food & drink · music & nightlife · attractions & tours · outdoor activities ·
Published November 1, 2023
Austin's Ultimate 2023 Winter Bucket List
From drive-thru light shows to holiday bazaars, here's everything to do in Texas's weirdest city this winter. 🎄✨
by Austin Bucket List
Temperatures in Austin are (finally) dropping, leaves are falling, and before you know it, sparkling lights and holiday trees will be on display throughout the city. Winter is upon us in Texas's capital city, and while it may not mean snow-covered streets (we're not complaining tbh), it does mean lots of holiday cheer and tons of winter activities.
All season long, you'll find events ranging from spectacular light shows to yummy treats and drinks to keep you warm to free concerts and more. Here’s our list of the can’t-miss activities to experience this winter in Austin.
The Best Things to Do in Austin This Winter
Attend the Downtown Holiday Stroll & Sing Along
Kick off the winter festivities and see downtown Austin transform for the season with the 29th Annual Holiday Stroll & Sing Along! This free, family-friendly event takes place on December 2 on Congress Avenue between 9th and 11th streets and will feature artisan vendors, food trucks, photos with Santa, and more!
Where: Congress Avenue between 9th and 11th streets, Austin, TX 78701
Visit The Holly Jolly Bar
Get into the holiday season with some festive spirits (the alcoholic kind) at the Holly Jolly Bar. The halls of Summit Lounge will be decked from top to bottom, and you’ll feel like you just stepped into a Hallmark movie. Enjoy good vibes, entertainment, and a welcome cocktail from November to January!
Where: Summit Lounge: 120 W 5th St, Austin, TX
Pick Out a Tree at Evergreen Farms
Head to Evergreen Farms in Elgin and experience the fresh air of the country as you pick out your perfect tree. While you're there, enjoy games and activities like tetherball, a maze, a playground for kids, a nature trail, and farm animals. You can also hit the gift shop and find some special ornaments for your tree. On weekends, you can roast marshmallows around the campfire and enjoy drinks, hot chocolate, s’more fixings, sausage wraps, and snacks from the concession stand.
Where: 242 Monkey Rd, Elgin, TX
Visit the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar
Stock up on holiday gifts — or ‘tis the season to treat yourself — at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. From December 15 to 23, you can expect local art and live music, along with a variety of shopping options. This holiday staple is a fine art shopping destination with a festive atmosphere you’re not going to want to miss out on.
Where: 900 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX
Witness the Zilker Holiday Tree Lighting
The Zilker Holiday Tree is a sight to behold. Towering at 155 feet, this isn’t your average Christmas tree — it’s made of streamers that hold over 3,300 colorful light bulbs. The first tree was lit in 1967, and the beloved tradition continues today. The 2023 lighting ceremony will take place on November 26, with plenty of local entertainment, food, and novelties to welcome in the holiday cheer.
Where: 2100 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX
Go Skating at Ice Rodeo
Ice Rodeo will return on November 17 to the Four Seasons with an open-air skating rink overlooking Lady Bird Lake, luxe cabins for gathering with friends and family, pop-up lounges, food and beverage trucks, and over-the-top holiday decor, from a 30-foot Christmas tree to a Texas-sized gingerbread installation in our Hotel’s lobby!
Where: 98 San Jacinto Blvd, Austin, TX
Watch Mozart’s Light Show
This annual holiday tradition is back again this year at Mozart's Coffee Roasters with a Bavarian Marketplace, LED light-up dance floor, a snow machine, multiple photo ops (like a giant wreath and gift truck), and of course, an amazing light show by the lake! Order up some housemade pastries and specialty coffee, and make sure to grab a hot cocoa bomb to take home!
Where: 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX
Donate or Volunteer with the Central Texas Food Bank
One of the most worthy ways to spend the holiday season is to donate food, funds, or time to our neighbors in need. The Central Texas Food Bank has volunteer opportunities for all ages and group sizes, and your donation goes directly where it's needed most to help serve Central Texans at risk of hunger.
Where: 6500 Metropolis Dr, Austin, TX
Sip a Hot Chocolate from Patcha Organic Cafe
Indulging in seasonal treats is one of our favorite ways to enjoy the holidays. Swing by Patcha Organic Cafe, a local, homey, South American-focused eatery for decadent hot chocolate. Pair it with your brunch, lunch, or dinner, and choose from either dark chocolate or Mexican-spiced hot chocolate.
Where: 2915 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX
Shop The German-Texan Heritage Society Christmas Market
Texas’s most authentic German Christmas Market is back for one day only on December 2! Join over 3,000 visitors to shop until you drop. The market offers unique Christmas decorations imported from East Germany’s Erzgebirge. The German Glühwein, or hot spice wine, is a must-try.
Where: 507 E 10th St, Austin, TX
Watch Holiday Movies at the Drive-in Theater
Drive-ins are making a national comeback — but Austin did it first. Self-described as the world’s “one and only mini urban boutique drive-in movie theater,” each of Blue Starlite’s venues accepts a very limited number of cars and maintains a nostalgic “campfire” vibe. Catch holiday classics like Home Alone, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and Elf, playing all season long! You can also grab concessions like popcorn and candy when you get there or order food from any local restaurant and have it delivered.
Where: 2015 E M. Franklin Ave, Austin, TX
Get Festive at Lala’s
It’s Christmas all year round at Lala’s Little Nugget, so what better way to celebrate the holiday season than at an establishment that does it best? Cold beers, tasty cocktails, food, and dancing are some of its offerings — alongside Santa and his reindeer perched on the roof and generations of Christmas memorabilia that makes you feel like you’ve entered the North Pole.
Where: 2207 Justin Ln, Austin, TX
Walk Through the Trail of Lights
Experience the magic of the Trail of Lights at the 59th annual event from December 8 through 23 at Zilker Park. The Trail of Lights will provide a route of 2 million glittering lights illuminating the park, 90 lighted holiday trees, and more than 70 other holiday displays and lighted tunnels. It's also the longest-running holiday tradition of its kind in Texas’ capital city!
Where: 2100 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX
See Ballet Austin's "The Nutcracker"
Ballet Austin will perform its 61st annual production of “The Nutcracker” with all the twinkling lights, whirling snowflakes, and sparkling sets and costumes we've come to know and love. The Nutcracker remains Austin’s longest-running live production and makes for a magical holiday outing.
Where: The Long Center: 701 W Riverside Dr, Austin, TX
Drive Through Peppermint Parkway
If you’re seeking the perfect holiday treat for your kiddos, Peppermint Parkway has you covered from November 25 to December 30. The drive-thru experience features one mile of holiday displays — and two new display villages — over one million lights, and even live dancing elves. The Holiday Plaza will have plenty of food and activities.
Where: 9201 Circuit of The Americas Blvd, Austin, TX
Catch Live Performances at Free Week
This free district-wide music festival is in its 20th year! Catch performances by local and regional talent across Red River's fifteen live music venues, comedy clubs, parks, and event spaces. The event takes place the first week of January—this year's dates are January 5–7.
Where: Various locations
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