Once a quaint local event called the Yule Fest, the Austin Trail of Lights has become a nationally renowned phenomenon. In 2016, more than 375,000 people attended the annual celebration, held in Zilker Park. Perhaps you were one of them.
Held from December 9 – 23, 2017, the Trail of Lights is now considered the second-largest event in Austin, and it's packed with music, food, family fun and, of course, millions of lights. Whether it's your first Christmas in Austin or you're a long-time Trail of Lights fan, you can enjoy your visit to the fullest with the following tips.
Take Advantage of Free Admission
The Trails of Lights Foundation wants as many people as possible to experience this dynamic event, so free General Admission is offered on about half of the nights. Check the online calendar for specific dates, and bring the entire family along.
On Heroes Night, you'll get more than just complimentary general admission if you're a veteran, first responder or active member of the military. Bring your ID and receive free ZIP Fast Passes for yourself and your family.
Purchase Your Tickets in Advance
Since the Trail of Lights is so popular, nightly parking passes and special tickets, including ZIP Fast Passes and Platinum Passes, tend to sell out quickly. Trail of Lights organizers recommend an advance purchase of these premium passes. Keep in mind that parking spaces are limited.
Platinum and ZIP Fast Passes get you early admission at 6 p.m., before the general public. In addition, you'll receive perks that include Zilker Lounge access, which means complimentary cookies and cocoa as well as heated restrooms. Platinum ticket holders also receive valet parking, one drink ticket, Ferris wheel or carousel entry, and access to the exclusive Platinum Lounge.
Skip the Traffic: Take the Shuttle
Instead of paying for parking and dealing with traffic as you head to Trail of Lights, let someone else take the wheel and hop on a shuttle. You'll get dropped off at the front gate, and the $5 shuttle fare includes a General Admission pass.
Trail of Lights Shuttles operate every night of the event, and you can catch a ride at Republic Square Park downtown. On Opening Night and weekends, you can also hop on board at Toney Burger Event Center. Shuttles pick up between 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. and are ADA accessible.
Bring a Can of Food
Giving back is an integral part of the holiday season, and you can keep the spirit of the season alive with a canned food donation. In 2017, the Trail of Lights Foundation hopes to collect enough food for the Central Texas Food Bank to give back at least 25,000 meals throughout the community. Bring your non-expired canned items to the gate and drop them in marked donation bins.