I love the holidays in Austin. This is the time of year that locals bask in the mild weather, enjoying unparalleled nightlife minus the frostbite, while the rest of the country hunkers down and endures another snowy winter.
What better way to celebrate this amazing time of year than with some incredible, can-only-happen-here holiday events? These are my favorite picks for getting into the festive spirit this season.
#1 Mr. Littlefield’s Eccentric Lights Delight
Make your way to Clarksville for a truly unique Christmas light display. Since 1999, Willis Littlefield has been adorning his home with Christmas displays. Alongside his wife, Katherine, he greets visitors with Christmas tidings and free candy canes.
If his extensive array of Santa Clauses and nativity scenes doesn’t make your night, Mr. Littlefield’s effervescent spirit and neighborhood vibes will put you in the spirit of peace and goodwill. Read more about Mr. Littlefield’s Eccentric Lights Delight here.
1611 W. 12th St.
#2 Spin Under the Zilker Christmas Tree
You guys. If you haven’t spun under the Zilker Christmas Tree yet, stop what you’re doing and snag an Uber to Zilker Park right now. Go expecting that Trail of Lights will blow you away. Yes, there’s often live music that will have you swooning as you absorb the cacophony of twinkling displays that surround you. Yes, there’s a Ferris wheel that has some of the best views in Austin and a carousel to boot.
But, seriously, there are few things that top the experience of staring up at thousands of lights strung up above you in the shape of a luminous Christmas tree, grabbing the hands of a loved one, leaning back and spinning with abandon. (Check out our 2015 Trail of Lights coverage here.)
Trail of Lights $3 general admission for ages 12+ – free to visit tree
2100 Barton Springs Road
#3 March Through Central Austin at Winter Solstice Lantern Parade
Celebrate the shortest day of the year with Minor Mishap, Austin’s own funky, dance-inducing marching band. Jam through the darkness with an exuberant horn section blaring, illuminated by a sea of lanterns. Get crafty before the parade and make your own lantern to carry with you through the parade at this DIY-loving, community-building happening.
Free, bring a homemade lantern
Central Austin, location TBA on day of parade (keep updated via the event page)
Dec. 21 from 5-8 p.m.
#4 Attend Swingin’ New Year’s Eve Gatsby Ball at Texas Women’s Federation
Passively watching the ball drop on television is so passé. Why not ring in a promising new year in style at Texas Women’s Federation, with a night of dancing, live music and complete with a champagne toast?
Brush up on your dancing skills (no experience or skill necessary to attend) with a free dance lesson at 9:15 p.m. Then hit the dance floor to live swing dance music by Dan Watson and the Jump Swing Imperials until the clock strikes midnight. Wind down with DJ’ed soul music wafting into the wee hours, as you start 2016 off on the right foot.
2312 San Gabriel St.
Dec. 31, doors at 9 p.m.
#5 Plunge into Polar Bear Splash at Barton Springs
Enliven the senses on the first day of the new year by jumping into the cold water at Barton Springs, during the annual Polar Bear Splash. This popular fundraiser for Save Our Springs Alliance is a great chance to support an amazing Austin non-profit, while you dive into a local rite of passage. Embrace the new year and start with a clean slate in the icy water at the heart of our city.
2201 Barton Springs Road
Jan. 1 at 10 a.m.
@kristinmleigh wants to know:
What’s your favorite holiday event in Austin?