Photo courtesy of Moontower Just for Laughs

Just look at the accusations that Hasan Minhaj fabricated part of his act or the recent furor over Matt Rife’s shift from TikTok darling to Netflix edgelord. Comedy has never been more relevant to society, providing fodder for thousands of think pieces and the tribal borders for contemporary identity. It’s fitting that a city vexed by a changing cultural identity would devote one of its marquee festivals to the art of the joke.

On November 30, Moontower Just For Laughs Austin released the initial lineup for its two-week romp. From April 10-21, comedy juggernauts and emerging stars will grace more than 10 downtown venues. And for the first time, the festival will include two arena shows. Andrew Schulz, whose monster special Infamous was filmed at the Paramount Theatre, headlines the Moody Center on April 19. Plus, hot off his first Netflix special, Shane Gillis will kick off the first weekend at the H-E-B Center in Cedar Park.

Fans of ‘90s and aughts nostalgia will also have plenty to look forward to. Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey will discuss all things Dunder Mifflin at ACL Live for a taping of their blockbuster podcast Office Ladies. Marking the 30th anniversary of their groundbreaking MTV series, sketch troupe The State will reunite on stage with Michael Ian Black, Thomas Lennon, Michael Patrick Jann, Kevin Allison, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Joe Lo Truglio, David Wain, and Ken Marino combining old and new material.

Some of the powerhouse women of the era will also make a Moontower stop. No stranger to the discourse around comedy, two-time Emmy and Grammy award winner Kathy Griffin brings her new show My Life on the PTSD List to Paramount. Strangers With Candy legend Amy Sedaris and groundbreaker Margaret Cho will perform headlining sets.

Other standouts include Nailed It! host Nicole Byer, stand-up favorite Brad Williams, alt-comedy star Marc Maron, 2023 White House Correspondents’ Dinner host Roy Wood Jr., Adult Swim star Joe Pera, and RuPaul’s Drag Race standout Mo Heart.

The State Theatre will host some of the genre’s most imaginative emerging voices. Must-see performers include millennial cabaret act Catherine Cohen, quadrilingual favorite Sugar Sammy, rising star Ken Flores, and observational Finn ISMO. Claire Parker and Ashley Hamilton will explore the lurid world of Hollywood autobiographies as part of their Celebrity Memoir Book Club podcast.

The festival will peak during a four-day comedy bacchanal from April 17-20. Venues throughout downtown Austin will double over as Tina Friml, Todd Barry, Jenny Zigrino, Carmen Christopher, Django Gold, Leslie Liao, Opey Olagbaju, Poly Diaz, Shane Torres, the Sklar Brothers, and the 2 Dykes and a Mic podcast take on club shows.

Festival badges, now on sale for $150-$275, allow comic buffs to personalize their experience. While all passes ensure entry to all club shows, the premium tickets come with perks like private happy hours, presale access to headliners, and access to a private mezzanine bar at the Paramount. Additional performers will be announced in the upcoming months.

Photo courtesy of Black Pumas

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

Weekend Event Guide

Live music, a boozy birthday bash, and some major merrymaking are on the agenda. Bring your furry friend to the Mutts Canine Cantina’s grand opening, or get into the holiday spirit at the exclusive Austin Trail of Lights Preview Party. Check out the top seven things to do in Austin this weekend. For a complete list of events, go to our calendar.

Thursday, November 30

Mutts Canine Cantina's grand opening weekend
Four- and two-legged friends alike are invited to the opening weekend for Mutts Canine Cantina’s Northwest Austin location. Festivities at the new locale include a ribbon cutting ceremony, photos with Santa Paws, drink specials, live music, and more over the course of three days of programming. Admission is free and open to the dog-loving public. Get more information on Eventbrite.

Moontower Comedy presents Ilana Glazer Live!
Actress and comedian Ilana Glazer is back on the stand-up circuit, making a stop at the Paramount Theatre. Glazer is best known for her co-starring and co-creator role on the hit Comedy Central series Broad City. Her most recent work is in series The Afterparty on Apple TV+. A special cocktail hour is available to all Moontower Comedy members. For more information and to purchase tickets, check out austintheatre.org.

