The Trail of Lights Foundation today announces dates for the 54th annual Austin Trail of Lights, powered by H-E-B. Austin’s favorite and longest-running holiday event will run Monday, Dec. 10 through Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018 in Austin’s beloved Zilker Park. Visitors seeking a first look at the Austin Trail of Lights can participate in the annual Austin Trail of Lights Fun RunonSaturday, Dec. 1.
2018 Highlights and New Attractions
Since it began in 1965, the Austin Trail of Lights has grown into one of Austin’s largest events, attracting an average of 400,000 people per year. Every holiday season, Austin’s iconic Zilker Park is transformed into the Trail of Lights with over two million lights, 65+ displays, 30 food trucks, three entertainment stages, 50 private holiday parties and interactive experiences throughout the park.
The annual tradition continues to grow, celebrating the quirky, independent character that Austin is recognized for across the country. New attractions and enhanced areas will be found throughout the Trail. Some new highlights include a 13-foot illuminated carriage, 12 seven-foot lighted guitars commemorating Austin’s musical roots and a 25-foot spiral holiday tree.
Trail of Lights Foundation Community Engagement
Rachel Green has been named president-elect of the Trail of Lights Foundation Board, the nonprofit organization responsible for stewarding the long-term sustainability of Austin’s largest community celebration. The Trail of Lights Foundation is an independent nonprofit corporation which is dedicated to sustaining and improving the iconic Austin Trail of Lights for the enjoyment of our community.
“I am honored to help spark the wonder of the holidays for all Central Texans as a part of the Trail of Lights Foundation,” said Rachel Green. “As a relatively new Austinite, coming to the Trail of Lights made me feel like I was a part of the rich history and culture of our amazing city. I hope that all Central Texans can make this unique celebration part of their annual tradition, just as I have.”
To continue its mission in ensuring access for all to the Austin Trail of Lights, the Trail of Lights Foundation Board is expanding the STARS at the Trail program so that anyone can experience this long-standing community tradition. Since 2013, STARS at the Trail has hosted more than 4,500 children, families, veterans and seniors for private Trail of Lights experiences. This year, the Trail of Lights Foundation Board will be providing access for even more organizations to attend the Austin Trail of Lights on public operating nights.
Applications for STARS participation is open to 501c3 organizations. Applications are available online ataustintrailoflights.org/stars-application until Sept. 18.
The Trail of Lights Foundation also invites musicians, choirs, dance companies, theatre troupes and other performers to apply to perform at the Trail. The application is available on austintrailoflights.org/performer-application until Sept. 28.
Ticketing, Specialty Nights and Programming
This year’s official Grand Opening of the Austin Trail of Lights will be on Monday, Dec. 10 where general admission will be free to the public. The Trail of Lights will remain open Dec. 11 – 23 with gates open from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. every evening. General admission for children under 12 is always free at the Trail. The Trail of Lights Foundation is committed to keeping general admission to the Trail free for the public on seven out of the 14 nights of the event, with a nominal general admission fee on the remaining seven nights. Early entry ZIP Fast Passes, VIP Platinum, parking and shuttle passes are also available for purchase on select nights.
Calendars for ticket availability, special programming and online ticket purchases will be available October 2018 at austintrailoflights.org. Registrations for the Trail of Lights Fun Run, on Dec. 1, will open Aug. 28 on austintrailoflights.org. Other specialty nights include:
Sunday, Nov. 25: The Annual Zilker Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony kicks off the holiday season in Zilker Park. Now in its 52nd year, the Zilker Holiday Tree stands 155 feet tall and is built around one of Austin’s historic moontowers. Food vendors and other merchants will operate at the tree throughout the month of December.
Saturday, Dec. 1: The Annual Trail of Lights Fun Run, a 2.1-mile course which takes thousands of fun runners through the sights of the Austin Trail of Lights, ending with a celebration in the center of Zilker Park – the Finish Line Festival and Expo.
2, 3 and 4: The Fifth Annual STARS at the Trail program hosts up to 20 nonprofit organizations for private tours of the Trail, along with additional program expansion. The Trail of Lights will be closed to the public on these nights.
Saturday, Dec. 8: Night Lights, the Fifth Annual Preview Party, serves as the Trail of Lights Foundation’s annual fundraising event, with funds going to help keep the Trail of Lights accessible for all in the community. The event will feature headlining entertainment, food tastings from Austin restaurants and specialty activities not available during the general run of the Trail.
Monday, Dec. 10: Austin Trail of Lights Grand Opening will officially open the Trail of Lights to the public with a countdown ceremony and entry tunnel lighting, presentations by community leaders and a special celebration for Trail of Lights sponsors. Event entry on Grand Opening night is free and open to the public.
Tuesday, Dec. 11: Heroes Night will feature specialty programming and honor all first responders, including current and veteran military, police, fire and EMS personnel with special ZIP access for Heroes and their families.