December Kids and Family Activities in Austin
December is upon us and it is finally feeling a bit like winter in Austin (at least it was earlier this week). Whatever winter holidays your family celebrates, I hope they will be joyous and relaxing. This is a busy time of year, but also a time of magic and delight, especially when you have little ones. Enjoy the cozy weather with your families and check out Enriched Family's roundup of family-friendly activities happening in the Austin area in December. There are soooooo many fun things happening in Austin this month. I finally just had to stop compiling events as I wanted to get this post out to you good folks! As always, this list is not exhaustive, but includes a sampling of events and activities that caught my eye that I wanted to highlight. Additional good sources for activity lists are included at the end of the post. **Also, don’t miss the section at the bottom of the post with suggestions for how you can give back to our local community this holiday season.
(Please note, the following is provided for informational purposes only; the information is accurate and true to the best of my knowledge, but there may be omissions, errors or mistakes, and no guarantees are made.)
Free Educational/Cultural/Fun Activities
Details: The Austin Public Library is hosting a wide variety of free holiday events this month at local library branches around town. Whether you are interested in Nutcracker or classical guitar or harp performances; adult, holiday coloring; a sewing lab; Harry Potter Yule Ball; a Holiday Bazaar; a holiday cookie decoration class or craft crawl; there is something for almost everyone this month at your local library branch. Check the list for details.
When and where: Various throughout December.
Details: The Austin Symphony is once again bringing free music to all Austinites this holiday season. Christmas in the Community is a series of FREE concerts held throughout the city of Austin from December 1-20, featuring different ensembles of the orchestra playing familiar holiday music for you and your family and friends. The program kicks off on December 1st at the Macy’s at Barton Creek Mall and concludes December 20th with big band music by members of the orchestra at Central Public Library. Click here for information on dates, times, and locations.
When: Saturday, December 1-Thursday, December 20
Details: It's time again for Austin's largest meetup for bilingual families. Join in and meet like-minded families raising bilingual (or multilingual) babies and toddlers. Meet special guests:
Mi Casa Es Tu Casa
La Tribu Preschool
When: Wednesday, December 12th, 2018, from 9:45am to 12:00pm. RSVP is required.
Location: Whole Foods at The Domain, 11920 Domain Dr, Austin, TX 78758
Details: Gather your family and friends and join in for the third annual Mobile Loaves & Fishes Community First! Village of Lights. You don’t want to miss this FREE holiday event! With more than 250,000 Christmas lights choreographed to holiday music, the Community First! Village of Lights is one of the biggest Christmas light displays in Central Texas! Santa will make an early visit and be available for family photos. Plus, get a jump on your holiday shopping! The Advent Market offers unique, handcrafted gifts made by formerly homeless craftsmen and artisans who live in the Village. You can also enjoy a holiday-themed movie at the Community Cinema and concessions are available for purchase at the Community Grille. Complimentary parking will be available at the Travis County Expo Center, and shuttle buses will transport you to and from the event. For a complete Village of Lights schedule and to RSVP for one of the upcoming nights, click here.
When: Saturday, December 1, Friday, Dec. 7, and Saturday, Dec. 8, 5:30-9pm
Where: Mobile Loaves & Fishes, 9301 Hog Eye Road, Austin, TX 78724
Details: Kickstart your holiday season at the Downtown Austin Alliance’s Holiday Stroll on Saturday, December 1 along Congress Avenue between 9th and 11th streets. Join in from 5-10pm for a night of holiday cheer in downtown Austin, including the annual KUT Austin & KUTX 98.9 Holiday Sing-Along and the lighting of the downtown tree.
When: Saturday, December 1, 2018, 5-10pm
Where: Texas State Capitol, 1100 Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78701
Details: Girlstart’s STEM Studio and Mini-Planetarium is a unique space for families to explore astronomy! Starry Nights are held the 1st Thursday of every month (except in January, June, July, and August), with each month featuring a new astronomy experience and related hands-on activities. All ages are welcome to stop by anytime between 5:30pm and 7:00pm. RSVP is recommended, however it is not required, to join. The Thursday, December 6, 2018 Starry Night features Inuit Star Shows. Hands-on activities include:
Investigate the unique properties of penguin feathers
Explore structural engineering to create an Inuit “pitauq” lamp stand prototype to light up the room
Discover how blubber keeps arctic animals warm
Design a dogsled and program Sphero robots to race your sled through a challenging course
When: Thursday, December 6, 2018, between 5:30pm and 7:00pm
Where: The Girlstart STEM Center, 1400 W. Anderson Lane, Austin, TX 78757
Details: Hanukkah begins at sundown on December 2. Chabad Austin is involved in three free citywide celebrations that are open to the public.
