clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
An abstract photo of blurred lights in a spiral.
Underneath the Zilker holiday tree
Shutterstock

Where to see holiday lights in Austin

All is bright, even at the darkest time of year

View as Map
Underneath the Zilker holiday tree
| Shutterstock

Whether it’s a balmy 79 degrees or a frigid 18 outside (two entirely plausible Austin scenarios), there’s always something lovely about the twinkling, colorful lights that appear in the dark December nights during the winter holidays. Viewed from a car or on foot—or bike, scooter, or moped, maybe—they delight and astound. Here are some of the best places around town to see them.

Map points are ordered north to south.

Read More

The Domain Holiday Display

Copy Link

Some prefer to (or must) multitask during the holidays, and the Domain provides a way to shop to your heart’s content and enjoy a Christmas tree lighting show, complete with a live musical accompaniment and, naturally, Santa Claus. You can also take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage or dance to holiday music around the 40-foot tree, which has over 200,000 lights, 400 ornaments, and a 5-foot tall star on the top. November 8-December 24.

West 37th Street

Copy Link

Residents of West 37th Street between Guadalupe Street and Home Lane began creating wild, DIY light displays in the mid-1980s. As the legend (and reality) of their oddball fantasia grew, hundreds and then thousands made the pilgrimage to walk (or drive, if you had hours to kill) down the tiny street during the holidays. While the grandiosity has waxed and waned, the tradition lives on, just as strange and wonderful as ever. Premiere night: December 14, 7 p.m.-9 p.m.; display runs through January 1.

A post shared by Sylvia Arteaga (@sylfox07) on

Mozart's Coffee Roasters

Copy Link

Mozart’s seems to deck the halls with more enthusiasm and sheer tonnage of lights every year. The free nightly show on its lakeside deck includes over one million LED lights sculpted into giant objects, custom-made in Greece, that evoke Austin’s culture and the holiday season: a dozen guitars, the State Capitol, and a tree filled with presents. There’s also an audio-activated wall of lights and even more lights strung in the trees, facades, and rooflines. November 21-January 5, 6 p.m.-11 p.m. (Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, closes at 10 p.m. Christmas Eve.

Clarksville Historic District/Willis Littlefield’s House

Copy Link

The Clarksville Historic District, just west of downtown, is a font of winter wonderlandia this time of year due to its mix of decorations and year-round old-timey shops and homes. The home of longtime resident decorator Willis Littlefield is a must-see.

A tree with a trunk and branches that are covered in illuminated holiday lights in Austin, Texas.
Willis Littlefield’s House
Willis Littlefield’s House/Facebook

Texas Capitol

Copy Link

The grounds of the Texas Capitol, especially at night, can be surprisingly magical despite the nefarious activity that often occurs inside. The holiday tree in front of the dome adds to the magic, and there’s a second tree in the Senate Chamber that’s both beautifully decorated and, we hope, an antidote to some of that nefariousness. The capper, though, is the annual Holiday Stroll, Sing-Along and Tree Lighting, which takes place in front of the Capitol and along Congress Avenue from Ninth to 11th streets. December 7, 6 p.m.-10 p.m.

A post shared by Chris Tavarez (@chrisatavarez) on

The Driskill Hotel

Copy Link

The historic, already ornate downtown hotel will be adorned with an equally ornate tree and will have Christmas events and holiday music throughout the evenings. The festivity carries out on to Sixth Street, which is even more lit than usual this time of year.

Zilker Park Holiday Tree

Copy Link

Although located in close proximity to the Trail of Lights, the Zilker Park Holiday Tree—the only one in the entire United States made by decorating a moon tower with 3,309 lights—is not officially part of that event. Neither, however, is to be missed. The 2019 Zilker Tree lighting will take place December 1, and the tree will be on display every night from 6 p.m. to midnight until the end of the year.

Austin Trail of Lights

Copy Link

Austin’s annual Trail of Lights in Zilker Park needs no introduction; it’s a downright amazing road down a memory-and-future-hallucination lane, a 53-year-old tradition that’s both commercial (in a local way) and enigmatically charming. This year’s trail has a variety of entry times and events and takes place December 10-23.

Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum

Copy Link

It’s not a holiday-themed show, but the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum is lit this season with its “Design Shine” exhibit. The museum collaborated with AIA Austin for the show, which mingles new, techy pieces with the museum’s permanent collection of mostly figurative sculptures. The sculptures can be seen by day, but they’re lit up at night to create an even more magical journey. Through January 19.

