Admit it. You always mean to go downtown, but…it just doesn’t happen. I know, it’s the traffic. The parking. That special inertia that sets in, just in time for the holidays.
In truth, all it takes is a little advance planning. Just like any outing with kids, pack some snacks and water and do a little advance research on parking (don’t forget, metered parking is free on Sundays!) or, take the MetroRail down for an added dose of adventure. Add in a little extra time if you aren’t used to navigating downtown, and you’re set!
We’ve got plenty of ways to enjoy our beautiful city during this festive time of year:
4th Annual Second Street District Window Walk – November 23 – December 6
The 2SD Holiday Window Walk is an annual competition open to local theatrical design students, where 2SD businesses let their storefront windows become the students’ canvases for an opportunity to win collegiate scholarships. On Saturday, December 6, the winning window design, chosen from a theme of lyrics from holiday songs and Christmas carols and lines from classic holiday stories and films, will be announced during the “Deck the District” event from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., where window walkers can stroll the 2ND Street District, enjoy carolers and an appearance by the one and only Santa Claus, and take advantage of the in-store specials at 2ND Street District shops.
Candy Land Gingerbread Village at Four Seasons Hotel – November 25 – December 31
This annual tradition at the Four Seasons Hotel takes its inspiration from the popular children’s board game of the same name. The theme will take shape in 10 unique houses, including such whimsical landmarks as the Candy Castle, Licorice Forest and Gumdrop Mountains. Several smaller scenes and accessories — such as the iconic Candy Land sign, Rainbow Bridges and Queen Frostine — will also dot the fantasy Village landscape. The Village is on display 24 hours a day until December 31. The hotel will host Holiday Open Houses on December 2 and 3 from 5-6pm in the lobby, which are free, open to the public and feature complimentary hot apple cider, Candy Land-themed treats, photos with Santa and the opportunity to meet the pastry chefs behind the village. Four Seasons Hotel, 98 San Jacinto Blvd.
Teddy Bear Teas – November 29 & 30; December 6, 7, 13, 20 and 21
Guests of all ages are invited to get all gussied up for this Four Seasons Hotel Austin tradition, featuring tea service, holiday caroling and a fireside reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Santa himself! Those attending are asked to bring a new, unwrapped teddy bear, which will be donated to the Dell Children’s Hospital. Seatings are offered at 2 p.m., 2:15 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. and reservations are required and can be made by calling (512) 685-8300. $42 for adults, $30 for children 11 and under.
Tree Lighting at the Driskill – Tuesday, December 2, 6 p.m.
Enjoy choral performances and seasonal music from the Arundel Ensemble String Quartet in celebration of the annual Lighting of The Driskill Tree honoring Ben Breedlove. The Driskill Hotel, 604 Brazos St.
Four Seasons Gingerbread Open House – Tuesday, December 2 & Wednesday, December 3, 5-6 p.m.
Get a closer look at the amazing gingerbread houses at a FREE open house with complimentary hot apple cider, Candy Land-themed treats, photos with Santa and the opportunity to meet Javier and the other talented pastry chefs behind the Village. Lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel, 98 San Jacinto Blvd.
Holiday Music – Wednesdays and Thursdays: December 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 5-7 p.m.
Ring in the holidays with seasonal music from the Arundel Ensemble String Quartet. The Driskill Hotel, 604 Brazos St.
Free Noon Concert – Thursday, December 4, noon
Take a 30-minute lunchtime break to join a Christmas Sing-along with Maestro Peter Bay. Family-friendly and FREE! Central Presbyterian Church, 200 E 8th St.
Caroling at Noon: The University of Texas Bassoon Ensemble – Thursday, December 4, 12-12:30 p.m.
A pause from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, these half-hour programs of virtuosic music-making and audience-wide caroling feature different performers each week. Led by Kristin Jensen, the fifteen-member UT Bassoon Ensemble has performed to enthusiastic audiences at the Texas Music Educators Association conferences, and many middle and high schools. The group is recognized for its warm sound, rhythmic vitality, and appealing programing. FREE, but donations accepted. Complimentary parking is available in St. David’s garage at 8th and Trinity Streets. Each concert is followed by lunch ($9) at 12:30 p.m. at Cafe Divine in Sumners Hall. Regular and vegetarian entrees are available. St. David’s Episcopal Church, 301 E. 8th St.
