We’re very excited about another year of the amazing Trail of Lights in Zilker Park! To help you plan your visit to this beautiful and bright Austin holiday tradition, we want to give you the full scoop on when to go and how to make the most out of your experience. This year, the Trail is open from Dec. 10-23, with plenty of special events and happenings. Read on for important dates and details…
Free Admission Dates –> Dec. 10 – 16
Admission to the Trail is FREE from Dec. 10-16 from 7-10 p.m. (You can choose to purchase ZiP or Platinum Passes for early entry during these dates.)
Heroes Night –> Tuesday, Dec. 13The Trail of Lights Foundation will honor military and all first responders. Bring a military ID, first responder verification or wear your uniform for you and your family to receive ZiP Fast Pass perks. Attendees can support Austin Police Operation Blue Blue Santa with a toy donation and earn early entry at 6:30 pm. Click here for more info.
- Movie Night –> Dec. 16
Austin Parks Foundation is hosting a free movie night presented at the Community Performance Stage in the Trail’s Zilker Village. You can bring your own chair or blanket to enjoy the films. Watch the 1966 version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” at 7:30 p.m. followed by the 2000 version at 8:15 p.m.
- Ticketed Dates –> Dec. 17 – 23
Tickets are required to enter the Trail of Lights from Dec. 17-23. Tickets are available for purchase online here. Tickets are $3 for ages 12 & up. Children ages 11 & under are free. (Parking must be purchased separately. See below.)
- Parking Pass: Parking Passes to the Trail of Lights allow for close parking within Zilker Park. Passes can only be purchased in advance, online here. Parking Passes are available all nights of the Trail and are $15/car.
- Shuttles: Shuttles run on December 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23. Tickets are $5 per rider. Shuttle Tickets Dec. 17-23 include your general admission gate ticket. Lap children ride free (infant/toddler). You can get on the shuttle at Burger Center (3200 Jones Rd, Austin, TX 78745) or Republic Square Park (422 Guadalupe St., Austin 78701). First shuttle departs at 5:30 p.m. Last shuttle departs shuttle stops at 8:30 p.m. Return shuttles from Zilker will run until 10:30 pm. Shuttles are ADA accessible and have room for wheelchair storage. Foldable strollers are permitted on shuttles.
- ADA Parking: Qualifying vehicles must display a state-issued handicapped plate or placard. The person to whom the placard or plan is issued must be present in the vehicle, as a driver or passenger. Disabled Veterans will receive free parking with display of state-issued license plate or placard.
- Cap Metro Bus: CapMetro can get you close. Take the #3, #4, #30 or #338 bus lines to drop you a short walk to the park.
- Bike: Bike racks will be provided across Barton Springs Road at the entrance.
–> Best Bets for Avoiding Crowds:
One of the best ways to beat the crowds is to purchase a ZiP Fast Pass. These passes allow access to the Trail of Lights at 6 p.m., one hour before the Trail opens to the general public. ZiP guests also receive access to the Lounge in Zilker Village where you’ll find restrooms, cookies, cocoa and seating. Purchase required for ages 6 & over; children under 6 are free with a ticketed ZiP adult. ZiP Fast Pass are $15-$20 and can be purchased online here.
- Wear comfy shoes. There’s lots of walking — especially for little feet.
- Wear layers or bring jackets in case the weather feels colder as the night goes on.
- If possible, put the little ones in a baby carrier instead of a stroller because they can be harder to navigate among crowds.
- Take note of some of the Activity Zones along the Trail such as Candy Cane Lane where kids can meet Santa or enjoy free hands-on activities. You’ll also want to get your free children’s book from H-E-B. And for $4/person you can ride the carousel, or for $6/person you can ride the Ferris wheel. You can check out the Trail Map to plan ahead before you go.
- Keep your budget in mind before you go. There are TONS of delicious snacks for sale with 30+ food vendors both near the Zilker Holiday Tree and along the Trail. There are also several merchants at the Trail, but you may wish to bring your own glow sticks to avoid the temptation to purchase similar items there.
For more Insider Tips and FAQ, visit the Trail of Lights website.
To stay updated with the latest news, including the entertainment lineup, click here to sign up for the Trail of Lights newsletter. You can also like the Facebook page and follow @atxlight on Instagram (and with hashtag #atxlights), as well as the @ATXLights Twitter feed.
–> ZiP Pass Giveaway! We have a 4-pack of ZiP Passes to give away to a lucky reader. These can be used on any night through Dec. 23. Enter below. Good luck! By entering the giveaway, you’ll be added to our twice-weekly email list where you’ll get all the latest on family fun in Austin.
This giveaway is now closed. But you can click here to enter to win a pair of ZiP passes for each night of the Trail.