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The Bloody Mary Festival

Guests of the 4th Annual Bloody Mary Festival will have access to unlimited Bloody Marys, temp tattoos, photo opportunities, and more. Proceeds from this event will benefit Girls Empowerment Network.

Photo by Dan Burton on Unsplash

26 Austin restaurants and bars that are giving back on GivingTuesday

Tastes Good

Even Austinites who love to give time and funds on a regular basis — weekly volunteering, donating in friends' names for birthdays, participating in crowdfunding when it comes up — it’s a lot to keep track of. Especially during the holiday season, shopping for friends, family, and busy-time-of-the-year incidentals, a lot of our good intentions fade to the background.

There is a worldwide holiday to keep people on track: GivingTuesday, a recent addition to the Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday pipeline, asks people to take a step back from the consumerist shuffle and think about what they can give outside of their usual habits.

This year, it falls on November 29, and local nonprofit I Live Here, I Give Here (ILHIGH) has a long cheat sheet for Austinites looking to make a difference, including a roster of 26 food and drink businesses donating a portion of proceeds from November 26 to December 2.

GivingTuesday is split into regions, by country and then further by city. ILHIGH, the organization that founded Amplify Austin Day in 2013, is going into its sixth GivingTuesday as the official leader of the Central Texas region, offering a searchable, categorized list of Austin nonprofits that would love some help. The restaurant portion is a little different; organized in partnership with Good Work Austin, a restaurant industry support system that also works against food insecurity, the initiative gets Austinites familiar with local restaurants while knowing their tab is going to a good cause.

The 26 restaurants participating in ILHIGH’s GivingTuesday initiative are:

  • North Austin: Barrett's Coffee, Black Star Co-op, Brentwood Social House, Casey's New Orleans Snowballs, Eldorado Cafe, Epoch Coffee, Little Ola's Biscuits, West Pecan Coffee + Beer (Pflugerville)
  • Northeast Austin: L'Oca d'Oro, Southern Soul Bowl, Taterque, Tso Chinese
  • East Austin: Bento Picnic, Dai Due, Flitch Coffee, Greater Goods Coffee, Hillside Farmacy, The Cavalier
  • Downtown: Little Wu, Olamaie, Swift's Attic, Wu Chow
  • South Austin: Maie Day, Patika, Tso Chinese, House Wine
  • West Austin: Chez Zee, Epoch Coffee

Interested donors who can’t make it for a meal can use amplifyatx.org to donate to ILHIGH directly, or to donate to another organization, to which they may add an additional contribution to the ILHIGH fund before checkout.

More information about the GivingTuesday campaign is available at ilivehereigivehere.org, and on the organization’s social media.

Photo courtesy of Hidden

Austin bar transforms into a magical winter wonderland this holiday season

Tinseltown, Texas

It feels like every week there’s a new immersive event. Even when they’re fun, they can be pretty tiring, so it’s exciting that this next one is just about playing with the Christmas spirit. Don your favorite elf socks and meet the lovely citizens of “Tinseltown.”

Wanderlust Wine Co. — the organizer of darker, more chaotic immersive cocktail experiences “The Alice” and “Beauty and the Beast” — has turned its space into a winter wonderland with Christmas decor galore. From November 30 to December 30, this Southwest Pole will welcome guests into one of the most festive spaces in Austin, costumes always welcome.

Of course, there will be Christmas music and themed cocktails. Past photos of the installation in different cities (where it's always a little different) show lots of candy cane stripes, giant disco ball-like hanging ornaments, lights, foliage, and entire trees. And, obviously, a lot of tinsel. Visitors may meet elves on staff, and even Santa sitting on the tufted red furniture.

Austin’s list of Christmas pop-ups (perhaps because we don’t have much cold weather helping us celebrate naturally) is expansive, but few reach the decorative heights of “Tinseltown.” It’s fun for photos, but even more so, being around that much commitment to the holiday is sure to make the season a little brighter.

Photo courtesy of Hidden

"Tinseltown" is all about the Christmas spirit, a stark change since the last event.

Tickets ($22 per person) for the 90-minute experience are available via Hidden, and include a drink upon arrival. Wanderlust Wine Co. is located at 610 North Interstate Highway 35.

The Cavalier presents Nostalgic Noel

The Cavalier presents Nostalgic Noel, their holiday cocktail popup event inspired by their wistful worship of late 1990s and early 2000s toys and cartoons. Guests can look deep into the vintage View Master to find the fanciful menu inspired by the likes of Ren & Stimpy, Rocko's Modern Life, Dexter's Laboratory, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and more retro favorites.

The event features playful potions and thoughtful thirst quenchers for grown-ups only. This event is for 21 years old and above.

