50 Things to do in Austin for your Christmas traditions!
Christmas Events in Austin
Create memories with unique or traditional Austin Entertainment & activities, Santa, Lights and Christmas Eve & Christmas Day eats
50 Things to do in Austin for Christmas 2016: I have to say, putting together this list of things to do in Austin Texas for the Christmas holiday season has been a blast. I’ve rediscovered just how blessed we are to live (or visit) Austin. In fact, I’m starting a tradition here at AustinFan.com to grow and expand this list each year!
Entertainment – Austin
Here are fourteen (14) fun things to do in Austin this holiday season! You have everything from the classics like Ballet Austin the Nutcracker, to skating on the roof of Whole Foods… or snow day at Bee Caves. And then continue reading to find Santa sightings, Christmas light extravaganzas, and Christmas eats.
1) Christmas in the Community
November 26 – December 23, 2016 – Various Austin locations
The Austin Symphony brings free music to Austinites. Different ensembles of the orchestra will play twelve holiday music concerts in numerous locations including the Domain and the State Capitol.
3) Blue Genie Art Bazaar
Nov 25 – Dec 24, 2016 Marchesa Hall & Theatre, Austin
Website – BlueGenieArtBazaar.com
Blue Genie Art Bazaar offers free admission and parking for this long time Austin holiday tradition. Shoppers can browse thousands of original works (by local artists) ranging from serious art to fun and kitschy items.
4) Whole Foods Ice Skating on the Roof
Nov. 27 – Jan. 7, 2017 – Lamar Rooftop Plaza
Website – Whole Foods Austin
Ice skating in Austin? Yep, Whole Foods is bringing back it’s ever popular, beloved ice rink on the plaza this holiday season! A must-do for locals and visitors alike, Ice Skating on the Plaza at Whole Foods Market’s Flagship store (located in Downtown at 525 N Lamar Blvd., 78703) has become one of Austin’s most anticipated events of the holiday season!
The ice rink is open daily from 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. beginning Sunday, Nov. 27 through Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017 * Cost is $10 per person and includes use of skates.
5) Chuy’s Christmas Parade
Nov 26, 2016 – Downtown Austin (State Capitol at 11th & Congress)
Website – Chuy’s Parade
Chuy’s Christmas Parade has giant inflatable balloons, holiday floats, classic cars, marching bands and Santa! This event benefits Operation Blue Santa so please bring a top to donate. Starts at 11a.m.
6) Central Market Holiday Cooking
December 1 – 4, 6 – 8, 10 – 14, 16 – 18, 20 – 22, 27 – 28 – Austin North Lamar Central Market
Website – Central Market Classes
Holiday themed classes! Holiday entertaining southern style, parent and child decorating a gingerbread house, champagne time, and a lively evening with Hahn wines.
7) Snow Day!
Dec 6, 14, 20, 2016 – Hill Country Galleria, Bee Caves TX
Website – Hill Country Galleria Events
Snow in Texas? We aren’t talkin’ fake here. This is real snow from noon – 4p.m. What fun! Toss a snowball, make a snow angel, build a funny snowman. Take memorable photos.
8) Ballet Austin – the Nutcracker
Dec 3 – 23, 2016 – Long Center Austin
Website – the Nutcracker
The Nutcracker is a long standing Austin Holiday tradition, spectacularly performed by the Austin ballet. What a mesmerizing experience. BTW, tickets typically sell out as you get closer to the dates.
9) Trail of Lights Fun Run
Dec 3rd, 2016 7:30p.m. – Zilker Park Austin
Website – Trail of Lights Fun Run
A holiday run plus a sneak peek at the Trail of Lights before it opens to the general public! The two mile run starts at the Zilker Tree and ends within the Trail of Lights. All speeds are welcome, including tots in strollers. Costumes encouraged.
10) Christmas in Austin!
December 10, 2016, 7:00 p.m. – Chaparral Ice
Website – Chaparral Ice
Austin’s only holiday show on ice! This year’s holiday ice show is all about the your favorite Christmas movies! Figure skaters perform Austin’s unique holiday traditions on ice. VIP on-ice seating ($20) and assigned bar stool seating ($15)
11) Gingerbread House Decorating Workshops
Dec 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 19, 20 – The Candy Jar Hill Country Galleria
Website – Gingerbread House Workshops
What fun, gingerbread workshops! Your child can create their very own gingerbread house masterpiece with mounds of candy at their disposal. Light bites & refreshments served.
