December fun is lighting up the weekend! Check out one of the amazing light displays that Austin has to offer, catch an outdoor holiday movie, meet-the-author at a Book Fair, be a part of a unique choose-your-own adventure experience downtown, and more! Don’t stay home – make this a December to remember! Check out our calendar for even more FREE fun.
Thank you to our sponsor, the spectacular Austin Trail of Lights! Don’t miss out on the fun that starts this Friday night at the Night Lights Preview Party and continues through December 23. Admission is open to all and FREE both Saturday and Sunday (check their calendar for more FREE admission nights). PRO TIP: Did you know that you have the option to buy upgraded tickets, with extra amenities that are perfect for families? ZiP Passes include earlier entry times and access to a special Lounge, including complimentary cookies and hot cocoa, comfy seats and an upgraded (heated) washroom! Take it from a mom of young ones, it’s worth it! Not to mention, kids 5 and under are always FREE, no ZiP pass required (if accompanied by a ticketed adult). If you want an even more posh experience, check out the Platinum Pass. Don’t wait until the tickets are sold out, get yours today! Want more info before you head out? Check out our Guide to the Trail of Lights 2017 — you can even enter to win a family four pack of ZiP passes!
Weekend Top 10 FREE Events: December 8-10, 2017
- Community First! Village of Lights and Outdoor Movie
Fri. & Sat., Dec. 8& 9 | from 5 to 9 p.m. | Community First! Village, 9301 Hog Eye Rd
With more than 200,000 lights choreographed to holiday music, the Community First! Village of Lights is one of the biggest Christmas light displays in Central Texas! Be sure to include a stop at the Advent Market to shop for unique, handcrafted gifts made by formerly homeless craftsmen and artisans who live at the Village. Your purchase of gifts and concessions during the event helps Community First! neighbors earn a dignified income. The event is FREE! Choose your date and RSVP here. Donations are always accepted and appreciated. Friday: Angels Sing. Saturday: A Christmas Story.
- Holiday Family Movie Night: Elf
Friday, Dec. 8 | at 6:30 p.m. | The Arboretum at Great Hills, 10000 Research Blvd
Enjoy a holiday movie night under the stars at The Arboretum. For three Friday nights in December, bring your blankets and pillows and grab some ice cream from Amy’s Ice Creams and catch a movie by the fireplace! The movie starts at 6:30 p.m. This week: Elf. FREE!
- Santa Claus is Coming to Frost
Saturday, Dec. 9 | various times | multiple locations
Frost invites families to come into five Austin-area Frost financial centers for a little holiday cheer and photos with a special guest: Santa Claus! Guests can enjoy holiday cookies in a festive holiday setting while kids get a chance to visit with Santa. Kids will also get a candy cane, and parents should bring a camera so their kids can pose for pictures with St. Nick. This event is FREE and open to the public.
- Holiday Book Fair
Saturday, Dec. 9 | from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. |Humanities Texas Byrne-Reed House, 1410 Rio Grande St
Humanities Texas will host its ninth annual Holiday Book Fair at the historic Byrne-Reed House. A number of noteworthy authors will visit with the public and sign copies of their latest books, which Humanities Texas will offer for purchase at a discounted price. Available titles include works of fiction and nonfiction, with selections for both adult and youth readers.
- Breakfast with Santa at Gus Garcia Recreation Center
Saturday, Dec. 9 | at 10 a.m. | Gus Garcia Recreation Center, 1201 E. Rundberg Ln., Austin
Free pancakes, sausage, juice, as well holiday arts and craft projects and of course, pictures with Santa. FREE!
- Holiday Open House at the Library
Saturday, Dec. 9 | various times | multiple library locations
Come celebrate the holidays at the library with treats and crafts! FREE!
- Wander: A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Art Experience
Saturday, Dec. 9 | from 3 to 5 p.m. | APL – Central Library, 710 W. César Chávez St
Wander is a new public artwork that offers an immersive choose-your-own-adventure experience throughout downtown Austin. Created by artists Chris Gannon, Chadwick Wood and Brockett Davidson, with contributions from local authors and illustrators, the work comprises a mobile app with four unique digital journeys that participants can choose from and a sculptural starting point, entitled “Beacon”, sited near the 2nd Street entrance of the new Central Library. The December 9 launch event will include a discussion with the artists, readings from the participating authors, and a demonstration of the project for attendees wishing to begin their journey that day. Select locations will have surprises, and awards will be given to the group that makes it through the most chapters of a story. The event is family-friendly and FREE to all!
