Photo by Ryan Duffy on Unsplash

A new economic analysis by the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP) has revealed that Austin-Round Rock has the second most prosperous local economy in the nation. The analysis ranked the 50 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in the U.S. based on several localized economic factors.

According to Austin's data, the region's population has skyrocketed 32 percent within the last decade, now reaching over 2.42 million people. The median age of an Austin-Round Rock resident is 36.8-years-old.

The three main criteria that determined Austin's prospering rank include a "True Living Cost" metric that tracks price changes for essential household necessities; a "True Weekly Earnings" calculation that determines the median weekly earnings of all workers (including part-timers and those who are unemployed); and a "True Rate of Unemployment Out of the Population" metric that measures the percentage of people unable to find full-time employment with a living wage.

The findings show that about two thirds of all Austin-Round Rock households are earning enough income to afford their basic needs. The remaining 33.5 percent are struggling due to a high cost of living, the report said — and that was actually the lowest number amongst the top 20, at least.

"The total costs of necessities for a 4-person family [in Austin-Round Rock] increased 58.2 percent since 2005 from $55,338 to $87,525," the report said.

However, Austinites are bringing home higher weekly earnings than in years past. Austin workers are earning a median $1,126 per week, or about $58,552 a year. The report states the average employee has gained 30.9 percent more purchasing power since 2005, and the average Austin household has 25.2 percent of their income leftover after their necessities.

Austin's "True Rate of Unemployment Out of the Population" is 42.8 percent, according to the analysis.

Austin split up two major California regions in the top three: San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara (No. 1) and San Fransisco-Oakland-Hayward (No. 3). The California metros' high cost of living was heavily offset by high income, which made the Bay Area the "best performing region for middle- and working-class households" in the U.S., a press release said.

The objective behind LISEP's report is to help policymakers assess their local economies' dynamics and to assess how much low-income and working-class families are affected, according to LISEP Chairman Gene Ludwig in the release

"Across the nation we are seeing both ends of the spectrum — communities where middle- and working-class families are faring well and others where financial survival remains a struggle," Ludwig said. "Our challenge here is in identifying what's working well and replicating it; what's not, and scrapping it. This is where real-world data can be invaluable to policymakers."

Austin-Round Rock wasn't the only Texas metro area to earn a spot in the analysis. San Antonio-New Braunfels ranked just outside the top 10 in No. 13, Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington ranked No. 26, and Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land earned No. 30.

The top 10 highest-performing economies in the U.S. are:

  • No. 1 – San Jose-Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, California
  • No. 2 – Austin-Round Rock, Texas
  • No. 3 – San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California
  • No. 4 – Baltimroe-Columbia-Towson, Maryland
  • No. 5 – Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, District of Columbia-Virginia-Maryland
  • No. 6 – Minneapolis-St. Paul-Blookington, Minnesota-Wisconsin
  • No. 7 – Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Oregon-Washington
  • No. 8 – Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Wisconsin
  • No. 9 – Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado
  • No. 10 – Salt Lake City, Utah
The full report and its methodology can be found on lisep.org.
Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Affluent Austin suburb boasts one of the biggest holiday budgets in the U.S.

Hey, big spenders

Santa and his elves get busier with every passing year, but sometimes even Kris Kringle has to use his black card to get the job done. And according to a new study by Wallethub, Santa's gonna be working overtime to fulfill the orders for residents of Cedar Park this holiday season.

The personal finance experts have determined Cedar Park is the U.S. city with the No. 44 most expensive holiday spending budget in 2023 (out of more than 550 total cities). Shoppers are expected to spend $2,354 this festive season.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Cedar Park's estimated population of 77,642 had a median household income of $110,478.

This isn't Cedar Park's first time in the holiday shopping spotlight, but the Austin suburb ranked much higher — No. 14 nationally — in last year's report with an average spending budget of $2,855.

Austin is another returnee, and rose from No. 78 last year into No. 71 this year. The average holiday budget for an Austin household is $1,877 this year, in comparison to $1,705 last year.

The Austin area's average budget is much more affordable than Frisco's, which ranked No. 3 in the nation with an average household holiday spending budget of $3,546.