Texas French Bread

6 things to know in Austin food right now: Texas French Bread makes triumphant return

News You Can Eat

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.

Openings

Texas French Bread can’t stop making news, returning triumphantly from a large fire — with support from lots of very loyal customers — frequenting farmers markets, and finally setting up a new food trailer. The Airstream is open in the beautiful garden that the bakery previously rented at 2900 Rio Grande St., every day except Monday from 8 am to 2 pm. The kitchen opens at 10 am. All items are first-come, first-serve until the trailer runs out. Customers can get coffee, sack lunches, and the great bakes they’ve been missing. The company commented on Instagram that plans to rebuild are “still up in the air.”

Mini golf and snacks are a match made in nostalgia heaven, but Dirdie Birdie is really kicking that combo up a notch. The restaurant, full bar, and indoor mini golf course is opening on November 18, thanks especially to work by Chef Nic Yanes of very chic, relatively affordable restaurants Juniper and Uncle Nicky's. The adult-focused 12-hole course contains lots of references to Austin, and is “almost like an interactive art gallery,” according to a note from a publicist. Check it out at 10910 Domain Drive. Check the website for hours over Thanksgiving, and expect regular opening hours to resume the following week.

The Toasted Yolk Café arrived in the Austin area for the first time on November 14, at 14105 Ronald Reagan Blvd. in Cedar Park. This giant breakfast and lunch spot (at 5,178 square feet) serves all the classics and, of course, a lot of eggs, but it also offers a full bar, nine TVs, online check-in, and a to-go area. The restaurant donated 10 percent of its opening day sales to The Dog Alliance. Although it’s new in Austin, the chain already has 28 restaurants, mostly in Texas, and lists 16 more coming soon including one in Lakeway. Visit at 14105 Ronald Reagan Boulevard from 7 am to 3 pm every day. Medical professionals in uniform or with ID receive half off drinks from Monday to Thursday until 10 am.

Other news and notes

Geraldine’s, the bar and restaurant at Hotel Van Zandt, is turning seven and celebrating on November 17. To celebrate, it’s relaunching Birds, Bubbles + Blues, a Thursday-night event featuring the restaurant’s spicy fried chicken, sparkling wine specials, and Austin-based blues musicians. The Geraldine’s menu is all about upscale southern foods — often with an interesting twist — so this fried chicken shouldn’t be missed, ambience aside.

On November 20, Aviary Wine & Kitchen will spin out into a series of special Sunday services: Aviary will be manning an all-day happy hour (3-9 pm), and a rotating list of guest chefs will be stepping in to take over the kitchen for pop-ups. That means $2 off glasses of wine, $10 off bottles, and $2 off beer, while chefs from around Austin regale diners with special 4-6 menu items. First Elementary ATX visits, then Che Cazzo, Chef’s Kiss, Penang Shack, and Elementary ATX once more, finishing out the series on December 18. Walk-up service only.

As if we needed any more reasons to fall in love with Camp Lucy, the Hill Country event venue is hosting its 2nd annual Christmas Chili Cook-Off on December 4. The Sacred Oaks venue is an unreasonably beautiful place to be tasting professional and amateur chilis, with whiskey, an open bar with holiday cocktails, a holiday market, a s’mores table, live music, donations for Helping Hands Pantry, and more. All this happens from 3-6 pm. Tickets ($70 over age 21, $45 under) available on Eventbrite.

Photo courtesy of Wanderlust Wine Co.

Wanderlust Wine Co. presents Tinseltown: Where Everyday Is Christmas

The creators of The Alice: An Immersive Cocktail Experience are bringing Tinseltown to Wanderlust Wine Co. The all-encompassing Christmas-themed pop-up will feature Christmas tunes, Christmas drinks and more tinsel, Santa and his elves, halls decked with baubles, bows, hanging trees, wreaths, and just about every festive goodie.

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Mobile vet company brings its no-rush, stress-free services to Austin homes

Home Is Where the Vet Is

Austin, one of the largest no-kill shelter cities in the United States, already knows a lot about adopting instead of shopping. A puppy is a wonderful addition to the family, but senior dogs need love (and are loved), too. As many have learned firsthand, taking care of a senior pet can be challenging — with higher medical bills, potentially heavy lifting as joints stiffen, and tough decisions to make about what kind of care is necessary — but also incredibly rewarding.

November is National Senior Pet Health Month, calling for awareness about an older pet’s needs, and providing opportunities to celebrate wins all over local news. In Austin, one of those wins came in scrubs. The Vets, a mobile veterinary service that makes house calls, expanded into Austin in 2022 (after launching the year prior), eventually bringing the national count to 16 locations including Houston and Dallas. Texas and California are tied for the most locations, at three each.

