The holiday season in Austin is one of our favorite times of year. No, you probably won’t see too many reindeer (although you may see Santa trotting around Sixth Street on his horse), and Austin snows are few and far between, but there are plenty of great ways to celebrate the season Texas-style! Here are five great ways to get out of the hotel and into the holiday spirit:
1. Check Out Austin’s Famous Trail of Lights
The Trail of Lights has brought holiday magic to Austin for over fifty years, and with more than forty displays and two million lights, it’s easy to see why! The Trail of Light’s main centerpiece is the incredible Zilker Christmas Tree, which is suspended from one of Austin’s historic moon towers. The event features food trucks from local Austin vendors and is free many nights— grab a margarita beforehand at Chuy’s, just don’t stare up at the tree too long lest it turn you topsy-turvy.
If you miss the Trail of Lights (or just really want to avoid the traffic on Barton Springs Road), Mozart’s Coffee Roasters has a fabulous light show that runs all the way until January 1.
2. Cozy up on Sixth Street
As a lifelong southerner, I’m always on the hunt for a place that will make me feel like I’m in a Dickens novel despite the fact that it’s 75 degrees out and my Christmas tree is actually a prickly pear cactus left at my house by the previous tenant. The Sixth Street Historic District (Dirty Sixth to locals) provides plenty of places to cozy up and sip a hot toddy on those days when you need a little help getting in the holiday spirit. Start the night with a scotch at the historic Driskill Bar, where Romanesque décor meets a laid-back Texas vibe. Next, head to the secret bar at the Firehouse Hostel (go straight past the registration desk and slide open the bookcase to get inside)—I’m a big fan of the speakeasy atmosphere, upside-down Christmas tree, and tasty cocktails served up at this tourist-friendly joint. End the night with a $2 baguette-and-butter or a pretzel and beer cheese at Easy Tiger, where patrons have the option of socializing on the patio or enjoying warmly-lit basement of this historic building. Now, don’t you feel cozy?
3. Drink Like a Local at Lala’s Lil’ Nugget!
It’s easy to celebrate the holidays all year round at Lala’s Lil’ Nugget, a longtime North Austin establishment that is perpetually adorned with Christmas lights and Santa trinkets. Austin songwriter Hayes Carll immortalized the legend of Lala’s in his song “Jesus and Elvis,” which tells the tale of a woman who decorated her bar for Christmas just before her son left for the Vietnam War. According to the legend, the woman claimed that she would not take the decorations down until her son returned home. You can imagine how the rest of the story goes—the son doesn’t come home, the Christmas lights stay up, and Lala’s Lil’ Nugget becomes an Austin legend. The current owners of Lala’s won’t confirm or deny the story—regardless, Lala’s is a great place to take respite from the real world and celebrate the season with the friends we love.
4. Ring in New Year’s by Rocking Out!
If you’re a fan of live music, there’s no better night to sample the sounds of local bands than New Year’s Eve. Relive the Era of Hair (and the gas crisis) at Hotel Vegas’ NYE 1976, featuring tributes to all of your favorite 70’s groups. More of a 90’s kid? Cheer Up Charlies has you covered with Saved by the Ball, where you can dance the night away to Blink 182, Weezer, and No Doubt. If traditional New Year’s’ class is more your speed, head over to Speakeasy for their famous New Year’s Eve bash (it turns 20 this year!)
Of course, you can always skip the party and head to a dive bar just before the ball drops—Austinites are a welcoming bunch, and you’re bound to make a few new friends!
5. Take a Tipster Tour!
Tipster Tours run rain or shine, and our local guides will have even more tips for holiday fun. We have our Downtown, East Side Art, Beer, and Austin Music tours running through the season—check out our calendar for availability here. See you soon!