If there was a ever a year to embrace holiday cheer, it is 2020. As soon Halloween pumpkins were thrown into the compost bin, it seemed twinkle lights and blow-up reindeer began appearing across Austin. And it isn't stopping there.
The pandemic has taken away many of the traditional ways to celebrate — mainly any event with other people outside of our immediate families — but local events have pivoted to create drive-thru holiday experiences and choose-your-own adventure, socially distant holiday strolls to do on your own.
Some classic local events, like Hyde Park's 37th Street lights, have been canceled out of an abundance of caution, but there are still ways to see magical displays this year, from a racetrack turned holiday snow globe to a socially distant stroll down Austin's most iconic avenue.
Aldrich Tower — November 28 though December
The 15th annual Aldrich Tower lighting celebration will be virtual this year to discourage large groups from gathering, but that doesn't mean you can't swing by for a peek. The tower, once part of the Robert Muller Municipal Airport, will be officially lit for the season on Saturday, November 28, adding another sparkling addition to the skyline. Also on November 28 is Small Business Saturday, which the Mueller 'hood will celebrate with discounts at local shops and restaurants, a live DJ spinning holiday tunes, and a photo display.
Domain Northside Holiday Tree and more — now through December 31
The Domain Northside is lit, y'all. The development has had its halls decked since mid-November, culminating in the Holiday Tree Light Show, beginning on Friday, November 27. Watch the 27-foot tree turn into an animated spectacular, every hour, on the hour, on The Lawn. (See a schedule here.) Every Saturday, grab some cocoa to-go and pull into the top level of the green garage for a family-friendly drive-in movie series featuring Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (December 5), A Christmas Story (December 12), Elf (December 19), and Abominable (December 26). Tickets are $25 per car. Decorative windows to enjoy from afar will be on display, and a special Santa mailbox (located near Restoration Hardware) will accept children's letters to the big guy through December 31.
Luminations at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center — November 27 through January 3
Take a socially distant stroll through the Wildflower Center's annual holiday lights display. Thousands of shimmering luminarias dot the paths at this South Austin expanse, creating a calming, meditative outdoor experience. And, for the first time ever, visitors can stroll through the Texas Arboretum and see the illuminated oaks and walk by the Fortlandia forts lit up for the holidays. Tickets are available here. Members receive discounts and can experience Luminations for free on Mondays.
Mozart's 2020 COVID Cautious Christmas Show — now through January 6
The show will go on at Mozart's, one of Austin's most iconic holiday light displays. This year, out of an abundance of caution, merrymakers must merry-make a reservation to see the fantastical display. Table reservations start at $10 per table, and are available now for parties up to six people. Hour-long reservations are available from 6-11 pm each night, and guests must wear face masks unless at their table. Along with reservations, add on bottomless hot chocolate and coffee, fresh-baked goodies, and even giant Bavarian sugar-and-salt warm pretzels for delivery to your table. Make sure to check the site map (some tables are standing only) and the list of rules here.
Peppermint Parkway — November 27 through January 3
Follow Pepper and Mint on a magical, majestic holiday journey through millions of lights at Circuit of The Americas. Journey down Peppermint Parkway and meet dancing elves, a 60-foot spiral light tree, giant light sculptures, and "other festive entertainers strolling through dazzling scenes, transporting guests from gingerbread alley to an enchanted forest." Tickets begin at $35 and up, and can be purchased here.
The SoCo Stroll — November 27 through December 31
Austin's iconic South Congress strip gets into the spirit of the season with a month-long community display beginning November 27. Meander from Music Lane south along the avenue to see window displays, twinkle lights, and holiday decor galore. There will be live music and activations throughout the month and holiday lights will begin every night at dusk. Check here for a map of more than 35 participating businesses and remember to wear your mask and shop local.
Trail of Lights — November 28 through January 3
At least one beloved Austin tradition hasn't been canceled this year. Trail of Lights is back in drive-thru form, offering the same 2 million twinkle lights but none of that pesky walking you normally have to do. This year, Zilker Park will be home to 90 lighted holiday trees, lighted tunnels, and 70 other holiday displays. Catch the virtual Zilker Tree lighting ceremony on Sunday, November 29, with KVUE host/everyone's favorite person Quita Culpepper, and appearances by city officials, the young winners from the Zilker Holiday Tree art contest, Austin Civic Wind Ensemble, and Barton Hills Choir. Passes for Trail of Lights are on sale now.