Friday, December 1

Austin Trail of Lights preview party
Be among the first to enjoy and experience this year’s Austin Trail of Lights in swanky style at the Zilker Metropolitan Park. Tickets to this exclusive party include all-access admission to the trail itself, Ferris wheel and carousel rides, light bites from favorite Austin restaurants, holiday-inspired cocktails, and more. Reserve your spot on Ticketbud.

ACL Live presents Liz Phair in concert
Rock music artist Liz Phair performs live at ACL Live & 3TEN at ACL Live for one night only. This concert will feature a full setlist from her debut album, Exile in Guyville, in support of its 30th anniversary. Check out seating availability at axs.com.

Saturday, December 2

Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy presents "Yule in the Garden"
Ring in the festive season at the Zilker Botanical Garden. This two-day event will feature two outdoor performances of holiday classics each day, by the Austin Camerata String Quartet. Various nature-based activities and hot holiday beverages will also be available. This event is suitable for guests of all ages. For tickets, go to zilkergarden.org.

St. Elmo Brewing presents its 7th Anniversary Party
Raise a pint to another year of St. Elmo Brewing Company at the brewery's boozy anniversary bash. Highlights include releases of "Lucky: Hazy IPA" and "7: Imperial Stout," 25 beers on tap, and live bluegrass music. Party admission is free. Get more details on stelmobrewing.com.

Sunday, December 3

ACL Live presents Black Pumas in concert
Austin’s meteoric soul band Black Pumas returns to the city for a brief series of concerts at ACL Live. The band will perform live in support of their new album, Chronicles of a Diamond. Shows are scheduled through December 6. For tickets, go to blackpumas.com.

Black Pumas
Photo courtesy of Black Pumas

Black Pumas performs at ACL Live this weekend.

Photo by Michael Knox

15 festive and diverse ways to get in the holiday spirit in Austin this year

Holly Jolly Happenings

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.

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
December 1
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
December 1-30
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
December 2
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
December 2-23
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.

Conspirare Christmas
December 4
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
December 7-15
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
December 8-23
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
December 9
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
December 23
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.

Downtown Austin Alliance presents Holiday Sing-Along and Downtown Stroll
Photo by Michael Knox

Kick off the season with the entire family at the Downtown Austin Alliance Holiday Stroll on December 2.

H-E-B Center presents Cirque Musica: Holiday Wonderland
December 24
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.

Photo by Robert Lerma

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

Weekend Event Guide

Looking for the cure to cabin fever? Prepare for some fun following the big feast thanks to this selection of festive happenings. Make a toast to all things holly and jolly at Miracle on 5th Street or Happy’s pop-up bars. For those with family in town, a tree lighting ceremony and live music at Hill Country Galleria are on the agenda. Check out the top seven things to do in Austin this weekend. For a complete list of events, visit our calendar.

Friday, November 24

Austin Shakespeare presents El Cid
The classic Spanish poem about Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, famously known as Wl Cid, is brought to life at The Long Center for the Performing Arts. Audiences can enjoy a Shakespearean account of the real-life figure’s heroism in his fight for Spanish independence. Performances are scheduled through November 26. Purchase tickets at austinshakespeare.org.

ACL Live presents Deon Cole: My New Normal
Comedian and actor Deon Cole performs live at ACL Live. Cole is best known for his role in the hit ABC sitcom, Black-Ish, and his popular Netflix specials including Charleen's Boy. For seating availability, go to axs.com.

Miracle on 5th Street
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 boozy craft drinks. Guests can expect a nonstop playlist of festive tunes and 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.

Happy's Holiday Pop-Up Bar at Wax Myrtle's
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.

Saturday, November 25

Light Up the Plaza at Hill Country Galleria
Kick off the most wonderful time of the year with family, friends, and tons of holiday lights at the Hill Country Galleria. Highlights include live music from Gunnar Latham and Kaitlin Butts, ice skating, face painting, an appearance from Santa himself, and the annual tree lighting ceremony. Admission is free and open to the public. For more details, check out hillcountrygalleria.com.

Miracle at 5th Street

Photo by Robert Lerma

Drink and be merry at the Miracle at 5th Street pop-up bar now through December 27.

