Austin in December 2016: Holiday Spirit, Giving Back and Going Out

The holiday season brings a special and unique vibe to Austin each year. The city has its staples, such as the Trail of Lights, and plenty of opportunities to give back to the community.

But it’s also an energetic time for shoppers, and Austin steps up to the season with traditional shopping opportunities and community crafts. If you take a trip to the Armadillo Bazaar or window shop on Congress Avenue after Christmas caroling, you’re sure to find that perfect Austin gift for loved ones.

Although a lot of the city’s nightlife slows down a bit in December, it’s lineup of family events explodes with theatrical productions, singalongs and caroling. You might find the perfect event in your neighborhood — or you can join the greater Austin community at downtown celebrations.

Now, let’s look at the month’s events.

December 1

Get in the holiday spirit by donating gifts at Whole Foods in downtown Austin, and stick around for fun — and maybe a little shopping. The Stuff the Bus campaign invites people to bring or buy nonperishable goods for families in need via the Central Texas Food Bank.

When: All day
Where: Whole Foods, 6th and Lamar
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December 3

If going door-to-door Christmas caroling is a little too much, consider joining thousands of Austinites downtown for a singalong and stroll. At 7 p.m., organizers light the Christmas tree at the Capitol and coordinate a light show. Then, Congress Avenue fills up with singing and dancing people for a few hours. It’s all free, but organizers encourage people to bring nonperishable food or cash donations for the Capital Area Food Bank.

When: 7 p.m.
Where: The State Capitol
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December 3-23

Ballet Austin is one of the city’s often-underestimated attractions. And it’s production of “The Nutcracker” is a great time to see the crew at its best. Now in its 54th season, the performance is almost certain to be a great memory for kids and adults alike.

When: See link for showtimes.
Where: The Long Center, 701 W Riverside Dr.
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December 10-23

If you haven’t seen Austin’s Trail of Lights, you must be new to town — or you don’t have children. This massive annual production fills Zilker Park with elaborate lighting displays, a big station for Santa photos and plenty of vending to fill your belly and give you your hot coco fix for the holidays. The park can get crowded at peak times, so plan ahead for parking and keeping track of the little ones.

When: Entry starts at 6 p.m.
Where: Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Rd.
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December 14-24

Looking for Austin-style gifts? You can spot those memorable gifts at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. Vendors bring thousands of handmade arts and crafts, including fine art. And, if shopping isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of music and a bar.

When: 10 a.m – 10 p.m. daily
Where: Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Rd.
More information:


December 31

Let’s party like it’s 2016… and 2017. Celebrate the final day of the year with the whole family from 3-10 p.m. at the city’s New Year’s Eve celebration. It’s alcohol free and it ends with a bang — a city firework display.

When: 3-10 p.m.
Where: Auditorium Shores, 900 W Riverside Dr.
More information: