The holiday season is looking a bit different this year in Central Texas but luckily there are many ways that you can celebrate safely this year. Many of these events are traditions that are familiar favorites that have adapted to accommodate guests responsibly, others are brand new this year designed with safety in mind. In addition, I have rounded up four excellent staycations to satisfy all your needs for a change of scenery to celebrate the end of 2020 and the best season of the year.
Fairmont Santa Suite
Dates: December 1 – January 4, 2020
You will practically be able to hear the sleigh bells ringing and prancing reindeer hooves when you check into the Santa Suite at the Fairmont in Downtown Austin. Santa’s elves have been hard at work decking these halls in a retreat fit for jolly Saint Nick himself. You can enjoy sweeping views of downtown Austin while you cuddle up in front of a fully decorated Christmas tree, sipping hot cocoa and munching on cookies from Good Things bakery which are delivered right to your room.
Some things to note, there is a two night stay minimum and the room needs to be booked 5 days in advance so that the elves have enough time to make this winter wonderland perfect for you.
I loved spending the night in the Santa Suite, seeing all the decorations and enjoying the holiday treats made me giddier than a kid on Christmas day. Walking into this suite was like stepping into a holiday dream! The cookies and sweets from Good Things were so tasty, I think the chocolate chip cookies may have changed my life.
COVID-19 Precautions: The Fairmont requires masks in all of the hotel’s public spaces and temperature checks. They also have a 48-hour “settling period” between guest stays, followed by cleaning and disinfection of each room. You can read more about their health and safety protocols here.
Hotel Van Zandt South Pole Experience
Dates: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays December 4 – December 19, 2020
Ready for immaculate holiday vibes? The Hotel Van Zandt located in the heart of the Rainey Street district brings Santa’s hometown to the capital city with Geraldine’s Presents: The South Pole. This socially distant, progressive cocktail affair will fill your cup of cheer with four festive drinks that highlight the flavors of the season.
Also included is a roving s’mores station brought right to your table, yum! Tickets start at $70 for 2 guests on up to a party of 10 Lords-a-Leaping. You’ll want to book these tickets quickly as space is limited; don’t miss these innovative and delicious cocktails! Ticket holders also get 15% off dinner at Geraldine’s, making this a perfect holiday date night opportunity. The Hotel Van Zandt has partnered with the City of Austin in their EAT (Eating Apart Together) Initiative and is hosting a food drive in conjunction with the South Pole. Guests are invited to bring canned or ready to eat food items that will be donated on December 21. To find about more about EAT visit this page.
Get the full South Pole Experience by booking a room at the Hotel Van Zandt to go with your holiday cocktail affair. I recommend you go for their decorated Presidential Suite which is available for booking until the end of the year. The room is gorgeous and brimming with holiday spirit. There’s a Christmas tree, stockings hung with care, and festive touches like holiday records ready to put you in the mood for the best time of the year. The Hotel Van Zandt is a beautiful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, the rooms inviting and well-appointed in a way that is expected from a boutique Kimpton hotel and the lobby’s roaring fireplace and elegant touches will have you wanting to book an extra night.
I’ve admired the Hotel Van Zandt since it opened, so it was a delight to be able to check in for a night. The decor is so beautiful and personal in a way that makes you feel like a guest in someone’s home — and that someone has impeccable taste. At the end of my stay I wanted to pack up the room and take it home with me.
COVID-19 Precautions: Masks are required in public areas of the hotel. There are hand sanitizing stations throughout the property. Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants Support AHLA’s Safe Stay Initiative which you can read more about here.
Details needed: Can the decorated suite be booked without the cocktail experience during the week?
If someone wanted to make sure they got the decorated suite, what’s the best way to request it?
What dates is the decorated suite available for?
Downtown Staycation at Canopy by Hilton and Verbena Restaurant
As someone who lives right on the edge of the Austin city limits, I’m always looking for an excuse to live my best downtown life. Enter Canopy by Hilton, a beautiful, modern, and sustainable hotel located on the hip and happening West 6th Street. The rooms are beautiful and sleek. The bed is the most comfortable one I’ve had the privilege of resting my head on. I seriously spent a chunk of my evening reading up on where I could get my own Canopy mattress.
Canopy strives to be sustainable so instead of wasteful water bottles in the room there is a glass bottle that can be filled up at the filtered water stations on each floor. You may laugh but the ice machines have nugget ice which delighted me to no end. If you are a nugget ice lover like myself you will be so excited to have an unlimited supply.