Lighting of the Texas menorah. 3:45pm on December 2. Free. Texas Capitol. Gov. Greg Abbott will lead the lighting of the first candle to celebrate Hanukkah. There will also be hot drinks, latkes, doughnuts, dreidels, and music.
City Hall menorah lighting. 4:30pm on December 3. Free. Austin City Hall, 301 W. Second St. Join Mayor Steve Adler and Council Member Alison Alter for more Hanukkah festivities that will also feature food and music.
Family Hanukkah Bash. 5-7pm on December 5. Free. 3808 Spicewood Springs Road. Celebrate the Jewish festival of lights with latkes, doughnuts, arts and crafts, music and dance, and more.
Details: Enjoy the meaning of Kwanzaa celebrated through music, poetry, pictures and performance, highlighting the similarities and differences to other holidays. Open to all ages.
When: Friday, December 21, 2018 at 4:30 PM
Where: Austin Public Library, Carver Branch, 1161 Angelina St., Austin, TX 78702
Details: Launch Code After School Presents a Pair Programming Holiday Challenge: Code a Sphero with Your Child. At this free event, learn to program a light-up, rolling spherical robot called Sphero alongside your child in a holiday-themed coding challenge! This is a fun opportunity for parents and kids to dip their toes into programming and robotics. Free. Register here.
When: Tuesday, December 18, 2018, 6-8pm
Where: Launch Code After School, 3801 North Capital of Texas Highway, #BLDG D-Ste 130, Austin, TX 78746
Details: Come out and support Austin's young entrepreneurs at the Start-Up Kid's Market, where students from across the city will be debuting their businesses! With a wide assortment of booths, you won't leave empty-handed. Live Music and food will be available, so make sure to bring your appetite. Parking will be available on site. Event is free and open to the public. Start-Up Kid's Club is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and donations are encouraged and appreciated to ensure the continued support of the students!
When: Sunday December 2, 2018, 1-4pm
Where: Republic Square, 422 Guadalupe Street, Austin, TX 78701
Holiday-Specific Events (fee-based)
Details: The Austin Trail of Lights is Austin’s largest holiday tradition and 2nd largest event in the city. Run by the Trail of Lights Foundation, the annual event in Zilker Park celebrates the unique spirit and people that make Austin the place we love to call home. Austinites and Central Texans alike bring friends, families, and neighbors out to the Austin Trail of Lights each year to enjoy more than 40 displays, 2 million lights, Austin’s favorite food trucks, nightly entertainment, and holiday activities sure to create treasured memories.
When: Open nightly, 12/10-12/23
Where: Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704
Cost: General Admission is FREE 7 out of the 14 nights. Free nights are: 12/10-12/13 and 12/17-12/19. Non-general admission ticket prices vary - click here for information.
Details: Austin’s most rockin’ holiday tradition returns to make merry with new music and surprises to get the party started. ZACH Theatre’s inspired adaptation of the Dickens’ classic is a musical sleigh ride through rhythm and time, infusing the traditional Victorian story with a score that spans all genres and eras. Motown meets the Ho-Ho-Holidays in this family-friendly spectacular, creating an infectious spirit that has everyone dancing in the aisles. Celebrate the season with the loving Cratchit family and three soulful ghosts as they take Ebenezer Scrooge on a joyride to rediscover his heart and love for human kindness. Age recommendation: 6 and up.
When: November 21-December 30, 2018
Where: The Topfer at ZACH Theatre, 202 South Lamar Blvd, Austin, 78704
Tickets: $30 and up, available here.
Details: Awaken your soul with the legendary Conspirare Christmas concert. This enchanted musical journey reinvents the traditional holiday concert with an eloquent collage of musical genres curated by Conspirare Artistic Director Craig Hella Johnson. This year beloved Austin Blues artist Ruthie Foster and Grammy award-winning Singer/Songwriter Matt Alber take the stage with Grammy award-winning Conspirare. All ages.
When: Monday, December 10th, 2018 at 7:30pm
Where: Long Center, Dell Hall, 701 W. Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78704
Tickets: $20 and up, available here.
Details: ZACH Theatre's Theatre for Families presents Holiday Heroes. Due to demand, the original Holiday Heroes returns with some new songs and surprises! In this hilariously fun holiday sing-along, students get into the holiday spirit with Ernie and Rufus. Celebrate the season with singing, laughter, and holiday cheer for all. Age recommendation: 3 and up. Run time: 45 minutes with no intermission.
