Photo courtesy of the Trail of Lights Foundation

The stars might be bigger and brighter in Texas, but it's Austin's Trail of Lights that shines the brightest every December. The Christmas-themed display, now in its 59th year, just announced its returning dates for 2023: Friday, December 9, through Saturday, December 23.

The walk-through tradition at Zilker Park tallied up its total lights this year at 2 million, in 96 trees and more than 70 other displays. Visitors can choose to visit in cars or on foot for different types of holiday fun, including some live performances. One of Austin's favorite seasonal events, it raises funds on some nights for more than 40 non-profit partners.

The Trail of Light Foundation aims to keep the annual tradition accessible to all community members, so general admission for adults will be free to the public for seven out of 14 total nights. Children under the age of 12 can also enjoy free general admission.

"Over the last decade, the Foundation’s goal has remained the same, to deliver an enduring holiday experience to the entire city," said Trail of Lights Foundation executive director James Russell in a release.

Some of us are reticent to believe a "fun run" is actually all that enthralling, but this Chuy's-sponsored event should actually live up to the promise. The 12th annual Austin Trail of Lights Fun Run will take place on December 2, the day after the lights open for a preview party.

"As part of our partnership, we will collect toys and monetary donations for Operation Blue Santa, who needs our help more than ever this holiday season," said Chuy's chief marketing officer Ashley Ingle. The program works with Austin Police Department to distribute the goodies and food to "families in need."

Thousands of runners (and walkers) are expected to attend in holiday attire, enjoying the lights along the two-mile course. They'll be met at the end by Santa himself, who is ready for photos. Participants will receive a commemorative long sleeve T-shirt, a race bib, and a complimentary beer or cocoa.

Local food trucks will be ready for the hungry exercisers, who will have a change to burn even more energy in a DJ dance party and gather inspiration at the "fitness expo." Visitors who need a chance to sit down (relatable) may consider riding the Ferris wheel or carousel.

New for this year's fun run are four different "waves" of start times so participants can choose the best slot that suits their schedules and needs. The "Runner Wave" (for participants who prefer to maintain a runner's pace), will begin at 5:45 pm, and the three additional waves will begin at 6 pm, 6:45 pm, and 7:45 pm.

More information about the Austin Trail of Lights and early bird registration for the fun run are available at austintrailoflights.org.


11 festive Austin restaurants for dining out on Christmas Day

Christmas Cheer

The pressure starts building months before the big day. Culinary magazines roll out spreads of towering croquembouches, TikTok explodes with easy Christmas dinner hacks, and grocery stores roll out recipes for their costliest cuts of meat. There's no place like home for the holidays, after all. What's a little drudgery in making the day picture-perfect?

While we don't begrudge seasonal selfies, there's no need to break a sweat. Plenty of Austin restaurants will be offering Christmas Day feasts every bit as good as homemade — and even more photogenic. Make reservations now for the pick of the crop.

Carpenters Hall
This South Austin restaurant excels in comfort and joy, and its $60 Christmas feast is no different. Familiar favorites like New York strip, butternut squash bisque, and oysters Rockefeller will evoke fond memories with bonus warm tinglies from a holiday punch.7 am-7 pm.

If there was ever a time for a genuinely lavish brunch, it would be Christmas Day. This Four Seasons' experience might set you back $140 for adults ($50 for kids). Still, the buffet table will be lavished with snow crab legs, beef tenderloin, made-to-order omelets, and fistfuls of jumbo shrimp. 10 am-6 pm.

Diner Bar
Though the spoons at the Thompson Hotel's signature eatery are more likely to be polished than greasy, its understated booths have a casual charm. Wiggle into a pair of velvet pants (no one will know if it's from a pajama set), then comfortably sup on foie and grits. 5-10 pm.

There are few local dishes as casually celebratory as this spot's signature caviar and chips — an ounce of Siberian sturgeon roe with scallions and crème fraîche. Order a batch with a bottle of William Chris Pet Nat. Visions of sugar plums can't be far behind. 5-9 pm.