ACL Live presents Bob Schneider and the Moonlight Orchestra in concert
Singer-songwriter Bob Schneider takes the stage at ACL Live for one night only. He is joined by The Moonlight Orchestra. Schneider is one of the most loved Austin musicians and is the former frontman of The Scabs and The Ugly Americans. For ticket availability, check out axs.com.

Sunday, November 26

Otoko x Watertrade present Dram Sessions 2023
Treat your palate to an evening of Japanese spirit tasting and distilling insider knowledge at Otoko’s cocktail bar, Watertrade. This two-hour elevated dining experience features a drams tasting and two accompanying dishes for a moment worth savoring. Splurge on your reservations on Tock.

Photo courtesy of AT&T Performing Arts Center

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

Weekend Event Guide

Festive seasonal fun and live entertainment are on the horizon, according to our agenda. The next few days promise something for everyone’s interests, from horror films to can’t-miss concerts. Take a selfie with The Grinch at Domain Northside, or start your shopping with a trip to Blue Genie Art Bazaar. Check out the top seven things to do in Austin this weekend. For a complete list of events, visit our calendar.

Book of Mormon
Photo courtesy of AT&T Performing Arts Center

See award-winning musical The Book of Mormon at Bass Concert Hall on November 16.

Thursday, November 16

Morgan Wallen in concert
Country music singer-songwriter Morgan Wallen performs live at Moody Center. The voice behind chart-topping songs such as “Chasin’ You” and “The Way I Talk” makes a stop in Austin in support of his new album, One Thing At A Time. Go to Ticketmaster for more show information.

Jim Jefferies: Give 'em What They Want Tour
Comedian and actor Jim Jefferies performs his thought-provoking humor for a live audience at ACL Live & 3TEN at ACL Live. The Australian comic is best known for his Comedy Central late-night show, The Jim Jefferies Show, and for his starring role in the FX sitcom Legit. Get more show information on Ticketmaster.

Broadway in Austin presents The Book of Mormon
The manic misadventures of a pair of missionaries unfold onstage at Bass Concert Hall. The nine-time Tony Award-winning musical The Book of Mormon is a production packed with hilarious comedy moments all centered around the well-meaning characters’ charge to spread the tenets of their faith. This show contains explicit language and is most suitable for adult viewers. Performances are scheduled through November 19. Check out austin.broadway.com for more information.

Friday, November 17

Blue Genie Art Bazaar
Kickstart your holiday shopping at a bona fide Austin seasonal institution complete with all the most unique and handmade gifts you can imagine. Blue Genie Art Bazaar returns for another year of hassle-free, wall-to-wall local vendors, live music, treats, and more. The bazaar is open through December 24. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, visit bluegenieartbazaar.com.

Ethereal Horror Fest
‘Tis the season for horror movies. Ethereal Horror Fest is a two-day event that features a curated selection of horror films screened at The Ballroom at Spiderhouse. Notable events include the opening night feature film Butchers Bluff, produced by Austin filmmakers William Instone and Matt Rifley, and a live taping of Talking Strange, hosted by self-described paranormal journalist Aaron Sagers with a guest lineup of paranormal experts. Other highlights include multiple short film blocks, a ghost investigation, seance, and a haunted show & tell. Check out etherealhorrorfest.com for more details.

The National in concert
Moody Center hosts rock band The National for a tour stop in Austin. The moody alternative group behind top songs like “Fake Empire” and “Conversation 16” performs live in support of their new album, First Two Pages of Frankenstein. Get more details on Ticketmaster.

Saturday, November 18

Domain Northside presents "Merry Grinchmas: Holiday Kick-Off Event"
Ring in the holiday season in Grinch-centric style at Domain Northside. Festive fans can enjoy photo opportunities with the Grinch, caricature artists, a bracelet bar, a hair tinsel studio, lively music, and more throughout the property all in the spirit of celebration. This event is free and open to the public.

Photo courtesy of Waterloo Greenway

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

Weekend Event Guide

Music, festival fun, and mesmerizing art installations are rightfully taking up space on our agenda in the days ahead. Get inspired at the return of Creek Show or catch artists like Wynonna Judd and Lil Uzi Vert live in concert. Check out the top seven things to do in Austin this weekend. For a complete list of events, visit our calendar.

