Weekend Top 10 FREE Events (Nov 28-30, 2014)

 Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving from the whole Free Fun Gang!  We are thankful for you! 

We have been sharing a tremendous amount of holiday events lately, and updating our posts as new information comes in.  Two things we want to make sure you are aware of when planning your Thanksgiving weekend fun: Mozart's will be closed on Thanksgiving so there will be no lights show on Thursday, and the EmilyAnn Theatre Trail of Lights in Wimberley kicks off on Saturday (not Friday). As always, we encourage you to double check details on the event websites before heading out, as schedules sometimes change. 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!

Weekend Top 10 Free Events:
  1. Blue Genie Art Bazaar – Friday, November 28 - Wednesday, December 24, from 10 a.m. - 10 p.m. daily. The Blue Genie Art Bazaar is a fixture of the Austin holiday shopping season. The Bazaar features unique work from more than 200 local and regional artists, with a portion of proceeds going to Make-A-Wish®. Parking and admission are always FREE of charge. Marchesa Hall & Theatre at Lincoln Village, 6226 Middle Fiskville Rd., Austin.
  2. Mozart's Light Show - Friday, November 28 - Sunday, January 4, from 6 p.m. - midnight. The 15-minute light show will start at 6 p.m. and then repeat every hour on the hour until midnight. The FREE light show will be bigger and better than all past years! Hot beverages will be available for purchase. Check the Facebook page for updates. Mozart's Coffee Roasters, 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin.
  3. Home Depot Kids Workshop: Give and Save Bank - Saturday, November 29, from 9 a.m. - noon. Head to a Home Depot near you to build a Give and Save Bank at this FREE hands-on workshop designed for children ages 5 - 12. Home Depot Kids Workshops teach children do-it-yourself skills, tool safety and instill a sense of pride and accomplishment. All kids get to keep their craft, receive a FREE certificate of achievement, and a Workshop Apron. One workshop kit and apron per child, while supplies last. 
  4. Babes in Toyland - Saturday, November 29 at 9:50 a.m. This FREE screening will be in 35mm with FREE toys for everyone courtesy of Toy Joy. Tickets are available at the box office on the day of the show, and seating is first come, first served. No children under the age of 3 will be admitted. Families with loud children will be asked to leave. Check the website before heading out as showtimes are subject to change. Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, 1120 S Lamar Blvd, Austin.
  5. Steve for the Holidays Show - Saturday, November 29 at 10 a.m. Steve Scott, the improvising poodle, and the cast of What’s the Story Steve? are back with a holiday show, Saturday mornings through December 27. Improvised, interactive stories of celebration, presents, familial love, presents, travel and presents will grace the stage of ColdTowne Theater throughout this season. Be sure to arrive early as seating is very limited. FREE, but donations are encouraged! ColdTowne Theater, 4803 Airport Blvd., Austin.
  6. Chuy’s Children Giving to Children Parade - Saturday, November 29, starts at 11 a.m. The parade starts at 11 a.m. at the Capitol and moves south on Congress, all the way to Cesar Chavez, ending just north of the bridge. The hour-long procession features giant inflatable balloons, festive holiday floats, marching bands, cool classic cars and Santa! Be sure to bring along a new, unwrapped toy to donate to Operation Blue Santa during the parade. FREE! Congress Avenue, Austin. 
  7. Renegade Craft Fair's Austin Holiday Market - Saturday, November 29 and Sunday, November 30, from 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. This FREE-to-attend event will feature a curated selection of today’s finest independent Makers along with workshops, food and drinks, music, and more. Give the gift of handmade this holiday season and support Small Business Saturday. Shoppers will find an array of outstanding handmade goods at the Fair, ranging from holiday inspired stationery and gift wrap, unique and one-of-a-kind jewelry, children's toys, apparel and shoes, to natural healthy and beauty products, repurposed lighting and furniture, housewares and more. Preview this year's line up of 100+ talented makers, food and drink, and workshops here. Admission is FREE. Parking at Palmer Events Center is $7. Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road, Austin.
  8. ATX Artisans Holiday Market - Sunday, November 30, from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Shop local on Sunday at the Holiday Inn Midtown.  You will find beautiful handcrafted goods at the 2nd annual ATX Artisans Holiday Market.  ATX Artisans (formerly Easy ATX) is a collective of independent artists and craft makers dedicated to making handmade quality goods, including art, jewelry, paper goods, bath and beauty supplies, toys, clothing, holiday decor, pottery, paper goods and lots more!  Click here for a list of vendors. Admission is FREE! Holiday Inn Midtown, 6000 Middle Fiskville Rd, Austin.
  9. Matthew Hinsley Classical Guitar Recital - Sunday, November 30 at 2 p.m., to hear classical guitarist Matthew Hinsley perform a 45-minute guitar recital at the Faulk Central Library. Dr. Hinsley, best known as Executive Director of Austin Classical Guitar, will perform a range of beautiful selections from Europe and the Americas from the past 300 years. This family-friendly event is FREE and open to the public. Proper concert etiquette is encouraged. Faulk Central Library, 800 Guadalupe St, Austin.
  10. Zilker Holiday Tree Lighting - Sunday, November 30 at 6 p.m. The Zilker Tree has been lighting the Austin skies during the holiday season since 1967. (Read about the history of the tree here.) The tree, which is located in Zilker Park, will be lit for the first time this year by the winners of a citywide coloring contest. The ceremony begins at 6 p.m. and features local entertainment, food, novelties and live music. (Please bring cash if you’d like to patronize the vendors.) Performers include the Austin Civic Wind Ensemble and the Barton Hills Choir. After November 30, the tree will be on display nightly from approximately 5:30 p.m. until midnight. FREE! Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Road, Austin.
Bonus Free Photos with Santa:
Both of these events are weather permitting and come with the caution that lines will be long (and even waiting in line does not guarantee that your child will get a turn on Santa's lap).
  • Santa on the Terrace - Friday, November 28, from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Bring the kids for a FREE photo with Santa and Buddy overlooking the best view in Austin! Santa Claus (and Buddy the Elf) are coming to the Long Center! The photos with Santa are first-come, first-served, so get there early! Sip delicious hot chocolate, enjoy some of Austin’s most delicious food trucks (Hands off My Funnel Cake, The Baker's Rack, and Gigi's Cupcakes), and kick off the holiday season. The Long Center, 701 W Riverside, Austin.
  • Free photos with Santa at Hill Country Galleria (Bee Cave) - Friday, November 28 - December 24, hours vary. Meet Santa and tell him what you want for the holidays! Kids of all ages are welcome, pets are welcome too! Bring your own camera and take fun holiday photos! Photos with Santa are FREE as you will be using your own camera (no professional photographer on-site). Hill Country Galleria (under the Tree, next to Barnes & Noble), 12700 Hill Country Blvd., Bee Cave.
More Holiday Fun:


