Zilker Park – Austin’s Trail of Lights celebrates its 49th anniversary this year, and this year it is going to be spectacular. As one of Austin’s most famed Christmas traditions featuring 1.25 miles of glittering Christmas lights, as well as the famed Zilker Tree, this year’s event is guaranteed to be breathtaking. This year, the event has been increased to 15 nights (versus eight in 2012), with more than 50 lighted displays, 100 light-wrapped trees, and three lighted tunnels. The event begins on Saturday, December 7th, with the Trail of Lights 5K run. Participants are invited to run alongside Santa, elves, and maybe even a few reindeer. Each course concludes with a run through the Trail of Lights itself.
Unfortunately, this year’s Preview Party has been canceled due to inclement weather, but guests who have already purchased tickets to the party can keep them for the December 22nd “Wrap Party” featuring Ray Benson.
This year will have three entertainment zones. The Community Performance Stage will feature performers from local community groups and schools. The North Pole or children’s area will have a Santa’s House, H-E-B children’s book giveaway and other children’s activities. Finally, the Main Stage will feature local, regional and national headliners, including Ray Benson, Vallejo, The Whiskey Sisters and Austin High School Ballet Folklorico. Of course, none of this compares to the Zilker Tree. A one-of-a-kind Austin tradition, the 155 foot tree is actually dozens of strings of light pulled from the top of the original Moonlight Tower. The Zilker Tree is the world’s tallest freestanding holiday tree. A favorite tradition since 1967, spinning under the tree is one of many “must-do” activities in Austin.
There are several different ways to get to the Trail of Lights. In keeping with their environmentalist message, Zilker Park encourages lightgoers to take the bus or ride bikes. A shuttle is also available. Information on public transportation to Zilker Park can be found here. Guests can also purchase parking tickets in advance. If you want to be treated like the VIP you are, you’ll want a ZiP Fast Pass. Fast Passes allow front-of-the-line access through the ViP gate, early opening at 6:15 P.M (Trail of Lights general admission begins at 7 P.M), and access to the ZiP lounge offering guaranteed seating, climate control and private restrooms.
While Austin’s Trail of Lights may be celebrating its 49th anniversary this year, for a while it looked like the Trail might have become a thing of the past. In 2010 and 2011, the Trail was canceled due to the economic downturn, although the Zilker Tree was still illuminated. Last year saw a revival of both the Trail and its accompanying events, and this year the Trail has grown even more. Details about next year’s events (when the Trail of Lights will celebrate its 50th anniversary!) are still mum, but its bound to be another amazing Austin holiday. We. Can’t. Wait.