The Holidays in Austin Mean...

Nicole Basham - Austin
November 29, 2011

Where did the year go? Perhaps the endless summer gave us no time to ease into fall. Like it or not, the final weeks of the year are upon us. Do you find your eyes glazing over as you scan through the long lists of holiday events? Never fear! We have a foolproof list of the best Austin family-friendly holiday events, so you can maximize the joy and magic of the season while you minimize your hassles.

Seeing the Trees

In a year during which any glimpse of green was rare, seeing an evergreen in its full glory is a sight to behold. You can see 40-foot decorated trees at both The Domain and in front of the Capitol. Although the lighting ceremonies may have passed, you can still enjoy checking out the ornaments day or night, taking advantage of the photo ops or exploring what's nearby. The Trail of Lights won't take place this year because of funding shortfalls, but the Zilker Tree, made up of over 3000 lights, will continue to grace the Austin skyline, as it has since 1967. Many families participate in the annual tradition of spinning under the tree until you collapse, dizzy, into fits of giggles and laughter.

Eating Sweet Treats

Nothing says the holidays quite like copious amounts of sugar. Why not combine your children's desire for treats with an opportunity to create some holiday home decor? Sure, you can decorate a gingerbread house at home, but you can also avoid finding colored sprinkles on your floor for the next six months by reserving spots in upcoming gingerbread house workshops at the Children's Museum, Central Market, the Four Seasons and the South Austin Rec Center.

Bright Lights, Not-So-Big City

If you are looking for a lights display to rival Clark Griswold's, you should check out the Storm residence in Round Rock, among the displays on this map put out by Mozart's Coffee Roasters near Hula Hut, which has an impressive lights display of their own. Kids can get up close and personal with displays on 37th Street (just east of Guadalupe) and Willis Littlefield's yard on 1611 West 12th in Clarksville, which is filled with animatronic Santas, including several James Browns (Willis is very patient with little ones who want to push the buttons again and again...and again). Lastly, if you haven't been, Calle Limon between Lyons and Bolm in East Austin, has a great drive-by display, if you prefer viewing from the comfort of your vehicle.

Lacing Up Your Skates

Even if we can't predict exactly when the cool weather will be here to stay, we can at least pretend we live in cooler climes by heading out to the skating rink and hitting the ice. Chaparral Ice is open year round for public skating (although the North location is now closed, the Northcross location remains open). Whole Foods' Flagship store downtown has a small outdoor rink for skating fun, and this year offers live music on Thursday nights and Disco Karaoke on Wednesday nights. The Oasis on Lake Austin also has a rink open throughout the holidays. Barton Creek Resort has an outdoor rink with proceeds from skate rentals benefiting the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Don't forget your gloves and winter gear, since first timers may spend a lot of time horizontal!

Giving Locally

This time of year is a great time to show kids that the holidays are about giving as well as receiving. Many nonprofits and individuals need our help this year, and there are many ways for kids to be involved. GivingCity put together a great list of opportunities to adopt a family. Little Helping Hands is a nonprofit which offers family volunteering projects all year long. I Live Here, I Give Here is a great clearinghouse with information on local charities for financial donations. The Capital Area Food Bank and Coats for Kids are two causes that are easy for kids to conceptualize and get involved. Doing Good Together, a Minnesota-based charity, has a comprehensive list of books you could put on hold from our local library to reinforce the many benefits of caring for others.

Happy holidays!

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From the Parents

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