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Where To See the Best Austin Christmas Lights

the Austin trail of lights

As the holiday season approaches, many Central Texans wonder about where to find the best Austin Christmas lights displays. Everyone loves the holidays, and they’re even better with festive, twinkly lights to warm up the chilly evenings as you spend quality time with family and friends.

Best of all, Austin has a wide variety of places and ways to enjoy Christmas lights. From small, intimate neighborhood displays to ticketed events boasting spectacular winter wonderlands, there’s something for every Central Texan. Just remember that a little advance planning goes a long way. Austin’s most popular ticketed holiday events sell out quickly. Even the free, smaller neighborhood lights displays can draw nightly traffic and crowds of revelers, so be sure to plan accordingly.

Here are some of the best Austin Christmas lights displays, from incredible neighborhood displays to spectacular ticketed events with millions of sparkling LED bulbs:

  • Austin Trail of Lights: Austin’s most famous and longest-running holiday tradition will be back for its 59th annual season this year. Sponsored by the Trail of Lights Foundation, the Trail of Lights goes up each December at Zilker Park. It features more than two million lights, including 90 lighted holiday trees and over 70 other holiday displays and lighted tunnels. Tickets can be purchased online, including early entry tickets to help you beat traffic. There booths at the event for food and hot cocoa as well as photo opportunities and lots of other attractions.
  • Zilker Holiday Tree: While you’re in the area, why not check out the tree at Zilker Park? Composed of streamers of more than 3,000 spiraling twinkly lights, this extra-special Christmas tree has been an Austin tradition since 1967. The tree is on display every evening from late November until the New Year, with an annual lighting ceremony early in the season. There is no entrance fee, but parking is first come, first serve, and can be tough to find.
  • Peppermint Parkway and Plaza: This “magical drive-thru experience” is a newer lights display held annually at Circuit of the Americas. But its enchanted forest, fun rides, festive treats, dancing elves and millions upon millions of twinkling lights rival any of Austin’s longtime holiday attractions.
  • 37th Street Lights: Yet another beloved Austin tradition, the 37th Street lights went on hiatus for a few years, but now they’re back in full glory! The residents of the section of 37th Street stretching east from Guadalupe Street install incredible lights displays starting in early to mid-December. You can drive down the street to enjoy the lights from your car, but traffic is usually heavy at this popular attraction. Walking down the street is another great way to enjoy the displays. You won’t want to miss the Stuffed Animal Petting Zoo either.
  • Downtown Holiday Stroll: Hosted by the Austin Downtown Alliance, this fun event features Christmas carols and a special tree lighting ceremony at the Capitol building, at 11th Street and Congress Blvd. The lighting ceremony also includes live music and other festivities!
  • Mozart’s Annual Christmas Lights Show: Mozart’s Coffee Roasters on Lake Austin puts on one of the most spectacular and popular lights displays in town. Tickets can be purchased online for general admission. You can also purchase tickets to reserve a four- or six-person table at the show. You can even pre-purchase holiday treats from the cafe’s traditional-style Bavarian Marketplace! (You can also simply buy treats once you’re there.)
  • Luminations and Field of Light at the Wildflower Center: The Wildflower Center’s annual Luminations event features ​​thousands of luminarias that light the Center’s many pathways. Holiday cookies, hot cocoa, and festive music and performances round out the experience each year. This year, British artist Bruce Munro’s Field of Light comes to the Wildflower Center in September and runs through the month of December. This stunning display of 28,000 vibrant solar-powered, fiber-optic light pods will illuminate 16 acres at the Center, showcasing the intersection of art, technology and nature—and making the holiday season that much brighter and cheerier.

Looking for something a little different or off the beaten path this holiday season? Here are a few more options for viewing Christmas lights in Austin:

  • Pflugerville’s Pfestival of Lights: The City of Pflugerville, just north of Austin, hosts an annual Pfestival of Lights and Christmas parade on Main Street, as well as Pfestive Pharmers Markets on certain dates in December.
  • Round Rock’s Light Up the Lake: Holiday cheer comes to Old Settler’s Park in Round Rock each holiday season. This free, two-day festival on December 1st and 2nd features spectacular giant balloons hovering over Bright Lake, along with an amazing light show and holiday display, holiday food and refreshments, live music, family activities, a yule log, and more.
  • San Marcos’s Sights and Sounds of Christmas: One of the most anticipated annual holiday events in San Marcos, this family-friendly Christmas festival promises lights, fun and holiday cheer. Tickets and day passes are available for purchase at the gate. Once inside, visitors can enjoy a carnival and petting zoo along with Santa’s Gift Shop, a scavenger hunt, reindeer games and more.
  • Johnson City’s Lights Spectacular: Johnson City is about an hour’s drive west of Austin. Its annual Lights Spectacular event is free to the public and runs nightly from November 25th through January 8th, 2024. Visitors can park at the courthouse or in the streets surrounding the downtown display.
  • Lala’s Little Nugget: It’s Christmas all year round at this beloved, funky little Christmas-themed bar in north-central Austin, where the North Pole meets Central Texas. Visitors ages 21 and up can stop by to enjoy festive lights and decorations along with a cold beer or delicious cocktail.

