Family friendly events in Austin, Texas are an ongoing occurrence. There are always great family friendly places and events to attend!
These days between Christmas and New Year’s are laaaaazy, but we like it that way. And since you officially have nothing to do, we thought it would be a good time to highlight a few non-holiday-related things to do in the city for when you have some serious time to kill. Your first stop, if you haven’t made it there yet, should be Austin’s new and glorious Central Library. For bookworms and architecture buffs, and really anyone with a pulse, it is truly something magical to behold. And this could be an ideal time to explore the almost 200,000-square-foot downtown building without all the crowds.
“We all thought of the building as this great portal,” architect David Lake told the Austin Chronicle in October, “… to knowledge, to the environment, to the culture—so in that way it’s by far the most public-spirited building we’ve done—not only in Austin but anywhere.” Go check out our city’s newest landmark for yourself. It will be time well spent.
Hours today: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
710 W. César Chávez St.
The little elves at The Westin have erected a life-size gingerbread house in the hotel’s lobby! Take the kids and check out the sweetest new addition to Downtown Austin. And this isn’t just a photo op—you can eat inside the house! The house is available for lunch and dinner reservations at Stella San Jac and seats seven people. Just don’t eat the walls while you’re in there.
The Westin is donating 10% of all food and beverages sales from the gingerbread reservations to Back on My Feet Austin. This must-see attraction is made of real gingerbread and candy and will be on display for the entire month of December.
This space can be reserved in advance by contacting Kelsey Hart.
The Westin Austin Downtown
310 East 5th Street.
Austin, TX, 78701
As part of Hotel Van Zandt’s 12 Days of Christmas celebration, they’re creating an adorable holiday photo op for your pup—a picture with Santa Paws! So dress your little guy in his favorite Christmas sweater and head down to the Rainey Street District to make some memories. From now until December 14, there are all kinds of free events happening at the hotel, in what they call, “The Living Room.” It’s basically every great holiday activity packed into one place. Plus, each night there will be a roaring fire, vinyl holiday records playing in the background, a hot toddy bar, and light snacks for purchase.
When: Today, December 10th
605 Davis St.
Austin, TX 78701
We’ve done just about everything for Christmas in Austin, but we’ve mostly been limited to land activites—until now! Tonight is Austin’s first annual Boat Trail of Lights! Hopefully this has the makings of a longstanding tradition that will get bigger and crazier every year. Call that friend of yours with a boat and get organized. Decorate the boat (and/or your body) with holiday spirit and lights and meet under the 360 Bridge. Boaters will hit the lights at 6 p.m. sharp, and listen to holiday music.
Boaters and spectators will need to pay normal entrance fees at the bridge. The city can accept cash and checks only and it costs $15 for a truck and trailer, $10 for a vehicle, and $3 for anyone who walks into the park to watch the fun.
If you are planning on launching at the 360 Bridge, message the page Boat Trail of Lights and let the organizers know (this is important!). They need to make sure everyone isn’t coming at once.
When: Today, December 9th
Time: 6 – 8 p.m.
Austin, TX 78701
You might already need a break from the Christmas hustle, and if so—we’ve got the perfect idea. Head to one of Austin’s true treasures, the Blanton Museum of Art, to check out their new temporary exhibition called The Open Road. It explores the photographic road trip as a genre and America as an imaginative resource, presenting the stories of photographers for whom the American road was muse.
This exhibition is on view in the Butler Gallery, located on the ground floor of the museum.
When: Now through January 7th
Open Today: 1 – 5 p.m.
Blanton Museum of Art
The University of Texas at Austin
200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Austin, TX 78712
It’s December and we are officially going crazy for Christmas in Austin. Ring in the season at this free, family-friendly event that celebrates the arrival of the holiday season and the joy it brings. Enjoy live music from local favorites like Riders Against the Storm, Jane Ellen Bryant, Charlie Faye and the Fayettes, Gina Chavez, and more.
They’ll also be a ton of great activities for the kids like face painting, ornament making, carnival games, and gingerbread decorating! Plus the big guy will be there—all the way from the North Pole.
When: Today, December 2nd
Time: 5 – 9 p.m.
1100 Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701
It’s the big one! Tonight, the Christmas season officially kicks off in Austin with the lighting of our beloved Zilker Tree. Enjoy local entertainment, food, live music, and more tonight for this special occasion. The tree stands 155 feet tall and is made of 39 streamers, each holding 81 multicolored, 25-watt bulbs—totaling 3,309 lights.
