December is here and it’s time to get into the Christmas spirit. We have compiled this roundup of kid-friendly, family fun, jolly inducing events throughout the Lone Star State so you can enjoy the most wonderful time of the year no matter where you live. So don’t be a Grinch and go spread some Christmas cheer!
The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar
The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, Austin’s cherished holiday tradition for nearly five decades, is proud to announce their extensive 2023 lineup of 200 artists. Find art for the home, art for the yard, art for the office, art for entertaining, art for fun, gifts for special and creations for the sheer joy of artistic expression. The vibrant and immersive fine art and music festival showcases a diverse array of talented artists and musicians from across Texas and beyond.
This season’s Armadillo Bazaar, long known for featuring the finest of local, regional, and national artisans has stepped up its game to include an even larger selection of award-winning national touring artists, sure to delight art buyers. For those looking for bigger custom work, there is an excellent opportunity to commission art directly from the artists.
This year, the event will run for two additional days, with two weekends instead of one, giving attendees even more time to shop their amazing selection of art and catch live music starting Friday, Dec. 15 – Saturday, Dec. 23, 2023 from 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. daily at the Palmer Events Center (900 Barton Springs Road, Austin, Texas 78704). More information about the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar can be found here.
Illumaverse Holiday Experience
This holiday season, prepare to embark on an unparalleled journey that will transport you through vibrant celebrations across distant cosmoses! Austin-based creative companies Nelda Studios and dadaLab are thrilled to announce the inaugural year of Illumaverse, a family-friendly immersive holiday art experience that showcases visually stunning landscapes, interactive exhibits, ethereal music and much more.
The pop-up holiday event will take place in East Austin at dadaLab (2008 Alexander Ave) every Friday – Sunday from Dec. 8 through the rest of the month. Visitors can look forward to a 45-minute to one-hour experience that embraces the holiday season’s universal themes of unity, joy and reflection. Illumaverse will span more than 6,000-square-feet, including multiple rooms of immersive installations built by local artists, the dadaLab team as well as J.E. Johnson and his team from the Texas Performing Arts Fabrication Studios at UT Austin.
An example of one installation is the entry hallway titled “Portal into the Illumaverse,” a striking multi-screen sound and video installation that lines both sides of the hallway entering the space. Over 25 screens display familiar memories and nostalgic representations of holiday traditions. As the audience ventures deeper into the portal, they are pulled into another world represented by immersive moving images and sound. Visit their website for more information.
Return of Holiday Igloos with “The Lodge at Hotel Van Zandt”
As the holiday season approaches with the speed of Santa’s sleigh, Austin’s Hotel Van Zandt is welcoming back the most cherished of traditions – holiday igloos! Returning to the hotel’s fourth-floor pool deck is The Lodge at Hotel Van Zandt, a winter wonderland in the heart of Austin, opening to the public on Dec. 1 and featuring the hotel’s famous “South Pole Igloos.”
- That Aspen Feeling in Austin. The Lodge at Hotel Van Zandt offers a cozy après ski atmosphere that will make guests feel as if they’ve been whisked away to Aspen for the holidays. Located adjacent to Geraldine’s restaurant, bar, and live music venue, The Lodge at Hotel Van Zandt embraces the season with holiday music and movies in the background, and a menu featuring bites and libations straight out of the North Pole.
- The Warmest Spot in the Coolest Place. The six “South Pole Igloos” have heated seats and can host up to six guests. The igloos feature games, holiday music, additional heaters (if needed), and a dedicated server. Reservations are available Thursdays through Sundays, with two seatings per day at 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Each reservation provides a two-hour experience. Igloo reservations can be made via Eventbrite.
A Season to Celebrate. The Lodge at Hotel Van Zandt will be open from Dec. 1 – 31, with the following blackout dates: Dec. 2, Dec. 9, and Dec. 24. The igloos are $100 per reservation, plus a $200 food and beverage minimum.
The 59th Annual Austin Trail of Lights
Tickets to the 59th annual Austin Trail of Lights, powered by H-E-B, are now available! While passes to the most-beloved and longest running holiday tradition of its kind in Texas’ capital city are free and open-to-the-public seven out of the festival’s 14 nights, limited quantities of tickets to the annual Night Lights Preview Party, presented by Broadway Bank, and registrations for the 12th annual Fun Run, presented by Chuy’s, are also available.
Guests can visit the 2023 Austin Trail of Lights event calendar to see which nights offer free entry and which nights carry an entry fee, and choose from a variety of premium ticket options. Premium tickets serve to help fund Trail operations, the STARS non-profit access program, and free General Admission nights. Parking passes and shuttle passes are also available for purchase.
Ticket Types include:
- General Admission – General Admission (GA) opens at 7 p.m. and is free for the Dec. 8 Grand Opening and on six additional public nights. The other seven public nights are $8 per person except for children under 12 years old who always receive free General Admission.
- ZIP Passes – The ZIP program, presented by Perry Homes, allows guests to enter one hour early (6 p.m.) nightly and have special access to the ZIP Lounge area with complimentary holiday cookies and cocoa. ZIP passes are $25 with children under 6 years old free of charge.
