Bring on the holly, jolly fun! From twinkling lights to parades, gingerbread houses, live music, theatre, ice skating and more — the holidays in Austin are full of wonderful family events to celebrate the season! Here’s our roundup of favorites guaranteed to make special memories with the kids, presented by the Thinkery.

Best Holiday Family Events in Austin:

Mozart’s Holiday Light Show
Nov. 17 – Jan. 1, on the hour every evening from 6-10 p.m.
(except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day) 

Visitors to Mozart’s Coffee Roasters’ annual Christmas light extravaganza will enjoy an immersive, interactive experience, surrounded by more than one million LED lights. Enjoy live choral performances and watch an audio-activated wall of lights where music is choreographed in a most entertaining way. Free! Click here for more info and parking details.

Chuy’s Children Giving to Children Parade
Nov. 18, 11 a.m.
With a new date this year before Thanksgiving, this annual parade will begin at 11 a.m. at the Texas State Capitol and travel down Congress Ave., delighting kids of all ages with GIANT character balloons, marching bands, vintage cars, dancers, choirs, costumed Star Wars characters, superheros & princesses — and much more. Watching the parade is free, but families are asked to bring an unwrapped, new toy to donate to the Operation Blue Santa Program.

Remember to bring an unwrapped toy to donate at the Chuy’s Parade

ZACH Theatre’s A Christmas Carol & Holiday Heroes
A Christmas Carol runs Nov. 22 – Dec. 31, evening shows at 7:30 p.m., weekend matinees at 2:30 p.m.; Holiday Heroes plays Dec. 2 & 9 at 11 a.m.
Get all the holiday feels at ZACH Theatre’s popular annual shows. In their upbeat version of Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol, you’ll see the traditional Victorian costumes and setting combined with modern music, re-imagined carols and the vocal talents of very soulful ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. In Holiday Heroes, a show for younger audiences, you’ll get to see whole NEW musical adaptation of this show that showcases the value of giving, empathy, and seeing the world from another’s point of view. Tickets for both can be purchased here.

Santa on the Terrace
Nov. 24, 10 a.m.
Santa is coming to town and spreading some holiday cheer! Bring the kids for a FREE photo with Santa overlooking the best view in Austin! Enjoy some holiday treats with all sorts of fun entertainment. Activities will be planned for the whole family, so bring everyone. Note, this is weather-permitting.

Meet Santa on the Terrace at the Long Center and pose for photos

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical
Nov. 24 at 4 p.m.; Nov. 25 at 11 a.m. & 3 p.m.
Take the kids to see this holiday favorite live on stage at the Long Center during Thanksgiving weekend. This beloved television special jumps from the screen to the stage to delight kids of all ages. Tickets start at $29 and can be purchased online here.

North Pole Flyer
Nov. 25 – Dec. 17. various departure times
This season, Austin Steam Train is celebrating their 10th Anniversary of the North Pole Flyer. Now a holiday tradition for Austin families, this 2 hour excursion takes place on a real train where each car is decorated for the season. Passengers enjoy storytime, a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus and a special gift. Tickets start at $45 which you can book online here or by calling 512-477-8468.

Zilker Holiday Tree
Tree Lighting Ceremony – Nov. 26, 6 p.m.
Tree on Display – Nov. 27  – Dec. 31, 6 p.m. – 12 midnight
Take a spin under this holiday tree! On Nov. 26, you can enjoy live music starting at 5:30 p.m. with the tree lighting at 6 p.m. Then, the tree will be on display nightly through Dec. 31.

Spin under the Zilker Holiday Tree

Ice Skating on the Plaza
Nov. 27 – Jan. 7, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
A must-do for locals and visitors alike, Ice Skating on the Plaza at the Whole Foods Downtown location has become one of Austin’s most anticipated events of the holiday season! The ice rink is open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays but you will need to call ahead or check their online schedule about weekday hours, as the rink gets booked for private events. Cost is $10 per person and includes use of skates.

Winter Wonderland at Circuit of the Americas
Dec. 1 & 2, then daily Dec. 8-30
6-10 p.m. Sunday – Thursday, 6-11 p.m. on Fridays & Saturdays

New this year, millions of lights will illuminate a magical world of holiday amusement at Circuit of The Americas, including a Skating Rink, Human Snow Globe, Singing Trees, Petting Zoo, Camel Rides, Santa’s Workshop, Carnival Rides, Hot Air Balloon Float, Merry Movies on The Lawn, Delectable Food, Shopping Galore and the soon to be world famous Tunnel of Lights and much more. Admission is $16 which you can get online here, and kids 5 and under are free.