When: December 8 and 15, 2018 at 11 a.m.
Where: ZACH Theatre, The Topfer, 202 South Lamar Blvd, Austin, 78704
Tickets: $18 and up, available here.
Details: Kids Night Out - Decorate Sugar Cookies by local baker Silvialicious: Hanukkah, Christmas, maybe a Unicorn. Students will learn how to use & decorate using icing tips, like professional bakers use! All the sugar, candy, …oh and Hot Chocolate with LOTS of Marshmallows! (Please specify if you need Gluten Free cookies). All students will leave with their art project. Ages 6 and up, completed kindergarten. Cheese pizza from Domino’s will be provided (gluten free pizza available for additional charge).
When: Saturday, December 8th, 2018, 5-9PM
Area: SW; 14284 FM 2769, Volente, TX 78641
Cost: $45 per child. Discount of $10 for siblings - use code “KNO”. Tickets here.
Details: Luminations, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s naturally magical winter event, is back! They are lighting up the gardens with thousands of luminarias and bringing plentiful performances, music and festive fun to make this a tradition to remember. This year’s Luminations will feature unique performances from Austin aerial dance group Blue Lapis Light. This enchanting site work, “Oneness of Being,” has been choreographed specifically for the Wildflower Center. Come experience illuminated dancers diving and dangling above the naturally beautiful setting of the Savanna Meadow. There will be two performances each evening. Schedule and tickets here.
When: Thursday, December 6 – Sunday, December 9, 2018, 6-9pm
Where: Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave., Austin, TX 78739
Cost: $15 per person ($10 for members*); FREE for children up to 4 years old
Details: Your favorite way to celebrate the season returns for its 56th year! Ballet Austin’s annual production of The Nutcracker never disappoints, with hundreds of dancers, beautiful sets and costumes, and Tchaikovsky’s delicious score performed live by the Austin Symphony Orchestra. From a festive holiday party to an exotic court of sweets, watch as our young heroine Clara faces her fears, rescues her prince, and dreams big during the journey of a lifetime! Make memories to last a lifetime when you share this special holiday tradition with family and friends! This production is recommended for all ages.
When: December 7th-23rd, 2018 (matinee and evening showings)
Where: Long Center, Dell Hall, 701 W. Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78704
Tickets: $15 and up, available here.
Details: Join in the opening reception of "Chapel Shrine: Paintings by John Patrick Cobb" and "Nacimientos: Traditional Nativity Scenes from Mexico". Sponsored by el Jimador Tequila, the holiday reception will include tamales from Curra's Grill, buñuelos from La Mexicana, and a special el Jimador ponche. The festivities will feature a mini posada navideña, Veracruz style, by Oaxaca, arte en movimiento and cantos navideños by Los niños de Mi Trova LLC Corporation. Make sure to join in this special holiday celebration.
When: Friday, December 7th, 2018, 6-9pm
Where: Mexic-Arte Museum, 419 Congress Ave, Austin, Texas 78701
Cost: $10 or free for museum members (Parking: $10 at Frost Bank Tower Parking Garage, on the corner of Brazos & 4th St. - enter on 4th St.)
Details: Austin Scottish Rite Theater, Children’s Theater, presents Pippi Longstocking’s After Christmas Party. You’re invited! It’s Pippi’s after-Christmas party, where kids eat their fill of sweets, and no grumpy grown-ups are allowed! Join Pippi and her friends Annika and Tommy on one of her over-the-top adventures where surprises, cream cakes and new friends are around every corner! Just in time for the holidays, this show offers live music and lots of playful action!
When: Weekends, December 1-15, 11am and 1pm matinees
Where: Austin Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W 18th St, Austin, TX 78701
Tickets: $10 children (2+); $15 adults, available here.
Details: David Sedaris’ ever-irreverent and cynical Crumpet is baaaack! The outlandish tale of a Macy’s elf merrily jingles to life in the intimate Whisenhunt at ZACH Theatre. In this holiday cult-classic, Crumpet sarcastically expounds on the talent it takes to juggle tinsel, tearful tots, and not-so-sober Santas during what is hailed as the most wonderful time of the year. 75 minutes of rollicking (and not so politically-correct) fun, this laugh-‘til-you-spill-your-cocktail evening will delight adult elves who like it more naughty than nice! Age recommendation: 12 and up for adult humor.
When: December 5th-30th, 2018 (evening showings)
Where: ZACH Theatre, The Whisenhunt, 202 South Lamar Blvd, Austin, 78704
Tickets: $48 and up, available here.
