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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 too!
Things to do in Austin in December
Gliding, singing, and slugging; whatever your favorite festive pastime, you can do it in The Live Music Capital of the World this winter.
Austin Holiday Lights, Parades and Winter Activities
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 (525 N Lamar Blvd) 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.
3. Minor Mishaps 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; the town 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 balcony of Stephen F. Austin Hotel Bar and enjoy a drink and some truffle oil popcorn while you watch.
Chuy’s Tex Mex features in this guide on where to eat in Austin.
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.
This is where locals decorate their own boats and sail down the lake.
If you don’t have a boat, you can book a spot on Austin’s Party Barge, or a table at Lakeway Resort and Spa.
8. German Christmas Market
The German-Texan Heritage Society hosts a Christmas market (507 East 10th St) in Austin featuring decorations that are imported from the Erzgebirge, an East-German region known for its Christmas customs.
Glühwein and a visit from St Nick is also on the schedule!
This sounds like the ideal date idea; check out more here.
9. Christmas Light Show at Mozart
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!
10. Peppermint Parkway
Drive through millions of lights of the Peppermint Parkways, Circuit of Americas (9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd).
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.
12. 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 Theatre.
Get in the spirit with some Twang Time!
13. 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, he cleans up every winter and plays with the Moonlight Orchestra for this festive holiday show.
14. 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 and Christmas Bars in Austin
15. 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!
16. 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.
17. Lala’s Little Nugget
It’s *always* Christmas at this legendary Austin dive bar, LaLa’s Little Nugget (2207 Justin Ln).
It also features an old-school jukebox and games.
18. Donn’s Depot Honky Tonk Christmas
Nothing says Texas like Honky Tonk, so why not visit Donn’s Depot (1600 W 5th St) for a tradition and Christmas fusion?
Established in 1978, this piano bar has two dance floors and is located in old rail cars and a former depot.
Hot and cold festive cocktail menu available every year!
19. S’mores at Halcyon
Fancy a treat?
Halcyon (218 West 4th St) will let you fire up a Bunsen burner and roast your marshmallows from the comfort of your sofa!
Just watch the flame near the throw pillows!
20. 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 (604 Brazos St) and a cocktail with a friend in the fun Cattleman’s hotel bar.
21. Snow At Edge Rooftop
Snow falls every hour on the hour in winter at JW Marriott Austin’s Edge Rooftop (110 E 2nd St).
Melt marshmallows over an open fire, watch the city turn from day to night, and get tipsy on the hot buttered rum cocoa at this stunning rooftop Christmas bar.
22. Gibson Wonderland
Gibson Street Bar (1109 South Lamar) loves holidays and is known for its Nightmare on Gibson and Gibson Wonderland decor.
Sip on a spiked hot coco under the magical Christmas interior.
23. The South Pole at Geraldine’s
Grab your closest pals at hideaway at Geraldine’s (605 Davis St) igloos.
Order a Christmas cocktail and soak it up with Southern comfort food.
24. Miracle on 5th Street Christmas Bar
This pop-up bar (307 W 5th St) in downtown Austin is festive and fab.
Speciality Christmas cocktails in Santa mugs are on the menu.
→ Pro tip: It’s usually packed, so plan ahead!
Christmas Shopping in Austin
25. Thrift Tour & Reuse Immersion with Bernadette Noll
Want a totally unique shopping experience?
Look out for Bernadette Noll of Austin Creative Reuse to take you on a guided tour of her favorite thrift shops, vintage shops & reuse centers.
You may also like our free things to do in Austin guide.
26. 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!
South Congress is where many of Austin’s IG spots are located.
27. Fairs for Holiday Shopping
Looking for something local and crafty to purchase?
Look no further than the following three markets.
Cherrywood Art Fair is an art-filled two-day event with local artists, live music, kids activities, and food.
Blue Genie Art Bazaar is an online and in-person shopping experience that offers personal shopping.
Hotel San Jose Holiday Market hosts local makers, food and drink specials, and live music so you can bop while you shop.
Christmas Theatre, Film, and Art
28. 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!
29. 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.
30. Make Art at Smudge Studios
Want to make art?
Try Smudge Studios for a super fun and creative art studio with its own self-contained splatter paint room.
→ Bonus: They have a great gift shop!
31. 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 off the calories in time for the turkey!
32. Fun Runs and 5Ks
Trail of Lights Fun Run is an annual route that runs through the festive Austin Trail of Lights!
Turkey Trot has been running (boom boom) since the 90s and includes a 5-mile run, 1-mile walk, and Stepping Stone School Kids-K.
Real Ale Brewing 5K is a popular running and drinking event an hour from the city of Blanco.
Where to Stay
If you prefer an apartment, this modern one has a heated swimming pool and is within walking distance to the hip SoCo. Want more? Here’s our list.
Pin to your Austin board for future reference
Christmas in Austin is a fun time for locals and visitors alike. Many festivities and festivals are happening 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 these 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.
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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.