“Among the top reasons that pet owners avoid or postpone their visit to the vet clinic include the stress of transporting their pet, restrictive pet carriers, and crowded waiting rooms,” explained a statement from the company. “Our no-rush visits give your pet the time to bond with our vet and you the opportunity to ask questions. And you always have the option to rebook the same vet to help grow that special relationship over time.”

This team provides care for every stage in a pet’s life, and most of their needs, too; that’s everything from routine wellness exams, microchipping, nutrition consulting, and even emergency services including those with specialized equipment like ultrasound machines. When the time comes to ease a pet’s end-of-life transition, the team also offers at-home euthanasia, dramatically reducing stress for both pets and people who don’t want a sterile environment or a tearful drive home.

The American Veterinary Medical Association lists many needs for senior pets, including increased medical care, vaccinations, and pet parents that are observant about environmental concerns like house structure and stimulation. With a home vet, pet owners might consider asking for opinions on how to streamline some of these interactions, without having to worry about having to write notes, try to remember potential issues in the space, or miss any important details a professional would see right away.

A good vet can make animals comfortable no matter what, but The Vets emphasizes the stronger relationships that its team can build in a comfortable, stress-free environment. In addition to a more convenient and comfortable experience, this can also mean better care for a pet that doesn’t have an entire puppyhood to adjust.

More information about The Vets, including scheduling, is available at thevets.com.

Austin-area pig rescue wins Airbnb contest to build one-of-a-kind pig-themed guest house

This Place is a Pigsty

KVUE — From tens of thousands of entries from around the world, 100 aspiring designers, architects, DIYers, and makers from more than 20 countries and regions have been chosen to bring their unique space ideas to life as part of the $10,000,000 Airbnb OMG! Fund.

One of those winners is Tracey Stabile, director of the Central Texas Pig Rescue (CTPR) in Austin. Tracey and Dan Illescas, founders of Central Texas Pig Rescue, will receive up to $100,000 to create a one-of-a-kind pig-shaped guest space. Over the course of the next 10 months, they will design, construct, and outfit the space to be guest-ready by summer 2023.

"Basically the OMG! Fund contest was a way for people to be really playful and kind of invent a really cool dwelling that would be something that's totally notable to people and be a destination," said Stabile.

Stabile said Airbnb left all of the freedom of creativity up to them. They went through several rounds of design and planning and review.

"Each step of the way, we were like, 'We're one step closer.' It was very exciting. Just getting those emails at each milestone and seeing that we were actually contenders in this contest. Then the fact that we, of course, won and now we're going to be able to build this amazing thing that we absolutely never would have been able to build under other circumstances. It's just an amazing opportunity," stated Stabile.

Stabile said she wanted to build something that was a little bit unpredictable and wanted to avoid some of the shapes that people might expect. The current pig sanctuary in Smithville, about 45 minutes outside of Austin, is home to over 200 pigs that were saved from abandonment. The sanctuary houses a mix of all different types of pigs, mostly potbellied pigs, and is 100 percent volunteer run and 100 percent donation based.

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

Texas state parks beckon this holiday season with festive events and peaceful escapes

Silent nights

If roasting s'mores and hiking in the great outdoors sounds fun, pack up your family and visit one of Texas’ state parks this holiday season.

Texas state parks and historic sites are ringing in the holidays with a number of festive events. There are drive-thru light tours, special holiday hikes, arts and crafts for the kiddos, and more.

Reservations fill up quickly, so be sure to visit an individual park's website before you head out. And check the Holidays in the Parks page for many more fun options, pricing information, and more information.

Austin/San Antonio-area parks

Bastrop State Park
Follow ornaments with clues through the park every day in December during the annual Fa La La Through The Forest Scavenger Hunt. Enjoy the Lost Pines Christmas Parade, a collaborative event with Bastrop and Buescher Parks, at 6 pm December 10. Tour the inside of the historic Refectory and see how the Civilian Conservation Corps celebrated Christmas away from home during A Lost Pines CCC Christmas 9 am-12 pm December 17.

Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site
Visit the popular attraction during December to learn how the farm staff get ready for das Weihnachten (Christmas). Return to the park at 5:30 pm December 18 for the 53rd Annual Tree Lighting, a holiday tradition started by President and Mrs. Johnson.

Garner State Park
Join the Buffalo Soldiers program and friends as they stop into Garner State Park before leaving for Christmas break during the Marching Towards Christmas event 10 am-2 pm December 10. Christmas activities will include hand-dipped candles, frontier Christmas painting, Christmas-themed hard tack in Dutch ovens, and stories of the Buffalo Soldiers.