Six other Central Texas cities landed in this year's report on the heftiest holiday budgets:

  • No. 262 – Waco ($1,185)
  • No. 283 – Round Rock ($1,148)
  • No. 300 – New Braunfels ($1,108)
  • No. 425 – Temple ($903)
  • No. 457 – San Antonio ($844)
  • No. 481 – Killeen ($793)

Each year, WalletHub calculates the maximum holiday budget for more than 550 U.S. cities "to help consumers avoid post-holiday regret," the website says. The study factors in income, age of the population, and other financial indicators such as debt-to-income ratio, monthly-income-to monthly-expenses ratio, and savings-to-monthly-expenses ratio.

Shoppers will have to keep a closer eye on their bank accounts this year while they search for the best gifts for their loved ones. Many consumers are running out of savings accumulated during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Yao Jin, an associate professor of supply chain management at Miami University.

To combat overspending, Jin suggests setting hard budgets based on personal financial circumstances and develop a list of "must haves" rather than "nice to haves."

"Holiday times are festive, and retailers know that festivities can boost mood and lead to a propensity to overspend," he said in the Wallethub report. "In fact, that is also why retailers tend to have more generous return policies to both alleviate concerns of unwanted gifts and buyer’s remorse. The key to avoiding holiday overspending is for consumers to take the emotions out of the decision, to the extent possible."

Other Texas cities that made it in the top 100 include:
  • No. 5 – Flower Mound ($3,485)
  • No. 10 – The Woodlands ($3,316)
  • No. 14 – Sugar Land ($3,210)
  • No. 22 – Allen ($2,964)
  • No. 30 – Plano ($2,566)
  • No. 31 – Pearland ($2,566)
  • No. 34 – Missouri City ($2,517)
  • No. 56 – McKinney ($2,165)
  • No. 67 – Carrollton ($1,928)
  • No. 77 – Richardson ($1,809)
  • No. 95 – League City ($1,733)
  • No. 99 – North Richland Hills ($1,706)

The report and its methodology can be found on wallethub.com.

Photo courtesy of Realtor.com

Austin is among the 20 most 'house rich' cities in U.S., report says

hopes for homeownership

With high interest rates and home prices making daily headlines, houses in Texas' current real estate market may seem out of reach for many potential homebuyers. But that isn't the case in Austin. A new study has revealed that Austin is the No. 16 most "house rich" major city in the nation.

To define the term "house rich," home services provider All Star Home examined data from the U.S. Census Bureau regarding the median value of owner-occupied homes and the median household income across the 25 most populous American cities. A home-value-to-income ratio was established for each city based on the Census data, and rankings were determined based on whether a city had a low home-value-to-income ratio and high homeownership rate.

The study found that 44.70 percent of all housing in Austin is owner-occupied. The median home value of a home in the city is $593,000, according to the Census data, which also pegs the median household income at an estimated $89,415 per year.

Using those financial factors, All Star Home determined Austin has a home-value-to-income ratio of 4.83.

Austin's median home value is significantly higher than the median prices of homes for sale in the city. Median home prices dropped to $435,000 in October, according to the latest real estate report from the Austin Board of Realtors.

Elsewhere in Central Texas, San Antonio far outpaced Austin in the report, ranking 10 spots higher as the fifth most "house rich" city in the nation. San Antonio has a homeownership rate of 52.30 percent, and the median value of a home in the city is $335,200.

El Paso took the No. 1 spot in the report, leading over all other major American cities with the highest homeownership rate (59.80 percent) and a home-value-to-income ratio of 2.68. Houston (No. 12) and Dallas (No. 15) also earned spots in the report.

The top 10 most house rich major cities in the U.S. are:

  • No. 1 – El Paso, Texas
  • No. 2 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • No. 3 – Indianapolis, Indiana
  • No. 4 – Fort Worth, Texas
  • No. 5 – San Antonio, Texas
  • No. 6 – Jacksonville, Florida
  • No. 7 – Columbus, Ohio
  • No. 8 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • No. 9 – Charlotte, North Carolina
  • No. 10 – Phoenix, Arizona

All Star Home also analyzed the most house rich states in America, but Texas appeared at the bottom of the study's category for the least house rich states, ranking No. 21. (Which really only makes it a middling score.)

The full report can be found on allstarhome.com.

Trail of Lights Austin

Austin sparkles and shines as the No. 1 most festive city in the U.S. for 2023

on the nice list

Austin homes, businesses, and special events that go all out to deck their halls for the holidays have not gone unnoticed. Austin has been named No. 1 most festive city in the United States in two different 2023 reports.

For the second year in a row, a study by home services provider Thumbtack puts Austin at the very top of the nice list. The report compiled data from millions of Christmas-related home projects across all 50 states between October 2022 to November 2023 to reveal their list of the most festive cities in the nation.

