Tchaikovsky’s music in modern-day New York. Digital streaming tickets start at $20 with flexible options for VIP tickets. (thelongcenter.org)
Dec. 5-6: “Follow the Star.” Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Cedar Park turns their annual Christmas production into a televised program. Airs at 5 p.m. on Dec. 5 on KXAN, 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 5 on the CW Austin and 6 p.m. Dec. 6 on KBVO. (gstx.org)
Dec. 7: “Conspirare Christmas.” One of Austin’s favorite seasonal treats returns 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 accompanied by a live YouTube chat with the solo and choral artists, then streams for 30 days following the concert. Free. (conspirare.org/conspirare-christmas-2020)
Dec. 10-Jan. 3: “A Rockin’ Holiday Concert.” Zach Theatre’s hourlong seasonal show has moved outdoors to the People’s Plaza. It features performances of holiday classics from Kenny Williams, Roderick Sanford, Leslie McDonel and Chanel. (zachtheatre.org)
Dec. 11-24: “The Nutcracker.” In Metamorphosis Dance’s charming version of the old holiday tale, Clara has just turned 18 and is excited about what her future holds. During a holiday party, her world-traveling aunt arrives with amazing tales, and Clara dreams of joining her. The performance was recorded on Nov. 21 at the Boyd Vance Theater. For $10-50, audiences may purchase a private link to view it Dec. 11-24. (metamorphosisnutcracker2020.eventbrite.com)
Dec. 11 and Dec. 13: “Charlie Brown Christmas 2020.” The Austin Chamber Music Center offers free performances of Vince Guaraldi’s classic jazz tunes. The event will be held virtually, with a video recorded live from the Draylen Mason Music Studio at KMFA Classical 89.5’s new home in East Austin. (austinchambermusic.org)
Dec. 12: “Nella Fantasia.” Austin Classical Guitar’s holiday concert comes with Ennio Morricone theme. Visionary leader Matthew Hinsley hosts along with staff and community input as well. (austinclassicalguitar.org/event/holiday-magic)
Dec. 12-20: “The Nutcracker: Home for the Holidays.” It’s virtual this year, but Ballet Austin presciently filmed its 2019 performance with the cinematic three-camera method. A gift of $30 to the nonprofit gives your family nine days to watch the digital recording from Dec. 12-20. A gift of $100 or more allows your group until the end of the year to see the film, also granting access to interviews, holiday recipes, holiday-themed dance classes and more. (balletaustin.org)
Dec. 18-21: “A Christmas Carol.” Actress, storyteller and author Bernadette Nason reprises her one-woman version of Charles Dickens’ classic, using his own abridged version. Austin Playhouse presents the online event. (austinplayhouse.com)
Dec. 19: “Abuelita’s Christmas Carol.” A one-night-only livestream from Ground Floor Theatre, written and performed by Alex Garza. It’s a “loving tribute to his maternal grandmother, Rosa Hinojosa.” Show starts at 7:30 p.m., with a suggested ticket price of $20, or pay what you can. (groundfloortheatre.org/abuelita)
Through Dec. 27: “Eleanor’s Very Merry Christmas Wish.” Eleanor is a rag doll in the search of a home and a best friend in this online musical presented by the Long Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets start at $20 and allow rental for 48 hours. (thelongcenter.org)
Dec. 29: “Mambo Kings: Hot Latin Nights.” No Handel's “Messiah” this season from the Austin Symphony, but this group that has been producing novel online concerts this fall will present a virtual holiday party from this Latin Jazz ensemble. (austinsymphony.org)
Through Dec. 20: “A Tuna Christmas.” The Georgetown Palace Theatre performs what experts consider the best of the small-town “Tuna” plays written plays by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard. Increased safety protocols will be in effect at the Springer Stage. Ticket are $32-$34 for the shows at 810 South Austin Ave. in Georgetown. (georgetownpalace.com)
Dec. 6-20: Holiday Movies at the Paramount. The Austin Theatre Alliance — with social distancing inside the Paramount Theatre — picks up its usual film fare, including these seasonal favorites: “Elf” (Dec. 6), “A Christmas Story” (Dec. 7), “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (Dec. 10), “Polar Express” (Dec. 13), “White Christmas” (Dec. 16-18), “Love Actually” (Dec. 19) and “It’s a Wonderful Life” (Dec. 20). (austintheatre.org)
Saturdays in December: Domain Northside drive-in. The shopping center turns the top of the green garage into a drive-in movie theater. It’s $25 a car and benefits Austin Pets Alive and the Statesman Season for Caring program. The schedule: “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch” (Dec. 5), “A Christmas Story” (Dec. 12), “Elf” (Dec. 19), and "Abominable“ (Dec. 26). (domainnorthside.com/events)
Various dates in December: Secret Santa Cinema at Alamo Drafthouse. Tickets to Drafthouse’s holiday fare in this series include a Santa or elf hat filled with holiday treats and other surprises. Films on tap: “Love Actually,” “Gremlins” and more. Check the website for the full lineup, showtimes and ticket prices. Private theater rentals start at $150, too, if you want to keep the circle even tighter. (drafthouse.com/austin)
Various dates in December: A Very Happy Holiday Blue Starlite Show Drive-In Experience. An hourlong date at the drive-in theater, turned into a “sparkling festive space.” Expect a holiday-themed pre-show and a 30- to 40-minute feature presentation. Car slots are $17-37, with concession options available. Friendly for the family. The Blue Starlite schedule also includes plenty of Christmas fare in the days to come, like “Elf” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” (bluestarlitedrivein.com)
Various dates in December: Holiday movies at Doc’s Drive-In. The Buda drive-in theater is packed solid with merry movies this month, like “White Christmas,” “A Christmas Story” and more. (docsdriveintheatre.com)
MORE HOLIDAY FUN
Dec. 11: Scholz Jingle Jam. Scholz Garten will have live music from the Jingleberries, warm drinks and a turkey dinner. Guests who bring a new and unwrapped toy to Scholz for donation to Toys for Tots will get a $5 gift card to Scholz. (scholzgarten.com)
Dec. 12 and 19: Four Seasons Teddy Bear Tea. Pick up your “tea to go” package. Santa will deliver it to your car and you can drop off an unwrapped new teddy bear for Santa to give to Austin children. Each package comes with four assorted tea sandwiches per person, including kid-friendly choices; pastries such as holiday cookies and scones; a variety of teas and a hot chocolate and marshmallows kit; a copy of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”; and a chance to get early access into reservations for a 2021 Teddy Bear Tea. Each tea is $55 per adult and $45 per child. You can add a bottle of sparkling wine for $25. Call 512-478-4500 for reservations.
Dec. 17-19: Driskill Hotel's Cookies for Caring. Buy your Cookies for Caring tin filled with cookies from some of Austin's best professional pastry chefs, and all the profits go to Statesman Season for Caring. Then pick up your tin Dec. 17-19 and enjoy. Tins are $50. (driskillhotell.com)
’Tis the season
Looking for more holiday stories? Head to austin360.com/holiday.