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!
Free Fun In Austin continues to highlight Austin area locations and activities that may not be available at this time. We encourage you to take all safety measures to keep yourself and your neighbors safe. It is our hope that the stories and features on this site will help inform your plans in the future.
We’ve got plenty of ways to enjoy our beautiful city during this festive time of year:
4th Annual Second Street District Window Walk – Through December 6
The 2nd Street District (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, 2014, 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. (Map)
Candy Land Gingerbread Village at Four Seasons Hotel – Through 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 takes 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. (Photo here.) The Village is on display 24 hours a day until December 31, 2014. The hotel will host Holiday Open Houses on December 2 and 3 from 5-6 p.m. 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.
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.
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. at Brazos.
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 are accepted. Each concert is followed by lunch ($9) at 12:30 p.m. at Cafe Divine in Sumners Hall. Regular and vegetarian entrees are available. Complimentary parking is available in St. David’s garage at 8th and Trinity Streets. 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.
Holiday Sing-Along and Downtown Holiday Stroll – Saturday, December 6, 6-9 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. Texas State Capitol and Congress Avenue.
Deck the District – Saturday, December 6, 1–6 p.m.
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. The “Deck the District” event will be FREE and fun for all ages. 2nd Street District.
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 10:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m., Saturdays at 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. and Sundays at 1:00 p.m. During the Holiday Tours, 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 the 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. Central Downtown Fire Station, 5th and Trinity.
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.
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. Complimentary parking is available in St. David’s garage at 8th and Trinity Street. St. David’s Episcopal Church, 301 E. 8th St.
Downtown Posada – Saturday, December 13 at 6 p.m.
St. David’s Episcopal Church will host the 4th Annual Downtown Posada. The Posada commemorates Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem in search of shelter prior to the birth of Jesus. The Posada will include a procession led by children, followed by adults, and Mariachi Relampago. The procession will make its way through St. David’s Church, ending at Bethell Hall. Everyone is welcome to then feast on food and refreshment, sing Christmas carols, and join in traditional activities such as the breaking of the piñata for treats. This event is FREE with FREE parking in the St. David’s garage. St. David’s Episcopal Church, 301 East 8th St.
Caroling at Noon: Voices of St. David’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. Each concert is followed by lunch ($9) at 12:30 p.m. at Cafe Divine in Sumners Hall. Regular and vegetarian entrees are available. Complimentary parking is available in St. David’s garage at 8th and Trinity Street. St. David’s Episcopal Church, 301 E. 8th 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.
A recovering workaholic, Nicole Basham now spends her time rediscovering Austin through her 8-year-old son’s eyes. A soccer-playing mom, Nicole also enjoys tickling too close to bedtime, taking in some live music and being silly.
Recent posts by Nicole include Where to Take Out of Town Guests to Experience Austin This Holiday Season, 50+ Places to Eat Out With Kids in Austin, Exercise on the Cheap in Austin, and Got Gingerbread? Houses, Workshops and More.