Free Date Nights in Austin (Nov 28-30)

Friday, November 28, 2014

Blue Genie Art Bazaar

Celebrating its 14th year, the Blue Genie Art Bazaar art show features one-of-a-kind artwork and handi-crafts from over 200 local and regional artists. The show and parking are FREE and sales benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central and South Texas. The show opens November 28th and lasts until Christmas Eve; hours are 10am-10pm daily. (The Marchesa Hall & Theatre, 6226 Middle Fiskville Rd, Austin)

Head for the Hill's FREE Music Fridays

FREE Music Fridays are back at Hill's Cafe. This week features Them Duqaines from 7-9pm. This "modern country" band has years of performing and touring under its belt and is known for their high energy live shows. (Hill's Cafe, 4700 South Congress, Austin) 

Bright Friday: A Black Friday Alternative Market

Another FREE big box alternative to gift buying this season. This community event presents the opportunity for Austinites to gather and support local, fair and direct trade artisans the day after Thanksgiving. Vendors at Bright Friday share a commitment to ethical practices, environmental responsibility and hand-crafted quality products including local, handmade, direct trade and fair trade gifts. The event is 10am-6pm and benefits the Amala Foundation. (Vuka Event Space, 411 West Monroe Street, Austin)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Chuy's Annual Parade

Since 1989, the annual Chuy's Parade and toy drive has been a uniquely Austin tradition. The parade begins at 11am at the State Capitol on 11th and Congress and lasts approximately an hour as it winds down Congress Ave. With plenty for the young and young at heart to enjoy, the parade is a vibrant procession of giant balloons, marching bands, vintage cars, celebrities and floats. Don't forget to bring a toy to donate! (State Capitol, 11th and Congress Ave, Austin)

Scoot Inn All Lit Up - Holiday Light Party

Help Scoot Inn kick off the holiday festivites as they turn their backyard space into a winter wonderland. The event starts at 7:30pm with drink specials, wandering minstrels, and other activites as you enjoy the FREE light show and holiday fun. (Scoot Inn, 1308 East 4th, Austin)

SURE THING Comedy Show

SURE THING comedy show at the original Austin Java, 8pm. Headliners include performers seen on Comedy Central, Last Comic Standing, Letterman, and more, as well as the city's best comics on the rise, plus special out-of-town guests. Hosted by Duncan Carson and Brendan K. O'Grady. These events have been filling up quickly so be sure to get there early! Doors open at 7:30pm. FREE! (Austin Java Parkway, 1206 Parkway, Austin)

Renegrade Craft Fair at Palmer Events Center

Support Small Business Saturday with 100+ indie makers at Palmer Events Center this Saturday and Sunday from 11am-6pm. Attendees can browse a mixture of holiday shopping, free workshops, and activities. Be sure to stop by Pom Pom Quarterly to make-and-take holiday baubles and embroidered cards! (Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road, Austin)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Zilker Annual Tree Lighting

Your first chance to spin under the great tree! The 48th annual tree lighting ceremony starts at 6pm this Sunday. The Austin Civic Wind Ensemble and Barton Hills Choir will be on hand to provide the prelude music and keep everyone in the holiday spirit. There will also be local vendors nearby with food and novelties. (Zilker Park, Austin)

Living Room Live featuring Roger Sellers

A regular at festivals like SXSW and Fun Fun Fest, Roger Sellers is described as, "Simultaneously meticulous and simple, emotive and honest." His smooth blend of folk and electro leaves audiences in awe and brings new appreciation to his multi-talented approach to music. He plays guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass, bells, organ, piano, drums on stage and engineer, lyricist, and producer off stage. Show starts at 7pm. (Living Room Live at the W, 200 Lavaca Street, Austin)

Austin Graffiti Art: Celebrating Austin’s Street Art by SouthPOP

SouthPOP’s exhibition, Austin Graffiti Art: Celebrating Austin’s Street Art and Featuring the “Hope” Gallery on Lamar Boulevard, showcases the photography of Bob Simmons. The goal of SouthPop is to present some of the most visually interesting street art works as pop culture art rather than a public nuisance. Admission to the museum is FREE during regular hours (Thursday-Sunday from 1pm-6pm) through December 20. (SouthPOP, 1516-B South Lamar Blvd, Austin)

Heather Schuck is the CEO of the children's lifestyle brand, Glamajama. When she's not scheming "glama" world domination or mentoring young designers, you can find her in her front yard chasing her three children with a garden hose. Connect with her at glamaLIFE or on Facebook.