Design Shine Courtesy of Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum

Luminations at the Wildflower Center

Copy Link

The Lady Bird Wildflower this year brings back Luminations, lighting up the gardens with thousands of luminarias and bringing aerial dance performances, live music, and festivities to its memorable tradition to remember. Austin site-specific dance company nonpariel Blue Lapis Light will peform Oneness of Being, choreographed specifically for the Wildflower Center, above the Savanna Meadow every night of the event. December 5-8 and 12-15 (members only on Thursdays), 6 p.m.-10 p.m.

The Domain Holiday Display

Some prefer to (or must) multitask during the holidays, and the Domain provides a way to shop to your heart’s content and enjoy a Christmas tree lighting show, complete with a live musical accompaniment and, naturally, Santa Claus. You can also take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage or dance to holiday music around the 40-foot tree, which has over 200,000 lights, 400 ornaments, and a 5-foot tall star on the top. November 8-December 24.

West 37th Street

Residents of West 37th Street between Guadalupe Street and Home Lane began creating wild, DIY light displays in the mid-1980s. As the legend (and reality) of their oddball fantasia grew, hundreds and then thousands made the pilgrimage to walk (or drive, if you had hours to kill) down the tiny street during the holidays. While the grandiosity has waxed and waned, the tradition lives on, just as strange and wonderful as ever. Premiere night: December 14, 7 p.m.-9 p.m.; display runs through January 1.

A post shared by Sylvia Arteaga (@sylfox07) on

Mozart's Coffee Roasters

Mozart’s seems to deck the halls with more enthusiasm and sheer tonnage of lights every year. The free nightly show on its lakeside deck includes over one million LED lights sculpted into giant objects, custom-made in Greece, that evoke Austin’s culture and the holiday season: a dozen guitars, the State Capitol, and a tree filled with presents. There’s also an audio-activated wall of lights and even more lights strung in the trees, facades, and rooflines. November 21-January 5, 6 p.m.-11 p.m. (Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, closes at 10 p.m. Christmas Eve.

Clarksville Historic District/Willis Littlefield’s House

A tree with a trunk and branches that are covered in illuminated holiday lights in Austin, Texas.
Willis Littlefield’s House
Willis Littlefield’s House/Facebook

The Clarksville Historic District, just west of downtown, is a font of winter wonderlandia this time of year due to its mix of decorations and year-round old-timey shops and homes. The home of longtime resident decorator Willis Littlefield is a must-see.

A tree with a trunk and branches that are covered in illuminated holiday lights in Austin, Texas.
Willis Littlefield’s House
Willis Littlefield’s House/Facebook

Texas Capitol

The grounds of the Texas Capitol, especially at night, can be surprisingly magical despite the nefarious activity that often occurs inside. The holiday tree in front of the dome adds to the magic, and there’s a second tree in the Senate Chamber that’s both beautifully decorated and, we hope, an antidote to some of that nefariousness. The capper, though, is the annual Holiday Stroll, Sing-Along and Tree Lighting, which takes place in front of the Capitol and along Congress Avenue from Ninth to 11th streets. December 7, 6 p.m.-10 p.m.

A post shared by Chris Tavarez (@chrisatavarez) on

The Driskill Hotel

The historic, already ornate downtown hotel will be adorned with an equally ornate tree and will have Christmas events and holiday music throughout the evenings. The festivity carries out on to Sixth Street, which is even more lit than usual this time of year.

Zilker Park Holiday Tree

Although located in close proximity to the Trail of Lights, the Zilker Park Holiday Tree—the only one in the entire United States made by decorating a moon tower with 3,309 lights—is not officially part of that event. Neither, however, is to be missed. The 2019 Zilker Tree lighting will take place December 1, and the tree will be on display every night from 6 p.m. to midnight until the end of the year.

Austin Trail of Lights

Austin’s annual Trail of Lights in Zilker Park needs no introduction; it’s a downright amazing road down a memory-and-future-hallucination lane, a 53-year-old tradition that’s both commercial (in a local way) and enigmatically charming. This year’s trail has a variety of entry times and events and takes place December 10-23.

Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum

Design Shine Courtesy of Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum

It’s not a holiday-themed show, but the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum is lit this season with its “Design Shine” exhibit. The museum collaborated with AIA Austin for the show, which mingles new, techy pieces with the museum’s permanent collection of mostly figurative sculptures. The sculptures can be seen by day, but they’re lit up at night to create an even more magical journey. Through January 19.

Design Shine Courtesy of Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum

Luminations at the Wildflower Center

The Lady Bird Wildflower this year brings back Luminations, lighting up the gardens with thousands of luminarias and bringing aerial dance performances, live music, and festivities to its memorable tradition to remember. Austin site-specific dance company nonpariel Blue Lapis Light will peform Oneness of Being, choreographed specifically for the Wildflower Center, above the Savanna Meadow every night of the event. December 5-8 and 12-15 (members only on Thursdays), 6 p.m.-10 p.m.