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10 Festive Events to Celebrate the Holiday Season in Austin

Our picks for the most exciting pop-ups, performances and attractions for the joyous month of December

The most wonderful time of the year is here, and there are countless ways to partake in all the festivities in Austin. In addition to sharing holiday market suggestions for your gift giving needs, we also have you covered when it comes to making the perfect plans to honor the season. Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah or simply the winter spirit, take a look at our curated list of merry and bright recommendations below.

Austin Trail of Lights

Dec. 8–23

One of Austin’s most cherished celebrations, the 58th annual Austin Trail of Lights will soon return with millions of twinkling lights, live entertainment and delicious food. After pivoting to a drive-only experience during the pandemic, the Trail is back with its traditional walking experience this year. Starting Dec. 8, visitors can walk through Zilker Park to witness top attractions like a 155-foot multicolored tree, 89 additional trees and more than 70 artful light displays. There will also be theme nights, including a UT Night, Heroes Night, Movie Night and Pride Night. We recommend purchasing tickets sooner rather than later as they tend to sell out!

Photo courtesy of Ballet Austin

Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker

Now through Dec. 23

A perfect winter tradition for family and friends, Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker is currently in the midst of its 60th anniversary production. Guests can witness the timeless tale with mesmerizing choreography by dancers as they perform to Tchaikovsky’s magical score, staged live by the Austin Symphony Orchestra. The character of Mother Ginger, always played by a variety of prominent Austinites, will be played this year by Mayor Steve Adler, Austin PBS President and CEO Luis Patiño and Antonelli’s Cheese Shop owner Kendall Antonelli, among others.

Photo by Jackie Lee Young

Winter Wanderland at Austin Motel

Now through Dec. 26

People of all ages are welcome to wander around the Austin Motel’s forest of neon rainbow trees, take sips from their holiday drink menu (boozy or not) and make decadent s’mores at the Winter Wanderland. Extra experiences will be available to choose from on select days, including photos with a Hunky Santa on Thursdays, festive floats and Christmas movie screenings on Fridays, carols with Drag Mrs. Claus on Saturdays and shopping pop-ups on Sundays. Entry is free and reservations are not required.

Photo courtesy of Circuit of the Americas

Peppermint Parkway at COTA

Now through Dec. 30

Peppermint Parkway, a spectacular one-mile drive of colorful lights, tasty treats, classic tunes and more, has returned for a third year at the Circuit of the Americas. The epic journey features a Mistletoe Kissing Booth, Peppermint Pub, appearances by live characters and so much more. Brand new elements this year include a holiday market and a Christmas tree lot offering well-priced trees to attendees. And don’t miss the COTA Candy Cane, COTA’s 251-foot Observation Tower, for an amazing view of the city skyline. Grab your tickets to the unforgettable expedition now.

Nickel City’s Sippin’ Santa

Now through Dec. 30

Santa arrived early this year at Nickel City with a tiki Christmas pop-up playfully called Sippin’ Santa. Bargoers are welcome to explore the acclaimed dive bar’s decked-out space, taste sweet cocktails and capture a photo with Santa. Be sure to try the Holiday on Ice drink, made with vodka, dark-roasted cold brew, condensed milk, ancho chile liqueur and cinnamon syrup. This happening is first come, first serve, but larger groups are welcome to make reservations for their party.

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Holiday Lounge and Light Show at Fairmont Austin

Now through Dec. 30

It’s time to go walking in a Texas winter wonderland at the Fairmont, which has transformed its seventh floor into an après-ski lounge complete with sparkling lights, luxurious igloos, fire pits and cabanas. While you’re taking in the coziness, enjoy sips and bites from a special holiday menu. Guests can book tickets and pick their desired experience here, with general admission starting at $10.

Photo courtesy of Kitty Cohen’s

Kitty Cohen’s Get Lit Hanukkah Pop-Up

Now Through Dec. 31

All are invited to join in on the bright Hanukkah celebrations at the Palm Springs-inspired Kitty Cohen’s. Guests will be treated to dazzling decorations and Hanukkah-inspired cocktails, on top of the bar’s regular menu. Over the eight days of Hannakuh, visitors can try out a special menu, created in collaboration with Chef Amanda Rockman, that features baked goods like rugelach and a halva chocolate chip cookie. Jewboy Burgers will also pop up on Monday, Dec. 19 to serve sliders and latkes. A percentage of proceeds will go to the JCC of Austin.

Holiday Cheer at Paramount Theatre

Now through Dec. 31

Moviegoers can catch screenings of festive flicks and jolly shows at the Paramount this December. Classic films like It’s a Wonderful Life, Love Actually, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York will all be displayed onscreen in the grand space. Attendees can continue to feel the magic at the Paramount’s live holiday music concerts, classic theater shows and yuletide drag performances throughout the season.

Photos courtesy of Four Seasons Austin

Ice Rodeo at Four Seasons Hotel Austin

Now through Jan. 8, 2023

One of the loveliest winter activities in Austin is the Four Seasons Hotel’s luxe Ice Rodeo event. Fun for all ages, stakers can move around the ice rink overlooking Lady Bird Lake, while basking in custom art installations, a giant star-shaped tunnel of lights, a jolly Texas longhorn, a life-size gingerbread Airstream trailer, and a 30-foot Christmas tree by the Ciclo lawn. Small groups can also book one of their chic “cabins” surrounding the rink and cozy up with seasonal food and drink.

Photo courtesy of Museum of Ice Cream

Pinkmas at Museum of Ice Cream

Now through Jan. 9, 2023

Savor the sweetness of the season at the Museum of Ice Cream’s interactive holiday expedition. Embark on a journey through 12 multi-sensory installations with fun crafts, a life-sized snow globe, a Pinkmas tree forest, limited edition sugary treats and more. Guests will also get to sip on seasonal cocktails from the MOIC Cafe, including pink hot chocolate, boozy shakes and mulled apple cider. These activities are open to visitors of all ages.

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