The location could not be any better with so many great options right within walking distance. But the best restaurant is located right in the hotel. Verbena is a modern farm-to-table restaurant with a beautiful interior that is only one-upped by it’s gorgeous courtyard. Everything I had for dinner was delicious. I particularly enjoyed the Potato Rosti, I could have eaten eight of them and been perfectly content. I’ve also confirmed with other friends who have dined here that the Potato Rosti is not to be missed.
COVID-19 Precautions: Canopy requires masks to be worn in all public spaces. Canopy is part of the Hilton CleanStay program which includes a partnership with RB, makers of Lysol and Dettol. Seals are placed on each of the guest room doors to indicate that the room has not been accessed since being thoroughly cleaned. Read more about the Hilton CleanStay Program here.
Round Rock Glam and Relaxing Staycation at The Ruby
Are you in need of a glam yet relaxing getaway to close out the end of 2020? Look no further than The Ruby Hotel and Bar located right near Downtown Round Rock. The Ruby has gorgeous, jewel toned rooms with views of the beautiful property and Brushy Creek. Let’s talk more about the rooms, they are beautiful and give off vintage, Gatsby vibes. Truly a gem of a boutique hotel.
And speaking of the property, it’s gorgeous! There are sprawling patios and large trees strung with lights. The balconies on each room are a retreat in themselves. At night it’s quiet and peaceful. Besides the luxe room, my favorite part of my stay was watching the birds along Brushy Creek wake with the sun and take flight while I enjoyed a coffee from my in-room Nespresso machine.
The bar boasts nice, hand-crafted cocktails and a menu of light fare which you can enjoy either in the lounge or out on the patio overlooking the creek or you can even pick up menu items to take back to your room.
While you are in the area you need to check out Downtown Round Rock. The Downtown area is lit up with holiday lights and features an enormous Christmas tree in Sharon Prete Main Street Plaza. Make sure you look up to see the light show happening on the Round Rock water tower. Don’t forget to explore the local restaurants and shops, I loved picking out unique goodies to stuff some stockingings from 3 Star Candy Shop. Oh, and did I mention that street parking is not only plentiful but free?
After you’ve had a restful night at The Ruby, be sure to grab a box of Round Rock Donuts for breakfast!
COVID-19 Precautions: Guests are asked to wear masks when in public spaces of the property. Check-in is done via text message and keyless entry to reduce guest contact with staff. Rigorous cleaning measures have been put into place for both guest rooms and public spaces. You can read more about The Ruby Hotel’s COVID-19 policy and procedures here.
Mozart’s Christmas Light Show
The Mozart’s Christmas Light Show is an Austin favorite! If you haven’t booked tickets yet, run and do that now because they are close to sold out for the year.
What you can expect:⠀
- Reserve your exact table online for $10.⠀
- Your reservation is good for a hour slot to enjoy the light show.⠀
- Every table is sanitized in between each seating, masks required when not at your table, and an easy ordering system to minimize your contact with staff.⠀
- The specialty menu is soooo good, I got the Campfire Mug Sundae – and you get to keep the mug! Also got a pack of 4 cocoa bombs to enjoy at home.⠀
- Can’t make it out to the light show in person? Mozart’s is offering a Light Show In A Box that can be picked up or shipped to you.⠀
Millions of lights. Beautiful holiday displays. The sweetest way to spend your holidays! Peppermint Parkway at the Circuit of the Americas is an exciting mile long drive-thru holiday experience.⠀
Here’s what you need to know:⠀
- Tickets start at $35 and the event is happening now until January 3rd.⠀
- Be on the lookout for Pepper and Mint the official mascots of Peppermint Parkway as you make your way through 8 themed villages.⠀
- With the Candy Cane Cruise ticket you can take a lap around The Circuit’s signature 3.41-mile track at 25mph.⠀
- After your drive, check out Peppermint Plaza with rides, games, and more!⠀
- But wait, there’s even more: tickets for COTA karting and ziplining are also available.⠀
I had a blast driving through the lights and jamming out to Christmas music. My favorite display was Club Sleigh and I enjoyed seeing all the fun characters. It made my heart happy to see so many people having jobs at COTA. As someone who as worked events out there in the past I know that this is probably the first time that the crew and performers have had events working months. If you are able to support these live events that are happening safely in the Central Texas area, I highly recommend that you do so.