12) Armadillo Christmas Bazaar
Dec 14-24, 2016 – Palmer Events Center Austin
Website – Armadillo Christmas Bazaar
Go to the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar for a true Austin experience with food/alcohol, fine art (160+ local and nationally recognized artists) and a live music festival featuring local emerging stars and living legends.$8 to get in.
13) Mannheim Steamroller Christmas
Dec 26, 2016 – ACL Live At The Moody Theater
Website – Mannheimm Steamroller Christmas
Mannheim Steamroller Christmas is a great classic holiday concert and an entertaining way to celebrate Christmas with the family. It’s an amazing experience!
14) Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Dec 6-11, 2016 – Bass Concert Hall
Website – Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella is a classic, and it provides excellent Christmas entertainment for the whole family!
Entertainment – near Austin
Even though Austin has loads of fun Christmas events right here in the city, sometimes the pull of nearby festivities coaxes us to venture a little further out.
1) Texas Hill Country 26th Lights Spectacular
Nov 25, 2016 – Jan 2, 2017
Website – 26th Lights Spectacular
“Named the twinkliest drive in Texas” by Southern Living magazine and “World’s best holiday light display” by Travel & Leisure Magazine, it’s worth the scenic (approx one hour) trip from Austin. There are endless events to experience but the ONE thing you do not want to miss is the electric company (PEC) headquarters on Ave F, Johnson City TX which boasts a lighted extravaganza of over 1 million lights. Park the car and just hang out awhile to soak up the magic.
2) San Antonio River Parade
Nov 25th, 2016 (6-9 p.m.) rain or shine – San Antonio TX Riverwalk
Website – San Antonio River Walk
This year, the Holiday River Parade and Lighting Ceremony theme is “Holiday Memories”. Get to see the “28 illuminated floats” decorated to fit this year’s theme.
3) Santa’s Wonderland
Nov 11th – Jan 1st, 2017 – College Station, Texas 77845
Website – Santa’s Wonderland
Deep in the Heart of Texas, you’ll find Santa’s winter wonderland. Millions of lights, Santa’s hayride tours, legendary Texas music, Texas food.
4) Sights and Sounds of Christmas
Nov 30th – Dec 3rd, 2016 – San Marcos Plaza Park – San Marcos, TX
Website – Sights and Sounds of Christmas
Sights/Sounds of Christmas: Ice skating, live performances, Santa appearances, 1k-5k runs, food court with fried fish, turkey legs, BBQ, Mexican food, cotton candy & more.. plus roam the streets of “Town of Bethlehem.”
5) Main Street Bethlehem
December 2, 3, 4, and 9, 10, 11 2016 (6–9 p.m.) – Burnet, Texas
Website – Main Street Bethlehem
The ancient city of Christ’s birth comes alive. Rub shoulders with peddlers, the crippled, and the aged. You’ll experience animals as they affected all aspects of life… camels, donkeys, sheep, goats, chickens, and doves. The marketplace is alive with merchants, craftspeople, taxpayers, and beggars. Hear faint strains of ancient music and savor the smells of fresh goat butter, campfires, and hot bread. Free (donations accepted)
6) Dickens on the Strand
Dec. 2-4, 2016 – Galveston, TX
Website – Dickens on the Strand
Annual holiday street festival (for 30+ years) is based on 19th-century Victorian London. Parades, six stages of entertainment, strolling carolers, roving musicians, bagpipers, jugglers and even a Royal Menagerie Petting Zoo.The costumed vendors peddle their wares from street stalls and rolling carts heavy with holiday food and drink, Victorian-inspired crafts, clothing, jewelry, holiday decorations and gift items. Fun, fun for everyone!
Santa for the Kiddos & more
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a visit to Santa, now would it? “Kiddos” of all ages can visit Santa, and even Santa photos with your pet. Check out these Santa activities and more!
1) Where is Santa?
Lakeline Mall, the Domain, Barton Creek Mall
Website – Santa Date
Make a date with Santa! Eliminate the extended lines (and restless little ones) by reserving a spot with jolly Santa for you and your family.
2) A Christmas Affair
Nov 16 – 20, 2016 – Palmer Events Center
Website – A Christmas Affair
A Christmas Affair hosts approximately 200 vendors in a themed shopping extravaganza which includes parties, children’s events, a private shopping brunch, and the season’s biggest celebrity, Santa!
3) North Pole Flyer
Nov 26 – Dec 18, 2016 – Cedar Park, TX
Website – North Pole Flyer
All aboard the North Pole Flyer, departing from Cedar Park and traveling to Bertram. Kids of all ages, come see Santa and Mrs. Claus with treats and storytelling. Approx 2 hour round trip.