Details: The beloved winter tradition returns! During Thinkery’s Gingerbread Workshops, creative families use fresh gingerbread and sweet treats to build gingerbread houses in a fun and festive atmosphere. Build one house together as a group or let each family member create their own gingerbread masterpiece! From tots to teens and all ages in-between, you’ll find a workshop that’s right for your family! Each Gingerbread House Kit includes all the supplies you’ll need—fresh gingerbread from La Mexicana Bakery, an assortment of candies, and plenty of icing. After the workshop, participants are welcome to explore Thinkery while their house dries in the Gingerbread Village. Choose the Gingerbread Workshop that’s right for you!
When and cost: Varies; see options above for details and reservation information.
Where: Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave, Austin, TX 78723
Details: Announcing the return of Austin’s brightest holiday tradition: Winter Wonderland at The Circuit! The 2nd annual Winter Wonderland will transport guests of all ages to a world of wonder, offering a completely new, immersive, and captivating experience with the world famous Chinese Lantern Festival. In addition, guests will get to experience the largest outdoor ice skating rink in Texas, as well as festive favorites like the H-E-B Tunnel of Lights, Singing Trees, Santa’s Workshop, and the Petting Zoo.
When: 2018 Winter Wonderland dates are November 29-30; December 1-2; December 6-9; and December 13-30. 6-11pm Fridays and Saturdays. 6-10pm Sundays-Thursdays.
Where: Circuit of the Americas, 5555 N Lamar Blvd., L-121, Austin, TX 78751
Cost: Tickets start at $16 (for children 6 and up and adults) and vary depending on date and time of entry (Kids 5 and under receive complimentary admission courtesy of Dell Childrens' | Ascension). Tickets here.
General Events (with a sprinkling of Holiday fun)
Details: Welcome to Fortlandia! Your secret hideout awaits at the Wildflower Center, where you can explore 10 unique forts designed and built by local architects, designers, artists and students from The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture. These creative spaces will transport you to fantastic imaginary worlds and spark an appreciation for art and nature — and the curious, wonderful ways in which they intersect.
When: Now through February 2019. Center is open daily from 9am-5pm.
Where: Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave., Austin, TX 78739
Cost: Entry is included with regular admission (Non-member Adults – $12; Youth – $6); admission is always free for members.
Details: Looking for a cool coworking space with childcare? A fun place to meet up for playdates with your kids? A place to get your fitness on? Or maybe get your happy hour on? All this and more is available at The Hive. Feel free to come sans kiddos OR reserve a spot in the supervised childcare area for only $10/hr. Productivity here we come! There is a beautiful cafe area and lounge where any and all are welcome to visit or work at no charge. This month’s activities include a Story Time; an educational workshop on feeding your child; a DIY wreath workshop; Gingerbread Apron Party; a kids concert; holiday party; DIY teacher gift craft workshop; a Holiday Festival & Vendor Market; new mama socials; and so much more. Check the Hive events page on Facebook for details!
Where: The Hive Austin, 10415 Old Manchaca Road , Austin, TX 78748
Cost: Varies. See website for details.
Details: Learn about infant massage with Melanie Wattles, RN, certified infant massage instructor. This 75 minute class is relaxed, fun, and informative. Expectant parents, new parents and babies up to 8 months all welcome. The class will teach you the benefits of massaging your newborn baby and growing child; you will understand what oils are safe to use; and you will learn massage strokes and techniques you can use with your newborn baby and growing child. For more information, please go to www.babystrokes.com. To register, please contact Special Addition at 512 326 9308 or www.MaternityAndNursing.com.
When: Tuesday, December 11th, 2018, 10:30am-11:45pm
Where: Special Addition, 7301 Burnet Rd #200M, Austin, TX 78757
Details: Music and art classes; free baby play dates; baby sign language; Bookmobile visit; date night child care; Pictures with Santa; Make a Holiday Ornament; Celebrate Pretend Winter event; Christmas Magic with Milly McSilly the Elf; Children’s volunteer event with Generation SERVE; Balloons & Magic with Silly Sparkles the Elf; Holiday Portraits; and more! Toybrary Austin is a toy lending library and kids' birthday party venue that also offers drop-in childcare in Austin, TX.
Where: Toybrary Austin, 2001 Justin Lane, Austin, TX 78757
Cost: Varies. See website for details.
Museum Exhibits and Programs
Details: Comanche Motion: The Art of Eric Tippeconnic tells the story of a thriving Comanche culture rooted in the past but evolving toward the future. Co-curated by Comanche artist and historian Eric Tippeconnic, the exhibition blends the past with the present to honor the Comanche people. The exhibition features 34 artworks by Tippeconnic paired with historical Comanche artifacts, a juxtaposition that shows the inspiration for the artworks, as well as the historical evidence that underscores the rich heritage of the Comanche people.