- Platinum Passes – The Platinum program, presented by Northern Trust, provides concierge service as early as 6 p.m. through a Platinum entrance adjacent to a dedicated valet. Platinum Pass holders also receive golf cart shuttle service from the heated Platinum Lounge to the Trail entrance, a drink and ride ticket, cookies, cocoa and a lounge bar. Platinum passes are $95 with package discounts.
Deck the Halls for Christmas in Marble Falls
The holiday season is fast approaching and the city of Marble Falls, just outside Austin, is decking the halls. Christmas in Marble Falls is the perfect place to spread your Christmas cheer with the family. Themed events are happening around town each day, and Santa will be there every Friday and Saturday leading up to Christmas.
You can feel the Hill Country magic in the air, and the decades-long tradition will feel like stepping into a Hallmark movie. You will find a giant Christmas tree all lit up downtown and an ice rink at Lakeside Park open for skaters. New this year, not only can you skate, but you can also ride on a bumper car! After an evening on the ice, cozy up with a cup of hot chocolate and stroll the Walkway of Lights, free admission, featuring millions of bulbs of all shapes and colors. Don’t forget to stop by the Christmas Market on Main for some festive shopping.
Win 5 Free Nights at Omni Hotels – Dallas
This holiday season, Omni Hotels & Resorts will be giving away five-night stays to 50 lucky guests who book the Ticket to Wonder package and unwrap a winning Periwinkle Ticket hidden in special-edition chocolate bars, created in partnership with Kate Weiser Chocolate.
Ticket to Wonder Package:
- Booking Dates: Now – January 15, 2024
- Stay Dates: Now – January 21, 2024
- Minimum Length of Stay: 1 night
Package Components: Two artisan Kate Weiser chocolate bars, $10 food and beverage credit to experience Omni’s Ginger Snapper Whipper hot chocolate, and up to 20% savings.
The winning five-night consecutive stays can be redeemed January through December of 2024. Additional prizes await those who find hidden tickets scattered throughout the properties, in all Kate Weiser stores and online, or virtually on Omni’s Instagram.
Omni will also be serving up a specialty Ginger Snapper Whipper hot chocolate made with Kate Weiser’s decadent drinking chocolate. Guests can purchase at any Omni property open now through January, or at Kate Weiser’s Trinity Groves location in Dallas while supplies last.
Additionally, Omni Hotels & Resorts will be activating throughout the season with Omni Lights Up the Holidays tree lighting ceremonies on December 2, complimentary in-room menorahs, festive surprises geared towards families and much more.
Holidays at Omni PGA Frisco Resort
Planning holidays with kids often becomes a bit overwhelming, as parents set the bar high for themselves in crafting the ultimate holiday experience. Omni PGA Frisco Resort recognizes the need for holiday spirit this year and is offering the ultimate holiday retreat for families that blends luxury, adventure, and festive cheer with the Home On the Range for the Holiday’s package, as well as the aforementioned Omni Ticket to Wonder package.
Starting this December, Home On the Range for the Holiday’s package will be available. Make holiday memories with exclusive guest experiences and access to PGA Frisco’s inaugural ‘Home On The Range For The Holidays’ event complete with children’s crafts, visits with Santa, holiday movies, s’mores, and more.
Lightscape Returns to Fort Worth
The international sellout sensation, Lightscape, will soon return to the 120-acre Fort Worth Botanic Garden for its second consecutive year to dazzle audiences with more than one million holiday lights and never-before-seen artistic installations from around the world throughout a 1.2-mile-long winding walking trail. In total, over 80 percent of Lightscape will be new and reimagined for 2023.
Open now through Jan. 1, 2024, this year’s Lightscape will feature all-new, custom-designed installations that will come alive with color, imagination, and sound, each of which is expertly choreographed to holiday-themed music in a completely transformed magical atmosphere. Lightscape 2023 will also feature an all-new “Christmas Village,” complete with fire pits, s’more-roasting, hot cocoa, holiday music, and photo opportunities with Santa Claus (Santa will be present during peak nights only).
Also new for 2023 is a revamped pricing structure, including new reduced pricing for off-peak dates and the option to purchase $50 “Anytime Access” tickets, which include flexible admission dates and arrival times, parking, and a dedicated check-in line.
Lone Star Christmas and ICE! at Gaylord Texan Resort – Grapevine
For the past two decades, Gaylord Texan Resort has welcomed visitors to enjoy Texas-sized holiday activities and festive décor as part of its annual Lone Star Christmas event. Open now through December, the resort’s 125-acre property will transform into a true winter wonderland that is like no other in the state of Texas. Enchanting décor includes over two million twinkling lights, 15,000 ornaments, a 54-foot-tall Christmas tree with a light show, 20-foot-tall toy soldiers, and miniature train sets. Family-friendly activities range from ice sculptures, snow tubing, ice skating, stories with Mrs. Claus, and gingerbread decorating to an elf workshop, cirque shows, photos with Santa, Grinch character breakfasts, and MORE.