Free Christmas Concerts with The Austin Symphony

The Austin Symphony is excited to announce a brand new program this holiday season that will bring free music to all Austinites! 

Christmas in the Community is a series of twelve concerts that will be held throughout Austin, featuring different ensembles of the orchestra playing familiar holiday music. The program kicks off on Saturday, November 22, 2014 at the Domain's annual tree lighting ceremony and concludes on Monday, December 22, 2014 with a performance at the State Capitol.

2014 Schedule:

  • November 22, 1:00 PM – Woodwind Quintet – Macy’s at the Domain 
  • December 5, 12:00 PM – String Quartet – City Hall 
  • December 6, 1:00 PM – Brass Quintet – Macy’s at Barton Creek Mall 
  • December 6, 1:00 PM – String Quartet – Montopolis Recreation Center
  • December 9, 1:00 PM – Brass Quintet – Macy’s at the Domain 
  • December 10, 7:00 PM – Woodwind Quartet – Mexican American Cultural Center
  • December 15, 1:00 PM – String Quartet – Wilhelmina Delco Center 
  • December 17, 6:30 PM – Brass Quintet – George Washington Carver Museum
  • December 18, 1:00 PM – String Quartet – Asian American Resource Center
  • December 19, 10:30 AM – String Quartet – Gus Garcia Recreation Center
  • December 19, 1:00 PM – Woodwind Quintet Macy’s at Lakeline Mall 
  • December 22, 12:00 PM – String Quartet – State Capitol 
These performances are all free and open to the public with no tickets required.

For more information, visit the Austin Symphony Orchestra website.


2014 Central Texas Holiday Lights Displays

 Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Does your family like to drive around town gazing at Christmas displays? Or enjoy walking through trails of lights? Here's a roundup of holiday light displays in and around Austin. Those that are not free include the admission prices.

Be sure to check the links below before heading out, in case any of the schedules change. 

Know of a home or neighborhood that has an outstanding light display? Tell us about it in the comments!