Thursday, November 9

Bee Cave Arts Foundation and DadaLab present Bee Cave BuzzFest
The Hill Country Galleria hosts an immersive festival celebrating music, tech, and art for guests of all ages. Highlights of the three-day event include art installations in The Hive at Bee Cave Arts Foundation and in the Central Plaza of the Galleria, as well as live performances by musical guests such as The Octopus Project, Machinedrum, and Lealani. Festival admission is free and open to the public. For more details, go to beecavebuzzfest.com.

Waterloo Greenway presents Creek Show
Photo courtesy of Waterloo Greenway

Waterloo Greenway presents the Creek Show beginning November 10.

Moody Center presents Lil Uzi Vert in concert
Rapper Lil Uzi Vert brings his rockstar-level tour to Austin’s Moody Center. The star known for hit songs including “XO Tour Llif3” and “Just Wanna Rock” performs live in concert in support of his new album, Pink Tape. Get more details on Ticketmaster.

Friday, November 10

Waterloo Greenway presents the Creek Show
Art lights up the night in the heart of Austin at the return of Creek Show. Visitors will get the chance to explore and discover illuminated artwork, including eight new light-based art installations, along Waller Creek for nine consecutive days. Additional Creek Show highlights include nightly live music performances, family-friendly activities, food & beverages, and more. Fast passes are available for purchase. General Creek Show admission is free and open to the public. Get more details at waterloogreenway.org.

Saturday, November 11

Cover 3's 15th Anniversary Celebration
Austin restaurant and elevated sports bar Cover 3 celebrates 15 years of business at its flagship location on Anderson Lane. Guests can enjoy “throwback” dishes from past menus, various drink specials, alcohol tastings, face painting, cornhole, and more in honor of the location’s anniversary. For more anniversary information, go to cover-3.com.

Bass Concert Hall presents Ali Wong in concert
Comedian and actress Ali Wong brings fresh stand-up material to Bass Concert Hall for a live audience. She's best known for her recent starring role in Netflix's limited series, Beef, and her two hit Netflix specials, Baby Cobra and Hard Knock Wife, respectively. Ticket availability can be found on texasperformingarts.evenue.net.

Texas Book Festival
After months of announcements and teasers, the Texas Book Festival is ready to turn the page on its November 11-12 events. Visitors are invited to mostly free book talks, a market, and a literature crawl. There are three ticketed sessions for in-demand authors, including political leader and trailblazer Stacey Abrams; she comes to First Baptist Church of Austin on November 12 to support her New York Times bestselling book, Rogue Justice. Tickets include session admission, access to the book signing line, and one copy of Abrams’ new book. Go to Eventbrite for more information.

Sunday, November 12

ACL Live presents Wynonna Judd in concert
Country music superstar Wynonna Judd performs live in concert at ACL Live. The voice of hits songs such as “No One Else on Earth” and “Is It Over Yet” comes to Austin in support of her Back To Wy Tour. Fans can expect a setlist featuring songs from her first two solo albums, performed in full, followed by a finale of other hits and classics from her time with The Judds. Check out axs.com for more details.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Esquire's praise for top Austin Mexican restaurant leads this week's top 5 most-read headlines

hot headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From our best chefs to our neighbors' strong tourist pulls, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. Austin's new favorite Mexican restaurant scores coveted spot on Esquire's Best New Restaurants list. Este was the only Texas restaurant on the main list.

2. 'The twinkliest town in Texas' and 6 other Hill Country locales become Christmas wonderlands. Those warm fuzzies aren't always easy to find amongst Austin's seasonal glitz — they're a mall-town affair.

3. Austin sparkles and shines as the No. 1 most festive city in the U.S. for 2023. Thumbtack specifically focuses on home holiday projects, but Austinites can glean inspiration from the city's many festive displays.

4. Austin is among the 20 most 'house rich' cities in U.S., report says. 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 was $593,000.

5. This Texas city is among the 50 best places to travel in 2024, says Travel + Leisure. Fort Worth was the only Texas city to make Travel + Leisure's prestigious list, and one of just a handful of U.S. cities.

