Austin’s Best Winter Holiday Traditions
Twelve days’ worth of seasonal celebrations to share with those you love
By Laurel Miller
‘Tis the season to enact established family rituals or invoke new ones, no matter who you consider close kin. Whether your nearest and dearest is a significant other or your kids, friends, neighbors or pets, our short list has a little something for everyone (including you).
1. See the Light(s)
It’s not the holidays in Austin without The Trail of Lights; this year — its 57th — will again be drive-through. For a festive stroll, visit the Heritage neighborhood to view the 37th Street Lights or head to Mozart’s Coffee Roasters for hot chocolate and their annual Christmas Light Show (tickets required).
2. Pamper Your Pet
Treat your best friend to a spa day, replete with a massage, mud bath or “pawdicures.” All three locations of Barkin’ Creek Dog Kitchen and Bath also make human-grade, small-batch dog food from locally sourced meat and produce. Bathing and grooming packages are available. Gussy up the feline in your life at As The Fur Flies.
3. Build a Gingerbread House
If you’re short on time or counter space, nab one of Central Market’s preassembled gingerbread houses and skip straight to the really fun part. The Thinkery also sells kits, and offers Gingerbread Workshops for all ages. Budding bakers ages eight and up can partake in cookie, cake and confection classes at Make It Sweet.
4. Holiday Stage Classics
After a two-year hiatus, the musical production of “A Christmas Carol” returns to the ZACH Theatre, along with Ballet Austin’s “Nutcracker.” Pre-performance, enjoy a cocktail or glass of bubbly in Lenoir’s fairy light-festooned garden.
5. Visit A Tree Fam
Go full Paul Bunyan and harvest your own tree at Elgin Christmas Tree Farm. You’ll be provided a bow saw and hay ride out to the cutting fields; after harvesting your Virginia Pine or Leyland Cypress, pop into the Christmas Cottage for a wreath and some ornaments. From $25.
6. Shop-Til-You-Drop Reset
Running holiday errands requires stamina. Refuel at Easy Tiger South Lamar, Home Slice North Loop, Bouldin Acres or Littlefield’s Tacos & Coffee — all of which provide playgrounds to keep antsy kids occupied.
7. Go Ice Skating
You may need to skip the layers of clothing, but gliding across the rooftop rink at Whole Foods Lamar is an Austin tradition. Take it inside at Chaparral Ice in Austin or Cedar Park.
8. Shop and Stroll
The 27th annual Downtown Holiday Stroll, which takes place along Congress Avenue between 9th and 11th Streets, features shopping passports that offer discounts at participating stores, pop-ups, brilliant light displays, appearances by Mr. and Mrs. Claus and the star attraction — a decked-out 45-foot tree.
9. Hit the Holiday Bazaar
Get your decoration inspiration and Austin-inspired stocking stuffers and gifts at ATown or seek out locally made handicrafts from hundreds of local artisans at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, Blue Genie Art Bazaar and the Kwanzaa Ujamaa Marketplace at the George Washington Carver Museum. Come for the shopping, and stay for the food trucks and live music.
10. Festive Feasting
Arlo Grey at The LINE Austin is bringing back its cozy poolside yurts for holiday dining, featuring seasonal, family-style dishes by executive chef Kristen Kish. Canoodle with your significant other or break out the bubbly for up to eight guests. Reservations required.
11. Holiday Barhopping
Indulge in a little holiday cheer at Lala’s Little Nugget, where it’s Christmas 365 days a year. Other hotspots for revelry include The Eleanor, which is bringing back its extravagant Miracle on 5th Street pop-up, The Gibson and Donn’s Depot, which go all out with the holiday frippery.
12. Jingle Bell 5k
Burn off those Christmas cookies by running or walking the 26th annual Austin Jingle Bell 5k and Kid’s 1k Fun Run at The Domain, December 12th, benefitting MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). Don’t forget your Santa hat.