12 Shimmering Central Texas Holiday Light Trails Worth the Drive from Austin
Here are the most enchanting Hill Country holiday light trails that put the wonder in wonderland
‘Tis the season for all things twinkly and sparkly, the joy of giving, and the magic of holiday lights. If you are like us, a dazzling holiday light display conjures up the warmest, happiest feelings of the season. While Austin has an abundance of light shows and seasonal events, it’s fun to hit the road on a quest for all that glitters this time of year. Here are some of our favorites within two hours of Austin.
Santa’s Ranch in New Braunfels
Santa’s Ranch is an absolute fever dream of holiday lights, with everything aglow — from spaceships to longhorns to Bible stories to dinosaurs. This drive-through lights adventure starts to get busy early in the season, so we recommend putting on your coziest jammies and hitting the road to see these holiday lights sooner rather than later.
Pack snacks and hot cocoa; once you enter the trail, you will have to complete the circuit along with all of the other cars. There is also an area to get out and buy treats or souvenirs. Tickets are priced per vehicle (personal vehicles only, up to 8 people allowed per car).
When: Now through December 31, nightly, 6-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 6-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
Where: Santa’s Ranch, New Braunfels
Cost: $37 single entry or $74 for vehicle season pass with unlimited entries
Wimberley Trail of Lights
The Trail of Lights at the Emily Ann Theatre in Wimberley is a festive holiday tradition for many in Central Texas and the Texas Hill Country. This walking trail of lights fills six acres of holiday wonderland. They also burn a Yule Log nightly as weather permits and feature live entertainment on most evenings. They have a whole calendar of special events hosted by local businesses and vendors.
When: December 2 – December 26, nightly
Where: Emily Ann Theatre, Wimberley
Cost: Free, but donations welcome
Lightscape at the San Antonio Botanical Garden
Lightscape is back at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens, and it is a captivating display of lights and art, and this year is “bigger, brighter, and bolder than ever before,” according to their website. This display magically transforms the gardens into a must-see holiday delight with more than one million lights decorating the gardens. This is an illuminated, outdoor trail that winds for more than a mile through the SABOT gardens.
When: Now through January 1, nightly with entry times from 5:30 – 9 p.m.
Where: San Antonio Botanical Gardens
Cost: $18-$28/adult, $7-$18/child, ages 0-2 free
San Antonio Zoo Lights
San Antonio Zoo Lights are back and promise to be an unforgettable holiday lights extravaganza. The animals go up for the night as the zoo transforms into a wintry wonderland of lights. Fun fact: the San Antonio Zoo Lights are 95% environmentally friendly LED lights. Ride the Holiday Express or frolic on the new Polar Playground, where you can experience such thrills as the Water Wonderland, Starry Safari, Candy Lane, Peppermint Path, meet whimsical characters,snack on yummy treats, and participate in festive activities for all ages. They even have a Lakeside Laser Show this year for that extra razzle dazzle!
When: Now through December 3, nightly
Where: San Antonio Zoo
Cost: Free for San Antonio Zoo members or with a standard zoo admission ticket, starting at $27.99 (free for kids under 3)
Holiday Lights on the San Antonio River Walk
The San Antonio River Walk adorns its holiday best all season long to welcome tourists and locals alike to enjoy the twinkly lights and the unabashed sparkle of the season. There is something special about seeing the lights reflected in the water. It’s a stunner and a classic.
San Antonio hosts several additional events along the River Walk, including the Ford Holiday River Parade on November 24, Ford Fiesta de Luminarias on weekends from December 2-17, and Ford Holiday Boat Caroling (a paid activity). Catch it on foot, from a patio while sipping a margarita or hot cocoa, or from a boat.
When: November 24 – January 7, nightly
Where: San Antonio Riverwalk, downtown portion and also near the Pearl District
The Old West Christmas Lights Fest in Boerne
The Old West Christmas Lights Fest is exactly what it sounds like, a western-themed holiday affair situated on an actual ranch. If you don’t believe us, check out the longhorns while you’re there. Not University of Texas Longhorns (Hook ‘em, though), but living, breathing longhorn cattle. You can wander around the ranch, disguised as an Old West town, enjoying a multitude of festive lights, live music, visits with Santa, and a full-on holiday market.