A new daiquiri bar and authentic spicy ramen top Austin's 11 tastiest bites of food news

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 and closings

Despite Austin's proximity to the Gulf Coast and the Louisiana Bayou, we don't have too many restaurants replicating the area's cuisine. A new bar and grill called Austin's Very Own Saltt is adding to the growing niche, highlighting seafood and daiquiris — popular in New Orleans for how easy they are to make and dispense to loaded, novelty-seeking tourists on a hot day. Along with seven or more variations on the sugary frozen drinks, expect classics like Cajun butterfly shrimp, fried catfish, and shrimp fried rice as a side. Surprisingly, this bar won't entertain downtown day drinkers, but a milder crowd up north (2525 W. Anderson Ln.). It opens December 2 at 5 pm.

Austinites likely need no introduction to Shake Shack, the fast food burger joint with surprisingly upscale culinary initiatives. A new location in Cedar Park (1905 E. Whitestone Blvd.) is the first in the area, and it's wooing new customers with several opening day offers. On December 5, guests will receive branded holiday ornaments, and Shake Shack will donate $1 for every sandwich sold to Texas Humane Heroes, a pet shelter with an adoption center in Leander. Hours are 11 am to 10 pm Sunday through Thursday, and 11 am to 11 pm Friday through Saturday.

ICYMI: One of the most famous barbecue joints near Austin, the Salt Lick BBQ, offered big news this week: It's opening its third full-scale location. This one will be in Fredericksburg, opening sometime in 2025 if everything goes according to plan. Another famous restaurant with more upscale international credentials, Quince, also shared photos of its beautiful plates and views after a very quiet soft opening of its Lake Austin location. If you've been reading for a while, you may recognize a few other restaurants that opened this week: Mutts Canine Cantina,El Alma Cafe y Cantina, and a Milk Bar pop-up.

Other news and notes

Many Austinites swear by Jinya Ramen, which originated in Tokyo and now commands a cult following here, in Austin. On December 1, it brings back its "fan-favorite" Red Garnet bowl, featuring "thick noodles," vegan broth, a spicy garlic sauce, pork chasu, green onion, kikurage (wood ear mushrooms), onion, and spinach. It'll be on menus until February 29, 2024. New to the United States locations is also the Curry Nikuman bun with pork soboro (ground pork) and a curry dipping sauce.

Speaking of local favorites, Home Slice is also bringing back a special menu item: a vodka pie (not sold by the slice), featuring a cream sauce made with Tito's Handmade Vodka and fresh mozzarella. The pies, two new natural wines, and a prize drawing will all raise funds for Southern Smoke in Houston, and Foundation Communities in Austin. One lucky winner will win free pizza for a year; Tickets ($10, or 3 for $25) are available for purchase in-store until December 24.

Widely recognized as one of Austin's best new-ish restaurants, Canje charms guests with Caribbean flavors — especially as Austinites crave a little tropical feeling during winter months. On December 3, the restaurant is inviting anyone to stop by for a free Trinidadian dance party with a DJ and Trinidadian street food. Details are sparse, but we don't need much else to be convinced it'll be worth a visit. The party goes from 5 pm to midnight. RSVP on Eventbrite.

Aspiring architects who don't have the budget to experiment on Austin land can try on gingerbread houses first, at beautiful South Lamar restaurant Eberly. Pastry chef Raven Breitfeller will guide visitors through the delicate process, but things won't be too serious as the seasonal cocktails and passed apps start rolling in. Tickets ($90) include all materials, one cocktail, and snacks, and are available via Resy.

Photos with Santa, holiday hotel deals, and 8 more Texas travel tidbits for December


It's the most wonderful time of year for Texans to travel and spend quality time with family. Need help deciding where to take a quick vacation, road trip, or staycation? Here are 10 events, special celebrations, and hotel happenings to help plan a getaway in December.

In the Hill Country

Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a special event December 8-10. Throughout the weekend, the winery will offer an anniversary bundle featuring three special wines for $99 plus tax. On Saturday, December 9, visitors can stop by to enjoy wine and cake while supplies last. Reservations are required for tastings, and can be made online via Tock or by emailing tasting@pedernalescellars.com.

From Jingle Bell Runs to photos with Cowboy Kringle, the Christmas season is in full swing in Gruene. There are festive holiday happenings during every weekend in December, starting with the 22nd annual Gruene Pony Express Ride, the Gruene Town Lighting, and the Christmas Market Days on Saturday, December 2. And if swing dancing is on the list of resolutions for 2024, Texans can get a head start by visiting Gruene Hall on December 19 and 26 to learn easy, fun moves for beginners. Swing dancing lessons are $10 per person, but many other family-friendly events in Gruene are free to the public.

