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Trail of Lights Guide

Your fun, festive — and practical — guide to Austin's holiday favorite: The Trail of Lights

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Look forward to 1.25 miles of lights.  Photo by Jessica Pages
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Trail of Lights remains a holiday tradition.  Photo by Jessica Pages
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The Trail of Lights features more than  50 light displays and attractions. Photo by Jessica Pages
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The famous Zilker Tree Photo by Jessica Pages
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Santa and Elf night is December 20. Photo by Jessica Pages
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The Trail of Lights returns to Zilker Park on Sunday, December 8. Courtesy of Trail of Lights
Austin Photo Set: Pages_trail of lights_dec 2012_10
Austin Photo Set: Pages_trail of lights_dec 2012_12
Austin Photo Set: Pages_trail of lights_dec 2012_5
Austin Photo Set: Pages_trail of lights_dec 2012_11
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Austin Photo Set: News_aleks_trail of lights_dec 2012_4

Sunday, December 8, marks the unofficial start of Austin's holiday season with the opening of the Trail of Lights in Zilker Park.

While Friday's preview party has been canceled due to the Arctic temperatures currently engulfing Central Texas, ticket holders need not worry. Your pass gets you into the wrap party on December 22 (plus you get to bring a guest for free). If you can't make to the final celebration, please go here for information about refunds.

Aside from the party, entrance to the Trail of Lights is free. But enough of the fine print. Let's talk about all the exciting things the Trail of Lights is offering this year.

How to get there:

Parking — While admission is free, parking is not. Parking at Zilker is $15 and can be purchased online. For those hoping to pass through the lines and get into the park a little earlier, you can purchase a ZIP Fast Pass that gets you in 45 minutes before the gates open and guarantees seating for the musical performances.

Shuttles — Park and take the shuttle for a $3 round-trip. Shuttles should begin promptly at 6 pm. Parking at the shuttle stops opens at 5:30 pm, and shuttle tickets go on sale at 5:45 pm.

Park and ride locations: Waterloo Park (500 East 12th Street), Kreig Field (517 Pleasant Valley Road), Republic Square Park (West Fourth Street and Guadalupe). The Toney Burger Activity Center (3200 Jones Road) will have shuttles on weekends. Check here for more information

Car2Go — Take a Car2Go and get right through the gates for free (your Car2Go rate still applies).

Bus —  Capital Metro bus routes #3 Burnet/Manchaca, #30 Barton Creek Square, #338 Lamar/45th Street and #4 Montopolis all have stops within walking distance of the park. Head to Cap Metro for schedules.

Taxi — Specially designated taxi drop-off zones are available around the park.

What to eat:

More than 30 of the city's best food trucks will be parking themselves at Zilker, ready and eager to dish out foodie favorites to Austinites of all ages.

Some of our favorites? Cazamance (peanut stew!), The Original New Orleans Po-Boy & Gumbo ShopFuntastic Funnel Cakes (what event isn't made better with funnel cake?), Blue Ribbon BarbecueBoomerang’s PiesMs. P’s Electric Cock Fried Chicken (so good we can't drive by their SoCo location without stopping) and Chi’Lantro BBQ. There are plenty more delicious trucks; to see a full list, visit the T of L website.

What's new: 

The famous Zilker tree remains the tallest freestanding, man-made holiday tree. Also, look forward to more than 50 light displays and attractions.

Haven't snapped that perfect family photo yet this season? Don't worry —the Trail of Lights has you covered. The 1.25-mile trail features nine photo ops, including a fireplace frame and a perfect spot to take a picture in front of the Austin skyline.

Make sure to get the little ones prepped, because this year Santa's Workshop is coming to Austin. (We're guessing that's the who brought the Arctic cold front with him.) 

What to listen to: 

Look forward to the Trail's nightly live musical acts (this is Austin, after all). Austin's own Seth Walker will join The Ransom Notes at the December 8 opening party, while former Asleep at the Wheel front man Ray Benson will headline the closing party December 22.

In between, look for performances by AlphaRev, Ruby Jane, Quiet Company, The Whiskey Sisters and The Warren Hood Band, just to name a few. A full lineup can be found here

Important Dates:

Sunday, December 8 — Opening night 

Mayor Lee Leffingwell and musician Seth Walker will take part in the opening night party for the 49th annual Trail of Lights. 

Thursday, December 12 — Tacky Sweater Night

Wear your favorite awful sweater and rock out to Ruby Jane. 

Friday, December 13 — Heritage Night

Watch the Austin High School Ballet and Folklorico onstage. If you haven't seen either of these groups work their magic, treat yourself to an early Christmas present (or a late Hanukkah gift) and head to Zilker to watch them perform.

Friday, December 20 — Santa and Elf Night

Say no more. Grab the kids, grab the camera and get ready for some Christmas fun.

Sunday, December 22 — Closing Night

Watch Ray Benson, Turk Pipkin and the Texarts Broadway Co. say goodbye to another 15 days of fun and festivities at the Trail of Lights.

How to keep it going next year:

While admission may be free, executing the Trail of Lights is most certainly not. You can keep this Austin tradition going by donating to the Trail of Lights

Keep that giving spirit alive by also donating to the Trail's three official charitable beneficiaries: Season for Caring, Toys for Tots and by purchasing raffle tickets at the Trail to help at-risk youth through the Police Activity League. 

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The Trail of Lights runs from December 8 - December 22. To visit the official website, please go to austintrailoflights.org.

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