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Austin Trail of Lights: Everything You Need to Know About the Holiday Tradition

Photo courtesy of Austin Trail of Lights

Ride the Ferris Wheel. Spin under the iconic Zilker Tree. Take a dozen selfies. Whether you’re taking your family, out of towners or going with friends, a visit to the Austin Trail of Lights at Zilker Park is a beloved Central Texas holiday tradition. The spectacle of more than 2 million lights, glowing Christmas trees and other holiday scenes that illuminate the park is open from Dec. 8 to Dec. 23, nightly from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. General admission is free for seven of the fourteen nights. Visit the Trail of Lights’ 2023 event calendar to see which nights you can attend at no cost. General admission is just $10 on other nights. Tickets can be purchased online to avoid waiting at the gates with access to a prepaid admissions entrance. And check out the full lineup of entertainment – from movie night to live music – happening at the Austin Trail of Lights each night.

There are a few other options to keep in mind when planning your visit to the Trail of Lights this year. All of which can be purchased by using the event calendar.

Photo courtesy of Trail of Lights

ZIP Pass, $25

This is a great option for small groups or families – and anyone who loves free hot cocoa. Guests with ZIP Passes can enter the Trail of Lights an hour before general admission gates open, starting at 6pm from Dec. 11 to Dec. 23. There’s a special ZIP entrance and lobby where you can enjoy hot cocoa before starting your visit. Inside you’ll have access to a cozy ZIP Lounge with free holiday cookies and more complimentary cocoa as well as seating and heated restrooms.

Photo courtesy of Trail of Lights

Platinum Pass, $95

If you want to see the Trail of Lights like a VIP, this is your chance. In addition to early access at 6pm through a special back gate entrance, Platinum Pass holders can valet park their cars and enjoy concierge service from the Trail of Lights Platinum team to guide you through the events. There’s a Platinum Lounge with a private bar and golf carts to take you to the trailhead. You’ll also get a drink ticket to use at bars around the park and a ride ticket for either the Ferris Wheel or the Carousel.

Parking, $25 per vehicle

Parking lots open at 5:30 p.m. nightly for the Trail of Lights. There are limited spaces available and you must purchase a parking pass online and in advance.

Photo courtesy of Trail of Lights

Shuttle Pass, $8

General admission is included in this price for those who prefer to drive and park far away from all the traffic and take a shuttle right up to the gates of the Austin Trail of Lights. Shuttles pick up at two locations from Dec. 13-15 and Dec. 19-23: downtown at Republic Square (422 Guadalupe Street) and in South Austin at Toney Burger Event Center (3200 Jones Road). The first shuttle departs at both locations at 5:30 p.m. and they then run continuously until 8:30 p.m. at the departure locations and until 10:30 p.m. from the park to take you back to your car.

Holiday Parties

‘Tis the season to throw a party. Whether you’re getting together with coworkers or celebrating a December wedding, the Trail of Lights is available to host groups from 50 to 3,500 guests at the most festive location in town. Venues inside Zilker Park are available in both indoor and outdoor spaces with easy access to the Trail of Lights displays. Holiday décor, food and drinks can be provided with full-service catering options that range from casual to elegant. You can also book entertainment options for your party, including a DJ and dance floor, photo booth, private bar, games or a visit from Santa. Use the holiday party inquiry form to start planning an unforgettable holiday party at the Trail of Lights