  • Mozart's Coffee Roasters -- Daily through January 4, 2014 (excluding Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), from 6 p.m. to midnight. Mozart's hosts a FREE 15-minute light show at the top of each hour, starting at 6 p.m.  3825 Lake Austin Blvd.
  • AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center: Holidays in the Courtyard - November 26 until January 2. Show times will be every night at 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. Holidays in the Courtyard will feature a 15-minute light show accompanied by a holiday playlist around the spacious courtyard illuminated with nearly 10,000 bulbs. FREE and open to the public. For more information, call 512-404-1900. AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, The University of Texas at Austin, 1900 University Avenue.
  • Zilker Holiday Tree -- Sunday, November 30 through December 31, from 6 p.m. to midnight. Join the tree lighting ceremony on Sunday, November 30 at 6 p.m., or stop by any evening after that through the end of the year.  The Zilker Tree stands 155 feet tall and is composed of 39 streamers, each holding 81 multicolored, 25-watt bulbs, totaling 3,309 lights. At the top of the tree, a double star measures 10 feet from point to point. The double star displays 150 frosted bulbs. This unique spiral pattern of lights was created by City of Austin electricians. At its circumference, the tree measures 380 feet. The diameter is 120 feet. The base of the tree is made up of 19 utility poles, each 14 feet tall, arranged in a circle around the Moonlight Tower. Go take a spin under the tree and buy some kettle corn from one of the onsite vendors. REMINDER: December 7-21 the area roads will be closed as thousands visit the Trail of Lights. If you are planning to visit the Holiday Tree itself, make sure to plan around those nights! FREE. Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Rd.
  • Lighting of the Capitol Tree -- Saturday, December 6 at 6 p.m. The fun starts at 6 p.m. when crowds gather on the south steps of the Capitol to sing the songs of the season with John Aielli, host of the long-running show "Eklektikos" on KUTX 98.9. As the clock strikes 7 p.m., the crowd begins the countdown to the lighting of the Capitol tree, featuring a programmed light show at the top and bottom of every hour, set to holiday songs of local Austin musicians. From 7 to 9 p.m. Congress Ave. will be abuzz with holiday cheer during the Downtown Stroll. Shops, restaurants, galleries and museums will be open late and will feature special activities and offers. All events are FREE and open to the public. Texas State Capitol, Congress Avenue & 11th Street.
  • Trail of Lights -- December 7-21, from 7-10 p.m. To get a sneak peek of the Trail, join the two-mile Fun Run on Saturday, December 6, 7-10 p.m., rain or shine ($20 for adults; $10 for kids). Admission to the Trail of Lights is FREE on Opening Night (December 7) and on Monday to Thursday nights.  Admission is also FREE for kids under 12 every night.  Admission for adults (age 12+) is $3 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays (excluding Opening Night). With the purchase of a ZiP Pass for $15, trail-goers can enter the Trail early, starting at 6:15 p.m. on most nights. Shuttle tickets cost $5/person on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights ($4 on weeknights) and provide admission into the Trail of Lights (no additional gate admission ticket is required). Lap children ride free.  Zilker Parking Passes are $15. All passes can be purchased online in advance. Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Rd.
  • Luminations at Wildflower Center -- Saturday and Sunday, December 13 and 14, from 6-9 p.m. Enjoy Luminations, a Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center holiday tradition. Make plans to visit the lighted gardens, filled with thousands of luminarias and twinkle lights. Admission is FREE with two canned food items for the Capital Area Food Bank. In addition to the beautiful holiday lighting, there will be hot chocolate and food for sale, plus children's activities and musical acts throughout both evenings. Kids can get a hug from Frosty the Snowman and make crafts in the Visitors Gallery. 4801 La Crosse Avenue.
  • Holiday Light Shows at The Domain - November 22 through December 31, hourly between 5 and 9 p.m. Watch the holidays come to life with hourly lights show in Domain II. More than 82,000 lights and 2,200 strobes will dance to holiday music for the first 15 minutes of each hour. Call (512) 795-4230 for more information. Domain II (mall map).
  • Frozen Medley Christmas Light Show - Nightly until New Year's, from 5:30-9:45 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, and from 5:30-10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Viewers can hear the songs from the house's speakers or from their car radio by tuning in to 106.9 FM. FREE16412 Rockgate Dr., Austin (near Avery Ranch in Round Rock). 
  • Lanicek Family in Wells Branch -- November 30 through January 3, from 6 - 10 p.m., weather permitting. 10,000+ lights programmed to 20 minutes of music. The house is also a collection point for non-perishable food items for Saint Louis Catholic Church food pantry. Preview videos on YouTube: Jingle Bell Rock AnthemNutcracker Russian Dance and
    Angels We Have Heard on High
    (Relient K). 2207 Klattenhoff Drive.
  • Wagon Hitch Cove - This street in southwest Austin was recommended by a reader, but we were unable to find any information online.  Let us know how the lights look if you go!
  • Willis Littlefield’s house -- Willis has been decorating his Clarksville home since 1998, but there is no information online as to when his lights will be ready this year. Traditionally he has welcomed kids to interact with his display, including animatronic Santas galore, starting mid-December. Let us know if you stop by and see that the lights are on! FREE. 1611 West 12th Street.
  • River of Lights -- December 6-31, from 6-9 p.m. The River of Lights features 120 lighted displays and music. The trail continues all the way down the Lower Colorado River to Ferry Park, about a half mile. FREE. Fisherman's Park, 1200 Willow St.
  • Lighted Parade -- Saturday, December 13 at 6 p.m. Bastrop's annual lighted Christmas parade brings a festival of lights, music, and cheer, including lovingly constructed and decorated floats, fire engines, marching bands, horses and riders, and, of course, Santa Claus and his helpers. Produced by the Downtown Business Alliance, this joyful Bastrop tradition literally lights up the Bastrop Christmas festivities. Main Street.
  • Trail of Lights -- December 12 -13 and 18 - 21, from 6 - 10 p.m. Get in the holiday mood by strolling through the park and enjoying the lights! FREE shuttle parking is available at Cabela's. No parking is permitted in the park. Walk in visitors are welcome and may bring leashed pets. The trail is approximately 1/2 mile long. No pets are allowed on shuttle buses. Hot beverages and concessions will be available for purchase. FREE.  For more information, please call the Parks Department at 512-295-7170. Historic Stagecoach Park, 880 Main Street, Buda.
Cedar Park
  • Anna Court Light Display -- Scheduled to kick off on November 28. This Cedar Park cul-de-sac is decked out with thousands and thousands of festive lights. Bring a toy to donate to Blue Santa.  FREE. 1321-1333 Anna Court.
  • Holiday Tree Lighting and Santa's Workshop -- Friday, December 5, from 6:30-9 p.m. Over 60,000 lights will illuminate the largest Live Oak Tree in Cedar Park. Santa's Workshop will kickoff immediately following the tree lighting ceremony. Enjoy live music, free carriage rides, games and prizes, inflatables, photos with Santa, and arts & crafts projects. Bring the whole family for what promises to be a festive evening. FREE Admission. Heritage Oak Park, 875 Quest Parkway.
  • Rhodes House -- See the Facebook page for updates on when the lights will be ready for viewing. When you go, bring a donation for the Cedar Park Area Food Bank. FREE. 2410 Sharon Drive. 
  • Chinati Court -- See the Facebook page for updates on when the lights will be ready for viewing. The neighborhood is also a collection point for Brown Santa. FREE. Just off Sun Chase Blvd in the Ranch at Cypress Creek. Park on Sun Chase and walk, if you can. (Map
College Station
  • Santa's Wonderland -- November 14 through January 4, from 6-11 p.m. (midnight on weekends). Buy tickets online. Tickets start at $6.95 per child and $10.95 per adult. Children age 2 and under are free. 18898 State Highway 6 S, College Station.
Dripping Springs
  • Christmas on Mercer Street -- Saturday, December 6, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The public is invited to attend the day-long festival on Mercer Street, hosted by the City of Dripping Springs and the Dripping Springs Lions Club. Admission is FREE to the public for this fun-filled day the whole family will enjoy. The charming downtown setting of Mercer Street will be transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with lights, holiday decorations, festive music, fire pits for warmth and plenty of holiday cheer. Photos with Santa, train rides, pony rides and a variety of arts, crafts and specialty food and drink booths will be in full swing. The highlight of the evening will be the annual lighting of the Christmas Tree at the Triangle, located at Hwy. 290 and RR 12. At sunset, attendees are invited to gather for the illumination of the tree, showing off its twinkling lights, and joining in festive songs. This year features a special High Steppers performance, in addition to multiple choirs from local Dripping Springs churches and schools. Hot chocolate and coffee will be available for all to enjoy. Mercer Street, Downtown Dripping Springs.
