I love the holidays. Lights hung from every tree. Kids running around in breathless anticipation. It’s an opportunity to be young again. To plug into our past and find the little joys we forget about all year long.
The Trail of Lights, Austin’s long running celebration of holiday fun, is one of the best ways to ring in this amazing time of year. 2014 marks the event’s 50th anniversary, and the well-worn trail has some new surprises to go with the old favorites as it opens on Sunday, December 7, 2014.
Rooted in Tradition
Born from a desire by Austin Parks and Rec in 1965 to give back to the community, the Trail of Lights started as a yuletide gift to Austin. What was a modest event quickly blossomed into the tradition we know today.
This year’s event preserves many of the recognizable traditions from past trails. The iconic Zilker Tree, originally designed in 1967 from an historic moon tower, again takes center stage. Staring up at the massive 155 foot structure is as awe inspiring as it has ever been.
Many of your favorite displays have also returned to the party. The Grinch bumps elbows with Cartman in Cartoon Land and the entrance tunnels sparkle with thousands of lights.
Classics Get a Facelift
Some of the traditional exhibits we’ve come to know and love have received updates. One of the oldest attractions, Tiny Town, has a brand new look. A train has been added, along with a miniature Zilker tree.
One of the biggest additions is a new drive-in theater that will play a live feed of the activity below the real tree. The screen also features a “Naughty and Nice” button that will play an appropriate video depending upon how you behaved this year.
Toy Machine features new gears and gizmos and Santa-Saurus has a fresh coat of paint. Even the UT globe features a new display.
Couple all of this with an updated soundtrack of modern, hip versions of holiday favorites, and everything feels fresh and revitalized.
New to the Trail
Not everything is an updated favorite, however. New attractions have been added to Trail of Lights, as well. The most noticeable addition is a giant 90 foot ferris wheel next to the Zilker tree. Those attending the Preview Party on December 5, 2014 get a free ride which offers an amazing view of the park. Get those camera phones ready!
The Yule Log, a staple of the original “Spirit of Christmas” from 1965, has made a return for this year’s 50th anniversary. Nothing better than cozying up to a roaring fire, especially when it’s several feet long.
Other new attractions include Candyland, an indoor sugary adventure, and Santa’s Workshop, a creativity lab for younger visitors.
Events and Things to Do
And what would the Trail of Lights be without tons of things to do?
- Kids visiting Santa’s Workshop will get a chance to play with a giant Lite-Brite (remember those?) and create holiday themed flipbooks.
- Candy Land features daily candy making demonstrations.
- And kids can whisper in Santa’s ear at Santa’s House in the North Pole section.
- Austin food vendors like Burro’s Cheese Kitchen, Traveassa Food Truck and La Fantabulous Taqueria supply the eats in Armadillo Alley.
A full map can be found here.
There are also two themed nights on the calendar:
- Hero’s Night on December 9th, 2014 is dedicated to our service men and women.
- UT Night celebrates Longhorn orange on December 16th, 2014.
And it wouldn’t be Austin without a healthy dose of live music at the Community Performance Stage.
Amidst the crush and chaos of shopping, cooking and parties this month, it’s important to sit back and take in the magic of the season. Remember why this time of year is special.
A delightful blend of classic, kitsch and modern cool, this year’s Trail of Lights is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the best the season has to offer. No better cure for the holiday blues than a leisurely walk through a blanket of lights, festivities and old fashioned good vibes.
Know Before You Go
The Trail of Lights is open December 7-21, 2014. The event is free to the public Mondays through Thursdays and $3 on the weekends. Parking passes, shuttle access and VIP entry are all available for an extra fee. Visit AustinTrailofLights.org to reserve your tickets.
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
What’s your favorite part of Trail of Lights?