Come winter, Austin is alive with Christmas spirit and the spirits that fill your glass! This guide to Austin Christmas events details the best things to do in the city during the festive period including music, parades, shows, lights and bar events.
» Don’t miss this extensive list of what to do in Austin all year round
Things to do in Austin in December
1. Ice Skating at Whole Foods (on the Roof!)
Although it may be 80 degrees outside, you can always count on the Whole Foods corporate world headquarters to crank down the AC and host their seasonal rooftop skating rink.
→ Pro tip: Grab a snack or a bottle of wine from the store to enjoy on the roof apres skate!
2. Zilker Trail of Lights and Tree
After you’ve seen the Trail of Lights in Zilker Park, check out the Zilker Holiday Tree.
Perfect for photo ops and sinful snacks!
This 155 ft string of lights shaped tree is free to visit. There is sometimes music and there is always scalding hot chocolate and kettle corn.
Light Shows and Parades
3. Minor Mishap’s Winter Solstice Lantern Parade
‘Bourbon Street meets Budapest’!
Join this 25 piece renegade brass band as they put on a fun mobile brass band show along the banks of Austin’s Lady Bird Lake (where I married Gemma and Craig, Two Scots Abroad!)
Guests of the Minor Mishaps Marching Band are encouraged to bring lanterns…. And to rock out!
It’s free but you need to RSVP.
4. KRAMPUS – Dead Music Capitol Marching Band
Austin at Christmas is all about the marching bands, it is the town that hosts HONK! Festival after all!
KRAMPUS are like the naughty step-sister band of Minor Mishap who also host a holiday parade on the streets of Austin, goth-tastic no less!
5. Chuy’s Holiday Parade Downtown
Chuy’s Holiday Parade harkens back to America’s traditional small town celebrations: lots of school marching bands, veterans, etc, giving it that warm and fuzzy old school feel.
Pro tip: The best vantage point is from above. Head to the balcanony of Stephen F. Austin Hotel Bar and enjoy a drink and some truffle oil popcorn while you watch.
6. 37th Street Lights
After a few years of being closed, Austin’s favorite holiday neighborhood is back!
Crank up your tunes, roll down your windows, and soak up some genuine “old Austin” holiday spirit on 37th Street.
7. Boat Trail of Lights
Prefer to see some lights on water? No problem! Check out the Boat Trail of Lights on Lake Austin.
8. Christmas Light Show at Mozarts
Mozart’s Coffee has been in action since the 90s and its light show has become quite an institution.
Expect piano playing on the lit up piano, choirs and of course, coffee!
Music in Austin at Christmas
Austin is the music capital of the world and this title doesn’t drop just because Santa is coming to town.
The Austonettes play a cappella holiday show every winter where they cover holiday tunes.
Their tribute to the film “Love, Actually” is especially adorable.
10. Kelly Willis & Bruce Robinson Annual Christmas Show at Paramount
Kelly & Bruce are Austin music royalty.
Every year they host a sold out holiday show at the historic Austin Theater.
Get in the spirit with some Twang Time!
11. Bob Schneider & the Moonlight Orchestra Annual Holiday Show
Bob Schneider can be found with his “Lonelyland” residency every Monday at the iconic Saxon Pub in South Austin.
However, every winter, he cleans up and plays with the Moonlight Orchestra for this festive holiday show.
12. Music FREE WEEK in January
Does what it says on the tin! Free bands all week in January. Perfect, since everyone is feeling the festive pinch!
Festive Restaurants/Bars in Austin
13. Justine’s Winter Tents
The coolest place to warm up!
Justine’s creates elaborate “winter tents” which more than double the space of this super hip French restaurant.
They also host awesome parties and theme nights.
Open late with mouthwatering steak frites, Justine’s is the place to be seen this Christmas in Austin!
14. Fonda San Miguel
Fonda San Miguel is like visiting a Mexican hacienda – right in central Austin!
It’s super festive and always delicious.
Serving excellent margaritas, Fonda San Miguel is a true Texas Holiday tradition.
→ Pro tip: Try the traditional corn soup.
15. LaLa’s Little Nugget
It’s *always* Christmas at this legendary Austin dive-bar.
16. Miracle on 5th Street Christmas Bar
This pop up bar in downtown Austin is festive & fab.
→ Pro tip: It’s usually packed, so arrive early!
17. S’mores at Halcyon
Fancy a treat?
Halcyon will let you fire up a bunsen burner and roast your own marshmallows from the comfort of your own sofa!
Just watch the flame near the throw pillows!
18. Christmas Tree at the Driskill Hotel
Don’t let the ghost scare you away!
Enjoy a photo with the famous tree at the Driskill Hotel and a cocktail with a friend in the fun Cattleman’s hotel bar.
Christmas Shopping in Austin
Looking for something local and crafty to purchase?
Look no further than the following three markets:
19. South Congress
This stretch of street hosts some of the most fun shops in Austin.
Lucy in Disguise, Yard Dog, Tesoros Import Store, Big Top Candy Shop, Allen’s Boots…
You’ll have a blast strolling around and you can even pick up a taco and catch some music in the beer garden at Guero’s Taco Bar!
20. Thrift Tour & Reuse Immersion with Bernadette Noll
Want a totally unique shopping experience?
Lookout for Bernadette Noll of Austin Creative Reuse take you on a guided tour of her favorite thrift shops, vintage shops & reuse centers.
Christmas Theatre, Film and Art
21. Santaland Diaries at Zach Scott
Fans of David Sedaris’ wacky holiday story can get their fill in this annual one man play at Zach Scott Theater.
Pro tip: Hit the upstairs bar for a cocktail and the best view of downtown Austin!
22. Tapestry Dance “Of Mice & Music”
Forget the Nutcracker!
Jazz it up this year with Tapestry’s production of “Of Mice & Music”, an all tap dance holiday production.
Tapestry is the world’s only full time repertory tap dance company and they will definitely raise your spirits with their stomping feet!
23. Austin Swing Syndicate Swing Dance Lessons
Now that you are here in Texas, you need to learn to dance like you are from here!
Austin Swing Syndicate offers weekly dance lessons at the beautiful Texas Federation of Women’s Club.
Don’t be shy!
24. December Specialty Screenings at the Alamo Ritz
The Alamo Ritz is always a fun time.
This retro theater has food and drink and always a surprising lineup of films during the holidays.
25. Make Art at Smudge Studios
Want to make art?
Try this super fun and creative art studio with its own self contained splatter paint room.
→ Bonus: They have a great gift shop!
26. Creek Show Art Installation
The annual Creek Show art installation on Waller Creek is the coolest thing in town.
Catch it while you can because it’s only up briefly.
Christmas Races in Austin
Work of the calories in time for the turkey!
- Trail of Lights Fun Run
- Turkey Trot
- Real Ale Brewing 5K
Pin to your Austin board for future reference
Christmas in Austin is a fun time for locals and visitors alike. There are lots of festivities and festivals going on in the streets, parks, bars and restaurants. It’s a great time to support local businesses too. So whether you are looking for live music, Christmas cocktails or light festivals there’s something for everyone in this things to do in Austin in winter guide.
Looking for somewhere hotter in the US this December? Here’s our guide to the best places to visit in winter.
About the author
Sarah Greene Reed wasn’t born in Texas, but she got there as soon as she could. The host of the infamous “Cheetos, Tito’s & Speedos Party”, this artist/mom/venue owner can’t sit still and is usually dreaming up her next adventure. You’ll most likely find her with big hair, a cold drink, and a belly laugh.