Fort Hood 
  • Nature in Lights, a Holiday Tradition -- November 14 though January 4, from 5:30-11 p.m. Enjoy the drive through over five and a half miles of holiday-inspired scenes. Like magic, BLORA is once again transformed into a winter wonderland for all to enjoy: kids and kids at heart. $7 per car. Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area. (Directions)
  • Christmas Stroll -- Friday, December 5, from 5-9 p.m. and Saturday, December 6, from 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. Bring the family and walk through the many wonders of Whoo-Village, enjoy live entertainment, a special kids activity area, treats in the food court and browse more than 250 arts and crafts booths. Children will love the various FREE activities and rides and visiting with Santa. There's even a parade on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. If you can't visit during the stroll, stop by any evening to see the Downtown Square lit up for the season. FREE. See the website for parking and street closure information. (Map of the Stroll)
  • Spindler's Family Light Show -- November 27 through January 3. Tune your car radio to 88.5 FM to listen to the music. FREE. This is a collection site for Brown Santa, so please bring a new toy to donate. 2441 Candle Ridge Trail. 
  • Harlien Family Christmas - Starting November 28, from 6-10 p.m. on weekdays and from 6-11 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Tune in to 94.1 while viewing. 400 Liscio Cove. (For safety reasons, all guests are asked to enter Liscio Loop from Lancaster Drive & exit Liscio Loop at Champions.)
  • Shady Oak Christmas Display -- Visit the Facebook page for updates on starting date.  The show lasts about an hour if you watch the whole thing, but each song averages around 6 minutes. See videos of last year's songs hereFREE. 107 Shady Oak Drive.
  • Lights of Tejas  -- November 28 through December 29 (on select dates), from 5-10 p.m. 250,000 lights and more! General admission is $7; kids 2 and under are free. Camp Tejas, 1038 PR 2191, Giddings.
  • Town Lighting -- Saturday, December 6, from 5-6:30 p.m. Watch as Cowboy Kringle rides into town on horseback and lights Gruene for the holidays. Celebrating with live musical performances with festival food and wine available for purchase. Afterwards, get some holiday shopping done at Gruene's 30+ stores and cozy up to a fireplace for dinner at the Gristmill. Call (830) 629-5077 for information.
Johnson City
  • Lights Spectacular, Hill Country Style -- November 22 through January 1, from 6-11 p.m. This holiday season, bring your family to enjoy the magic and beauty of over two million LED lights spread over a mile-long drive through light display. Admission is FREE, but donations are accepted to help keep the display burning bright! To book a hayride through the lights for your family or group this Christmas season, or if you have any questions, call 512-955-1706. 1 mile outside of Johnson City, on Hwy 281.
  • Official Lighting of the Blanco County Courthouse -- Friday, November 28 at 6:30 p.m. Fireworks start at 6:30 p.m., followed by the official lighting of the Blanco County Courthouse. Live band music will continue throughout the evening festivities. FREE hayrides, sponsored by the Antique Tractor Club, will operate until approximately 10 p.m. (loading in front of Texas 290 Diner, weather permitting). Carriage rides will also be available. The Johnson City Garden Club will offer Christmas ornaments and crafts in the courthouse lobby. 101 E Pecan Avenue.
  • Pedernales Electric Cooperative Headquarters -- November 28 through January 1.  When you're out touring the holiday sights in the Texas Hill Country, be sure to stop by Johnson City and see the lights display at PEC headquarters. Visitors are invited to enjoy PEC’s annual holiday lighting displays through January 1. Read some nice reviews hereFREE. 201 S Avenue F
  • Lighted Hooves and Wheels Parade, Clickety Cloggers -- Saturday, November 29. Activities start at 5:30 p.m. with the Lighted Hooves and Wheels Parade kicking off at 6:30 p.m. Clickety Cloggers will start of the second night of Lights Spectacular with a performance in the street in front of the Courthouse on the Square. The highlight of the evening will be the Lighted Hooves and Wheels Parade at 6:30 p.m. and pictures with Santa in Memorial Park on Main Street. The Chuck Wagon Food Court will be open, the Court House lobby will be filled with the Garden Club’s Christmas ornaments and crafts and carriage rides will be available. 101 E Pecan Avenue.
  • Tree Lighting and Christmas Parade -- Saturday, December 6 at 5 p.m. Pictures with Santa, Holiday Hayrides, Yule Fire, Choral Performances, Christmas Parade, and Tree Lighting. FREE.  City Hall, 200 West Willis St.
  • Toungate Klub Kringle -- Starting December 6 at 8:30 p.m. Come out to see a brand new show, with more lights and new songs! FREE. 2305 Arroyo Grande.
  • Starry, Starry Nights -- November 29 through December 31, from 6-9 p.m. Christmas lights strung along the Llano River glow each night for families to enjoy. FREE. Badu Park. 
  • Lighted Christmas Parade -- Friday, December 5 at 7 p.m. The annual Lighted Christmas Parade is a fantastic display of lights that travels around the Courthouse Square. For information about the parade, download the Parade Route or call the Lockhart Chamber at 512-398-2818. Following the parade on Friday night, and all day on Saturday, the holiday celebration continues with A Dickens’ Christmas in Lockhart. The Friends of the Dr. Eugene Clark Library host this festival located on S. Main in front of the Library and Market Street on the south side of the square. This unique community event features authentic Victorian decorations, choirs, jugglers, bagpipers, carriage rides, and the culmination on Saturday evening… the lighting of the Yule Log at 7 p.m. Once lit, the Lord High Mayor announces the proclamation that Christmas has come to light. Then, the library and the historic downtown are lit with thousands of lights. For a full schedule of activities and times click here. S. Main.
Marble Falls
  • Walkway of Lights - Friday, November 21 to January 1, from 6-10 p.m. People come from far and wide to see the two million lights reflecting off Lake Marble Falls during the world-famous Walkway of Lights. Please check the website before heading out for weather updates. The lights cannot be turned on if the ground is wet. FREE! Lakeside Park, 307 Buena Vista, Marble Falls.
New Braunfels
  • Santa's Ranch -- November 7 through January 3. Bring the family to Santa's Ranch and celebrate the holidays from the comfort of your vehicle. Drive through nearly a mile of spectacular holiday scenes with over one million lights and over 100 displays and animations. Located on I-35, one mile south of San Marcos between Posey Rd. & York Creek Rd. Just look for the 50' Christmas tree out front. Admission is $28 + tax per car. 9561 I-35 North, New Braunfels. 
  • Christmas Parade and Pfestival of Lights -- Saturday, December 13, starting at 5:30 p.m. Activities until 8 p.m. The city's Parks & Recreation Department joins forces with the Knights of Columbus this year and adds activities to the annual Christmas Parade. Blending the two events makes a larger, more fun holiday celebration for the community. The city will bring a stage with live performances from local elementary schools and dancers on the stage at 200 W. Main Street. There will be FREE arts and crafts activities for children, a bonfire, the traditional tree lighting, and photos with Santa Claus at the end of the parade. Donations for the Blue Santa program welcome. For information, call 512-990-6113. FREE. The parade travels down Railroad Avenue to Main Street. (Parade route map.)
Round Rock
  • Rock'N Lights Holiday Light Tour -- December 1 to 30, starting at 6 p.m. (closing times vary). Come and experience the Rock’N Lights Holiday Light Tour at Old Settler's Park, from the comfort of your car. With 2 million lights, the 1.5-mile path is the must-see event of the season. Admission for the tour is $15 per family vehicle. Get a $5 coupon here (but read the fine print as it is only valid on certain dates). Enter the park at Old Settlers Boulevard and Harrell Parkway, 4111 E. Old Settlers Blvd.
  • Christmas Family Night -- Friday, December 5 at 6:30 p.m. Watch as Main Street is illuminated and Santa arrives in his sleigh. FREE. Historic Downtown, Main Street.
  • Elfvis and the Kringles -- Friday November 28 at 7:00 p.m. "Flip the Switch" to kick off the start of the Holiday Season. Bring unwrapped gifts for Blue Santa (Georgetown) and Brown Santa (Williamson County). This year, Olaf from Frozen has been added (get a sneak peek here).  Go to www.elfvis.com to stay updated on any schedule changes. FREE. 3448 Tourmaline Trail.
San Marcos
  • Festival of Lights -- Saturday, December 6. Enjoy Kids Fest (10 a.m. - 5 p.m.), photos with Santa, a live performance of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, a Lighted Parade after dark, and more! Historic downtown Smithville.
  • The EmilyAnn Theatre & Gardens Trail of Lights (Wimberley) - November 29 to December 31, from 6–9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, and from 6-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.  Stroll a walking path with more than 100 lighted exhibits created by local businesses, churches, organizations and families. Roast a marshmallow at the yule log and listen to live entertainment on most nights. See the schedule of when Santa will be in his house. FREE! EmilyAnn Theatre & Gardens, 1101 FM 2325, Wimberley. 
For even more holiday lights in Central Texas, check out the Hill Country Regional Christmas Lighting Trail