The tree will be on display nightly from until December 31 from 6 p.m. – midnight. Don’t forget that area roads will be closed as thousands visit the Trail of Lights. It’s totally worth the trouble, but make sure you plan ahead!
When: Today, November 26th
Time: 5:30 – 11:00 p.m.
Barton Springs Road
Photo: Jennifer M. Ramos
Skip the mall and big box stores this year and enjoy your holiday shopping experience at one of Austin’s favorite traditions: The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. This famous fine art market and musical festival features national and local award-winning artists, at least three bands performing live each day, two full bars and local food—and all in a festive, lively atmosphere.
Guests can shop from over 175 artists who will be selling their handmade gifts, fine art, heirloom pieces, and stocking stuffers. Take your shopping breaks by the Armadillo stage and sip on a craft beer or cocktail. This year they’ll have Korean BBQ from Chi’lantro and hand-tossed Neapolitan style pizza in the Southside Flying Pizza kitchen.
With a collection of musicians as well curated as the art, the Armadillo stage will host greats like Ray Wylie Hubbard, Nakia, Ruthie Foster, Charley Crockett, and Shinyribs.
Click here for a photo gallery of Armadillo artist’s work and here for a full lineup of music.
When: December 14 – 24th
Tickets are $8 for a single-day pass; available at the door, or in advance at https://armadillo.ticketbud.com/2017. For best value, purchase a season pass, which allows for entry throughout the duration of the show. Free admission for children 12 and under.
Time: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily
Palmer Events Center
900 Barton Springs Rd.
Austin, TX 78704
Photo by Jennifer M. Ramos.
Circuit of The Americas (COTA) has just announced a new holiday tradition and festival with—get this—a million lights, camel rides, and hot air balloon rides! The holidays in Austin just keep getting better and better. Winter Wonderland will run from December 1 – 30, open daily from 6 -10 p.m., and 6 – 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Tickets are on sale now.
Like we said, a million lights will illuminate the Circuit’s Grand Plaza, which will also include Santa’s workshop, a petting zoo, a human snow globe, holiday movies on the lawn, a walking light trail, and the the Tunnel of Lights! Guests can also purchase tickets for additional offering like the hot air balloon float up to 100-feet high, Santa’s train ride for kids, a giant skating rink, camel rides, carnival rides for both children and adults, and souvenir photos with Santa. Families who donate a book to the Pizza Hut BOOK IT! Program at Winter Wonderland will receive one complimentary ride on the COTA Express. Guests can also hear their favorite stories read daily by Mrs. Claus at Reading Hour in the Grand Plaza. And the adults can enjoy a frosty beverage and friendly games in the Bud Light Friends Chalet after walking the .8 mile Circuit of Lights.
Entertainment throughout the Winter Wonderland will include performances by Austin school district ensembles and local artists. Plus there will be food trucks, hot cocoa stands, and other holiday-inspired beverages at Winter Wonderland. Last, but not least, you can do your holiday shopping at Go! Games—a giant pop-up shop featuring games, toys, and books—and the charming Bavarian Village with local vendors selling handcrafted goods in an enchanted setting.
Purchase tickets at the Grand Plaza Box Office or right here. Discounted group ticket sales, as well as options for corporate and private parties are also available. For information regarding special bookings or Winter Wonderland at the Circuit, click here.
© David Brendan Hall, www.davidhallphotog.com
Last year was the start of a new Austin tradition—a spectacle for everyone to enjoy right before the holiday season officially kicks off. Waller Creek Conservancy’s Creek Show, which is free and open to the public, is returning for a second year and taking place November 10-18. Downtown Austin will be lit up like never before! We have a feeling this will become a mainstay of the holiday season in Austin—just like the Zilker Tree and the Trail of Lights. Bring the kids and walk along the Waller Creek downtown as you explore six luminescent, site-specific installations along between 5th and 8th Streets, all created by local artists.
They’ll also have hands-on, family friendly activities every night at the Sabine Tree Deck between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. The Thinkery will be on-site Fridays and Saturdays and you can visit the Creek Show Lounge (700 E. 6th St.) for interactive entertainment, a Creek Show photo booth, Waterloo Park model, and more.
The kids will really love this—and adults get to see their city in a whole new way.
For more details click here.
When: November 10th-18th
Waller Creek between 5th and 8th Streets
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