And while Thumbtack specifically focuses on home holiday projects, Austinites certainly can glean inspiration from the city's many festive displays, including Trail of Lights, Community First! Village of Lights, and Mozart's Annual Holiday Light Show. The University of Texas at Austin has also followed suit for the first time with its own themed light display.

Texas cities dominated the top 10, with Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston ranking just behind Austin as the No. 2 and No. 3 most festive American cities, respectively. Also on the rise is San Antonio (No. 5), which ranked No. 10 in the 2022 report.

The average cost to hire a holiday lighting specialist, Thumbtack says, is between $168-$300, with other requests like wrapping outdoor trees tacking on an additional cost. If Austinites are looking to outsource their exterior home decorating to a specialist, they should probably avoid the last week of November, which is peak time, Thumbtack says. Americans most frequently hang their holiday lights and Christmas decorations during the Thanksgiving weekend, according to the report.

"Whether you’re looking to make your home a brightly lit winter wonderland or simply looking to add a few festive touches to your home’s exterior — sprucing up your home’s exterior with lights is an exciting part of getting into the holiday spirit," said Thumbtack design expert Morgan Olsen in the report. "Hiring a holiday lighting specialist can help you avoid stress (and unwanted injuries) so you can focus on enjoying the season."

Thumbtack's top 10 most festive cities in the U.S. for 2023 are:

  • No. 1 – Austin, Texas
  • No. 2 – Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas
  • No. 3 – Houston, Texas
  • No. 4 – Seattle, Washington
  • No. 5 – San Antonio, Texas
  • No. 6 – Atlanta, Georgia
  • No. 7 – Phoenix, Arizona
  • No. 8 – Tampa, Florida
  • No. 9 – Denver, Colorado
  • No. 10 – Orlando, Florida

Another "Most Festive U.S. Cities" study by travel experts Travelbag ranked cities based on search volume of festive terms like "Christmas lights" or "Christmas songs." Austin also nabbed the No. 1 spot.

More than 1,200 searches are made for Christmas-related terms in November and December for every 10,000 residents, according to Travelbag's data.

"Packed with over 2 million Christmas lights, the Zilker Park’s Trail of Lights display attracts visitors from all around," the Travelbag study said. "You can also take a turn into the Peppermint Parkway, a mile-long drive-thru of holiday displays, lights, and dancing characters."

Dallas was the only other Texas city to earn a spot in Travelbag's study, ranking No. 6 with 781 festive searches being made per 10,000 residents.

Photo by Shanna Wolf Photography / Rochelle Lee Interiors LLC

Warm neutrals and kitchen hideaways among Houzz's 10 top home design predictions for 2024

designed with care

Industrial-style kitchens and tongue-and-groove ceilings were among the hottest home design trends of 2023, but next year is shaping up to be all about timeless style blended with familiar trends of the past.

A new report by Houzz predicts the top home design trends that could emerge in 2024, using data based on the website's search results and expert insight. Here are the top 10 trends they're forecasting in months to come.

Mixing tile and stone for backsplashes
Tile remains the leading backsplash choice for kitchens. However, designers are choosing to break up the monotony of an all-tile background by installing stone or quartz slabs behind the stovetop.

"The slab is often the same material as the countertops, giving the kitchen a vertical display of graphic veining or other interesting details to create a striking focal point that’s easy to wipe clean," the report said.

Fluted furniture
Fluted furniture (namely cabinets and dressers) was initially popular during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic after many viral DIY videos highlighted the idea's budget-friendliness. And Houzz reports that fluted elements have been seen frequently enough "throughout the year" at trade shows to make it a possible emerging trend in 2024. Nearly all furniture pieces can be adorned with the thick appearance of the fluted texture, from bathroom vanities to living room furniture.

2024 Houzz home design trendsJust don't get toothpaste on the fluted bathroom vanity.Photo by Shanna Hickman / parsons i.d.

Cool tones are out, warm neutrals are in
It might be time to say goodbye to "agreeable gray" wall paint, according to Houzz. Gone are the days of cool-toned rooms, as more and more designers are leaning back toward warmer neutrals like beige, cream, and rich brown.

"We first predicted this infusion in the kitchen, but the look is beginning to dominate throughout the home to offer a calmer, more welcoming environment," the report said.