2014 Chuy's Children Giving to Children Parade

This Saturday morning, take your family downtown to enjoy a festive parade along Congress Avenue!  

The 26th annual Chuy's Children Giving to Children Parade will start at the State Capitol at 11 a.m. on Saturday, November 29, 2014. Be sure to arrive early to snag a good seat, and don't forget to bring along a new, unwrapped toy to donate to Operation Blue Santa, to brighten the holidays for an Austin area child.  At one point during the parade, the floats will stop and attendants will gather up the gifts from spectators.  It is a sight to see the piles of the presents being donated!

The parade will feature giant inflatable holiday floats, live music and dancing, marching bands, classic cars, and more. Just stake out a spot along Congress Avenue and watch the show as it passes you by. The parade will start at the Capitol at 11th and Congress, travel south on Congress to Cesar Chavez, and end just north of the bridge. It will last about an hour.

For more information, visit the event website.


Shop Local Holidays: 2014 Gift Guide

We understand the pressure of gift buying this time of year. Like you, we want to give presents that not only make our loved ones happy, but that also support our local community. We have contacted some of our favorite local Austin businesses in hopes of providing a little gift giving inspiration this holiday season for both kids and adults in our Shop Local Austin 2014 Holiday Gift Guide.

If you are thinking of hitting up the stores for Black Friday, be sure to first check out these special offers and ideas from Austin-area businesses. And don't forget to Shop Small on Small Business Saturday, happening on November 29, 2014.

A growing body of research shows that experiences make people happy. Stuff doesn’t. Make your people happy this holiday season.

Give a gift card to The Contemporary Austin – Art School and you are giving a personal experience that won’t soon be forgotten – along with a rewarding new skill! Classes for beginners and dedicated amateurs alike are taught by professional artists and are held at the inspiring 12-acre Laguna Gloria campus. Gift cards can be used for classes for adults, teens, or children.

Give a gift membership to The Contemporary Austin and you are giving a year of experiences with some of the most interesting artists working today – along with benefits including exclusive opening receptions, free admission to the popular Rooftop Architecture Film Series, discounts on special programs and events, and much more.

The Contemporary Austin at Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th Street
The Contemporary Austin at the Jones Center, 700 Congress Ave.
Website: http://www.thecontemporaryaustin.org/


Music Forever Music Together offers an internationally recognized, research-based music and movement program for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and the adults that love them. In weekly classes, participants sing songs, dance, play with simple percussion instruments, have fun with chants, finger plays, rhythm games, and a rich variety of other music and movement activities. Take advantage of this holiday special: 40% off Music Forever Music Together Gift Certificates. Use the promo codes listed in the image below when ordering online. Makes the perfect gift of experience for your little ones!

Location: Classes in Mueller, Cedar Park, Brushy Creek, Round Rock, Bee Cave, Steiner Ranch, and Oak Hill
Phone: 512-358-4278
Website: www.musicforevermt.com 

Wild Orchid Salon has three Austin locations providing a variety of hair and skin care services including haircuts, color processing, ombrÃ, balayage, keratin smoothing treatments, hair extensions, eye lash extensions, facials and waxing. You are sure to leave looking perfectly fabulous! Treat yourself for the holidays or purchase a gift certificate for that special someone!

