It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in ATX. Decorations are re-emerging from their off-season hiding places and kids are counting down to the most wonderful time of the year. Before your holiday agenda reaches peak capacity with work parties, festive dinners, and winter weddings, be sure to add these happenings to the list.
Whether you call Austin home year-round or are simply enjoying an extended stay with friends and relatives, we’ve found the best events for eating, drinking, and being very merry. Family-friendly festivals, magical performance art, and holiday-themed concerts ensure something for everyone. Check out this list — we've checked it twice — of the best things to do in Austin this holiday season.
Real Ale Brewing Company presents Holiday Cheers! Christmas Market — Real Ale Brewing Company
Raise a glass to commemorate the start of the Christmas season at Real Ale Brewery. Holiday Cheers! combines shopping, independent craft brews, and artisan makers into one day of entertainment. Festivities include Christmas music, food from Palm Frites, a visit from Santa, and a paint-your-own ornament workshop. Market attendees can also experience the official release of Real Spirits Double Barrel Whiskey available for sampling.
Hotel Granduca presents Tree Lighting + Holiday Aperitivo — Hotel Granduca Austin
Hotel Granduca Austin invites the public into its fabulous grounds to experience a classic holiday celebration with a touch of Italian-inspired glamour. The evening includes a festive tree lighting ceremony and aperitivo, or light cocktail hour, and a performance from the Westlake High School Madrigals under the Texas night sky. Guests can enjoy treats such as mulled Italian wine, hot chocolate, cookies, and classic Italian appetizers while playing holiday-themed games and trying their luck at a raffle prize. Admission is free. Valet parking is complimentary for all guests.
Elf Pub Run + screening — The Paramount Theatre
It's fitness with a festive twist during a screening of the hit holiday film Elf. Attendees can participate in a pub run featuring Elf-themed pit stops and activities such as snowball fights, burping contests, and sing-a-longs. Runners also get tickets for Austin Beerworks brews, sodas, and popcorn followed by the annual costume contest. This year’s contest judge is Olympian and silver medalist Leo Manzano. A full-length screening of the fan favorite serves as the perfect finale to a night of fun. Elf-approved costumes and smiling are encouraged.
Country & Christmas starring Lee Greenwood, The Gatlin Brothers, and Billy Dean — H-E-B Center at Cedar Park
Country music fuses with the Christmas spirit for one-night of holiday harmony. This live showcase features performances by top country artists Lee Greenwood, The Gatlin Brothers, and Billy Dean singing timeless holiday tunes. Sing along to your favorite melodies — with a country twist! — to bring on the season of good tidings and cheer.
Luminations — Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Every season brings its own natural beauty to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and winter is no different. Take a stroll through gardens and along trails brightened by thousands of glimmering light displays. This South Austin winter wonderland features imaginative installations, delectable sweet treats, and nightly performances by Blue Lapis Light aerial dance company. Wandering is encouraged for a leisurely experience, or join a guided tour. Luminations is open December 5-8 and 12-15.
Georgetown presents 39th Annual Christmas Stroll — Georgetown, Texas
Families, friends, and yuletide devotees are invited to a free hometown holiday event happening in the bustling suburb of Georgetown. The Annual Christmas Stroll includes a parade procession, a snow slide, more than 150 arts and crafts booths, and a s’mores making station to satisfy the sweet tooth. Children can meet and pose for a photo with Santa and explore his village during this family-friendly evening of fun. Additional attractions include a Whoo Hair Village, Bethlehem Village, and Christmas cookies with the Grinch.
55th Annual Austin Trail of Lights — Zilker Park
It's not the holidays without a visit to Zilker Park. This once small celebration was originally a gift to the city of Austin from the Austin Parks and Recreation Department called Yule Fest. Today, the trail has grown to include more than 2 million twinkling holiday lights, 90 illuminated trees, and more than 70 festive displays and lighted tunnels that wow nearly 1 million guests each year. The 2019 event features local merchants, live music performances, children’s activities, interactive spaces, snacks and sips, and much more. Admission is free and open to the public. Following the opening night party, the Trail of Lights will be on display through December 23. Visit the trail website for tickets, ZIP passes, and a full schedule of events.
Conspirare Christmas — The Long Center's Dell Hall
Austin's Grammy Award-winning choral ensemble belts out beloved classic tunes for all ages. Curated by artistic director Craig Hella Johnson, Conspirare Christmas will feature a setlist of holiday songs and include special guests Nicole Joseph and the African Children’s Choir.
Armadillo Christmas Bazaar — Palmer Events Center
The iconic one-stop holiday shop in Austin returns to the Palmer Events Center. In addition to showcasing a variety of unique gifts, the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar offers shoppers the opportunity to meet the makers behind the goods. Additional highlights include family-friendly live music, eats from local restaurants, and award-winning art. Following opening day, the bazaar will remain open through December 24. For a full schedule of events or to buy a ticket, visit the bazaar’s website.
37th Street Lights — 37th Street
This beloved holiday tradition returns for another year of megawatt magic. Since the 1980s, the North University neighborhood has gathered together for an epic, street-long light display, featuring thousands of twinkling lights and each house decorated in its own quirky style. Visitors to premiere night on December 14 can also enjoy live music by brass band Blowcomotion. Parking and walking to the lights display is recommended. Admission is free.
A John Waters Christmas: Filthier and Merrier — The Paramount Theatre
Paramount Theatre hosts filmmaker, author, and comedian John Waters for an intimate evening of holiday debauchery. Audiences can expect a not-so-traditional comedy show where Waters shares why he hates Christmas cards, how he’s planning to spread Yule Tide cheer sprinkled with profanity, and what to do when a holiday “food issue” inevitably arises. Select tickets are still available.
Cirque Musica: Holiday Wishes — H-E-B Center at Cedar Park
The most beloved songs of the season are brought to life by the cast of Cirque Musica and a live orchestra during this all-new concert experience. Holiday Wishes features visual performances by acrobats and aerialists, hilarious mischief, and holiday cheer to spark joy in audiences of all ages. Rediscover the magic of the holidays with this thrilling circus experience that will make Christmas Eve even more memorable.
W Austin presents NYE/Let Them Eat Cake — The W Austin
Toast farewell to the decade with one last luxurious hoorah at the W Austin. Inspired by the queen of decadence herself, Marie Antoinette, this New Year’s Eve party encourages excess and extravagance all night long. Guests are invited to don their best evening gowns, cocktail couture, and formal suits to fit the evening’s posh and royal theme. Those who prefer a more revolutionary approach to NYE can retreat to the Living Room to sip killer cocktails and enjoy risque burlesque performances. Visit the event website for ticket tier information and a full rundown of party highlights.