The Austin Symphony Presents Christmas in the Community: String Quartet – Friday, December 5, noon
Christmas in the Community is a series of twelve concerts held throughout the city of Austin featuring different ensembles of the orchestra playing familiar holiday music. Also featured on this series are members of the Austin Youth Orchestra, who will perform side-by-side with the Austin Symphony. FREE! Austin City Hall, 301 W 2nd St.
Art from the Streets Show and Sale – December 6 & 7, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
This year’s annual exhibition will feature more than 2,000 new pieces for sale, including paintings and drawings, photography, jewelry, and pottery. All items are made by homeless Austinites and all proceeds go directly to the artists. Prices start at $35, with a $5 suggested donation at the door to help fund the program year-round. Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.
A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Music of Vince Guaraldi – Saturday, December 6, 3:30 p.m.
This is the perfect holiday tradition, with all the music from the original TV holiday classic performed LIVE! Featuring Michelle Schumann, piano, Utah Hamrick, bass, and David Sierra, drums, and presented by Austin Chamber Music Center. Tickets starting at $20. The Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave.
Holiday Sing-Along and Downtown Holiday Stroll – Saturday, December 6, 6 p.m.
The annual Holiday Sing-Along and Downtown Stroll is a FREE, family-friendly event that celebrates the arrival of the holiday season and the joy it brings. The evening starts at 6 p.m. when crowds gather on the south steps of the Capitol to sing the songs of the season during KUTX 98.9 “Eklektikos” host John Aielli’s Holiday Sing-Along. As the clock strikes 7 p.m., the countdown to the lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree begins, featuring a programmed light show at the top and bottom of every hour, set to holiday songs of local Austin musicians. From 7 to 9 p.m., Congress Ave. will be abuzz with holiday cheer during the Downtown Stroll. Shops, restaurants, galleries and museums will be open late and will feature special activities and offers. Additional Stroll activities include classic holiday cartoons, photos with Santa, live music, a special holiday Farmers’ Market with the Sustainable Food Center, and much more. Support fellow members of the community by bringing non-perishable food or cash donations to the Capitol Christmas tree for the Capital Area Food Bank.
Deck the District – Saturday, December 6, 1–6 p.m.
Window walkers can stroll the Second Street District, enjoy carolers and an appearance by the one and only Santa Claus, and take advantage of the in-store specials at Second Street District shops. The “Deck the District” event will be FREE and fun for all ages. Second Street District.
Ballet Austin’s The Nutcraker – December 6, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20 at 7:30 p.m. & December 7, 13, 14, 20, 21, 22, 23 at 2 p.m.
An army of mischievous mice, a bevy of bon-bons, a sprinkle of sparkling snowflakes, and one jovial Mother Ginger … plus the Austin Symphony Orchestra! With an enchanting new production, featuring the set design by the extraordinary artistry of Holly Highfill and exquisite costumes by internationally renowned designer Judanna Lynn, the 2013 premiere thrilled record audiences with new magical moments. Join us for this 52nd annual production bringing a fresh new experience to Austin’s beloved holiday tradition. Tickets start at $15. Long Center for Performing Arts, 701 W. Riverside Dr.
Holiday Tours at the Capitol – December 8-23, times vary
For the first time this year, the Capitol will offer a special Holiday Tour, which will take place starting on December 8th through the 23rd. Holiday tours are offered weekdays at 10:45am and 1:45pm, Saturdays at 11:00am and 1:00pm and Sundays at 1:00pm. During the Holiday Tours, the guides will discuss the different ethnic groups which settled in Texas, the traditions they brought to our state and the architecture of the building which inspired this year’s Capitol Ornament. FREE! Texas Capitol, 1100 Congress Ave.
Austin Carriage’s Annual Blue Santa Toy Drive – Wednesday, December 10, 6:30–10 p.m.
