Are you looking for a truly local taste of holiday glee?
Here are five festive favorite activities that no self-respecting Austinite would miss.
5. Do some one-stop local shopping.
Keep Austin weird by patronizing two holiday shopping favorites: Armadillo Christmas Bazaar and Blue Genie Art Bazaar.
You’ve got to purchase a ticket for the downtown’s Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, which includes shopping booths, multiple live music performances every day (check out the Spotify playlist), and two full bars. It’s as much an experience as expo.
Since 2001, Blue Genie Art Bazaar has provided a free, unique gathering of Austin-y gifts. You’ll find one-of-a-kind artisanal creations (preview 200 local and regional vendors on the website) conveniently located near central Austin’s Highland Mall.
4. Catch a show.
Austin loves a good performance. Many make Zachary Scott Theatre’s productions of the classic A Christmas Carol and iconic Texas send-up A Tuna Christmas seasonal must-see events.
Stop by Mozart’s Coffee Roasters to score a warm snack and soak up a breathtaking light display. Stroll down 37th St. east of Guadalupe to see whether it’s a good year for the block’s traditionally quirky home installations. And brave crowds and buy tickets for Austin’s longstanding tradition, the Trail of Lights. Believe it or not, this 52-year tradition was once a drive-through activity. Suitable for the whole family, Austin’s Trail of Lights includes food trucks, Santa’s Workshop, nightly entertainment, and some 1.24 miles full of 40 light displays (about 2 million lights!).
2. Find a workout.
No matter the season, Austin loves to get physical. For many, no holiday is complete without a polar bear dip into Barton Springs Pool. Thanks to its approximately 68 degrees temperature, some start the day with a morning visit to this spring-fed pool year ‘round (no entrance fee before 8 a.m.).
Swimming not your thing? Work up a sweat and get a group hug with November Project Austin. This nationally-certified, #weatherproof, free workout (M/W/F, from 6–7 a.m.; more details at website) features cardio- and body weight-based group exercise.
1. Twirl under the Zilker Holiday Tree.
Every Austinite–no matter how big or how small–will stand under these spiraling Christmas lights, look up, and twirl. The City of Austin first lit the 155-foot Zilker Holiday Tree in 1967 and it’s brought unbridled joy and general dizziness ever since. (Tip: Due to Zilker Park road closures, combine your tree twirl with a Trail of Lights trip.)
If you’d rather skip the 300,000+ crowd driving to Zilker Park, drop in at Austin’s new Central Library (710 W. Cesar Chavez St.). The rooftop deck provides a spectacular view across Lady Bird Lake. Can you spot that shining 10-foot point-to-point double star atop the Zilker tree?
November: when families across America come together to eat. Yes, lofty reasons exist for gathering and tasty dishes are made for savoring but face it: no Thanksgiving table is complete without pie.
But what kind of pie?
Austin’s locally owned Tiny Pies owner and founder Amanda Bates answers that question handily.
“Thanksgiving really goes with the Tiny Pies idea, our whole business concept, which is that everyone can have their favorite. No one has to be stuck eating their aunt’s favorite pie….We’re in the best business, and our storefront says all–‘We’re baking up smiles.’ That’s truly what we do.”
Tiny Pies is Austin Grown
Tiny Pies founders and owners Amanda Bates and her mother Kit Seay have lived in Austin since 1976. Both women graduated from The University of Texas at Austin, and this mother and daughter duo has always loved baking. Since 2011, Tiny Pies has been the family business and a labor of love.
Listening to Bates talk about pies reveals the depth of that love. Just try to nail down her preferences:
“My favorite pie changes seasonally, along with the local produce. Right now it’s cherry (I love how really bold and tart the flavor is). Pear cranberry is delicious, and I’m a pumpkin pie kind of gal, so there’s that. But year ‘round, coconut cream is one of my favorites. In the summer, I go for something that’s not too sweet, like our summer peach pie and the strawberry rhubarb.”