The premiere and beloved event, ICE!, will feature Dr. Seuss’s classic holiday tale, ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas™’ created with TWO MILLION POUNDS of hand-carved ice. As guests travel through the wintry attraction, they will be transported to Who-Ville in over ten separate rooms where they will encounter larger-than-life scenes and characters including the Grinch, Cindy Lou-Who, Max the Dog, and the cheerful Who’s themselves. Additionally, they will experience two-story-tall ice slides, dozens of photo opportunities, a life-size Nativity scene, and an ice bar for ages 21 and up. The resort provides complimentary parkas for visitors to wear but does encourage them to dress warmly for 9 degrees!
Also being unwrapped this year are Christmas at Gaylord Texan overnight packages that include special room rates and admission to select events. Guests are encouraged to book their experiences early, as advance online reservations are required for all ticketed events. Tickets are limited to many of the experiences.
For tickets, more information, or to book an overnight stay, visit here
A Jolly Christmas at the Four Seasons
Celebrate this holiday season at the Four Seasons Hotel Season with festive tradition and experiences throughout the Hotel. The exciting lineup of activities and experiences at Houston’s downtown destination is sure to make for a memorable holiday season for guests from near and far.
- Cookies & Milk at Bayou & Bean, on Saturdays from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. guests are invited to stop by and enjoy the delicious holiday treat of a complimentary cookie, warmed to order, along with a glass of cold milk. Available now until Christmas day!
- Gingerbread Tea with Santa, a fun and interactive experience with Santa Claus and friends, which includes a delicious assortment of teas and pastries, sparkling wine, and gingerbread houses to decorate. This event is great for all ages and is the perfect way to celebrate the holiday season. Taking place from noon to 2:00 p.m. at Toro Toro, reservations are available for $95 per person (complimentary for children ages 5 and under.)
Rooftop Cinema Club Uptown
Rooftop Cinema Club kicks off December by letting Houston decide what film they would like to see on the big screen. The votes are in – People’s Choice is Academy Award nominee The Greatest Showman. Moviegoers can catch the musical blockbuster on Monday, Dec. 4 for just $10 as a thank you for voting and being a part of our community.
Guests are welcome to enjoy lawn games, skyline views, cinemagoers’ favorite concessions and snacks, plus an extensive menu of beer, wine, and canned cocktails. Tickets can be purchased here.
The Children’s Ballet of San Antonio Presents The Children’s Nutcracker and Holiday Market
The Children’s Ballet of San Antonio brings its cherished holiday tradition, The Children’s Nutcracker and Holiday Market back to The Lila Cockrell Theatre on Dec. 8 & 9! Guests are welcome to take pictures with Santa and cast members, enjoy holiday sweets and treats, and so much more! And best of all, enjoy a spectacular performance by the award-winning Children’s Ballet of San Antonio.
Note: Holiday Market and Photos with Santa and cast opens one hour prior to showtime.
Holidays with the Alamo Lights
Celebrate the holidays at the Alamo! Join us after hours to walk the beautiful Alamo grounds, decorated with festive lights throughout that illuminate the gardens, and of course, see the Christmas tree in Alamo Plaza. New this year, in addition to string lights in the majestic live oak, pecan, and other trees in the gardens, experience installations on the grounds such as David Crockett, Juan Seguin riding on horseback, and a few surprises!
Alamo Lights are open now through Jan. 2 from 6 – 8 p.m.. Check the calendar for availability and reserve your tickets in advance to ensure the best choice of dates! On Dec. 10 and Dec. 17, this special after-hours experience will also include live performances, presentations from local artists, and holiday food and drinks.
Cost: $5 for 13 and older, $4 for 12 and under, $4 for friends of the Alamo Member/adult Military (w/ID), $3 for friends of the Alamo Member/child Military (12 and under w/ID), and children 3 years and younger are free and do not require a ticket.
Lightscape Returns to San Antonio Botanical Garden
Over one million lights and festive displays return to San Antonio Botanical Garden for Lightscape. Now in its third year, the outdoor illuminated trail includes stunning new installations from around the world in addition to well-loved favorites set to seasonal music along a 1-mile path that winds through the Garden. Tickets are available now to the general public and can be purchased here.
Lightscape is open now through Jan. 1, 2024. This event sold-out on multiple nights last year, so guests are encouraged to purchase their tickets early! General public advance tickets are available for $28 for adults and $18 for children, and San Antonio Botanical Garden member advance tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for children. Walk up tickets for adults will be available for $33 and $23 for children. Member walk up tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for children.
Some of the unique light installations guests can expect to see at this year’s Lightscape include Floraison from French creative studio, Pataya. The display features a field of hundreds of brightly lit red poppy flowers suspended from the trees in the garden. Favorites like the Winter Cathedral will return alongside reimagined installations, including Fire Garden and an even more spectacular display of Bluebonnets, an installation only seen in Texas. Guests will have an opportunity to enjoy festive food and drinks, including roasting s’mores.
Cover photo courtesy Gaylord Texan Resort
Nora Bonilla is a travel and food enthusiast with a rich love for writing and sharing those places
and experiences with the world.