Holly Jolly Happenings
15+ festive and diverse ways to get in the holiday spirit in Austin this year
It’s the most entertainment-filled time of the year in the capital city. We’ve made our list of can’t-miss celebrations and events of the season and have checked it twice to ensure holly, jolly fun is had by all.
Organizers start planning Christmas the second Halloween is over, so that's what most of our list is about so far. We will come back here with more tips on Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, and other interfaith or secular celebrations as we hear more.
For now, check out the top things to do in Austin this holiday season, and commence the merrymaking. For a complete list of holiday events and more, go to our calendar. For more in-depth editorial coverage on some of our top picks, check out our "Holiday Happenings" series.
Happy's Holiday Pop-Up Bar at Wax Myrtle's
Now through December 24
Enjoy a not-so-silent night of craft cocktails and cheerful vibes at one of Austin’s most luxe bars in the spirit of the season. Wax Mrytle’s brings back Happy’s, its annual holiday-themed pop-up bar complete with Santa-approved craft cocktails and merry music now through December 24. Admission is free. For more details, go to hyattexperiences.com.
Miracle on 5th Street Pop-Up Bar
Now through December 27
Drink and be merry at the return of Miracle on 5th Street. This year’s pop-up holiday bar and cocktail experience takes place at The Eleanor and features two levels of decked-out halls and boughs of boozy craft drinks. Guests can expect a nonstop playlist of festive tunes and a menu of food offerings to enjoy between sips. Dash passes are available for guests who prefer to skip the line and head straight to the bar. Miracle on 5th Street is open now through December 27. Get more information at miracleon5thst.com.
ZACH Theatre presents A Christmas Carol
Now through December 31
The timeless tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey to better understand the meaning of Christmas comes to life again on the ZACH Theatre stage. The singular adaptation of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol features a family-friendly mix of spirited tunes, whimsically wintery set designs, and a heartfelt message for everyone to enjoy. Get your tickets at zachtheatre.org. Showtimes are scheduled through December 31.
Uptown Sports Club's retro holiday pop-up
Now through December 31
If a little holiday spirit is all you need, Aaron Franklin's new bar and restaurant has put together some tasteful holiday decorations and a drink menu. Alongside the regular New Orleans fare, Uptown Sports Club is serving a festive holiday cocktail menu with some hot items — spiked hot chocolate, a hot toddy, an apple cider and apple jack brandy cocktail — and cool Christmas drinks that may be harder to find, like the eggnog-like Puerto Rican coquito. As with all of Franklin's eateries, the vibes here are always chill, so this is a good alternative to the classic holiday excess.
The University of Texas at Austin presents Longhorn Lights
Now through January 1, 2024
The University of Texas at Austin campus welcomes guests to a new tradition on the 40 acres. Longhorn Lights is a holiday light show that showcases the beauty of the festive season with burnt orange flair. Each night from 5-10 pm, guests can explore displays along Guadalupe Street between 21st and 24th Streets, also known as The Drag, all synchronized to music by the Longhorn Band. Longhorn Lights is free and open to the public. Check out utexas.edu for more details.
The Driskill Hotel presents the Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony
Welcome the most festive month of the year at one of Austin’s iconic hotels. The Driskill opens its doors for the return of its annual tree lighting ceremony. From 5-7 pm, guests can take photos by the 16-foot Douglas fir Christmas tree in the hotel lobby and enjoy a variety of other family-friendly activities at this unofficial holiday season kickoff. Highlights include live musical performances, cocktail specials at the bar, and a special appearance by Santa himself. Ceremony admission is free and open to the public. For more information, go to driskillhotel.com.
Kitty Cohen's Hanukkah Pop-Up Bar
This semi-kitschy neighborhood bar is always ready to embrace a theme, and the annual Hanukkah pop-up is some of its best work. If it looks like it did last year, the bar will shimmer with blue accents and fun holiday decorations, while serving up themed cocktails. Although Hanukkah is the main focus, there will also be eggnog and likely other surprises.
Downtown Austin Alliance presents Holiday Sing-Along & Stroll
Channel your inner caroler when you join in the holiday harmonies at the Texas Capitol. KUT, KUTX, and the Downtown Austin Alliance host an evening of photos with Santa, a tree lighting, a guided sing-along of popular holiday music, artisan vendors, and more. Admission to this event is free and open to the public. Check out downtownaustin.com for more details.
Ballet Austin presents The Nutcracker
Get lost in a world of holiday wonder when you enjoy The Nutcracker performed by the talented Ballet Austin company. This production at Long Center for the Performing Arts features a cast of hundreds of dancers (plus some well-known locals) and will be accompanied by music from the Austin Symphony Orchestra. Opening weekend performances will include activities such as free holiday-themed family photos, selfie stations, character meet and greets, and more. Following this opening weekend, showtimes are scheduled through December 23. Get tickets at balletaustin.org.
Choral music is a Christmas staple, and no one does it like Conspirare, Austin's leading choral ensemble. (The company's most recent album is a current Grammy nominee.) These singers are having some friends over for the holiday, welcoming Isaac Cates & Ordained, a gospel choir from Kansas City known for straddling the line between religious and secular music. If you can't make it to the Long Center in person, watch it on a livestream for free or a suggested donation of $25. Tickets to the stage performance (starting at $35) are available at thelongcenter.org.
Commodore Perry's Hanukkah Happening
This one is just for hotel guests and members: Light the menorah in style at sundown in the living room of the resort mansion, plus "a nightcap and cookies" baked by Chef Susana Querejazu. On December 12, other chefs at the estate will teach guests how to make sweet potato pancakes — a twist on a classic latke. Learn more about the class ($75) and other holiday events at the Commodore Perry Estate at aubergeresorts.com.
59th Annual Austin Trail of Lights
Austin’s premier holiday lights activation plugs back in for another illuminating season of in-person, winter-inspired wonder. Visitors can take their time strolling through and enjoying the numerous light displays and lighted tunnels while eating cookies and listening to holiday music. Secure your tickets at austintrailoflights.org. The Austin Trail of Lights is open at Zilker Park through December 23.
Kwanzaa Celebration with Elizabeth Kahura and Austin Public Library
Habari gani? Learn the answer to the daily Kwanzaa question at the Austin Public Library in Spicewood Springs. Kenyan-born storyteller, drummer, and educator Elizabeth Kahura is inviting Austinites to learn about the seven principles of the African-American holiday. Admission is free. For more details, go to library.austintexas.gov. Click the "Winter Cheer Celebrations" tab to see other holiday events including crafting classes, dance parties, and concerts.
Tapestry presents The Precious Present — Listen
December 16 and 17
This all-faiths dance presentation is shaping up to be one of the most adventurous performances all year. Dancers from many backgrounds including traditional Indian dance, tap, and flamenco, will come together to marvel at jazz and the spirit of the holidays — whatever they may be. Tickets ($10 minimum, $35 suggested donation) are available via tapestry.org.
Murray & Peter present A Drag Queen Christmas
Get swept up in the glamour of the holiday season with a little help from a few queens at ACL Live. A Drag Queen Christmas is hosted by RuPaul alum Miz Cracker and will include live performances by several famous faces, like special guest Todrick Hall. Get tickets at acllive.com.
H-E-B Center presents Cirque Musica: Holiday Wonderland
Be transported to a far-away land of holiday magic and masterful movement at H-E-B Center at Cedar Park. Cirque Musica is a family-friendly production that features aerialists, acrobats, and tons of holiday cheer all accompanied by a musical mix of seasonal favorite songs. Get more information and select your seats on Ticketmaster.
Brianna Caleri contributed to this story.