Nab a deal by clipping the coupon below!

Locations: Downtown Austin, Bee Cave/Lakeway, Westlake 
Phone: Downtown- 512-474-2828; Bee Cave- 512-263-1726; Westlake 360- 512-474-4772 


Looking for a great stocking stuffer for the health conscious person in your life? Primal Pit Paste is a truly organic, all-natural deodorant that actually works! Based in Austin, Primal Pit Paste was born from a quest to find natural and safe personal care products for an entire family to use that are free of toxic chemicals. The all natural deodorant is paraben-free, aluminum-free and actually works—you’ll decide to GO PRIMAL. A healthy, organic deodorant that actually works for all types of moms, dads, kids and athletes alike!

Take 20% off all online orders through November, 2014!


Locations: You can find Primal Pit Paste in W3LL People on Lamar, People's Pharmacy, Aloe Skin & Body Day Spa, Paleo Pharmacy, with more locations coming soon. 
You can also order online: http://primal-pit-paste.mybigcommerce.com/ 

Terra Toys, an Austin original since 1978, is a locally owned, independent toy store that carries classic toys from around the world. Terra Toys is an Austin favorite that offers toys that promote classic and creative play. Make-believe, discovery, and interactive toys are stacked to the ceilings, with rare and unusual kinds you can’t find anywhere else. Be sure to check out the Terra Toys Top Ten List for 2014 for some toy buying inspiration for all ages!

Take advantage for FREE Gift Wrapping for all items purchased in the store!

Location: 2438 W. Anderson Lane
Phone: 512- 445-4489
Website: http://www.terratoys.com/

Perfect for getting that last minute holiday shopping without the kids done, Ashley’s Playhouse is a drop-in licensed childcare center for children ages 6 weeks to 12 years old. With supervised, structured play in a creative and fun environment, children learn best by doing what they love most -- playing! With indoor and outdoor play spaces, daily activities, weekly themes and a schedule that meets your needs, Ashley’s Playhouse is a place that parents and children alike can’t wait to return. Use Ashley's Playhouse for extra hands during the holidays or throughout the year for date nights, errands, regular or backup care. Open year round; Monday-Saturday for drop in care, and on Sundays for private parties. Hours: Monday-Thursday: 7am-10pm; Friday: 7am-Midnight; Saturday: 8am-Midnight.

Holiday Special: Take 1/2 off registration with code HG14!  This code is for online orders only and expires January 15, 2015. 

Location: 13343 N. Hwy 183, Suite 200, Austin (183 & Anderson Mill, next to Kerbey Lane Cafe) 
Phone: (512) 872-2755 
Website: www.ashleysplayhouseaustin.com

With every purchase of the fun children's book Double Decker Dream Machine Goes to Mexico, or of an upcycled, hand-stamped "Feed Love Pray" bracelet, local author Jessica Monnich donates money to help feed a needy child in Acuna, Mexico lunch for two months!

Jessica makes the bracelets out of vintage spoons, purchased at local flea markets.  Here's a picture of the one Heidi bought!  

Visit Jessica's Etsy shop and enter the shop coupon code SHOPLOCALAUSTIN to get a 20% discount on your very own stamped spoon bracelet! 

Website: https://www.etsy.com/shop/lovemarriageandbabyc

Catherine Prystup is mama to three kiddos ranging in age from 2 to 15. Looking for more wisdom on how to spend your days? Head on over to LiveMom.com, a resource website for Austin-area moms (and dads, too!) where you will find more of her awesome wisdom.


Got Gingerbread? Houses, Workshops and More

Editor's note: A big thanks to our friends at LiveMom.com for compiling this roundup of local gingerbread fun.  Several of the events listed below are not free, but they all look so tasty and fun that we wanted to share all of the local options.  We'll leave it to you to pick the workshop or competition that works best for your family.  Happy decorating!

Gingerbread has been a part of holiday traditions for hundreds of years. Until the 17th century, the food was primarily reserved for religious ceremony. For this reason, only specially trained members of bakers guilds were allowed to make the sweet dessert in Europe, outside of Christmas and Easter. Some researchers connect the gingerbread house to the story of Hansel and Gretel. Soon after the Brothers Grimm published their famous collection of German fairy tales in the early 1800s, lebkuchen, spice cakes often flavored with ginger and decorated by artists, began to appear. The gingerbread cookie, shaped in the likeness of a person, has been traced back to Queen Elizabeth I. Queen Elizabeth asked her chef to create life-sized sculptures made out of gingerbread to resemble her royal guests of honor.

History aside, we Central Texas families have many chances in 2014 to continue these holiday traditions. Here is what we found:

Featured Events

Baked by Amy’s is offering Gingerbread Person decorating classes! Cost: $20 per person and includes all supplies. Call (512) 918-2253 or email info@bakedbyamys.com to reserve a spot.

Second Saturdays Are for Families: Gingerbread Villas - December 13, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Be the ART-chitect of your very own candy home! Your child can whip up edible houses like you’ve never seen before, inspired by the architecture of the Driscoll Villa at Laguna Gloria. Second Saturdays are recommended for ages 2-11. Admission is $10 per family ($5 for member families). Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th Street, Austin.