There's plenty of time to make your way down to Thompson San Antonio – Riverwalk for a unique 12 Days of Christmas event that runs December 12-23. Activities include complimentary mini-massages from the Thompson Spa's expert therapists on December 13, a must-know mixology class on December 17, and a live jazz performance on December 21. These events are free, and visitors can register to participate online via the website.

Across North Texas

In its first holiday season, the new Omni PGA Frisco Resort is offering a special "Home On the Range for the Holidays" package that includes movie nights, holiday games and crafts, s'mores, and a Santa meet-and-greet. Valet parking, early check-in and check-out, and weekend breakfast are included. Nightly rates for the holiday package (offered through December 23) begin at $426. For some extra holiday wonderment, guests can unwrap up to 20 percent off their stay at the resort with the Ticket to Wonder package in partnership with Dallas chocolatier Kate Weiser.

In the Houston-Galveston area

The Dickens on the Strand Festival in Galveston received quite a gift for its 50th anniversary: official recognition from the United Kingdom’s Parliament. The annual event immerses visitors in the world of Charles Dickens' larger-than-life characters in 19th-century England. From December 1-3, the family-friendly festival will include fun parades, entertainment on four different stages, and costumed vendors selling Victorian-inspired crafts, clothing, jewelry, and more. Admission is $25 for adults, $18 for children aged 7-12, and free for children aged 6 and under. Tickets can purchased via Eventbrite.

And if you're looking for a swanky place to stay during the festival weekend (or any weekend, for that matter), Gavleston's newly-opened Hotel Lucine (formerly the Treasure Isle Motel) is a brand-new contender. CultureMap's Eric Sandler shared his first impressions of the hotel and all of its luxe amenities, including its rooftop bar, lobby bar and restaurant, and The Fancy – a "fine-ish" dining restaurant currently serving dinner. The hotel’s owners aimed to transform the two-story property into a "modern experience designed to appeal to gen x’ers and millennials." Nightly rates at Hotel Lucine begin at $155 in December.

The C. Baldwin Hotel in downtown Houston is enticing hotel guests (and any visitors who want to make merry) with 12 Days of Cocktails, featuring a rotating specialty cocktail menu available at the hotel's Lobby Bar and Rosalie Italian Soul. Seasonal offerings include Apple Cider Old Fashioned, Pumpkin Spice Martini, Winter Spritz, and more. Plus, a special holiday market in partnership with Houston's Southern Kindness Gallery will feature 30 local artisans, Saturday, December 9. More information can be found online.

At home in Austin

On Christmas Eve, families staying at Austin's Commodore Perry Estate can enjoy milk and cookies while children write their letters to Santa, then feast on a special Christmas Eve prime rib dinner and participate in holiday cookie decorating. On Christmas Day, the resort will have a breakfast display of homemade pastries and more. A special yuletide feast prepared by Chef Bradley and Chef Susana will be available all day, paired with holiday wines curated by the estate's sommelier. Rates at Commodore Perry Estate begin at $454 per night in December.

Santa is making special appearances throughout Texas to learn what children want for Christmas, and at the Barton Creek Square, families will be able to grab a photo with Mr. Claus throughout the month. On December 5 and 12, families can don their most festive holiday pajamas for a Pajama Day photo op with Santa. Visitors also can bring their furry friends for special pet photo sessions on December 10, 6:30-8:30 pm. Reservations are encouraged, and can be made via whereissanta.com.

The Hyatt Centric Congress Avenue Austin has launched its own deluxe holiday deal for guests through January 3: the Miracle on Congress Avenue package. Guests can use the promo code "WINTER" when booking a stay at the hotel's Artist's Residence and enjoy the comforts of a beautifully decorated holiday-themed penthouse suite on the 31st floor, a $100 food and beverage credit that can be used at the famed Luminaire restaurant or Le Bis rooftop terrace bar, and a complimentary holiday mini bar. Rates for the Miracle on Congress Avenue package begin at $747 per night.