The Best Things to Do in Austin, Texas at Christmas

mozart's christmas light show

In Austin, Texas during the holiday season? Get in the spirit with these fun and festive holiday activities, while getting to know Austin at the same time!

Christmas Light Show at Mozart’s Coffee

Every year, Mozart’s Coffee decorates its outdoor patio/deck with over one million LED lights and choreographs a light show to Christmas music. Order something to keep you warm and stay for as little or as long as you’d like! Admission is free and the show runs continuously from 6:30-10pm every day.

Warm up with a festive drink at a Christmas-inspired bar

What are the holidays without eggnog, cider, or a hot toddy? In Austin, you’ve got lots of options for fun and unique bars, but here are some favorites:

  • Sip on festive cocktails at a holiday pop-up bar like Miracle on 5th Street at The Eleanor or Sippin’ Santa at Nickel City
  • Surround yourself with tinsel, lights, and ornaments at Donn’s Depot, which is transformed into a holiday wonderland for the season
  • Not ready for the holiday spirit to end come January? Head to Lala’s Little Nugget, a year-round Christmas bar.

Trail of Lights

Another Austin tradition, every year Zilker Park transforms into a twinkling wonderland with 40 light displays, 2 million lights, food trucks, nightly entertainment, and other holiday activities. Running from early December to a few days before Christmas, admission is either free or a few bucks, depending on the night. If you’ve got some extra holiday calories you’d like to burn off, there’s also a Fun Run one of the nights.

Note: Our dirty little secret is that we don’t really like Trail of Lights. It’s crowded, when we went there weren’t a ton of food options, and all the light displays have HUGE corporate sponsor banners next to them. However, most Austinites love it so it’s worth a mention.


Thinkery21 is an adults-only event held a few times a year at Austin’s STEAM-focused children’s museum, Thinkery. During Thinkery21, the museum is closed to kids while adults have free reign of the place, eating and drinking while experiencing the museum’s activities and exhibits. Each Thinkery21 event is themed, with the Jingle Booze event each December featuring fun holiday-inspired activities. It’s a fun and festive way to sip, snack, mingle, and learn. When we went, they even had puppies for adoption!

Visit the city’s Christmas trees

While Austin’s holiday temperatures may not be reliable, the abundance of festive Christmas trees on display around town is. Depending on the day, bundle up in a cozy sweater or slip on a pair of comfortable flip flops and set out for the Zilker Park Christmas tree, the Texas Capitol Christmas tree, and/or the Driskill Hotel Christmas tree.

Get your shopping done at a holiday market

Shop local and support Austin artists at the Armadillo Bazaar, Blue Genie Art Bazaar, Cherrywood Art Fair, and Eastside Holiday Market. These are just of the few markets that pop up around town during the holidays, so do a quick Google search for even more options!

Go to a holiday-themed show

Get in the holiday spirit with a show at one of the city’s performing art venues. Whether you’re in the mood for a play, musical, or concert, there’s something for everyone. Check the calendars at the Long Center, ZACH Theatre, or Texas Performing Arts for something that appeals to you. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money or commit yourself to a particular performance, pop into any of the city’s live music venues as your schedule allows – you’re bound to catch some festive tunes that way too.

Our favorite is A Christmas Carol at ZACH Theatre, an adaptation of the classic that features music ranging from Motown to current pop hits. Every year, we try a new restaurant, have a yummy dinner, and spend the rest of the evening with Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.

Polar Bear Plunge at Barton Springs

Join thousands of other Austinites on New Year’s Day for a jump into Barton Springs, the city’s underground springs-fed outdoor swimming pool. While this sounds like a frigid way to start your new year, Barton Springs hovers around 68°F year-round so it may actually be warmer in the water than out of it.

Happy holidays!