When: Friday-Sunday from November 24 – December 10, then nightly from December 15 – December 23
Where: Enchanted Springs Ranch, Boerne
Cost: $25/person (ages 6+), $20 for military and first responders, $20/person in a special family five-pack
Hinojosa Family Lights in Boerne
Clark Griswold has nothing on this Boerne family! The Hinojosa Family Lights have been entertaining locals and visitors with their impressive and magical lights display for almost a decade. This holiday tradition earned them a spot on the TV show, “The Great Christmas Light Fight!” Spoiler alert: They won!
The Hinjosas add more light displays every year, and the lights dance to music. Follow the family’s Facebook page to stay up to date on this light show. They have not announced their 2023 dates yet, but the Visit Boerne website says they promise to make this year’s display “the biggest and brightest show yet, with more than 140 hours of setup time.”
When: Starting soon TBD
Where: 140 Shadow Knolls, Boerne
Cost: Free, but at the display you will see a donation box as well as a small Christmas Tree area. According to their Facebook page, your donation will support a local charity as well as the purchase of Christmas trees for families who may need one this Christmas. If you have an attic tree, they’ll gladly take it and refurbish it for their display or to donate it to anyone that reaches out to them.
Johnson City Lights Spectacular
The Johnson City Lights Spectacular is definitely giving Main Character vibes. You’ll feel like the star of your own story as you waltz through this incredible array of millions of (mostly) white lights illuminating the town square for just the prettiest December display in the Texas Hill Country. Besides being featured on just about everyone’s Instagram pages, the “Twinkliest Town in Texas” has actually been recorded from space, courtesy of NASA! Now that’s something!
When: November 24 – January 7, nightly
Where: Johnson City Courthouse and surrounding area
Crumbling Castle Lights in Boerne/Comfort
This is a drive-thru holiday forest of lights, run by the Ramsower family, created to share their joy of the season. According to their website, “The Crumbling Castle is a dazzling holiday light park, located just north of Boerne, Texas. Come and drive through more than 30 acres of Texas Hill Country illuminated into a magical forest — with idyllic holiday scenes, fairy tale sculptures, and thousands of wrapped trees and lights to enchant one and all.”
When: Now through January 1, nightly from 6 – 10 p.m.
Where: The Crumbling Castle, 571 FM 289, between Boerne and Comfort
Cost: $40 single entry per vehicle or $75 for a season pass
The Dancing Lights of Mill Pond in San Saba
San Saba’s Mill Pond Dancing Lights is a gorgeous walking trail with several acres of holiday lights dancing along with music (synced to radio station 88.7 FM). Enjoy the lights reflected in Mill Pond and heaps of Christmas cheer.
When: Opening Thanksgiving weekend, nightly
Where: Mill Pond Park, San Saba
Bastrop River of Lights & Lighted Christmas Parade
Now is the time of year that little old Bastrop turns into the most Christmasy of all. Their River of Lights and holiday events make this small Texas town worthy of its own Hallmark Christmas special. Bastrop River of Lights is a delight for the heart and a feast for the eyes. Just be careful you don’t get caught up in the magic, fall in love with that hunky guy from high school, and abandon your big city dreams.
Lost Pines and Bastrop also put on a fabulous Lighted Christmas Parade. Most of the businesses in Historic Downtown Bastrop also decorate along the parade route. More than 100 entrants and organizations get their glow on in the impressive parade. The 2023 parade is on December 9 at 6 p.m.
When: November 25 – January 2, nightly from dusk to 1 p.m.
Where: Fisherman’s Park, Bastrop
Marble Falls Walkway of Lights
The Walkway of Lights in Marble Falls boasts 2 million lights and more than 350 lighted sculptures for your holiday viewing pleasure! This walking trail is celebrating its 33rd year in 2023, so you can be sure it will be a feast for the eyes.
When: Now through December 31, nightly
Where: Lakeside Park, Marble Falls
The holidays can be stressful, so make sure to carve out some time to enjoy the sparkly, twinkly, and shimmery lights of the season. We hope it sets your heart aglow with the warmth and joy of the holidays.
Looking for light displays closer to home? Don’t miss these Austin traditions: