Happy Trail (of Lights) to You

54th annual Zilker Park tradition returns Dec. 10-23

photo by John Anderson

Welp, it’s another 100-degree day, and the only thing getting us through the misery is knowing sweater weather is just around the bend – the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Or, in the case of one Austin holiday tradition, a trail of lights.

Announced today are the dates and new attractions of this year’s Austin Trail of Lights, the long-running lights display held at Zilker Park. Following Nov. 25’s annual tree lighting ceremony – that’s when the 155-foot “tree” built around a moontower is first lit up – the trail will be open for business Dec. 10-23.

In addition to the usual light spectacle – if you can call two million bulbs shining bright with holiday cheer “usual” – and musical performances (lineup still to be announced) and food vendors, this year’s Trail of Lights will feature a 13-foot illuminated carriage, 12 seven-foot lighted guitars “commemorating Austin’s musical roots,” and a 25-foot spiral holiday tree. The Trail of Lights Foundation will also be expanding its STARS at the Trail program, aimed at making the experience accessible to all; since 2013 the program has hosted more than 4,500 children, families, veterans, and seniors for private Trail of Lights experiences.

As ever, the festivities include a variety of specialty nights. See below for what the organizers say is planned so far:

Sunday, Nov. 25: ​The Annual Zilker Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony kicks off the holiday season in Zilker Park. Now in its 52nd year, the Zilker Holiday Tree stands 155 feet tall and is built around one of Austin’s historic moontowers. Food vendors and other merchants will operate at the tree throughout the month of December.

Saturday, Dec. 1: The Annual Trail of Lights Fun Run, ​a 2.1-mile course which takes thousands of fun runners through the sights of the Austin Trail of Lights, ending with a celebration in the center of Zilker Park - the Finish Line Festival and Expo.

Dec. 2, 3 and 4: The Fifth Annual ​STARS at the Trail program hosts up to 20 nonprofit organizations for private tours of the Trail, along with additional program expansion. The Trail of Lights will be closed to the public on these nights.

Saturday, Dec. 8: Night Lights, the Fifth Annual Preview Party, serves as the Trail of Lights Foundation’s annual fundraising event, with funds going to help keep the Trail of Lights accessible for all in the community. The event will feature headlining entertainment, food tastings from Austin restaurants and specialty activities not available during the general run of the Trail.

Monday, Dec. 10: Austin Trail of Lights Grand Opening ​will officially open the Trail of Lights to the public with a countdown ceremony and entry tunnel lighting, presentations by community leaders and a special celebration for Trail of Lights sponsors. Event entry on Grand Opening night is free and open to the public.

Tuesday, Dec. 11: Heroes Night will feature specialty programming and honor all first responders, including current and veteran military, police, fire and EMS personnel with special ZIP access for Heroes and their families.

See photo gallery from the 2017 Austin Trail of Lights.

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Austin Trail of Lights, Zilker Park

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