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It’s the most wonderful time of the year in the most wonderful city in the world! A city that everyone loves to visit (if they don’t already call it home, that is). If you have friends or family visiting Austin for the holidays, here are some ideas for exciting and entertaining outings that will make out-of-town guests swoon for our city.
Option 1: A Day on Congress Ave
Mix up the classic South Congress outing by starting at the State Capitol and making your way south. Start with a free tour of the Capitol and watch your kin stare in awe at the building that’s taller than our nation’s capitol. On your way towards Congress Ave., stop and pose for pics at the Capitol Christmas Tree.
From there, walk or drive south on Congress (or take the bus!). Be sure to explain the bat phenomenon while you’re crossing the bridge, and remind them to come back when it’s active bat season. Stop in at the Yeti flagship store at the end of the bridge to wet your whistle at the bar after you peruse the shop. Keep walking south, and you’ll arrive at the lovely strand of mostly local businesses that really know how to “Keep Austin Weird!” Lunch at Guero’s or Home Slice Pizza and grab a glass of froze at Hotel San Jose. Too cold for that? Head to Jo’s instead and grab a cup of, well, joe, and take a picture at their famous mural so that you can all remember the day forever.
Option 2: Make Museum Memories
There are plenty of ways to get your culture on in the ATX, and the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum is an excellent place to begin your journey. From there, head across the street to The Blanton Museum of Art, located on UT’s campus. Its permanent addition, “Austin,” by Ellsworth Kelly shines a nice bit of color on your winter days and is definitely worth a visit.
If your family is still ready for more, there are other options for a third or fourth museum stop. Here are some great choices you can check out: Mexic-Arte Museum, The Contemporary Austin, LBJ Presidential Library & Museum, and the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum. Those first two are located on Congress Avenue so you could even combine option one and two!
Option 3: See Some Street Art
Are your visitors as obsessed with Instagram as us Austinites are? If so, posing in front of a few of our famous murals is perfect activity for you! You definitely need to swing by the Greetings From Austin mural on South First and the I Love You So Much wall at Jo’s Coffee on South Congress. But there are so many more amazing works of art on Austin’s streets. In fact, a few are located on SOCO, like Our Lady by Federico, Willie For President on the side of Stag Provisions, the Mr. Rogers art at Home Slice and a holiday themes mural on the side of the Kendra Scott flagship store. Check out some more options from our friend Koko here.
Option 4: Get Outside
No matter what the weather is like, you can bet it’s better than most of the places your guests are visiting from. Take them to feed the ducks at Lou Neff Point. Want to work off those heavy holiday meals? Try scaling the stairs at Mount Bonnell or check out what there is of our fall foliage at McKinney Falls State Park or Barton Creek Green Belt. If your guests are uber adventurous, challenge them to take a dip at Barton Springs Pool. Or if they’d rather stay on top of the water, take them stand up paddle boarding on Lady Bird Lake (while explaining to them why no one actually calls the lake that).
Option 5: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
We love our craft beer, we love our craft drinks, and we love to drink local! There are so many local breweries that have taproom tastings and tours. These are just a few of our faves: Hops and Grain, Zilker Brewing Company, Marble Falls’ Save the World Brewing Company (who donate their net profits to charities), the Austin Eastciders Tasting Room (located at 979 Springdale Road, Suite 130), and Jester King in Dripping Springs. And, speaking of Dripping Springs, you don’t have to go all the way to Fredericksburg for wine tasting. Just about 30 miles from downtown you can choose from a variety of wineries in Dripping Springs and Driftwood, including Bell Springs, Solaro Estate, Driftwood Estate, and Duchman Family Winery. Distilleries from Treaty Oak, Deep Eddy and Dripping Springs Vodka are out that way as well so there’s definitely something for everyone, no matter what your family’s favorite spirit. And of course, Austin’s food has become world class in the past decade. We’ve got plenty of James Beard Award winners, barbecue to die for, and really, a little bit of something for everyone.