Bates and Seay developed Tiny Pies to solve a problem: how to pack pie in school lunches (truly, this is a family of serious pie lovers). Answer: handheld pie. Production started small but grew exponentially in 2012 after national exposure (Oprah Winfrey’s magazine). Tiny Pies moved out of Austin’s farmers markets, into retail locations (Burnet Rd. flagship and production facility, plus South Lamar shop), and expanded their offerings.
Still, Tiny Pies remains a family business. “‘Mom and I do pretty much everything,” Bates said. “I’m marketing and business development, and I oversee catering. Mom makes sure we’re on track—she’s involved in so much it’s hard to list it all.” Regular staff numbers about 20 employees, though ranks swell somewhat during busy times.
“We’re still a very hands-on shop,” Bates explained. “Nothing goes out of the kitchen without me knowing about it.” And if you’re arranging a catered event or corporate-branded gifts, that’s Bates on the Tiny Pies end.
“This is the time of year when we’re shipping pies all over the country for businesses to say ‘thank you’ to their clients. Working out those details (selection, shipping, price point, dates, etc.) is a very back-and-forth process. I do tons of that,” said Bates. “And I love working with customers; if I could, I’d work the store every day.”
Pie Beyond Thanksgiving
December is a busy pie time, too. According to Bates, “we try to bring in more rich and hearty flavors,” tastes that pair well with a hot chocolate or a nice after-dinner toddy on a winter day. She mentioned a Christmas-y chocolate cream pie with peppermint whip is in the works. One of her favorite fruit pies, cranberry pear, and cherry are traditional choices for festive tables.
Don’t forget Pi Day (March 14). This national math-focused celebration is like Tiny Pies’ Super Bowl. “Pi Day is even harder than Thanksgiving, because it’s all compressed down to one day, “ Bates explained. Tiny Pies gets into Pi Day in a big way; each pie sports a pi cut out, perfect for that photo op. While stores normally carry 12 to 15 flavors, Tiny Pies adds some additional flavors so every pi lover can find the perfect treat.
What’s New at Tiny Pies
Not into sweets? November’s featured savory tiny pie is the Texas Pete (vegetarian chili and cornbread). How ‘bout spinach ricotta empanadas (half-moon filled pastries)? Or there’s the 5-inch veggie potpie, full of whatever seasonal goodness local resource Johnsons Backyard Garden has produced. At that size, potpies are a hearty solo meal or nicely shared by two.
“A lot of people don’t know we’re full-on lunch and dinner,” explained Bates. While the Burnet Rd. store is primarily for pick-up, the South Lamar location has indoor and outdoor seating, perfect for lingering.
The Tiny Pies team keeps baking up new ideas. “Oh, yeah, we take requests,” replied Bates when asked if customers ask for specific flavors.
Though the November menu is locked down, Bates pointed out that’s not usual: “ If people want to start seeing something in store or need a specific flavor for a party, sure.” She quickly added a caveat: Tiny Pies won’t compromise quality, so “everything has to be vegetarian, locally sourced when possible, and meet standards.”
Though Bates herself eats gluten free, there’s not currently a gluten free Tiny Pies option. Why? Too much flour flies around and Bates would hate to risk kitchen cross contamination. But in January, Tiny Pies hopes to add cups packed offsite with gluten-free pie fillings and cookie crust as an option.
How to Build the Perfect Holiday Pie Platter
Austin’s Tiny Pies provided tips for a tasty no-fuss pie platter.
Provide an assortment. Bates says to choose an assortment of nut, fruit, and cream pies: “Everyone’s going to have a favorite; this covers your bases.”
Think about transport. Cream pies need refrigeration, so if you’re traveling for 30 minutes or more, these have to be kept cold. Tell the shop staff about your travel plans so they can assist with selection and packing (boxes work well for flights).
Choose size. Lots of tiny pies or a few big ones (Tiny Pies has 9-inch pies, too)? This Thanksgiving, pick up a box of 6 or 12 in-house assorted tiny pies Monday through Wednesday; you can pre-order selected assortments until Nov. 15. Would you like a bite? Tiny Pies has pecan pie bites for those who just “want a taste.”
