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What has more than two million light bulbs, takes 15,000 man hours to assemble, and was visited by approximately 315,000 people last year? It’s the Austin Trail of Lights – a community wide celebration of the holiday season that’s been delighting Austinites for more than 50 years.
If the thought of navigating traffic and crowds to visit the Trail of Lights makes your head spin like a toddler under the Zilker Holiday Tree, fear not. We’ve gathered all the info you need to plan a magical, minimally stressful, trip to the Trail of Lights.
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’re also giving away a family four-pack of Zip passes AND a parking pass! Be sure to scroll to the bottom to learn how to enter.
The Trail of Lights will be open Tuesday, December 10 through Monday, December 23, 2019, with the front gates open from 7 to 10 p.m. each evening. The Trail of Lights Foundation ensures general admission is free and open-to-the-public seven out of the festival’s 14 nights, but limited quantities of premium tickets, allowing expedited “prepaid” entrance to skip the long lines and other perks, are also available. Visitors are encouraged to purchase passes ahead of time to secure access on their preferred dates. Zip Fast Passes and Platinum Passes may enter as early as 6 p.m. on the evenings of the 11th through 23rd and gain special access to the ZIP Lounge with complimentary holiday cookies, cocoa and more. ZIP Passes are $20.
Just can’t wait for opening day? Snag tickets to the Night Lights Preview Party on Friday, December 7 from 6 to 10 p.m, benefiting the Trail of Lights Foundation.
Schedule of Events
Each year, the Austin Trail of Lights celebrates the vibrancy, spirit, and diversity of Austin through its specialty nights, many of which are free and open to the public.
Specialty nights running throughout December 2019 include:
December 1: The 53rd annual Zilker Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony; the holiday tree stands 155 feet tall and is built around one of Austin’s historic moon towers.
December 2 through 4: The 6th Annual STARS at the Trail program, presented by Vista Equity Partners, hosts up to 20 nonprofit organizations for private tours of the Trail. Since 2013, the STARS at the Trail program has benefited more than 8,000 children, families, veterans and seniors offering Trail of Lights experiences on private nights.
December 6: Night Lights, the 6th Annual Preview Party, presented by Austin Community Foundation, serves as the Trail of Lights Foundation’s annual fundraising event, with funds going to help keep the Austin Trail of Lights accessible for all in the community. The event will feature headlining entertainment, complimentary beverages and food from Austin restaurants and more attractions not available during the general run of the Trail.
December 7: The 8th Annual Trail of Lights Fun Run, presented by St. David’s HealthCare, helps to Keep Austin Active for a night where fun runners run, jog or stroll a 2.1 mile course through Zilker Park and the Austin Trail of Lights ending in the Finish Line Festival. Guests will enjoy a fitness and wellness expo, DJ entertainment, a costume contest, photos with Santa, and more. Tickets currently available at http://austintrailoflights.org/2019-fun-run
December 10: Austin Trail of Lights Grand Opening kicks off the public run of show with a countdown ceremony and entry tunnel lighting, presentations by H-E-B, KXAN, community leaders, and a special celebration for Austin Trail of Lights sponsors. General admission on December 10th is free and open to the public.
December 11: Heroes Night, presented by Humana, will honor veterans, active military and first responders with special ZIP access for Heroes and up to 3 family members along with specialty programming.
December 12: Movies in the Park at the Austin Trail of Lights, presented by Austin Parks Foundation, brings a special screening of holiday classic Home Alone to the Trail starting with story time at 7:30 p.m. and the movie starting at 8 p.m.
December 15: UT Night, presented by The University of Texas at Austin, brings loads of Longhorn spirit to the Trail with special guests and programming along with a sea of burnt orange pride.
December 23: Closing Night
Calendars for ticket availability, special programming and online ticket purchases are now available at www.austintrailoflights.org. Check the event calendar for which nights offer free entry and which nights carry a $5 entry fee. Children 11 and under are always free of charge.
Trail of Lights Shuttles And Parking
Avoid Trail traffic and get dropped off at the front gate by starting from one of these shuttle locations:
1. Republic Square Park (422 Guadalupe Street)
2. Toney Burger Event Center (3200 Jones Road)
Shuttles offered on December 13 through 15 and December 19 through 23 from two convenient locations which drop you directly at the front gate of the Trail. Visitors are encouraged to purchase a shuttle pass in advance to avoid lines at shuttle pick up spots. The shuttle fare includes general admission access to the Austin Trail of Lights and costs $7 per person.
For more information about Austin Trail of Lights shuttles, visit https://austintrailoflights.org/ticket-types#Shuttleticket.
Pre-paid parking passes are also available for $15 per vehicle. These grant access to the Zilker Park parking lots, which open at 5:30 p.m. nightly. Parking at the Trail is limited each night and tickets must be purchased in advance online. Learn more about parking passes here.
A few extra tidbits – Once you have survived the getting there, you will find plenty of FREE fun at the Trail of Lights. There are crafts for kids, letters to Santa, community performances, FREE candy in Candy Land, photo ops aplenty, FREE books from H-E-B, and FREE photos with Santa (although, the line will be long, of course). There will also be splurge-worthy fun, including a classic carousel, a 90′ Ferris wheel, and 30+ food vendors both near the Zilker Holiday Tree and along the Trail.
For much more information, be sure to check out the Austin Trail of Lights FAQs.
- Tickets are non-refundable. The Trail will be open rain or shine barring extreme weather conditions.
- Strollers and small wagons are allowed, but be prepared for the challenge of maneuvering through crowds.
- Outside food and drinks are allowed, but coolers, glass containers, and alcohol are prohibited.
- No pets are allowed (except service dogs with tags).
- For real-time updates, like Austin Trail of Lights on Facebook and follow them on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
We want you and your family to experience the Trail of Lights for FREE! You can win a family four-pack of Zip passes to attend ANY NIGHT. Plus, you’ll get a free parking pass too! Head on over to our Instagram page to learn how to enter.