Buescher State Park
On the Fa La La in the Forest Scavenger Hunt, you can follow ornaments with clues through the park to secure a prize at the end, December 1 to January 1. Enjoy the Smithville Festival of Lights and Lighted Parade, a collaborative effort between Buescher and Bastrop parks, on December 3.

Hill Country State Natural Area
See how art, history and state parks are connected; learn some basic watercolor techniques and paint a card or two to take home during the Watercolor Christmas Cards event 2:30-4 pm December 3. Come back for Horses in History & Ornament Craft from 2:30-4 pm December 22 and learn how horses played important roles in the lives of vaqueros, native people, ranchers and more. Then, play a round of horseshoes and paint a horse ornament to take with you.

South Llano River State Park
At Christmas at the Ranch, 2-5 pm December 3, guests can warm up with hot chocolate and cider, listen to live entertainment, enjoy crafts and cookie decorating, and anticipate Santa's visit while taking in the twinkling lights and Christmas decorations at the historic Ranch House that now serves as Park Headquarters.

Dallas-Fort Worth-area parks

Tyler State Park
Enjoy Reading Ranger Campfire Stories around a cozy campfire at 3 pm December 3. Head back December 9-10 for A Pineywoods Christmas, when you can stroll or drive through the Lakeview and Big Pine campgrounds to take in campers' elaborately decorated sites and take a Winter Wonderland Hike.

Lake Tawakoni State Park
Drive through or stay at the park and decorate your campsite with your favorite Christmas decorations to receive your second night of camping free during your stay. There will be a decorating contest, complete with awards, as well as a reading of The Night before Christmas — all part of Twinkle Tour 2022, 5-8 pm December 3.

Daingerfield State Park
Drive through the park lit up like Santa Land during the 10th annual Christmas in the Park drive thru lights tour December 14-17 (times vary). Marvel at the decorated campsites and lights, and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies while waiting for a chance to visit with Santa.

Eisenhower State Park
Help those in need and spread holiday cheer — and as a bonus, get free entry to the park — by bringing one unwrapped donation item to the park’s Holiday Donation Drive through December 19. Visit December 9-10 to visit the Light Up the Park drive-thru lights event, featuring milk and cookies with Santa. This year, the park is taking unwrapped toys to donate instead of collecting entrance fees for the event.

Cleburne State Park
Enjoy Pancakes With Santa and make pinecone bird feeders 9-11 am December 10.

Cedar Hill State Park
Search for birds taking their winter break at the park during their Winter Birding Walk, which takes place 7:30-8:30 am December 13. Explore Christmas on Penn Farm on December 17: Learn about the history and pioneers of the Penn Family and the farm they built 150 years ago.

Lake Mineral Wells State Park
Experience Christmas, cowboy style, at Cross Timbers Cowboy Christmas, December 3. Park ranger and cowboy poet David Owens will gather guests around a campfire at the Lone Star Amphitheater for an evening of cowboy culture through songs, stories and poems.

Dinosaur Valley State Park
In partnership with Toys for Tots, the park is hosting Christmas in the Valley, a full day of ranger-led events, programs, family friendly activities, arts and crafts, food and more. Bring a new and unwrapped toy for free admission for the whole family. The event takes place 1-4 pm December 17.

Houston and Gulf Coast-area parks

Brazos Bend State Park
Holiday in the Park is an all-day affair on December 10. Events include a self-guided "Elf Hike," Christmas crafts, "Pup Parade," s'mores, and more.

Goose Island State Park
See the park in lights, enjoy holiday activities, and camp for free when you decorate your campsite during Christmas in the Park on December 17. Guests are invited to "Santa's Village" at the CCC Recreation Hall for holiday crafts, games, hot chocolate around the campfire, and to drop off letters to Santa in the North Pole Mailbox.

Lake Corpus Christi State Park
Get in the holiday spirit with the second annual Holiday Light Drive Thru, 6-9 pm December 10. Visitors can enter the park for a drive through the lighted areas of Javelina and Opossum Bend camping loops, plus the Old Pavilion.

West Texas and the Panhandle-area parks

Franklin Mountains State Park
On December 3, make ornaments and holiday cards with recycled materials as part of the Art in the Parks series. During Cookies and Cocoa, you can decorate and take home your own Christmas treat while sipping on a cup of hot chocolate 2-4 pm December 23. Come back on Christmas Eve for a guided, two-mile Santa Hike at 11 am.

Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site
Bring your family out for Home for the Holidays guided family hike on December 10 and moderate hike on December 17.

San Angelo State Park
Enjoy a drive-thru tour of lights and optional pictures with Santa and Smokey Bear during Holly-Days in the Park, 6-8 pm December 10.