4) Santa at Gingerbread Village
Nov 28-29 (5-6 p.m.) – Four Seasons Hotel Austin
Website – Santa at Gingerbread Village
Free fun exploring the Candyland Gingerbread Village with Santa. Complimentary hot apple cider and holiday cookies served, along with Santa photos.
5) The Polar Express Storytime
December 2, 2016, 7:00 p.m. – Barnes & Noble, Lakeline Crossing
Website – Polar Express Pajama Storytime
PJ party / storytime – it’s the 30th Anniversary of the Polar Express. Storytime while wearing your winter pajamas = Magical time! Bring your special Polar Express jingle bell (if you have) to make this time more magical.
6) Afternoon with Santa
December 11, 2016, 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm – Driskill Hotel downtown Austin
Website – Afternoon with Santa
Santa at the Driskill hotel. Meet Santa & capture photos at this family event. Photographer available, personal photos permitted. Reservations required. $30 per person plus tax
7) Elf on the Shelf Hunt
2016 date TBA Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa
Website – Elf on the Shelf Hunt
‘Hunting’ activity! Fun clues to uncover “secret answers” in a Shelf hunt. Just visit the resort’s Front Desk for instructions. Don’t forget to take those #elfies once you get one!
8) Teddy Bear Teas
Nov 26-27 and Dec 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18 – Four Seasons Hotel Austin
Website – Teddy Bear Teas
Tea service + holiday caroling + story reading = fun, fun, FUN! Reservations are required. Bring new, unwrapped teddy bear as it will be donated to the ‘Dell Children’s Hospital’.
9) Austin Carriage’s Annual Blue Santa Toy Drive
December 14, 2016, 6:30 PM -10PM – Central Downtown Fire Station at the corner of 5th and Trinity (pickup)
Website – Annual Blue Santa Toy Drive
Time of giving! Exchange a new (unwrapped) gift and receive a free 15 – 20 mins carriage ride! How awesome is that? Gifts should be have $10 value or more.
Lights – Tree Lighting
There’s something magical about experiencing the actual lighting of the holiday festivities. Whether it’s a Christmas tree, town center, or full lighting bonanza, you have a multitude of choices in and around Austin.
1) The Domain Christmas Tree Lighting
2016 date TBA – the Domain
Website – The Domain Lighting
Enjoy the 8th Annual Lighting of the Domain Christmas Tree with food, special holiday performances and even an appearance by Santa.
2) Zilker Park Tree Lighting Ceremony
Nov. 27, 2016 (6:00 pm) – Zilker Park
Website – Zilker Lighting Ceremony
Zilker tree lighting ceremony featuring local entertainment, food, novelties and live music. Prelude Music by the Austin Civic Wind Ensemble, Robert Laguna, Conductor Additional event music by the Barton Hills Choir, Gavin Tabone, Director, Kati Achtermann, Principal.
3) Driskill Tree Lighting
November 29 – Driskill Hotel downtown Austin
Website – Driskill Tree Lighting
Driskill Tree Lighting: Enjoy choral performances and seasonal music from the Arundel Ensemble String Quartet in celebration of the annual Lighting of The Driskill Tree honoring Ben Breedlove.
4) The Capitol Tree Lighting and Singalong
Dec 3, 2016 – south steps of the Capitol Building Austin
Website – Capitol Lighting and Singalong
Holiday Sing-Along, lighting of the Capitol tree (light show at the top and bottom of every hour, set to holiday songs of local Austin musicians.) Congress Ave. will be abuzz with holiday cheer as shops, restaurants, galleries and museums feature special activities. Photos with Santa!You may bring non-perishable food or cash donations to the Capitol Christmas tree for the Capital Area Food Bank.
Lights – the Lights Experience
5) Zilker Trail of Lights
Dec 10th, 2016 – Zilker Park Austin
Website – Zilker Trail of Lights
A long held Austin tradition, the Zilker Park Trail of Lights is a beautiful, festive mile walk through dazzling light displays. Grab a cup of hot chocolate and gather round nightly live performances, including dance, comedy, music, theater, and more. Austin fun for all ages!
6) Walkway of Lights
Nov 18, 2016 – Jan 01, 2017 – Marble Falls, TX
Website – Walkway of Lights
Walkway of Lights: A self-guided winter wonderland that will dazzle you with more than a million lights on 230 sculptures. Whimsical, patriotic, religious, traditional, and not so traditional sculptures along Lake Marble Falls. Free but donations appreciated. About 45,000 guests visit each year. In 2012, people came from 50 states and 32 countries!