Option 6: Dust Off Those Dancing Shoes
When visitors think of a trip to Texas, a tried and true honky-tonk surely comes to mind. And lucky for them, the Broken Spoke is still alive and kicking! Nestled in between new construction, the Spoke retains its old Austin charm, from its chicken fried steak to its dance floor filled with two-steppers to its “museum” stocked with photos of the owner, James White, with classic country music stars. Get there around 8 p.m. from Wednesday to Saturday for free two-step and swing dancing lessons. Situated closer to the downtown scene, Donn’s Depot is another awesome option. There’s always a cover, but it’s definitely worth it for this lesser mentioned, just as authentically Austin joint.
Option 7: Light it Up
Each year throughout the holiday season Mozart’s annual lights display is a beloved favorite of thousands of locals and visitors. It takes place every hour on the hour until midnight (except on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day). That leaves plenty of time through the evening to enjoy a hot chocolate or seasonal coffee drink. The Zilker Tree is also a must. And, of course, Austin’s biggest light spectacle is the Trail of Lights.
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Spots are filling up fast for the Trail of Lights Fun Run! Run or walk and get active this holiday season with family and friends! These are the last few days to take advantage of early bird pricing before prices increase November 1 – register with the link in our bio! #atxlightsfunrun #austin #atx #atxlights
Option 8: Shop Local
The 2nd Street District is where Texas warmth meets Austin cool. Shop the many local luxury boutiques (mixed with a few that aren’t based as close to home), eat cuisine from around the globe, and stop at Willie Nelson Boulevard to snap a pic with the statue of Texas’ favorite country legend. If your phone needs a boost, stop in to charge up at the Google Fiber Space and take advantage of their high speed gigabit internet, unless it’s Sunday (they’re closed). Pop in to the historic building that houses Lamberts, and grab some BBQ while you’re there. End the day with a drink at Trace at The W Austin or catch a movie at Violet Crown Cinema.
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We are so excited to announce that the Austin Young Chamber named @2ndstdistrict as Austin's "FAVE Spot to Splurge!" We couldn't agree more 🛍✨ Thank you to @austinyoungchamber and to all of our amazing tenants who help make the district so special in the heart of downtown Austin. Whether you want to splurge or save, 2ND Street District has something for everyone. #FAVEawards #AYC #austin #texas #atx #shopping #dining #downtownaustin #austinyoungchamber #FAVEawards
Option 9: Do the Domain
Are your guests hoping to hit some of the big stores they may not have access to back home? Head up to The Domain for some open air holiday shopping. From the main mall areas to the Rock Rose addition, you can find a gift for just about anyone all in one place. Pictures with Santa aren’t the only holiday activity happening at this shopping and entertainment destination. You can also see a free light show, take a horse drawn carriage ride, and sing along with carolers. Get details on all the holiday activities here. And make sure you stop by the Restoration Hardware. Their amazingly beautiful rooftop patio is one of the hidden gems of the Domain area.
Option 10: Take a Celebtastic Tour
Whether you want to stop at foodie spots owned by local celebs or filming sites are more your thing, there are plenty of Hollywood-esque spots to choose from in the ATX. Try “Duck Dynasty” brother Jep Robertson’s food truck. Grab a drink at Sixth Street’s San Jac Saloon (“Supernatural” star Jared Padalecki is an owner) or at Family Business Brewing in Dripping Springs, owned by that other “Supernatural” star, Jensen Ackles. Or stop by Sandra Bullock’s Walton’s Fancy and Staple.
Want to see the house from Hope Floats or where Eric and Tammy Taylor called home on “Friday Night Lights”? Or maybe you’re more old school and you’re into Dazed and Confused or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. We’ve got them all! Check out our road trip guide to the best Central Texas filming locations.
Looking for more specific holiday events and activities? You’re in luck! We’ve got lists upon lists that highlight all kinds of ways to celebrate in Austin. Check them out below. Happy holidays, y’all!
Looking for more holiday fun?
Check out these posts:
- Holiday Markets, Art Bazaars, And Fairs In Austin 2019
- Holiday Lights Displays in Central Texas
- 15 Perfect Ways to Have a Very Merry Christmas in Austin
- Get In The Spirit at These 22 Themed Holiday Bars and Restaurants in Austin
- Keep It Local By Shopping Our Austin Gift Giving Guide
- Holiday Gift Guide: Drink Like an Austinite
- Step Up Your Gift Giving Game With A Unique Austin Experience