Holiday Sing Along & Downtown Stroll
Dec. 2, 5-9 p.m.
This free, family-friendly event celebrates the arrival of the holiday season and the joy it brings. Enjoy live music, a community sing-along at 6 p.m., and the lighting of the tree at 7 p.m. Plus from 5-9 p.m., Congress Avenue will be abuzz with holiday cheer featuring special activities at shops, restaurants, galleries, and museums. Please bring non-perishable food donations for The Central Texas Food Bank. Visit www.downtownaustin.com/holidays for more information.

Sing holiday songs at the Texas State Capitol. Photo from the KUTX Facebook page

Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker
Dec. 8-23, evenings at 7 p.m., matinees at 2 p.m.
This seasonal tradition returns to the Long Center for its 55th year with all the colorful characters, pomp and pageantry you adore. Journey with young Clara Silberhaus from her family’s holiday party to the confection-filled Court of the Sugar Plum Fairy, where sweets of all kinds come to life. Ballet Austin’s production features hundreds of dancers, lavish sets and costumes, and the Austin Symphony Orchestra playing Tchaikovsky’s beloved score. Tickets range from $15 – $89, and can be purchased online here.

Thinkery’s Gingerbread Workshops
Dec. 9 – 24, various times
Creative families build with fresh gingerbread and sweet treats in a fun and festive atmosphere. Each Gingerbread House Kit includes all your supplies—fresh gingerbread, an assortment of candies and plenty of icing. From traditional houses to toddler designers and Candy Chemistry to Gingerbread Art & Architecture, there is a workshop for every family. After the workshop, all participants are welcome to explore Thinkery while their house dries in the Gingerbread Village. Click here to view all of the various workshops available for a variety of ages and reserve your spot. *Scroll below to enter to win a workshop!

Build a gingerbread house with the family

Trail of Lights
Dec. 9 – Dec. 23, general admission 7 p.m., ZiP Fast Pass 6 p.m.
Every holiday season, Zilker Park is transformed into the Trail of Lights with over two million lights, 40 displays, 20+ food trucks, two stages, 30 private holiday parties and interactive experiences throughout the trail. This year’s official grand opening of the Trail will be on Saturday, Dec. 9 where admission will be free. The Trail will remain open Dec. 10 – 23 with general admission gates open at 7 p.m. every evening. General admission for children under 12 is always free at the Trail of Lights. There will be a general admission fee on seven of the 14 nights of the event. Early entry ZiP Fast Pass, VIP Platinum, parking and shuttle passes are also available for purchase on select nights. For tickets and full details, visit AustinTrailofLights.org.

Take a walk through the Trail of Lights

Austin’s New Year 2018
Dec. 31, 3 – 10:30 p.m.
Bring in the New Year with a free, fun and family-friendly celebration at Vic Mathias Shores with four stages, 22 local and regional bands, food trucks, kid’s activities and multiple art installations. The New Year’s Eve event, hosted by the City of Austin, kicks off at 3 p.m. culminating with a fireworks extravaganza at 10 p.m.

Thinkery’s Noon Year’s Eve Balloon Drop & Bubble Wrap
Dec. 31, balloon drops at 12 p.m. & 2 p.m.
On New Year’s Eve, head to Thinkery for the second annual Noon Year’s Eve Balloon Drop & Bubble Wrap Stomp! Ring in 2018 a wee bit early with winter crafts, “snowball” fights, special performances and TWO separate balloon drops (12 p.m. and 2 p.m.). Why wait until midnight? The countdown to noon is on! Additional details and tickets at thinkeryaustin.org/special-events.

Countdown to 2018 with a balloon drop

Of course, there’s so much more Holiday Family Fun in store this season in Austin and the surrounding area! Keep updated by checking our listings of Holiday Events as well as our roundup of Christmas Lights!


Giveaway! Our friends at the Thinkery are giving away a Gingerbread Workshop to a Do512 Family reader. Please enter below. Good luck! Entering the giveaway will add you to the Do512 Family email list, where we let you know about the best family events in Austin each week.

Click here to enter giveaway on mobile