If smaller, more intimate lights displays are more your style, just head out into your neighborhood and see what glittering displays await you! Almost every neighborhood in Austin boasts holiday lights each December. Certain neighborhoods are known for their incredible displays, including Legend Oaks (near William Cannon and Mopac), Circle C (just south of Legend Oaks), and the streets around Mount Bonnell (in central-west Austin).

Would you like to have a spectacular lights display in your own yard this holiday season? Many people would love to enjoy the festive cheer of Christmas lights right at home, but they worry about the difficulty of hanging the lights or the cost of electricity to run it. Fortunately, today’s holiday lights are highly energy-efficient. They can even be set up to run on timers that illuminate them at a certain time of evening and then shut them off a few hours later.

Hiring a professional is a great, hassle-free way to bring your holiday vision to life this Christmas. A pro can handle setup and installation, and will then take the lights down at the end of the season. This means no hard work or climbing up on tall ladders for you—just the pleasure of a dazzling lights display and spreading holiday cheer to your neighbors.

the Nuutcracker, an Austin holiday event

Austin Holiday Events

Christmas lights are just one of many wonderful things about the holidays. There are lots of different Austin holiday events to help you and your loved ones get in the holiday spirit. Here are some more festive holiday events in Austin:

  • Blue Genie Art Bazaar: Open daily starting November 17, 2023, through Christmas Eve, this annual event features unique handmade by hundreds of local artists. Can’t make it out to the Bazaar in person? You can even take advantage of the Bazaar’s personal shopper service this year, or shop for items online and have them shipped to your door!
  • Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker: Running from December 2–23, 2023, at the Long Center, Ballet Austin’s annual production of The Nutcracker is a can’t-miss holiday event. Attendees can expect scrumptious costumes and sets, enchanting choreography, and live musical accompaniment from Austin Symphony Orchestra.
  • Christmas on Mercer: On December 2, this annual holiday shopping event is happening in downtown Dripping Springs, just west of Austin. Visitors will enjoy arts and crafts vendors, delicious drinks, foods and other treats, children’s activities, live music—and tons of holiday cheer! There will also be a tree lighting at dusk and photos with Santa.

downtown Austin

Holiday Meals Austin

There’s so much to do around the holidays that it’s understandable if cooking is the last thing you want to do. If you’re looking for festive holiday meals in Austin, there are many great options, even on Christmas Day. Whether you’re planning for a small group or a big holiday bash, here’s where you can find great meals in Austin around the holidays.

If you love Chinese food, you’re in luck. Many Chinese restaurants in Austin are open for business on Christmas Day, including Din Ho Chinese in north-central Austin, Lin Asian Bar in Clarksville and Wu Chow downtown.

Garbo’s in north Austin offers seafood with a Texas twist, and stays open for business on Christmas Eve and throughout the holiday season. If you’re craving Italian food, L’Oca d’Oro is a local favorite offering holiday feasts in the days leading up to Christmas. Jack Allen’s Kitchen also serves customers on Christmas Eve, offering its locally sourced menu at four locations in Oak Hill, west Austin, north Austin and Round Rock.

Remember, if you’re heading out on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or the day after Christmas, it’s always a good idea to call ahead to make sure the restaurant is open and serving customers. It’s also wise to see if reservations are advised, especially at Austin’s more popular spots.

ABC Can Hang Your Holiday Lights

There is so much to do in Austin this holiday season that you don’t want to spend your time hanging your holiday lights. Instead, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. We will hang your lights just how you want them and then take them down at the end of the holidays.

Les Stobart

Les joined ABC in 2008 as the Director of Marketing, overseeing marketing, advertising, and communications for ABC’s branches. Les started the Lean Line, Online Chat departments, and manages corporate recruiting. He has a Bachelor of Science in Communications & Advertising from Lamart University. He has been part of the Texas Banking Association, a Financial Literacy Volunteer Teacher, ABC Kite Fest Board of Directors, a Town & Country Youth Soccer Coach, and a Neighborhood Sports flag football coach.

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