While you're in the middle of picking out your next room color, don't forget to incorporate different tones or experiment with new textures and patterns to give the room a "layered look" that can be versatile across every season.

Blue is the color of 2024
Designers on Houzz are predicting blue will be the color of 2024, no matter what Pantone decides the Color of the Year will be. Adding a pop of color to any room is a great way to draw attention to certain pieces a homeowner may want to showcase.

"Whether it’s a sky-inspired hue or a deep watery color, look for an array of blues to be featured more prominently in decorative materials and housewares in the coming year," the report said.

2024 Houzz home design trendsWarm neutrals are in, but so is a nice calming blue.Photo by Mike Healey Photography / Brittany Lyons Interiors

Can't go wrong with a timeless look
Sustainability is also top-of-mind for many homeowners and designers heading into the new year, no matter what overarching design style they've chosen. According to the report, timeless details like brick, handmade clay tiles, and wood are becoming trendy among modern homes looking for a "quiet luxury" aesthetic. Adding more traditional design elements is also a popular choice for home renovations.

Handmade and custom design details
Speaking along the lines of a timeless style, designers are often searching for handmade or custom-made pieces to include in a home. European design shows championed personalized design elements in 2023, and the idea is catching fire throughout the U.S.

"[Bespoke elements] create a feeling that the homeowner has something truly unique and special," the report said.

A 2023 Houzz report analyzing bathroom trends further corroborates this shift to personalized details with the discovery that 62 percent of homeowners renovating their space were opting for custom-made bathroom vanities.

Hideaways for your countertop appliances
According to interior design blog Apartment Therapy, appliance garages rose to fame in the 1980s-90s, but eventually fell out of favor in the public eye when open shelving began to take over as the dominant kitchen trend. Now the clocks are turning back, and appliance garages are seeing a resurgence among homeowners who want to hide all the gadgets taking up space on their counters.

"Appliance garages conceal countertop appliances such as blenders, coffee makers, and toasters while keeping them easily accessible and organized," the report said.

Where else are we supposed to keep the air fryers or stand mixers?

2024 Houzz home design trendsNo kitchen gadgets will be taking up space in this kitchen while being hidden behind folding cabinet doors.Photo by Andrea Rugg Photography / kate roos design

Herringbone design
In another win for timeless style, herringbone is also making a comeback and can suit any room in a house. As a new-and-improved style, herringbone doesn't have to flow horizontally like it commonly used to. Designers are opting to create an "updated" look with herringbone tile by installing it in funky zig-zag or vertical patterns to improve visual interest.

2024 Houzz home design trends

Photo by Shanna Wolf Photography / Rochelle Lee Interiors LLC

Can't go wrong with herringbone tiles in the kitchen.

Combination laundry and mud rooms
For families with kids running around, combining the laundry room with the mud room is one of the safest ways to mitigate entryway messes. And it's becoming increasingly popular.

"[A mud-laundry room] lets homeowners place grimy sports uniforms, sandy beach towels, or muddy winter coats directly into the wash before they track dirt further into a home," the report said. "A utility sink lets you soak dirty clothes or delicates, and a pulldown faucet is effective at rinsing muddy boots or cleats."

Designers on Houzz highly recommend taking advantage of a mudroom's cabinets, hooks, and cubbies to help organize all the clean clothing, athletic gear, and other items.

Let the green grass grow
When it comes to maintaining curb appeal, leaving more room for greenery never hurts. Garden paths and patios made of pavers that leave space in between for grass to grow is an emerging trend for 2024. Houzz says the natural look and design versatility of greenery between pavers softens the harsh angles of the stone and other hardscape elements. Plus, who doesn't love living in a house where the backyard looks like a lush garden?

2024 Houzz home design trendsA cozy backyard where the green grass grows.Photo courtesy of J. Montgomery Designs, Inc.

Photo by Tomek Baginski on Unsplash

Austin is no longer the No. 1 magnet for millennials on the move, report says

migration destinations

For the past two years, Austin has been the No. 1 destination for millennials making the move to a new city. But that's no longer the case, according to a new report that drops Austin to the No. 9 hot spot for young professionals aged 25 to 44.

SmartAsset's 2023 study "Where Millennials Are Moving" dug into data from the U.S. Census Bureau 1-Year American Community Survey to determine the number of millennials who moved to 268 U.S. cities in 2022. Rankings were determined by the percentage of the total population represented by millennials who moved into the city in 2022.