Group Therapy
Instead of engaging in a holiday kerfuffle, book an appointment at Hotel ZaZa'z poolside lounge. With foraged mushroom bruschetta and lobster bisque, the menu is suitably fancy. But truth be known, most therapy will be courtesy of a chamomile old fashioned. Reservations are currently available 4:45 – 8:15 pm.

This newcomer at the Loren on Lady Bird Lake has spectacular views of the city, which makes it perfect for a yuletide tête-à-tête. An assortment of holiday cocktails should drive a more animated conversation. 5-10 pm.

The Peacock
Have a proper Austin —ahem — breakfast at this chic downtown property. Open gifts, then order the holiday special with honey-glazed ham and two eggs. Of course, the Christmas table wouldn't be complete without an assortment of baked goods. 7 am- 4 pm.

Make the tradition of having Chinese food on Christmas Day a little extra at this West Sixth hot spot. The Cantonese fried whole fish or Peking will feel appropriately festive, and the Shanghai soup dumplings are a must. 4:30-10 pm.

Summer House on Music Lane
Why go to a summer house during the winter? For brunch, of course. The $55 ticket includes coffee or a cocktail, a pastry plate, and morning mains like eggs in purgatory or pozole verde. Dinner is offered for $75 and includes delectable options like an eggnog affogato.

The W Hotel's standard bearer is celebrating Christmas with an $80 prix fixe. Entrée choices include herb-crusted prime rib, maple-glazed salmon, or vegan mushroom bourguignon. Follow it up with a yule log made in gingerbread for nostalgic warmth.

Wu Chow
It may be American tradition to go big with the holiday bird, but duck brings much greater rewards. Wu Chow's is brined, roasted, and flash-fried for achingly crisp skin then served with hoisin sauce for an extra umami kick. Call 72 hours in advance to reserve for Christmas Day. 5-10 pm.

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Stylish Barbie merch truck cruises through Austin on 'Dreamhouse Living Tour'

This Barbie Sells Merch

Hot on the heels — or wheels — of the Hello Kitty Cafe Truck comes another timely pink rolling shop. Actually, this truck will beat the Sanrio version to Austin on October 7.

The Barbie Truck will stop in Austin on its 2023 "Dreamhouse Living Tour," which celebrates the 60th anniversary of Barbie's ever-more popular property, and will give visitors a chance to spice up their own homes.

Although this is all about the house, there are only a few homewares: things like coasters, glass tumblers, a glass mug, a throw blanket, and an "accessories cup." Visiting Barbies have more opportunities to take home wearable and on-the-go items like graphic tees, hoodies, and denim; a baseball cap; embroidered patches; and keychains.

Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living TourPhoto courtesy of the Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living Tour

Most people who have been awake and on social media in the past year have learned that Barbie's Dreamhouse has a more empowering history than many girls realized while orchestrating drama between the dolls.

A release announcing the arrival of the truck reminds fans (and detractors) that when the Dreamhouse came out, only a tenth of a percent of young women were independent homeowners, and states that someone buys a Dreamhouse every minute.

Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living Tour

Photo courtesy of the Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living Tour

Dreamhouse aside, this is a dream ride.

The Barbie Truck will be in Austin on Saturday, October 7. from 10 am to 7 pm at The Domain. Arrive early in case of long lines.

These Barbies will hit six other Texas cities on the tour:

  • September 30 — San Antonio
  • October 14 — Laredo
  • October 21 — Friendswood (Houston)
  • October 28 — The Woodlands (Houston)
  • November 4 — Plano (Dallas)
  • November 11 — Fort Worth

Follow along to see more stops on Instagram or Facebook.

Here are the top 7 things to do in Austin this weekend

Weekend Event Guide

We see festivals, art events, and live music in the near future, and this list is proof. Raise a stein in honor of Oktoberfest at Banger’s, or catch a can’t-miss show by Depeche Mode. Check out the top seven things to do in Austin this weekend. For a complete list of events, please visit our calendar.

Thursday, September 28

Fantastic Fest
Fantastic Fest presents its final day of fantasy, horror, sci-fi, and action. Attendees will have the opportunity to screen movies from a variety of genres as well as the closing night film, Totally Killer, and more. Badges are available at fantasticfest.com.

Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden presents Oktoberfest Celebration
Celebrate the autumn season in all German-inspired fashion at Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden. Guests can enjoy German food, games, and beer, and several live music performances for three days straight. For more Oktoberfest details visit bangersaustin.com. Admission is free and open to those who are 21 and older. Read CultureMap's Oktoberfest guide for more event recommendations.

ProyectoTeatro presents "Cabarex: Orígenes ¡A Latinx Cabaret!"
The Vortex hosts an original Spanish-language cabaret production by ProyectoTeatro in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. The show blends comedy, risqué theatrics, improv, drag, and live singing for a rich retelling of major moments in Latino history. "Cabarex" will be performed in both Spanglish and Spanish and also with English subtitles. Performances are scheduled through October 8. Go to vortexrep.org for more details.

Friday, September 29

Viata Hotel presents an Art Installation Launch Party
Be among the first to experience new installations by artists Ryan Runcie and Matthew Phelan at the contemporary and hip Hotel Viata. This intimate opening event will feature highlights including an exclusive gallery viewing, live music, curated food and drinks, and the opportunity to meet the artists. Admission is free with RSVP at hotelviata.com.

St. Elias Orthodox Church presents the 89th annual St. Elias Mediterranean Festival
The richness and traditions of Mediterranean culture are on full display for members of the public to enjoy at St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church. Festival attendees can expect dance performances, a variety of Mediterranean foods, a bazaar, henna drawing, kid-friendly activities, and more. Get more event information at austinmedfest.com.

Moody Center presents Depeche Mode in concert
Electronic group Depeche Mode will play a live show at Moody Center. The artists behind songs such as “Enjoy the Silence” and “Just Can’t Get Enough” come to Austin in support of their new album, Memento Mori. The nostalgic show may remind viewers that the group was ahead of its time in the 80s. Get more details on Ticketmaster.

Banger\u2019s Oktoberfest 2023 Celebration
Photo courtesy of Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden

Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden presents an Oktoberfest Celebration on September 28.

Saturday, September 30

Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service in concert
Co-headliners Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service (linked by singer Ben Gibbard) bring their tour to Germania Insurance Amphitheater. Both bands are in Austin in support of new albums. Death Cab for Cutie will perform tracks from their 2022 project, Asphalt Meadows, and The Postal Service will perform their 2003 album, Give Up. Fellow alternative rock band The Beths will join for a special guest performance. Go to Ticketmaster for more details.

Top medical cannabis dispensary buds in Lakeline with new pickup store


Folks north of Austin can now find more relief closer to them with the opening of a new facility for cannabis prescription pickup.

Texas Original is now open in the Lakeline area at 10222 Pecan Park Blvd., continuing to expand the brand's services throughout Central Texas. While Austinites may be used to more recreational cannabis stores, Texas Original's main clientele are patients managing things like cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even dementia.

In Texas, patients can obtain medical cannabis prescriptions through online clinics or local physicians registered with the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas; In Texas Original's case, the dispensary connects candidates for medical cannabis with partnering clinics via an online form to close the loop between prescription and pickup.

Texas Original (formerly Compassionate Cultivation) opened the first public medical dispensary in the state (out of Manchaca) and started serving patients in 2018 with the motto “Grown for Texans by Texans.” The entire operation — from the cultivation of plants to the formulation of products — is based in the state. In 2023, Texas Original was named the best medical marijuana dispensary in the Austin American-Statesman's Community Choice Awards.

This is now Texas Original’s fourth location in Central Texas along with its headquarters and dispensary in South Austin, two other stores in Waco and San Antonio, and many others throughout the state.

“Opening a full-time pickup location that serves our growing community in North Austin and its surrounding suburbs is another step toward creating comprehensive medical cannabis access for all patients throughout Texas,” said CEO Nico Richardson in a release.

To celebrate the opening, Texas Original is partnering with a telehealth medicine clinic to offer free one-year prescriptions to 50 customers at the North Austin location on a first-come first-serve basis. Patients can visit the store this week to book an appointment with the telemedicine clinic’s registered physicians to receive a prescription for medical cannabis.

For more product information and hours of operation for all of Texas Original locations, visit texasoriginal.com. Hours of operation at Lakeline are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10 am to 6 pm, with plans to expand to six days a week in the upcoming months.