Guests remain in their vehicles for the duration of the drive. All guests that partake in the non-Parkway experiences are required to wear a face mask and practice social distancing. COTA is providing hand sanitizing stations in these areas.⠀
Elgin Christmas Tree Farm
Did you know there is a real Christmas tree farm in Elgin, TX? At the Elgin Christmas Tree Farm you can pick out your perfect tree, cut it down, and bring it home for the holidays.⠀
Here are some tips for visiting:⠀
- Try to go on a weekday, there will be fewer people.⠀
- In addition to the Virginia Pine and Leyland Cypress trees grown on the farm, there are also pre-cut Fraser Firs from North Carolina.⠀
- Not into trees? There are also fresh, handmade wreaths (I got one for our front door) and a cottage full of Christmas decorations.⠀
- There are also fun activities on the farm like mazes and farm animals.⠀
The Elgin Christmas Tree Farm is requesting that all guests wear masks and observe social distancing. The farm is quite large and there is lots of room to roam!
They do sell out, so make sure you go soon to pick out your perfect tree!⠀
Austin Trail of Lights
This Austin classic is looking a bit different but no less festive this year! Instead of walking the Austin Trail of Lights, it is now a drive thru experience. This actually isn’t unfamiliar as in previous years the Trail of Lights has been a car only affair.
The drive is still magical and the light displays are impressive and uniquely Austin. All of your favorites are there!
Here are some tips for visiting:
- Buy tickets online and as with all of these tickets events, make sure you do this soon as they are popular and sell out.
- Prices range from $25-$35 per vehicle depending on entry time and night. These tickets accommodate 9 passengers.
- There are Dash Passes available for $60 that include a box of cookies, bottled water, and an ATX Savings Card.
No open air vehicles are allowed, Be sure to have your mask on when having your tickets checked by staff. You must stay in your vehicle at all times. Sadly, no concessions this year so be sure to pack your own snacks and hot cocoa.
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Luminations
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a place I have been rediscovering this year so I knew I couldn’t miss this opportunity to see it lit up at night. Luminations is happening now until January 10th.⠀
It’s about a mile walk through the naturally beautiful Texas Arboretum where you can discover multiple lighting displays, some of which are interactive.⠀
Tips for visiting:⠀
- You have to make a reservation online in advance, go do that now because tickets have been selling out and it is limited capacity each night.⠀
- Tickets are $18 for adults, $10 for ages 5-17, and free for ages 0-4. Members get discounted pricing.⠀
- There are concessions available for purchase on site or you can order ahead online for pick-up. And, yes, there is alcohol available for purchase.⠀
- If you are a member, every Monday is a members only night.⠀
The trail is one-way to help with social distancing. To limit crowds, admission is timed, this also helps with giving everyone some space. There are hand sanitizing stations throughout the trail. Face masks are required while enjoying the event.⠀
55 Nights of Fredericksburg Lights
Starting at 6pm every night until January 6, the City of Fredericksburg will be playing an approximately five minute audio program that will include traditional holiday music as well as the history of the iconic 26-foot German Christmas Pyramid and Community Christmas Tree as part of its 55 Nights of Fredericksburg Lights. The Marktplatz will be lit up each night with festive lights. This is a great opportunity to spend time shopping for local gifts in Fredericksburg! There is a lot to explore in this Hill Country town including award winning wines.
Johnson City Lights Spectacular
Named “The Twinkliest Town in Texas,” Johnson City lights up the night sky with an impressive light show of millions of lights with it’s Lights Spectacular. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy the lights from their cars but if you choose to walk through the town you must wear a mask. While you are in this Presidential town check out the local shops and galleries. Stop by the Santa Letter Express to drop off your wish list to be delivered directly to the North Pole. The town will be lit up every night until January 3rd.
Marble Falls Walkway of Lights
One of the biggest holiday events in the Highland Lakes every year is the Marble Falls Walkway of Lights. This free event features two million lights on more than 130 sculptures that illuminate Lakeside Park. This event runs nightly until December 31st. The walk takes approximately 30 minutes to complete and masks and social distancing are encouraged. While you are in town don’t forget to shop local and visit the businesses on Main Street.
Texas State Parks Holiday Events
Many of the Texas State Parks are having events this year too! Check out this site for a full list of events, both in person and online, that are taking place this month. I highly recommend that if you see something you would like to attend that you make your park pass reservation quickly as passes can sell out. There are multiple light shows, educational talks, and activities happening.
To see more about holidays in Central Texas, check out my Highlights and Guide on Instagram.
Parts of the is blog post are sponsored. I was hosted by Fairmont, Hotel Van Zandt, Canopy, and The Ruby. My tickets to Peppermint Parkway and Trail of Lights were complimentary. All thoughts and opinions are my own.