According to the findings, Austin attracted 103,461 new millennials in 2022, constituting 10.7 percent of its population.

Millennials make up 40.42 percent of the population in Austin, the study says; the median age of people living in the city is 34.7.

The study found that there's one Central Texas city that experienced a more dramatic population shift thanks to new millennials: Killeen, located about 70 miles north of the Texas capital, ranked No. 8.

Killeen drew in 16,853 millennials, making up 10.8 percent of its population (a slightly larger share than Austin's). The median age in Killeen is 30.4 — the second-lowest in the top 10, the report says.

So, how did Killeen manage to attract so many millennials? According to a separate SmartAsset study, the answer lies in the obvious: cheaper housing with low competition. Killeen is the best housing market in the nation for first-time homebuyers.

According to SmartAsset, one in four millennials moved to a different city last year. Cambridge, Massachusetts, was the No. 1 U.S. city with the highest proportional influx of millennial newcomers in 2022, at 14.74 percent.

The report also noted the different ways a generation's migration can impact a city.

"Whether they come from within the same county, state, out-of-state or abroad, these migrations can impact local small businesses, housing markets and social dynamics," the report's author wrote.

The top 10 cities where millennials are moving are:

  • No. 1 – Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • No. 2 – Santa Clara, California
  • No. 3 – Seattle, Washington
  • No. 4 – Sunnyvale, California
  • No. 5 – Denver, Colorado
  • No. 6 – Arlington, Virginia
  • No. 7 – Bellevue, Washington
  • No. 8 – Killeen, Texas
  • No. 9 – Austin, Texas
  • No. 10 – Sandy Springs, Georgia

Elsewhere in Texas, San Antonio attracted 102,848 millennials in 2022. More than 10,000 millennials moved to Waco last year, and Round Rock saw 7,972 new millennials move in.

The full report can be found on smartasset.com.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

2 very different arcades and a new IMAX theater press play in South Austin

players ready

No other part of town can beat South Austin when it comes to old school, outdoorsy entertainment, but the people down here want their screens, too. In between trips to McKinney Falls and the Far Out Lounge, South Austinites now have two more options for lights-out, tech-based entertainment.

First, Zero Latency, a "free roam" virtual reality space, is now open for group gaming. Hot on its heels, starting December 1, EVO Entertainment Belterra Village is adding an IMAX theatre for a higher-tech viewing experience and and an arcade, well, for a lot more fun.

Both are basically arcades, then, but with very different connotations. Zero Latency calls its 4000-square-foot space at Southpark Meadows an "arena," although visitors will really encounter an empty room. Once they put on the headset, the space will be transformed, and they will hopefully not bump into their pals — with up to eight people allowed in each room.

“It really is the best way to experience VR, whether you’re an experienced gamer or a first-timer," said venue owner Mohammad A. Edaibat in a release. "As an aerospace engineer that is specialized in simulation developments, I can confidently say [the] Zero Latency system does mimic the high-fidelity simulation systems used for serious training. I can see it being used not just for fun and entertainment but also for athleticism and serious competitions.”

The release lists five available games, including the new original game Outbreak, a teamwork game fighting a zombie virus, and and exclusive VR take on Ubisoft's first-person shooter Far Cry. This is the 80th location for Zero Latency, including one in North Austin. Its games have been played more than 3 million times worldwide.

The EVO tech will likely be more familiar to most Austinites, bringing the city's fourth IMAX theater (according to what's listed on Google Maps). This projection in particular is powered by lasers, resulting in a sharper picture. A release says the advanced audio system delivers "10x the dynamic range of standard sound systems," helping with even sound distribution to all seats in the theater. When it opens, guests can watch Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, Godzilla Minus One, or Napoleon.

Meanwhile, the brand-new arcade offers more than 35 games including Jurassic Park, Skee-Ball, Kong VR and a giant claw machine.

"We are thrilled to expand our entertainment experience by integrating IMAX's technology into our theatres," said Vivek Abichandani, vice president of strategy and corporate development at Elevate Entertainment Group (EEG), EVO's Austin-based parent company that also operates Violet Crown Cinemas and others. "We are setting a new standard for cinematic excellence, and we can't wait for our guests to experience the magic of movies like never before and enjoy our expanded entertainment offering at Belterra."

Zero Latency South Austin is located at 9900 I-35 Ste M500. EVO Entertainment Belterra Village is located at 166 Hargraves Dr., Austin, TX, 78737.