Local Favorites

Candy Land Gingerbread Village at Four Seasons Hotel – November 25 – December 31

This annual tradition at the Four Seasons Hotel takes its inspiration from the popular children’s board game of the same name. The theme will take shape in 10 unique houses, including such whimsical landmarks as the Candy Castle, Licorice Forest and Gumdrop Mountains. Several smaller scenes and accessories — such as the iconic Candy Land sign, Rainbow Bridges and Queen Frostine — will also dot the fantasy Village landscape. The Village is on display 24 hours a day until December 31. See a photo of the display here. The hotel will host Holiday Open Houses on December 2 and 3 from 5-6pm in the lobby, which are free, open to the public and feature complimentary hot apple cider, Candy Land-themed treats, photos with Santa and the opportunity to meet the pastry chefs behind the village. FREE.

Gingerbread Workshops at The Thinkery – November 28-30, December 6-7, December 12-14, December 20-24

Gingerbread Workshops at The Thinkery celebrate creative families in a fun and festive atmosphere. These hour-long workshops provide everything needed to build and decorate a gingerbread house to take home and enjoy. Workshop participants are welcome to explore the Thinkery and play with friends afterward. Non-member adults are $8 and members are $4. The price for a non-member child plus gingerbread house is $28. The price for a member child plus gingerbread house is $24. Other non-participating guests are subject to a fee. Register online for children 6 and up here. Gingerbread Tot workshops are available for families with children ages 5 and under. These hour-long workshops feature pre-built houses and candy decorations sized for little makers. Register for Tot Workshops here.

Gingerbread House Decorating Classes at Central Market – November 28-29, December 5-6

The Friday Parent and Child two-hour classes begin at 6 p.m. and are geared towards children ages 5-17. Central Market will provide an authentic Swiss Lebkuchen gingerbread house, lots of royal icing and mountains of candy. Just bring your creativity and imagination. Boxes will be provided to transport your masterpiece home. Please note: one gingerbread house for each parent/child team. Cost is $65/parent and child and registration is available online. The Saturday two-hour classes begin at 10am and are for ages 5-17 only. The cost is $45 per child, and registration is available online.

7th Annual Gingerbread House Competition
– December 2

Kick off the holiday season with the Omni Barton Creek Resort’s 7th Annual Gingerbread House Competition and FREE tree lighting ceremony. The general public is invited to participate in the competition and prizes will be awarded to the winners in each age group. This year’s theme is “Austin: Live Music Capital of the World”, and all music-related entries will be accepted. Entry forms must be submitted by November 30. It is FREE to enter and you do not need to be a guest at the resort. A FREE dessert reception will take place from 7:30-9:30pm on December 2 in the Wildflower Atrium, and gingerbread desserts and holiday beverages will be served. Also, Steven Stellingwerf, author of The Gingerbread Book, will conduct a FREE “How to Make a Gingerbread House” class in Live Oak BC at the resort on Monday, December 1 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Those who attend the class may submit their gingerbread creations to this year’s competition. Please call Julia Teague at (512) 329-4665 to reserve your spot in the class.

Georgetown Public Library Annual Gingerbread Extravaganza 2014 – Entries accepted December 5-8, public voting December 9-14

Break out your culinary and decorating skills, it’s time for Georgetown Public Library’s annual Gingerbread Extravaganza! You can build your masterpiece all by yourself or you can build it with friends or your whole family. You can build from scratch or you can buy a kit and add your own creative embellishments. All entries must be received between December 5th and 8th. All building materials must be edible and all entries should not exceed 18″ x 18″. Public voting takes place December 9-14th. Winners will be announced December 15th in the following categories: original design made by two or more persons; design made from kits (or enhanced) and original design made by one person age 8 or younger, age 9-12, age 13-17 and ages 18 and older. FREE.

Gingerbread House Raising at the Neill-Cochran House Museum – December 6 & 7

The Gingerbread House-Raising event will be an opportunity for participants to decorate and keep their very own gingerbread houses while learning about Greek Revival architecture and the history of the Neill-Cochran House Museum. Participants have the option of attending either Saturday, December 6th or Sunday, December 7th. Both days, the event will take place from 1-3 p.m. The ACC Culinary Arts Division will be baking the gingerbread houses. All materials will be provided and the Lake Austin Chapter of the National Charity League will be on hand to assist children. Parents/guardians are required to stay with their children for the entirety of the event. The Gingerbread House-Raising is $20 per participating child and $15 for members of the Friends of the Neill-Cochran House Museum. You can register your child here. Registration deadline is December 5th.

Frozen Magic Snow Castle Gingerbread House Decorating – December 6, 13, 20 and 23

Do you want to build a snow castle? Attendees will embellish freshly made gingerbread houses at Foodie Kids and turn them into Frozen® Snow Castles with royal icing and all sorts of Snow Princess candies and decorations. Kids will enjoy Snow Queen Punch and Tiny Snowball Cookies. Recipes included. This event is all ages, and registration is $35 with or without an adult. Register online.

Wilton Gingerbread Boy Cookie Event – December 7

From 1-4 p.m. at participating Michaels locations, learn to decorate cookies like a professional. Buy your kit and meet in the classroom! One kit includes everything you need to transform your sweets from simple to sensational. Call your local Michaels to confirm participation. FREE with purchase of the kit.

Family Gingerbread Workshop at South Austin Recreation Center – December 13

Bring the family from 10 a.m. until noon for the 2014 Family Gingerbread Workshop at the South Austin Recreation Center! Decorate gingerbread men cookies, make holiday crafts, and enjoy light refreshments with your family and friends. FREE.

A recovering workaholic, Nicole Basham now spends her time rediscovering Austin through her 8-year-old son's eyes. A soccer-playing mom, Nicole also enjoys tickling too close to bedtime, taking in some live music and being silly.

Recent posts by Nicole include Where to Take Out of Town Guests to Experience Austin This Holiday Season50+ Places to Eat Out With Kids in Austin, Exercise on the Cheap in Austin, and 20 "Don't Miss" Events in Austin This November.

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