The air is brisk, there are new couples holding hands as they twirl underneath the 155 foot holiday tree in Zilker park, bright lights glisten as they line the way to the State Capitol–everything is just right and the holiday spirit lays upon the City of Austin.
There isn’t a whisper, but a buzz of Christmas carols and joyous laughter from the neighbor down Rainey Street to the Hello Cupcake baker on South Congress.
The once warm oasis is transformed into a holiday hub full of thrilling events, Santa sightings, and enough Christmas lights to power the Grinch’s Whoville. This holiday season, enjoy Austin’s favorite events from newcomers to city natives, with the top Winter events to dawn your ugly Christmas sweater … One thing is for sure, your sweater will only fit in that much more into this “weird” winter wonderland of a city.
1. The Most Famous Tree: Zilker Park Goliath
Easily one of Austin’s most beloved winter traditions, the Zilker Park Tree is a beacon of hope and winter delight. Signalling to Austinites and visitors alike, that the holiday season is officially in full swing. You can enjoy the monstrous 155 foot tree that is made from Austin’s historical “moon towers” at the end of the Trail of Lights. While you’re there, feel free to sling your head back and twirl as the lights take you into a festive holiday trance. Reminding you, that this is exactly how the holidays should feel like with your loved ones.
For more information on Austin’s most famous tree, here.
2. Mozart’s Lights Extravaganza
There is something truly beautiful about enjoying a warm cup of coffee or Mexican hot chocolate on the lake. All while you’re ears are serenaded by a live performance from one of Austin’s many talented artists. But the real performance to look out for is Mozart’s Carol of the Bells, where you’re transported to a Trans Siberian Orchestra concert, full with dazzling displays and eye wonders.
Planning a coffee to Mozart’s, check them out here.
3. Shopping at The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar
Combining two worlds, gift shopping and live music, the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar is an Austinite favorite. You get to relish in a plethora of unique and custom artwork from renowned artists all across the country. Coming together to showcase the ideal gifts for loved ones and white elephant gift-giving parties. On top of that, the live music section will invigorate your soul with Grammy award winning artists and performances sure to leave you in a slightly better mood than when you first started the holidays.
For when you’re feeling the “weird” holiday spirit, here.
4. Ice Skating in Austin: Whole Foods Flagship
Now I know what you might be thinking, ice skating in Austin, Texas? Impossible! That’s exactly what most people visiting the Capital city may reply with, but little do they know that even this warm of a city can entertain the idea of a ice skating. In a very special place that you typically wouldn’t think to dawn your decades old ice skates to–the Whole Foods flagship store.
That’s right, ice skating and grocery shopping seem to be a thing here in Austin, because, well to put it quite frankly, “why not?” You certainly won’t be disappointed when after a leisurely trip through organic heaven, you end your typical grocery store experience with a jolly ol’ skating time.
For ticket prices and skates information, here.
5. Adorning the Cedar Trees of 360 Bridge
One of the single greatest characteristics about the citizens of Austin are their fascination with lights and decor: Zilker Park lights, Mozart’s lights, 37th Street lights, the list goes on and on. With that being said, it is because of everyone’s love for spectacles that the Cedar trees surrounding the 360 Bridge get the tender, love and care that they do.
In fact, decorating these wild trees has become quite the tradition in the City of Austin. With every year, the number of decorated trees with bright red ornaments and gold garnish grows more and more. So if you’re feeling the holiday spirit and in need of some outdoors lovn’ then this activity might just be the thing to solidify your holiday joy.
A word from tree lovers themselves, here.
6. Miracle on 37th Street
Walking down 37th street during the hot summer months of August, you might never imagine that this seemingly mundane street will one day undergo a grand transformation. Becoming something of a holiday miracle, for Austin families and college students alike.
Located only a few minutes from the State of Texas’ flagship university, UT Austin–37th street serves as a wondrous walk down the weirdest light display you will probably ever see in your lifetime. With a pleasant mixture of weird meets holiday spirit, the 37th street boasts as one of Austin’s more “weird displays” during the holidays. Expect to see a spectacle of lights with puppets in the nativity scene, President Obama entangled in lights, and Star Wars storm troopers shooting beams of holiday lights.
To take a walk down 37th Street, here.
7. The Incomparable Nutcracker Ballet
Every year, for many years now, the Austin ballet has put on the forever-classic Nutcracker Ballet. Performed in Austin’s very own Long Center–you are sure to be entertained to the maximum with gorgeous displays, touching skits, and visuals that will take you back to your very own childhood.
Running now for over 53 years, the Nutcracker is more than simply a play to go see during the holidays, the Nutcracker is a tradition marked by the thousands of families that have witnessed this holiday miracle during Winter. When you feel the pulling to enjoy this winter show, purchase your tickets in advance before they sell out here.
8. Austin’s Polar Express
A little known holiday secret is the train ride to the North Pole … Well maybe not that far North, but North enough to feel like you’re riding on Santa’s very own train. To North Loop, to be exact.
The Austin Steam Train Association transforms their trains every year, once a year, for a magical ride up North. During the trip, passengers are taken to a wonderland with hot coco, freshly baked cookies, and enough holiday songs to lighten even the most grinch-like of individuals. And if you’re lucky enough, you might just hop onto the train when they’re playing one of the iconic films like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” or the wildly entertaining, “The Christmas Story”.
Look up tickets and train times here.
9. Tis The Season For Giving
Let us not forget during a time of abundance and gift-giving, there are still lives out there that need our compassion. And Austinites are a compassionate bunch to say the least, illustrating that through the Blue Santa foundation. That goes above and beyond every holiday season to give the gift of love to over 5,000 families through presents and holiday meals.
The Austin Police Department, in tandem with the Austin Fire Department, Austin Energy and Water Utilities deliver a gift to each and every member of a family that needs it. Because no one, should have to spend the holidays without feeling special.
Give a little, here.
10. Polar Bear Plunge
One last event during the winter season that you won’t want to miss? Well, most of you might shy away from such an exhilarating experience, but for those brave souls, the Polar Bear Plunge at Barton Springs is just for you.
This momentous occasion takes place on January 1st, to mark the beginning of new dreams, aspirations, and visions. Participants muster up all the courage they can and take a leap into the freezing cold water at Barton Springs. If you can last a few minutes in the frigid water, then you can certainly apply that strength to accomplishing your year’s goals.
After the chilly swim, all of the dreamers gather at Austin Java for a much deserved breakfast that will remind you why you have so much to be grateful in your life. For when you look for the good in your life, you are sure to find it this holiday season in the beautiful City of Austin.
For those daunting souls, sign up for the Polar Bear Plunge, here.