Long-vacant market in Austin scores new bowling alley tenant

spare warehouse

It's been eight years since the St. Elmo Public Market was announced in South Austin.

Now the renovated warehouse on South Congress Avenue will be morphed into a unique entertainment destination.

The market, which was originally supposed to open in 2018, has sat empty since 2022. Recently, the project was purchased by Nashville and New York-based firm SomeraRoad in November and leased to Pins Mechanical Company.

Pins Mechanical operates successful locations in the Midwest, including in cities like Cincinnati and Indianapolis. Now the firm hopes Pins Mechanical will bring the troubled warehouse to life.

"We’ve turned over a lot of stones looking for the right project in the right neighborhood," said SomeraRoad's Brock Kenyon. "The St. Elmo Public Market has incredible potential, and we’re excited to drive a new chapter for this project with Pins Mechanical."

Pins Mechanical said the St. Elmo location will feature 24 duckpin bowling lanes, more than 30 pinball machines, and more than 40 classic arcade games like "NBA Jam" and "Frogger."


Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.

'The twinkliest town in Texas' and 6 other Hill Country locales become Christmas wonderlands


Though chance encounters with childhood sweethearts rarely happen between sips of hot cocoa, feeding one's most jolly Hallmark fantasies is perfectly fine. And let's face it, those warm fuzzies aren't always easy to find amongst Austin's seasonal glitz. That kind of holiday feeling is a decidedly small-town affair.

If you only get fresh air from a fourth-story balcony, it's time to head on a Texas road trip. Throughout December, the Hill Country rolls out the twinkle lights and garlands to give city slickers some Christmas razzle-dazzle. Unpack a cozy sweater, cue a playlist, and fire up the sleigh.

Dripping Springs
Though much of the season is geared around kids, the many distilleries, wineries, and breweries clustered around Dripping Springs offer some holiday fun for the adults. Hire a van to bop around some of Texas' most spirited spots, including Jester King Brewery, Vista Brewing, Desert Door Sotol, and Deep Eddy Vodka. If nap time doesn't completely waylay plans, Christmas on Mercer on December 2 is the perfect place for some buzzed shopping.

With its historic buildings and rows of quaint shops, Fredericksburg always seems ready to break into an Irving Berlin ditty. During Christmastime, the streets erupt into a full production number. Through January 7, 2024, the town's market square hosts a daily lighting ceremony showcasing tales of Fredericksburg's German heritage and Christmas carols. The Marktplatz also offers an ice-skating rink and one of Texas' most dazzling selfie spots: a 26-foot tall wooden spinning Christmas pyramid.

Forget Stars Hollow. Rory and Lorelai Gilmore's hometown wishes it could conjure up half the Yuletide magic as this Austin suburb. Visit the weekend of December 1 and 2 to catch the annual Christmas Stroll. The town's downtown hosts a family-friendly festival with vendors, live music, a parade, and plenty of festive food each year. And the Snow in the Park event ensures a White Christmas.

Johnson City
Johnson City's reputation as the "twinkliest town in Texas" isn't a mere boast. Its downtown display, illuminated through January 7, 2024, is truly a spectacle with more than two million bulbs glittering in the night sky. The Blanco County Courthouse is the sparkling hub of several community events throughout the season. Don't miss the annual chili cook-off on December 9, sponsored by some of the Hill Country's best wineries and distilleries.

Marble Falls
Sure, it sounds like a third grader's fever dream, but bumper cars on ice are actually a thing in Marble Falls — offering slip-sliding fun for those who have never heard of a salchow. Less bumpy are the other activities, from a pop-up s'mores bar on December 1 to weekend market days.

New Braunfels
Maybe it's the easygoing river lifestyle, but New Braunfels has always played by its own rules. That's especially true during the holiday season, when kids are delighted by visits from the chaps-clad Cowboy Kringle instead of good ole Saint Nick. That individualistic spirit carries over to the town's schedule of events, including a one-person telling of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol on December 3 and caroling at the Natural Bridge Caverns.

This charming hamlet has no shortage of holiday diversions like the annual Trail of Lights, a walking tour running through December 26. But before the stroll, expect to open the wallet. Wimberley Square is teeming with one-of-a-kind shops selling everything from boho Western gear to French country home goods. The hospitality scene is no slouch, either. Grab a quick pie at Community Pizza or splurge on shellfish and champagne at RR12 Supper Club.

Georgetown Christmas

Georgetown's downtown decked in its holiday finest.