Trail of Taillights

Austin's favorite holiday tradition Trail of Lights drives forward with big changes

Austin's holiday tradition Trail of Lights drives forward with changes

Austin Trail of Lights holiday displays
Austin's Trail of Lights will look different in 2020. Trail of Lights/Austin

The Austin City Council on September 17 gave the green light for the treasured Trail of Lights to become a drive-thru-only experience in 2020.

Along with that big change, the event, hosted by the Trail of Lights Foundation and the City of Austin, won’t charge admission this year and is being extended to 30 days from the typical 15 days.

City council approved an ordinance allowing the holiday tradition to switch to a drive-thru format this year from the traditional walk-thru format due to the coronavirus pandemic. About 1,300 cars per night will permitted to go through the annual holiday lights extravaganza.

Normally, visitors stroll through Zilker Park to check out lighting displays, spin under the lights of the massive Zilker Tree, and sample goodies from food trucks. The ordinance says that in 2020, the “traditional in-person event is not possible, safe, or in alignment with protecting the community’s health.”

Founded in 1965, the Trail of Lights attracts about 400,000 visitors a year. In 2019, it featured more than 2 million lights, 90 lighted holiday trees, and over 70 other holiday displays and lighted tunnels. Early on, the Trail of Lights was a drive-thru affair.

In a statement, James Russell, executive director of Trail of Lights Foundation, says the schedule and other details of the 2020 edition will be announced in mid-October.

In a 2019 release, the foundation called the Trail of Lights “a not-to-be missed tradition and community-wide event that celebrates the spirit and the people that make Austin unique.”