Christmas in and around Austin is a magical time of year. Some Christmas traditions are more recent. Others, like The Trail of Lights Austin, have been Central Texas staples for decades.
The Christmas season is special to our family. Since our children were babies, we would travel around the state searching for the best Christmas activities and displays we could find. Some have been amazing. Others have been underwhelming. Our list will only include the most entertaining, can’t miss Christmas activities around Austin.
There is no better feeling than seeing the look of awe and amazement as you arrive at each of these attractions. Our boys thoroughly enjoy every Christmas celebration on this list. We are confident you and your family will enjoy them as well.
For other things to do around Austin, including dining options and recommended hotels, check out our 21 Family Activities in Austin article HERE.
Trail of Lights Austin
Trail of Lights is back to its original in-person, walking format after a few years of a modified in-car route due to COVID. We couldn’t be more excited!! The drive-thru version was nice, but it lost much of what made it so amazing. What makes it so amazing? Glad you asked…
Trail of Lights is located in Austin’s premier Zilker Park. The light display is made up of over 2 MILLION Christmas lights, 90 lighted Christmas trees, and over 70 additional holiday light displays and their FAMOUS fully lighted tunnel. Previous years featured live music (I mean, it IS Austin), drinks, food, and more. And if the Trail of Lights wasn’t enough, Zilker Park’s location offers amazing views of Austin’s ever growing skyline.
This year’s Trail of Lights Austin opens on December 8th and will be open through December 23rd (closed Mondays). Trail of Lights is committed to being open and available to all in the community. Each year, about half of the nights are free of charge. VIP and other paid options will also be available. Detailed calendar and tickets will be available in early October. For more details and to see when tickets go on sale click here.
One of the newer events on the list, Peppermint Parkway is held each year at Austin’s purpose-built Formula One race track, Circuit of the Americas. While this event may lack some of the long standing traditions, it makes up for it with flash and a bit of the extravagant.
Upon entering Peppermint Parkway, you will immediately realize this isn’t Grandma’s Christmas traditions. Circuit of the Americas is transformed into what is best described as a Christmas carnival. Rides, lights, neon, music, dancing, food, drinks, performances and enough Instagram worthy photo ops welcome you at every turn. In years past, you had the opportunity to pay a bit extra for the ability to drive your own vehicle onto a portion of the actual racetrack (appropriately lit for Christmas of course). If you are a fan of motorsports, this is something that can’t be missed! In addition to all of the Christmas festivities, Circuit of the Americas also has their go-kart track open for those looking to add some adventure to their holiday cheer.
For up to date info regarding ticket sales and opening dates, check here.
Mozart’s Annual Light Show
If you are looking for something a bit “non-traditional” then Mozart’s Christmas Light Show will be for you. Mozart’s is a famous Austin coffee shop located right on the shores of beautiful Lake Austin. For $20, you can reserve a table of four for 1 hour (options for larger groups are available) as you enjoy the choreographed lights that are synced to music. When you reserve your table, you will also have the option to add food and drink to your order. In addition to coffee drinks, they also have real hot cocoa for the kiddos. They also offer free reserved tickets for the Bavarian Marketplace in the parking lot. You will still be able to see the lights, but at a bit of a distance. Patrons who reserve a table are welcome to go to the Bavarian Market after their one hour table reservation ends. More food and drink options are available in the market.
To learn more and reserve your table, head over here.
Santa’s Ranch is a 100% drive-thru Christmas attraction. Located right on the Interstate 35 southbound frontage road about an hour south of Austin, Santa’s Ranch has been creating family memories for nearly 20 years. Their displays feature over 1.5 million lights that create all kinds of fun and festive holiday displays. They do have a concession as you enter the grounds to pick up your hot cocoa or other treats to complete the experience. Pro-tip: Make sure you ask everyone if they need to use the potty before you leave the concession area. There is nowhere to stop once you enter the display area. Santa’s Ranch was the FIRST Christmas attraction we took our older boy to when he was a baby. This place gets busy. The line along the frontage will stretch over a mile. But don’t worry. The line moves fairly quickly.
To learn more or to buy tickets in advance, click here.
Located about an hour west of Austin, Johnson City’s Lights Spectacular claims to be “The Twinkliest Town in Texas.” What makes Lights Spectacular a little different is that you are visiting the entire town square rather than a designated location. Come to Johnson City’s square prior to sunset. Park your car. Then roam the streets of the square as you have dinner, go shopping, etc. Once the sun sets, you will then witness as over TWO MILLION lights come alive. Johnson City claims that their lights are so bright that they can be seen by NASA from space! A full schedule will be coming soon. Parades, carolers, and other family friendly events have been featured in years past.
Everything you need to know about Lights Spectacular can be found here.
Marble Falls Christmas
Similar to Johnson City, Marble Falls’ Christmas Celebrations feature a full calendar of events that start in mid-November and last through the end of the year. Some of the items on this year’s calendar include the downtown Christmas tree lighting, the walkway of lights, live music, a Christmas Shoppe on Main Street, ice sculptures, a “school’s out” celebration, and an ice skating rink right downtown. Young or old, Marble Falls has a holiday event to entertain most everyone.
Check out their full calendar of events here.
This guide highlights some of the best Christmas and holiday celebrations in the Austin and central Texas area. We love Christmas and we assume you do as well. Use our list as a guide to plan a weekend or two in Austin. We love the Austin area for its food, drink, and entertainment throughout the year. However, during the Christmas holiday season, Austin transforms itself into something purely magical. Trail of Lights Austin, as well as the other destinations on this list, are perfect for creating special family memories, as we have done for years.
Hotels around the Austin area often book fast. Click HERE to search for hotel options around Austin.