We can’t cook you a Thanksgiving meal that satisfies picky nieces and nephews, vegan cousins, and dieting aunts and uncles, and we can’t keep politics off the table, either. What we can do is help you find ways to entertain all your out-of-town guests, young and old, once turkey day is over.
Unless you’re someone who starts decorating for the holiday season in July, the end of Thanksgiving marks the beginning of Christmas celebrations.
• Give your guests a spirited send-off with the lighting of the largest man-made holiday tree at Zilker Park on Dec. 1 at 6pm. Pre-event music from the Austin Civic Wind Ensemble starts at 5:30pm. See all 3,000 of the Zilker Park Holiday Tree lights before the rest of the Trail of Lights is opened to the public on Dec. 10.
• The Austin Symphony Orchestra performs free concerts beginning on Nov. 30 at the Macy’s in Barton Creek Mall. To make their renditions of Christmas favorites more accessible to families throughout the holiday season, the Orchestra breaks into brass, string, and woodwind quartets to play throughout December at various Austin locations including malls, museums, and rec centers.
• Throughout December, The Capitol Building offers tours with the added twist of exploring Texas’ holiday traditions; tours run weekdays, 11:45am & 1:45pm; Saturdays, 11am & 1pm; and Sundays, 3pm.
• Bring the whole family for hot chocolate, treats, and a light show at lakeside coffeehouse Mozart’s. Running from Nov. 21 until Dec. 24, Mozart’s 10th Annual Joyous Light Show begins every night, except Thanksgiving, at 6pm.
Listen to the songs you wish were socially acceptable to play year round over and over while driving your out-of-towners to seasonal events outside Austin.
• Journey to Georgetown for a nighttime visit to the Williamson Museum as they light up the square from 6-8pm on November 29.
• Drive all over the state following the Texas Pecan Growers Association’s Holiday Trail Map until you’ve eaten enough pecans and listened to enough Mariah Carey to tide you over until next year.
• Satisfy two pleasure centers – wine and shopping – with the annual Thanksgiving Shopping Spree at Flat Creek Estate Winery and Vineyard in Marble Falls, Nov. 29-30. Attractions include arts and crafts vendors, live music, wine specials, and disc golf.
• Cut your own Christmas tree at the Elgin Christmas tree farm from Nov. 29 to Dec. 22.
• Celebrate Celtic Christmas at the Texas Renaissance Festival from 9am-8pm on Nov. 29-Dec.1. Meet Father and Mother Christmas, compete in a pumkin pie eating contest, and knock out some Christmas gifts at any of the 400 festival shops.
Austin’s holiday movie and play selections offer the perfect way to occupy energetic guests while you recover from an intense food coma.
• Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz hosts an Elf Movie Party on Nov. 30 at 12:15pm. Moviegoers will participate in themed competitions and a “snowball” fight in the theatre, and be given scratch and sniff stickers to smell along with Buddy the Elf’s journey from the North Pole to New York City.
• The Paramount Theatre puts on a play based off the beloved winter-themed children’s book, The Snowy Day at 2pm.
• On Dec. 1, the Bullock Museum hosts in the Texas Spirit Theater a “multi sensory screening” of A Muppet Christmas Carol at 1:30pm and 4pm. It is unclear exactly what special effects make the showing multi sensory, but be assured that Beaker was not harmed in their planning.
• If you’re in the mood for slightly less cheerful puppets, Austin Film Society invites families to their screening of The Dark Crystal at 2:30pm. Along with the viewing, visitors will have a chance to Skype call from a puppeteer working on the film’s Netflix spinoff series.
• The Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-in is helping visitors recognize the literal magic of the winter season with a double feature of the first two movies in the Harry Potter series. Gates for the Nov. 29 showings of The Sorcerer’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets open at 6:30pm.
After you feel you’ve spent adequate time with your relatives reflecting on the true meaning of the holiday, it’s time to go shopping! Austin is home to tons of unique holiday bazaars and markets filled with gifts your guests can be sure their friends back home don’t already have.
• Support local artists at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar open from Nov. 22 – Dec. 24.
• From Nov. 30- Dec. 1 browse antiques and collectibles at the City Wide Garage Sale open now until Dec. 15.
• CBD product enthusiast and reviewer Cannavybe hosts the Holiday Hemp Market on Dec. 1 from 11am-4pm. The market showcases CBD products and services of all kinds produced both locally and from all over the country.
If you need to take some time off from the holiday season to recover your cheer, visit one of Austin’s entirely Christmas unrelated events.
• Explore East Austin on the Austin Art Walk and learn about the neighborhood’s history through its street art.
• Have a day after Thanksgiving feast at the Black Friday International Food Truck Festival from 6-9:30pm.
• FrankenBike is hosting its monthly bike swap at Independence Brewery from 9am-4pm on Nov. 30. Stop by whether you are interested in buying or selling bike parts, or just want to enjoy beer, live music from The Tr3s Passers, and the presence of fellow bikers.
• Give your visitors time to de-stress before they have to start furiously wrapping gifts at puppy yoga on Dec. 1 at 3pm. Instructors from Peaceful Yoga Warrior Studio will lead a class and afterwards guests get plenty of time to play with the puppies from Austin Pets Alive.
Looking for more ideas for what to do with out-of-towners over the holidays? Check out the Chronicle’s Austin Visitor’s Guide.
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