Austin is more than the capital city of Texas, it is also one of the state's most scenic cities, home to a tremendous live music scene, popular tourist stop, destination for outdoor recreation, and more. Because of its central location and diverse offerings, there's never a bad time to visit Austin. However, the holiday season is always a little bit more special in Austin.
Located right in the heart of the scenic Texas Hill Country region, Austin affords a great many outdoor recreational opportunities during late fall and winter. The relatively mild temperatures during this time of year are inviting to outdoor enthusiasts, as are the changing colors of the leaves and landscape. During November and December, hiking, bird watching, canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing, fishing and hunting are all popular activities around Austin, and in many instances, holiday traditions.
From a purely holiday season perspective, the holiday season in Austin has traditionally kicked off with the Chuy's Christmas Parade, which is always held the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Like it's home city, Chuy's Christmas Parade is quite unique in a variety of manners. While it offers up the traditional holiday parade fare of giant balloon characters and elaborate floats, it also offers up some unique and unusual spectacles each year. But, as entertaining and unique as it is, the primary purpose of Chuy's Christmas Parade is to serve as a fundraiser for Austin's "Operation Blue," which provides toys to needy children throughout Austin during the Christmas season. The parade route begins at the State Capitol at 11th and Congress and proceeds south along Congress to Cesar Chavez. With the State Capitol serving as its backdrop, Chuy's Christmas Parade is certainly a sight worth seeing.
Of course, while Chuy's Christmas Parade begins the "official" holiday events during Austin's holiday season, for many Texans - both in Austin and across the state - the holiday season starts when the Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M Aggies square off Thanksgiving evening. Every other year the Longhorns play host to this traditional rivalry game (the 2011 game is in College Station). Then again, with all of the college football realignment, no one is sure how much longer this game will be played on an annual basis, but for generations it has served as a "kick-off" to the holiday season for millions of Texans and will for at least one more year.
Those willing to tour the immediate Hill Country area just outside Austin may enjoy taking in the annual Hill Country Holiday Wine Trail. The Texas Holiday Wine Trail is held throughout the Texas Hill Country. A total of 24 independent wineries are involved, covering a geographic region stretching roughly from New Braunfels to Lampasas and from Fredericksburg to Dripping Springs. While out and about the Hill Country, visitors can also take in the Hill Country Regional Lighting Trail, which encompasses the Texas Hill Country communities of Boerne, Burnet, Dripping Springs, Fredericksburg, Goldwaite, Johnson City, Llano, Marble Falls, New Braunfels, Round Mountain and Wimberley.
As New Year's draws near, the Capital City prepares itself to ring in the New Year in proper fashion. One of Austin's best known New Year's celebrations is First Night Austin. Held each year on New Year's Eve, First Night Austin includes an afternoon family festival, a procession down Congress Avenue, and a night-time art show and festival which features street corners and storefronts converted into art galleries and stages. In addition to First Night Austin, there are a variety of New Year's Eve parties held at Austin's many clubs, restaurants, hotels and bars - notable those on Austin's famed 6th Street. Visitors can also view fireworks over Auditorium Shores as well as downtown Austin as the clock strikes midnight.