Let's face it: Austinites don't take kindly to the 30 days or so of cold weather we experience each year. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make the winter season tolerable and — dare I say — even enjoyable? Read on for our top 10 picks!
1. Toddies Around a Fire Pit
What’s toastier than congregating around a fire pit? Why, congregating around a fire pit while wrapped up in a blanket right outside a heated tent serving the coziest of foods! All these things and an entire menu of warm, boozy drinks can be yours at Contigo. Choose from classics such as Irish coffee or allspice honey hot toddies with your choice of liquor or more creative concoctions including the Sailor’s Coffee (Lemonhart 151, cinnamon, coffee, allspice whipped cream) or the Cane & Herbal (Genius gin, Strega, green tea, lemon, honey, orange bitters). Their menu also has plenty of warm, hearty dishes to share with friends, such as their signature rabbit & dumplings, cauliflower gratin and choucroute (braised saurkraut, pork confit, smoked sausage, bacon).
2. Post-Skating Sips & Spa Treatments
Surrounded by more than 200,000 twinkling lights, the 4,100-square-foot rink at the Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa is the largest outdoor ice skating rink in Austin. Warm up with flavored hot cocoa, mulled cider and s’mores kits, which can be purchased inside their holiday store and brought outside, or head inside their nearby bar for a special winter cocktail such as a pumpkintini or an Andes mint cocoa (hot chocolate with Dripping Springs vodka and Godiva chocolate liqueur). Finish up your mini getaway with a seasonal spa treatment — maybe a cranberry pomegranate facial, chocolate peppermint pedicure or brown sugar scrub.
3. Churros & Chocolate
Holy Cacao has been serving up fresh, sweet treats in South Austin for five years now. While their frozen hot chocolate is appropriate for most of the year, their thick drinking chocolate is perfect for post-cold-front sipping. Made from a fine, dark chocolate with a high cacao content, it is velvety smooth in all three flavors: original, peppermint and Mexican, which has notes of cinnamon and ancho chili. Don’t blink, or you’ll miss I Love Churros, a yellow trailer on the south side of Cesar Chavez, just east of I-35. While the it’s hard to beat the fresh dulce de leche churros at Mi Tradicion, this unassuming trailer offers their classic, doughy sticks rolled in cinnamon sugar, or you can opt to fill your churros with 10 different flavors ranging from peach to chocolate to Bavarian cream.
4. Raclette Happy Hour
In November, Arro launched a raclette happy hour called “Cinq à Sept,” which, in France, refers to a post-work tryst with a paramour before heading home for dinner. The weekday offerings between 5pm and 7pm are just as sinful for $5 and $7, but the main attraction is the raclette, a Swiss dish in which cheese is melted to a fondue consistency using a special device, then poured over Parisian ham, herb-poached potatoes and pickled vegetables or pork terrine, cornichons and dijon. Other warm and toothsome selections include herbed lamb ribs with bacon and herb white beans ($5) and frites with aioli ($5), as well as wine, beer and cocktail for $5-7.
5. A Cocktail-Fueled Christmas Story
What’s not to love about the classic film A Christmas Story? The season hasn’t begun until you watch the movie, in all its tongue-to-pole, shoot-your-eye-out goodness! ZACH’s theatrical version, now showing at the Topfer Theatre, will certainly not disappoint. With sets straight out of a 1940s snow globe and a cast of talented child actors, it will leave you warm from the inside out, especially thanks to the themed drinks created just for the show. The Fra-Jee-Lay is made with Jack Daniels, mulled apple cider, cinnamon simple syrup, ginger beer and fresh lemon juice, while the Triple Dog Dare pairs Ghirardelli white hot chocolate with cinnamon and vanilla bean infused Stingray rum. Tickets are selling at lightning speed for the show, which runs through December 29, so get yours now.
6. S'Mores (DIY and Otherwise)
Who says you need to go camping to enjoy toasty s’mores? Make your own tableside at Halcyon or House Wine, or purchase a kit from Trio at the Four Seasons, then head back to their fire pit and roast your own with a view of Lady Bird Lake. For something truly special, try the artisan s’mores at Epicerie, crafted from housemade graham crackers made with local honey, Valrhona dark chocolate ganache and a housemade vanilla bean marshmallow.
7. Sing, Quote, Eat, Dance and Drink Yourself Warm
You can count on the Alamo Drafthouse for fun seasonal events all through the year, but they really outdo themselves in December. Since the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear, get yourself over to the Elf Quote-Along, where they’ll load you up with bubbles and jingle bells and host a spaghetti-and-syrup eating competition. The Bad Santa Quote-Along features a “tostada” eating competition before the show, plus a drinking game and fake cigarettes for puffing along with the baddest Santa ever. Their Christmas Vacation Quote-Along promises “special props and surprises,” while the Home Alone pizza party comes with — you guessed it — unlimited cheese pizza! The XMas Pops Singalong features trivia and videoke that will have you dancing in the aisles and hitting all Mariah’s high notes in no time. And for good, old fashioned classic holiday nostalgia, don’t miss the screening of It’s a Wonderful Life at the Alamo Village on Christmas Eve featuring holiday menu specials including a salted pork sandwich, Catching Fire sweet potato chili fries and a spiced apple turnover.
8. Healthy Cocoa Alternatives & 37th Street Lights
All cocoa-ed out? The local juice gods of Juiceland have an entire menu of healthier hot drinks to choose from, ranging from a hot chocolate or a mocha latte with raw cacao and agave nectar to a nutty hemp seed mate latte and a raw goji soothsayer made of raw goji berries, almonds, coconut oil, vanilla and agave. With sweet, warm sustenance in hand, head to see the nearby annual Christmas light show on 37th Street, off of Guadalupe.
9. Grill Your Own Korean BBQ
Who knew the best Korean barbecue in town is hidden away behind the Highland Mall and prepared by … you? Chosun Galbi is one of few Korean restaurants in town where you can cook your own meat on a grill built into the table. The large wooden tables are ideal for groups, so round up six or eight meat-loving friends so you can easily sample an assortment — but be sure not to miss the chosun galbee (marinated prime shortrib), chadol baegi (paper-thin sliced brisket) and the dak bulgogi (thin-sliced, marinated chicken). One hot, crispy kimchi pancake and several kettles of warm sake later, you’ll completely forget how cold it is outside!
10. Spirited Santa Events
Have you ever been out, minding your business, when you suddenly get ambushed by a large crowd of drunken Santas or elves? Since you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em — at the next SantaCon on December 14. The sprawling event is free, but for a small donation of cash or canned goods, you will be given a wristband that qualifies you for drink specials at all participating bars — which will no doubt keep you warm and fuel your hearty “ho ho ho!” For more info, check out the Facebook event page. The Scoot Inn is also putting on a comedian-hosted Bad Santa party on December 22, featuring a Saint Nick-style dance-off and drink specials for the red-suited.