While Christmas-themed pop songs, mall madness, and that stupid TV commercial where someone gets a Lexus topped with a big-ass bow might have already turned your life into a bit of a jingle-bell hell, it is the season to be jolly, so go ahead and un-Scrooge yourself by embracing the holiday season in all its gluttony and glory. Fortunately, Austin has plenty of fun and festive activities that will keep you sane and entertained all month -- even when you're forced to listen to "Santa Baby" for the 600th time.
Austin Trail of Lights

Get lit at the Trail of Lights

From December 10th until the 23rd, Zilker will again be transformed into a crazy Christmas paradise with 40 spectacular displays and 2 million (!) lights. BYO spiked cocoa.

Attend the Elf Movie Party at the Alamo Drafthouse

Son of a nutcracker! The event features several special screenings of the popular flick involving props, contests, jingle bells, bubbles, a scratch 'n’ sniff card, and, best of all, an in-theater snowball fight. Every cinematic experience forever on will pale in comparison.

Blue Genie Art Bazaar

Step up your Secret Santa game at local markets

The Blue Genie Art Bazaar (running through Christmas Eve) and Armadillo Christmas Bazaar (December 14th-24th) are both excellent shopping destinations for weird, unique, kitschy, crafty, and cool art, decorations, and gifts that you definitely won't find at Walmart.

Take a holiday stroll down 2nd St

Until December 10th, local businesses will have their storefront windows transformed by artistic students vying for scholarships as part of the 2nd St District's sixth-annual Holiday Window Walk, and you're invited to come witness the festive face-off. (This is one occasion where it's actually encouraged to be a Peeping Tom.)

Catch a seasonal show

The ZACH Theatre is celebrating the season on stage with two holiday productions: A Christmas Carol (running through December 23rd) and Santaland Diaries (running through December 25th). Come out to enjoy the amazing live performances... and then check "going to the theater" off your 2016 to-do list.


Hit the Domain for thrifty, thirsty Thursdays

Struggling to get your holiday shopping done? While not a season-specific event, Third Thursdays at Domain NORTHSIDE's Rock Rose -- complete with in-store and dining specials and live music -- make for some pretty solid motivation. Plus, we hear the crowds are a little more civil than those you might find on Black Friday.

Listen to holiday harmonies

You can't celebrate anything in the Live Music Capital of the World without, uh, live music. (You're welcome.) This month, get your fix from Robert Earl Keen, who hits the ACL Live stage on December 20th with Merry Christmas From the Fam-O-Lee... which will probably feature slightly better singing than that being done by your personal fam-o-lee.

Show off your craft skills on SoCo

Interested in doing the DIY thing, but in need of some actual instruction? Look no further than the South Congress Hotel Lobby Bar, which is hosting a series of Wednesday craft workshops leading up to Christmas (December 14th & 21st). A $35 ticket gets you materials, instruction, and valet parking at the hotel, while there will be snacks and drink specials on site. Take that, YouTube tutorials.


Get on pointe at Ballet Austin

Even if your holiday entertainment tastes align more with Bad Santa than the ballet, The Nutcracker (December 8th through the 23rd) is a classic show that deserves a spot on your holiday bucket list. And yes, you're officially fancy.

Score a photo with Santa

It's a tradition as old as time... and mostly a great Instagram op. You have until December 24th to get your kid (or, hey, yourself) to the Domain to take a photo with Santa. Just don't forget the festive filter.

Enjoy hash browns and hallelujahs at Gospel Brunch

Stubbs' Sunday tradition features three holiday-themed shows: "Bells of Joy," "Shields of Faith," and "Disciples of Joy." Pair that with the pancakes, and you’ll be feeling full and festive in no time.

Courtesy of Hornitos

Get festive with Hornitos® Black Barrel® Tequila

If experimenting with your cold-weather cocktail lineup is your idea of festive good times, try mixing in this premium aged Añejo further matured in deep charred oak barrels for four months to get a rich smoky flavor, and another two months in specially toasted barrels that add more depth and distinct complexity.

Flickr/The Austinot

Hit the ice at Whole Foods

From now until January 7th, Whole Foods' annual Ice Skating on the Plaza is back at the Downtown location, and $10 buys you admission and the use of ice skates. Swinging by the in-store wine bar first is optional, but encouraged.

Watch festive films at the Paramount

This month, say no to HBO GO and nix the Netflix in favor of Paramount's Holiday Film Series, which features screenings of A Christmas Story (December 9th), Love Actually (December 11th), It’s a Wonderful Life (December 13th), and White Christmas (December 15th). You can finish rewatching that 2014 season of Girls or whatever when the holidays are over.

Josh Withers/Shutterstock

Ring in the new year with Willie Nelson

Cap off the holiday-filled month with the one and only pigtailed Austin legend. Willie Nelson will be hitting the stage with Ryan Bingham on December 29th and 30th, and adding Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real to the lineup for a special New Year's Eve show that promises to be way more entertaining than waiting for the ball to drop.

Give back and give big

If you're looking to score some karma points before the sun sets on 2016, check out this list of holiday toy drives and adopt-a-family ops. Then just sit back and enjoy that warm and fuzzy feeling.

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Sam Sumpter is a writer and holiday enthusiast who firmly believes ugly sweaters should be acceptable year-round. Follow her spiked cider-fueled shenanigans @sam_sumpta.



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