One of the simple joys of the holiday season is taking the family to see the holiday lights. Here are our favorite displays in the Austin area:
One of the area’s most popular lights displays is the 1.25-mile Austin Trail of Lights at Zilker Park. This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Trail, which will take place from December 7-21. Several displays have been revamped, and there are three new displays: Candyland (where local candymakers will make and distribute candy!), Santa’s Workshop and a 90-foot Ferris Wheel (which costs $6/person). You’ll also be able to get warm by the Yule Log, which is returning to the Trail after a four-year absence. The Trail of Lights will also include 30 food vendors, 40 light displays, holiday entertainment and, of course, Santa. The 155-foot Zilker Tree is located adjacent to the Trail of Lights and is where you can ride the Ferris Wheel.
The official grand opening ceremony of this year’s Trail of Lights will be on Dec. 7 at 6:00 p.m. and is free for guests of all ages (the gates will open at 7 p.m.). You can also get a sneak peek at the Trail by participating in the Preview Party on Friday, December 5th or the Fun Run on Saturday, December 6th at 7 p.m. Beyond opening night, the Trail remains free Monday through Thursday evenings. Friday, Saturday and Sunday will require a weekend gate fee of $3 for individuals 12 and older. Onsite parking must be purchased in advance (you can also purchase shuttle passes from Burger Center and Republic Square Park), and ZiP Fast Passes allows entry to the Trail 45 minutes before the main gates open and front-of-the-line entry privileges during the evening you visit.
Last year, the Trail had 425,000 visitors, so if you haven’t been before, you should plan accordingly. In the past, weeknights have been less crowded. Strollers are allowed, but due to the crowds, it can be hard to navigate the Trail with one (although of course you need to weigh that against the plaintive cries of tired kids who might not be able to walk the entire length of the Trail). We were impressed by the food options last year, although of course it’s a little late for dinner for many families.
Mozart’s Coffee Roasters
Starting on Friday, November 21st at 6:00pm and running through January 4th, Mozart’s annual lights display takes place every hour on the hour until midnight. The show lasts fifteen minutes, but there is plenty of time before and afterwards to enjoy a hot chocolate or something from the dessert case. Here is a video from last year, although the display changes from year to year. Mozart’s does get crowded, so plan to get there in advance, and consider dropping guests off since the parking lot fills up quickly (there is additional parking across the street). It’s also a lovely, centrally-located spot to enjoy the lakeside view and look for ducks.
One of my family’s favorite displays is on Calle Limon, which is close to where Airport and Shady Lane intersect. The houses are all completely decked out, and usually the families are outside greeting the visitors as they drive by. Some folks park and walk, but we usually drive by. This stop is great for out of town guests who may not be up for walking long distances or dealing with crowds. Usually you can go from Calle Limon and drive around the adjacent streets and see other lights nearby.
I grew up in the Clarksville neighborhood, which is pretty close to downtown. About the time my son was born, we found out about a man who went all-out when he decorated his house for Christmas. Since my parents still live in the neighborhood, we walked from their house down to his house, which is just west of the intersection of 12th and West Lynn. We were greeted by the friendliest man, Mr. Littlefield, who welcomed us on his front lawn to check out all the animatronic Christmas displays (my favorite might have to be the James Brown Santa). When my son was a toddler, he would push the buttons, over and over again and Mr. Littlefield would show him another Santa he hadn’t yet discovered. Each year, Mr. Littlefield insists we take a candy cane when we leave, and each year, we all leave feeling that the Christmas spirit is alive and well. One note if you plan to visit: the street is quite narrow and there is very little parking, so I’d suggest parking east of West Lynn and walking over. You can’t really see everything from your car and kids love exploring it all.
What’s your favorite holiday lights display?
Have family in town for the holidays? Check out our list of ideas of things to do with out of town guests.
Plan more fun holiday events in the coming weeks with our comprehensive guides:
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]