While a good portion of the country is enjoying a white Christmas bundled up by the fire, sippin’ hot cocoa, some Austinites are still enjoying margaritas on patios.
While spending the holiday season this way may not put you in the Christmas spirit, it’s still the most wonderful time of the year. If you need a break from that 24-hour Christmas movie marathon or want to snag a last-minute gift, then head out on the town to partake in (mostly) family-friendly events with this ultimate guide to Christmas Eve in Austin.
Where to Shop Local on Christmas Eve
Still need a gift for your cousin twice-removed or the very special person in your life? The following places have you covered.
Armadillo Christmas Bazaar
Local artists, live music, and a cash bar—how could you go wrong by partaking in this Austin holiday market? Browse and purchase unique gifts from 160 curated artists while you enjoy the musical stylings of local musicians. Admission is $8 for a single day pass and free for kids 12 and under.
Hours: 11 a.m to 10 p.m.
900 Barton Springs Road (Palmer Events Center) – Website
Blue Genie Art Bazaar
Since 2001, Blue Genie Art Bazaar has been selling goods from regional artists. Today, the event offers works by more than 200 carefully selected artists who make everything from paintings and photography, to jewelry and clothing. No matter your budget or person on your gift list, you’re bound to find something. Admission is free, and there’s a bar where you can order an adult drink to enjoy while you shop.
Hours: 10 a.m to 6 p.m.
6100 Airport Blvd. – Website
Whole Foods Market Flagship
Austin’s flagship Whole Foods Market and unofficial mecca on North Lamar has a plethora of local goodies perfect for anyone on your list, but especially good for the foodie or skin care junky in your life. Think lotions and potions small batched by locally-owned small businesses, artisan beer from breweries in and around town, plus other native Austin gourmet drinks and fare.
525 N. Lamar Blvd. – Website
What to Do on Christmas Eve in Austin
Entertain the kids, in-laws, and your significant other with these activities, while you wait for Santa Claus to arrive.
Texas Hill Country Holiday Light Trails
My fabulous fellow Austinot Blogger, Joleen (Jojo) Jernigan, has compiled a list of spectacular holiday light trails in and around Austin. Many of the displays are open through the end of the year and are family-friendly, so don’t miss them. You’ll also want to visit Austin’s Zilker Tree and spin under it for another year(6 p.m. to 12 a.m. Christmas Eve).
➡️ Keep reading: “8 Must-see Texas Hill Country Holiday Light Trails”
Catch a Show at Zach Theatre
The longest-running theatre in the state of Texas has been around for 85 years, and this Christmas Eve will be exception to the magic it creates. Spend the 24th of December watching Zach’s adaptation of Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol,” where “Motown meets the HoHoHolidays.” Or catch “A Tuna Christmas” set in Tuna, the smallest town in Texas. Three actors portray 25 of the town’s citizens in this satirical ode to the season.
202 S. Lamar Blvd. – Website
Elf Movie Party
This Chrismas Eve, Alamo Drafthouse cordially invites you to spend the evening with Buddy the Elf during a holiday movie spectacular. Enjoy a screening of the movie “Elf,” complete with games, props, and a “real” snowball fight in the theater. It’s unique holiday fun for the whole family.
320 E. 6th St. – Website
Ice Skating on the Plaza
You wouldn’t normally think of ice skating as a winter activity in Austin. But thanks to Whole Foods Market, you can get in touch with your inner figure skater at last. Head to the downtown flagship store for the annual installment of Skating on the Plaza. Admission is $10 per person.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
525 N. Lamar Blvd. – Website
Catch a Classic at Austin Film Society
Christmas Eve is the perfect time to sit back and watch a movie, especially a beloved classic. Austin Film Society will be showing “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Christmas in Connecticut,” “The Thin Man,” and “A White Christmas” on the big screen, as part of the Home for The Holidays series. Grab your gang and some popcorn, and sit back in your theater chair for a cinematic holiday experience. And remember, “every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”
6406 N. I-35, Suite 3100 – Website
Take a Photo With Willie
It’s just not Christmas in Austin until you’ve Instagrammed yourself with an Austin musician. This year, snap a smartphone pic with beloved musician Willie Nelson—the giant Nutcracker version, that is. Head to Domain Northside this Christmas Eve for a photo op with the 10-foot cutout ,complete with holiday-themed bandana. Nutcracker Willie is one of four photo op spots that are part of Domain Northside’s Instagram contest running through Jan. 1, 2018.
11700 Domain Blvd. – Website
Decorate a Tree on 360
What I love most about Austin is that its citizens readily accept Christmas traditions that are more on the unofficial side. Decorating a tree on Loop 360 is a prime example of this. Every year around Thanksgiving, tree decorations randomly appear up and down the highway, creating a dazzling display of holiday cheer. Some of the decorations are downright creative. Over the past few years, I’ve seen soda cans, old running shoes, and bras fashioned into ornaments to adorn the trees along Capital of Texas Highway.
This year, keep this weird tradition going by gathering your gang and decorating a tree of your own. Just be sure to clean up after the season, as leftover ornaments could end up littering the Bull Creek Watershed or harming wildlife. Don’t want to decorate a juniper? Load up in the car to admire the trees that are already adorned—another photo op and sure to bring much holiday joy.
Captial of Texas Highway
➡️ Keep reading: “Everything You Need to Know About Decorating Holiday Trees on 360”
Where to Eat and Drink on Christmas Eve in Austin
Need a snack, drink, or whole meal? Head to these local establishments on Christmas Eve for a fancy or casual dining atmosphere.
- Le Politique: No cooking, no problem! Le Politique, inspired by a French diplomat known as a “rabble-rouser” during the 19th century in Texas, will be offering a five-course dinner ($90) with optional wine pairing ($60) to cure your Christmas Eve hunger.
- L’oca D’oro: This swanky Italian establishment is serving up its Feast of Seven Fishes for another year. Visit this Christmas Eve for a four-course dinner ($75 for adults, $25 for children) with a $25 wine pairing option for those 21 and up.
- Olive & June: If savoring house-made pasta and Italian wine is your idea of the perfect Christmas Eve dinner, then head to this elevated dining establishment that will be open both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
➡️ Keep reading: “Delicious Meets Healthy With Italian Food at L’oca D’oro”
- Lala’s: There’s no better place to spend Christmas Eve than a bar that’s decorated for the holidays year-round. Stop in to sip a seasonal cocktail like hot apple cider, peppermint hot chocolate, or Santa’s dreamsicle.
- Star Bar: This original West Sixth establishment will be open Christmas Eve in case you need to take a break from family, catch a game, indulge in a pre-dinner cocktail, or nightcap.
- 24 Diner: “Chef-inspired comfort food,” locally-brewed craft beer, and cocktails are sure to satisfy your Christmas Eve cravings. Find everything from chicken and waffles, to veggie hash, at this ’50s-inspired diner with a healthy dose of Austin funk.
- The Eleanor: The Roosevelt Room has transformed its event space into a pop-up bar, complete with “A Miracle on 5th Street” theme. Don your ugliest sweater or onesie, and head to this establishment for a Christmas Eve cocktail.
➡️ Keep reading: “It’s Always Christmas at Lala’s Little Nugget in North Austin”
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
No matter how you decide to spend your Christmas Eve in Austin, The Austinot wishes a Merry Chrismas to all, and to all a good night.
@dollarsaenz wants to know:
What’s your favorite thing to do on Christmas Eve in Austin?
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