- Movie Moxie for Kids! Family Trivia Event
Saturday, Dec. 9 | from 3 to 5 p.m. | Barrel O’ Fun, 1911 Aldrich St, Ste 120, Austin
Bring the whole family and test your cinema knowledge. This trivia game designed by the folks at MOVIE MOXIE Game Show is a free, all-ages show for teams of 2-4.
First, teams will face a variety of motion picture questions. Then, members of the top-scoring teams will be invited onstage to participate in the Audio/Videodrome round! Fun will be had, new film facts will be learned, and there’ll be prizes for those who can prove their Movie Moxie™. FREE!
- Austin Trail of Lights
Sat. and Sun., Dec. 9-10 | from 7 to 10 p.m. | Zilker Park, Austin
What began as a small gathering in 1965 known as the “Yule Fest,” a gift to the city of Austin from Austin Parks and Recreation Department, has now grown to be a community-wide celebration of the unique spirit and people that make Austin the place we love to call home. In the 52 years since the first Yule Log was lit, the Trail of Lights has expanded to more than 40 displays, 2 million lights and holiday activities that create countless memories. Each new display, community performance and lighted tunnel has added a new layer to the holiday tradition and brought us together more as a community. Today, the Trail of Lights is one of the three largest events in Austin and receives national accolades while remaining a deeply cherished local tradition. Admission this weekend is FREE! ZIP Fast Pass tickets and parking passes available to purchase. Note: Onsite parking must be purchased in advance.
- UMLAUF Family Day
Sunday, Dec. 10 | from noon to 4 p.m. | UMLAUF Sculpture Garden and Museum, 605 Robert E. Lee Road, Austin
Monthly Family Days are designed for families and friends to explore and create. On the second Sunday of each month, we feature a line-up of activities including Sculpture Safaris, children’s art activities, family tours, yoga in the Garden, story time, music and dance performances. FREE!
- Blue Genie Art Bazaar 2017
Friday-Sunday | from 10 a.m to 10 p.m. | Blue Genie Art Bazaar, 6100 Airport Blvd.
The Blue Genie Art Bazaar is a fixture of the Austin holiday shopping season, open every year from Black Friday to Christmas Eve. The Bazaar features unique work from over 200 local and regional artists – with a portion of proceeds going to Make-A-Wish®. Parking and admission are always FREE of charge.
Bonus Nearly FREE Fun:
- PBS Kids Holiday Mix @ Alamo Drafthouse ($1-5)
Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 9-10 | various times | various Alamo Drafthouse locations
Your favorite PBS KIDS characters have teamed up for an all-star holiday show! Watch special holiday-themed episodes from READY JET GO!, NATURE CAT, PEG + CAT and CYBER CHASE on the big screen. Reserve your seat with a donation of only $1-5, with all ticket sales benefiting education programs at your local PBS station. This is an all-ages show with Alamo for All rules – noisy young fans won’t be asked to leave the theater but we do ask that cellphones and other devices stay dark. Lights will stay a little brighter and the sound will be turned down during the show.
Bonus FREE Fun Near Austin:
- Georgetown Parks & Recreation Annual Trout Fishing Derby (Georgetown) ($3)
Saturday, Dec. 9 | from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m.| San Gabriel Park, 445 E Morrow St, Georgetown
Catch a fish and win a prize! This family-friendly derby is a fun way to enjoy the great outdoors. We stock San Gabriel Park with rainbow trout, so bundle up and enjoy some fishing! Registration begins at 7:00 a.m. Admission into the derby is $3. Spectators are invited to watch at no charge. Limit one pole per person, please. A fishing permit is required for participants aged 17 and older. Permits will not be sold at the park.
- 5th Annual Holiday Model Train Show (Round Rock)
Friday-Sunday, Dec. 10-12 | hours vary | ArtSpace, 231 E Main St, Round Rock
Visit a dynamic train display replete with a Harry Potter scene, a 1950s city with a trolley weaving through its downtown that is filled with vintage cars, a farm, amusement park, mountain range where Boy Scouts are on an outing, an old train depot, and even a water tower, just like Round Rock! For a donation to the Tinplate Trackers, you can be a “junior engineer” and operate the train controls, many of which have different speeds and audio components (bells, engineer’s commands, etc). Additionally, raffle tickets are available for purchase to enter to win a Thomas the Train set. To add an interactive component for children and families, they are also offering “ArtSpace Activity Booklets,” containing the ever popular scavenger hunt. FREE!