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?
Answer: Austin. South Congress Avenue (“SoCo”), to be exact.
#GOPLAYSTAY on Austin’s South Congress
Top Trip Rentals’ updated 1930s era SoCo bungalow is a mere one block off of Austin’s famous South Congress Avenue. Some of the coolest (and weirdest) shops are a short walk away in the heart of this incredibly fun neighborhood.
Stroll over to Big Top Candy, Austin’s famous Continental Club, Amy’s Ice Creams, Kendra Scott Jewelry, Perla Restaurant ,and many more than we can list in one blog. Also, some of the best boot shopping in the state as mentioned in the Conde Nast article. It’s old Austin meets new.
It’s been a long time coming, but one of Austin’s newest transformations is the Seaholm EcoDistrict near West Avenue and 3rd Street. (Sure; the district’s bigger, but if you want to tell a driver where to drop you off, that’s a good corner.) Commissioned in 1948, the Seaholm Power Plant produced power until 1989. It closed in 1996 and became a Texas Historic Landmark and National Historic Place. Now, it’s becoming a downtown destination.
Established highlights of this downtown area already exist: salons (Jackson Ruiz has a location in this development), grocery stores like Trader Joe’s, and restaurants, including True Foods Kitchen. You can enjoy a lovely outdoor dining experience with a view of the decommissioned power plant steam pipes. The Seaholm Power Plant sign is still there. Commissioned in 1948, Seaholm produced power until 1989. The plant closed in 1996 and became a Texas Historic Landmark and National Historic Place.
A quick trip these days reveals an ongoing construction site. The new Austin Central Library is in final stages (that completion date keeps changing); the entire area, once completed, will be a pretty cool spot and interesting mixture of iconic and cutting-edge Austin architecture.
Once the dust has settled, the Seaholm District will be an amazing gem of a destination for locals and travelers alike.
Twenty years ago, Austin’s shopping options were pretty basic.
Now, if you needed camping or backpacking equipment, plenty of choices for water purifiers and tents existed. But Austin was not exactly known as a destination for high fashion and design.
That, my friends, has changed.
New Shopping Options in Austin
In the last few years, Austin has seen amazing retail growth. The newly developed (and constantly expanding) Domain Shopping area north of town, Hill Country Galleria (near Hwy. 620 and 71), and an amazing and unique number of small boutiques around downtown offer something for just about everyone.
Some of the most interesting and unexpected shopping can be found near Top Trip Rentals’ Littlefield Lofts, located at 6th and Brazos. One option for shopping is known as the West End (or West Sixth Street.).
Wandering Austin’s West End Shopping
Where is the West End? Start from the Littlefield Lofts building on 6th Street. Take a long walk (or catch a pedicab) heading west; your destination is the intersection of 6th Street and Lamar and Blvd.
Taking in a few boutiques and shops along this expanding downtown shopping corridor is a wonderful way to pass a few hours. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at Walton’s Fancy and Staple (owned by Austin’s sweetheart Sandra Bullock) before stopping in at stores.
Housed in a historic building, Walton’s has a little of everything: food, pastries, coffee, antiques, garden supplies and other curios. Get some Southern comfort food, like the shrimp and grits (their specialty, it seems), or go for the breakfast tacos.
After filling up on breakfast and cappuccino (the coffee is good!), I was ready to walk toward my ultimate destination– the Jonathan Adler Boutique on West 5th Street. My companion was destined for BookPeople, a well-known locally owned book store, so we strolled by not-yet-open bars and not-yet-finished condo construction one our way to 6th and Lamar.
This busy pedestrian- and traffic-filled intersection is surrounded by a few women’s clothing stores (chains like Anthropologie, Free People, and Title Nine, and local shops, such as By George). But nothing caught my eye.
At 5th and Lamar, I made a quick dash into West Elm before entering the shiny explosion of cool next door that is Jonathan Adler’s Austin store. Oh, I want to buy everything in there! From subversively messaged cross-stitch pillows to candles vodka-scented candles, this shop has everything a downtown Austin loft needs to shine–sparkly, modern, and cleverly crafted furniture and accessories.
And if you are still in the market for camping supplies, never fear. Austin hasn’t quite let go of its roots. REI is housed between BookPeople and Anthropologie.
From the outdoors to the outré and outlandish, Austin’s got you covered.
Every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m.- 1 p.m., you can buy yummy, healthy and local food brought to you by local farmers and one of Austin’s best non-profits the Sustainable Food Center. The SFC/Downtown’s Farmer’s Market is at Republic Square at 4th and Guadalupe.