7) Santa’s Ranch
November 6, 2016 @ 6:00 pm – January 2, 2017 @ 10:00 pm – 9561 I-35 North New Braunfels, TX
Website – Santa’s Ranch
Santa’s Ranch has been a Texas tradition for over a decade! Drive through over a mile of winding country road of beautiful lights and animated displays. Enjoy decadent hot cocoa and fresh kettle corn.
8) Rock’N Light Holiday Tour & Christmas Towne
November 28 – December 26 – Old Settler’s Park, Round Rock
Website – Rock’N Light Holiday Tour
Rock’N Lights is a drive-through light show that features one and a half miles of twinkly lights! Explore Christmas Towne with light displays, light maze, Kiddie Express Train Rides, petting zoo, holiday food, & holiday entertainment.
9) Ford Fiesta de las Luminarias
Dec 2 – 4, 2016 – San Antonio River Walk
Website – San Antonio River Walk
Experience the holiday serenity of the River Walk as you stroll along the lush banks of the San Antonio River guided by more than 2,000 Luminarias each night. Warmly glowing lights in sand-filled bags line the walkways to symbolically mark the “lighting of the way” for the Holy Family.
Christmas Eve (& Day) Eats
Dec 25 at 98 San Jacinto Boulevard, Austin, Texas 78701
Website – TRIO
TRIO offers a Christmas Day Buffet Special! Available on December 25 from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm in TRIO Austin, and 11:00 am to 3:00 pm in the Four Seasons Ballroom.
2) Buca di Beppo
Dec 24 – 25 – 3612 Tudor Boulevard, Austin, Texas 78759
Website – Buca di Beppo
Buca di Beppo serves authentic Italian cuisine in an eclectic, vintage setting. It is a back-to-back dining experience this Christmas Season. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day they’ll have a special holiday menu! Reservations 512.342.8462.
3) The Bonneville
Dec 24 – 202 W. Cesar Chavez, Austin, Texas 78701
Website – The Bonneville
This Christmas Eve, The Bonneville will serve a special French Canadian menu, in addition to the regular menu. Enjoy their Classic New American Bistro style. Reservations 512.428.4643.
4) The Driskill Hotel
Dec 25 – 604 Brazos Street, Austin, Texas 78701
Website – The Driskill
Have Christmas Day Dinner at the infamous Driskill Hotel from 3-7:30 pm. Enjoy a Christmas five-course prix fixe dinner menu for $120 per adult and $60 per child, exclusive of tax. Reservations strictly required. Reservations 512. 391.7039
5) Estancia Churrascaria
Dec 24-25 – 10000 Research Boulevard, Austin, Texas 78759
Website – Estancia Churrascaria
Experience Austin’s first authentic Brazilian Steakhouse. Lunch and dinner served both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner 3-10 p.m. Reservations recommended 512.345.5600.
6) Ruth’s Chris Steak House
December 25 – 107 W. 6th Street, Austin, Texas 78701
Website – Ruth’s Chris
On December 25, celebrate a holiday meal worth savoring! For $48.95 enjoy a luscious 6oz filet with twin lobster tails, or have a 12oz ribeye with twin lobster tails for $58.95. Meals served from noon until 8:00 pm. Reservations 512.477.7884.
Dec 24 and 25 – 200 Lavaca Street, Austin, Texas 78701
Website – TRACE
Delightful holiday cuisine sourced directly from local farmers. Enjoy a four-course prix fixe meal for $75. Served 3-9 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Christmas day. Make reservations online or call 512. 542.3660.
8) Hyatt Regency Austin, Southwest Bistro
Dec 25 – 208 Barton Springs Road, Austin, Texas 78704
Website – Hyatt Regency Austin
‘Tis the season for a yummy Christmas Brunch at the Hyatt Regency! Buffet with five stations and complimentary champagne served from 11am to 4pm. $44 for adults, and $20 for children 12 and younger. Reservation 512.480.2081.
Dec 24 & 25 – N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78703
Website – 24Diner
For a more casual, laid back holiday dinner, try the 24Diner. They’re open 24hrs a day but starting at 6 pm. (until they sell out) on Christmas Eve, you can dine on a special lamb shank meal. $24 No reservations accepted. Phone number 512.472.5400
10) Lost Pines Resort
Dec 25, 2016 – Bastrop, TX
Website – Lost Pines Resort
It might be worth taking a little jaunt to Bastrop for an elaborate buffet (10am – 2pm) of traditional and chef-inspired fare. $45 Adults, $22 Children 6-12, Complimentary 5 and under. Make reservations early! 512.308.4950
That wraps it up for 2016 Austin Things to do for Christmas! May you have a blessed Christmas.