The Austin Trail of Lights
Zilker Park, December 10–23
by Neal Baker
Joke all you want about winter in Texas. Be it 60 degrees or below freezing, when the holidays arrive, Austin makes no compromises on festivity. In December you can follow the glow to Zilker Park to find the city’s cheerful centerpiece, the beloved Trail of Lights, with the famous Zilker tree towering overhead. The annual tradition dates to the 1960s and brings together more Austinites than nearly any other event all year. But as is to be expected, each year brings new additions to what is already one of Austin’s most spectacular events.
The attractions involved are numerous, with the entire park transformed into a tour of dozens of extravagantly lit backdrops, installations, tunnels, trees and, occasionally, people. Along the way, you’ll find — you guessed it — live music and food-truck offerings to warm up your chilly night. Add a carousel and a Ferris wheel, and you have all you could ever hope for in a holiday gathering. What’s more, it does an exceptional job of unifying the Austin community in celebration of the season.
Some days are ticketed, while others are free, and several specialty nights are planned during the course of the event, so it’s worth checking out the affair’s online calendar. And though the trail opens on December 10th, and runs through the 23rd, the Zilker tree and its thousands of lights stay up the entire month, carrying the holiday spirit through to the new year.