Opt for seasonal. Bates gave November-specific recommendations. “Fruit, go with pear cranberry and cherry; someone always wants apple. We have two pumpkin varieties: chai whip and pumpkin cheesecake. Nut, choose Sweet Texas Pecan or the Texas Two-Step (pecan with brownie). And for cream, coconut and chocolate cream are always crowd pleasers.”
Top Trip Rentals Recommends
Austin’s known for its wonderfully Instagrammable spots. Stop by the Burnet Rd. store to experience the original Tiny Pies vibe. Savor wonderful pie smells, pick one out, and snap an iconic Austin pic against the “Measure Up Strong Man” wall.
Is the thought of getting your home ready for holiday guests dragging you down? Are you worried that there just isn’t room for everyone? Will you be lucky to get time off to spend with family—and just forget about having days to cook and clean for visitors!
Why not let someone else take the hassle out of holiday hosting? Here are a few good reasons to book a vacation rental home for your next holiday gathering.
5 Holiday Reasons to Rent a Vacation Rental Home
1. Grow a Spare Bedroom
Getting together as a group can be tough, especially when you have a big family. Many vacation rental homes maximize space with flexible floor plans; they’re set up to accommodate more guests.
For example, Top Trip Rental’s amazing private residence, the Graeber House, has multiple living areas, two kitchens, three bedrooms, and 3.5 baths (nobody’s waiting for a shower here!). A little secret for grown-ups: an indoor pool plus its location in the heart of Austin’s downtown destination, 6th St., provide amazing “wow” factor for special occasions.
2. Get Along Better with Family
These days, many families are blended. Not everybody can comfortably share space. Why not book a cluster of rooms? Vacation rental homes’ more affordable pricing makes multiple books a realistic option for family members with varying needs.
Littlefield Lofts in Austin was recently holiday “home” for Top Trip Rentals company owner Chereen Fisher’s extended family.
“It was great,” Fisher said. “The kids opted to sleep in Grandma’s room as a special treat. We picked one loft, #701, where the families ate and gathered together. And my brother and sister-in-law had private, quiet space for baby in their own home.”
Littlefield Lofts’ 24 vacation rental homes within one building ensure a combination of space and privacy that works for your family. The Top Trip Rentals reservation team is happy to help you select the best lofts for your groups’ needs.
3. Let Someone Else Sweat the Prep
Wouldn’t it be nice to simply spend your holiday time enjoying friends and loved ones? That vacation rental home you’ve booked for Thanksgiving will be clean and ready for company, plus you’ll be rested and ready for family fun.
Done celebrating? Someone else can wash sheets, clean bathrooms, and handle that messy kitchen.
Not everyone wants to cook a big meal. If you’d like to order in, Austin has several ways to work out having holiday dinner without the hassle.
Staying at Top Trip Rentals’ Hyde Park Hideaway? Maybe your crew would like to sup on Hyde Park Bar & Grill’s fabulous Cajun fried turkey. Since 1982, this local destination decorated by a giant fork has been wowing folks with comfort food (and everything on the menu can be ordered “take out”).
4. Pull Together a Friendsgiving
Sometimes it’s the family we choose that needs celebrating. Why not make that holiday with friends an outing?
Choose a vacation rental home where everyone can fully relax. If you’re used to tiny house living, a large home with a spacious outdoor patio area might be just the thing for gathering together and kicking back. Go for a roomy kitchen for all the festive cooking you can’t accomplish in a crowded apartment.
This large, 3,500-sq. ft. home, situated right on the shores of constant-level Lake LBJ in Marble Falls, provides plenty of room to roam and relax for as many as 12 people. And Central Texas’ mild winter temperatures allow you enjoy the outdoors no matter what season.
End every day of your special holiday retreat with a gorgeous sunset view from the deck!
Rooms pictured here are Top Trip Rentals vacation homes ready for your holiday fun.