When: On view at the museum through January 2, 2019 (museum hours are Monday-Saturday 9am to 5pm and Sunday 12-5pm)
Where: Bullock Texas State History Museum, 1800 Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78701
Cost: Museum admission ($13 adults; $11 seniors; $9 youth for ages 4-17)
Details: STORIED & Pop Japan - Works by Katherine Leung and JU Salvant | Pieces curated by Vincent X. Torres. Stories of heritage have inspired artists Katherine Leung and JU Salvant to create vibrant bodies of work. Tuvan culture is reflected in Leung’s Faces of Central Texas as she incorporates the folklore of golden light gods in her paintings of her Asian American friends while Salvant draws upon the personal history of a young girl’s journey from Vietnam to America and created a stunning visual story, Red Sky in the Morning. Both artists bring relevance to these narratives as they highlight the importance of remembering the journey of a culture whether fable or historical. A group exhibition curated by Vincent X. Torres, Pop Japan depicts an array of notable characters from Japanese television, film, anime, and manga that have left their mark on popular culture.
Museum/Location: Asian American Resource Center, 8401 Cameron Road, Austin
When: The exhibit will be on display October 4 to December 14, 2018 (open M, Tu, F, Sat, 9am-5pm; W and Th, 9am-9pm)
Admission: Free and open to the public.
*If you and your family enjoy exploring Austin's many fantastic museums, check out Do512 Family's list of free times to visit Austin museums.
Theatre and other Performances
Details: ZACH Theatre's Theatre for Families presents the Tortoise and Hare, a musical based on the story by Aesop. Ancient versus modern. Brain versus brawn. Peace versus war. Reptile versus mammal. The ultimate culture clash between two tribes and a fantastical race to decide the fate of them all. Written by the talented Allen Robertson and Damon Brown, with modern music and energetic re-imagining of the ancient fable that will delight turtles and hares of all ages! Age recommendation: 5 and up. Run time: 55 minutes with a 10 minute intermission.
When: Weekends, September 8, 2018–January 27, 2019
Where: ZACH Theatre, 202 South Lamar Blvd, Austin, 78704
Tickets: $18 and up, available here.
Details: Theatre for the very young uses music, art and hands-on sensory experiences to connect children to literature. ZACH is proud to present Wake Up, Brother Bear! a unique, intimate production geared toward children ages 6 and under. Watch Brother Bear and Sister Bear experience a full year of glorious seasons: together we see a waterfall melt, meet a butterfly, chase an elusive fish and skate on an icy pond. Children are invited to join the action to help create magical moments.
When: October 16, 2018–April 2, 2019
Where: ZACH North Location, 12129 Ranch Road 620 N, Austin
Tickets: $12 (adults and youth), available here.
Also, check out these sites for lists of community activities for kids and families in the Austin area:
Interested in Giving Back to the Local Community This Holiday Season?
Check out these Austin resources:
Learn how your family can support more than 50 nonprofit organizations during this holiday season! Find out how you can volunteer, donate, or contribute to the wish lists of your favorite Austin organizations, such as the Austin Diaper Bank, the Central Texas Food Bank, Meals on Wheels Central Texas, Caritas of Austin, Refugee Services of Texas, The Safe Alliance, and many more…
The Austin Chronicle’s wish list is an annual tradition. It's one of the ways the Austin Chronicle helps grow and connect our community, Austin's amazing nonprofits, and, of course, Chronicle readers. The wish list includes needed donations for local organizations (such as the Texas Homeless Network, Equal Justice Center, American Gateways, etc) so they can better serve Austin and all of us who call her home.
Happy exploring Austin's many offerings with your families! Please feel free to send us local kids and family events to: hello[at]enrichedfamily.com.
Enriched Family is a unique, family concierge and consulting business dedicated to providing families with the information, tools, and systems they need to live more organized and joyful lives. Services include: Custom family-focused research (child care, education, health and wellness resources, camps, and enrichment activities), family organization solutions (stuff and systems), and productivity consulting for busy, professional parents (planning and prioritizing, productivity coaching, and time management coaching). I offer a free, 20-minute initial phone consultation to all new clients to discuss matching your needs and priorities with my services. In addition, in honor of our one-year anniversary, Enriched Family will be offering a 15% discount on all services in January and February. I invite you to check out my services and click the "Let's Get Started!" button below to contact me with questions. Reserve your spot on the January/February Enriched Family calendar now!
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