Please join Austin Carriage for our annual Blue Santa Toy Drive December 10th, 2014 from 6:30-10:00 p.m. picking up at the Central Downtown Fire Station at the corner of 5th and Trinity. You can exchange a new unwrapped gift ($10 value or more, please) for each passenger to receive a FREE carriage ride. The rides are about 15 to 20 minutes long depending on demand. Seating capacity is up to 6 adult passengers. Children under 4 may sit on a lap and are not counted as a seated passenger. Please come and help provide a merry Christmas to a deserving child.
Free Noon Concert – Thursday, December 11, noon
Take a 30-minute lunchtime break to listen to the Austin Handbell Ensemble. Family-friendly and FREE! Central Presbyterian Church, 200 E 8th St.
Caroling at Noon: St. Andrew’s Episcopal School Select Choir – Thursday, December 11, 12-12:30 p.m.
A pause from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, these half-hour programs of virtuosic music-making and audience-wide caroling feature different performers each week. The Select Choir from St. Andrew’s Episcopal School (in Austin), under the direction of Michael Rosensteel, is an acclaimed high school chorus with a long-standing tradition of choral excellence. The ensemble performs in a multitude of styles and genres, mostly a capella – from Renaissance motets and spirituals to folk music and 21st century works. FREE, but donations accepted. Complimentary parking is available in St. David’s garage at 8th and Trinity Streets. Each concert is followed by lunch ($9) at 12:30 p.m. at Cafe Divine in Sumners Hall. Regular and vegetarian entrees are available. St. David’s Episcopal Church, 301 E. 8th St.
Afternoon with Santa at the Driskill – Sunday, December 14, 2-5 p.m.
Meet Santa & capture photos at this family event. Photographer available, personal photos permitted. Reservations required. $25 per person, plus tax.
Caroling at Noon: Voices of St. Davd’s – Thursday, December 18, 12-12:30 p.m.
A pause from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, these half-hour programs of virtuosic music-making and audience-wide caroling feature different performers each week. This concert features sparkling motets for chamber choir. FREE, but donations accepted. Complimentary parking is available in St. David’s garage at 8th and Trinity Streets. Each concert is followed by lunch ($9) at 12:30 p.m. at Cafe Divine in Sumners Hall. Regular and vegetarian entrees are available. St. David’s Episcopal Church, 301 E. 8th St.
Celtic Christmas at the Cathedral – December 19 & 20, 7:30–10 p.m.
Produced by Celtic Cultural Center of Texas, in the hall of one of Austin’s most historic Houses of Worship, comes a gathering every year of some of the city’s most honored vocalists including Brett Barnes, Danny Johnson, and Stephanie Prewitt led by award winning director Jeffrey Jones Ragona. Tickets are $30 plus a $2 PayPal fee. St. Mary’s Cathedral, 203 E. 10th St.
Holiday Music with Duo Epsilon – Sunday, December 21, 3–4 p.m.
Duo Epsilon, a flute and classical guitarist duo, will be playing holiday favorites and favorite classical works by Astor Piazzolla and Mauro Giuliani. FREE! Faulk Central Library, 800 Guadalupe St.
The Austin Symphony Presents Christmas in the Community: String Quartet – Monday, December 22, noon
Christmas in the Community is a series of twelve concerts held throughout the city of Austin featuring different ensembles of the orchestra playing familiar holiday music. Also featured on this series are members of the Austin Youth Orchestra, who will perform side-by-side with the Austin Symphony. FREE! Texas Capitol, 1100 Congress Ave.
TubaChristmas – Monday, December 22, noon
2014 is the 41st anniversary for TUBACHRISTMAS concerts, which are presented throughout the world. Watch a special tuba concert on the south steps of the Texas State Capitol Building. FREE! Texas State Capitol, 1100 Congress Avenue.
Have family in town for the holidays? Check out our list of ideas of things to do with out of town guests.
And a huge list of Holiday Happenings in Austin!
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.livemom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Nicole-Basham-Sara-Marzani-Photography-livemom.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]A native Austinite and soccer-playing mom, Nicole uses her 8-year-old son as an excuse to rediscover her hometown through his eyes. In Thoreau’s words, her mission is to “suck out all the marrow of life”, or in her son’s words, to cultivate in him a love of “advenchers”.[/author_info] [/author]