AUSTIN, Texas – In the weeks leading up to the holiday season hundreds of volunteers have been putting the finishing touches on a massive merry celebration in Austin that has been burning bright since 1965.
Once the final log lands on the Yule Log and the sun sets in Downtown Austin, the lights that line Lou Neff Road start to sparkle. With the flip of a switch, The Trail of Lights officially becomes the beacon of Christmas spirit in the live music capital of the world.
“It’s extremely cool to combine Christmas and Austin, I think,” President of the Trail of Lights Foundation Leah Davies says.
The Trail of Lights Foundation is a non-profit group that took over the operation of the trail of lights from the city of Austin back in 2012.
“A few years ago they came to a point where this event was expanding at such a pretty incredible capacity that they thought it would be great to have a non-profit take the reigns over and let it thrive and grow, so the Trail of Lights Foundation was born for that specific purpose, to sustain the Trail and keep it open for generations to enjoy,” Leah said.
Originally called Santa’s Village in 1965, the Trail has been a tradition to tons of Texas families over the years.
“Coming down here and watching families and kids enjoy it so thoroughly, it’s unlike anything else. It’s kind of, to me it’s one of the things that makes Austin really Austin,” Leah said.
With 2 million lights and 41 displays dedicated to the season, you’ll find some story time favorites, Texas themed treasures, and the true meaning of Christmas. You’ll also find some far out favorites that represent what this town is all about.
During the mile long walk, you get a chance to immerse yourself in Lone Star State light, a Christmas club and a few food trucks that are fondly found with frequency in Austin, but it’s the displays that bring in the masses. With so much history here, everyone has their favorite and some of these have been gracing the trail for decades.
“There are some that you can tell when you walk past have a little more vintage than others, but we try really actively to do a mixture of innovative, cool new stuff plus maintain some of the expected displays that people are really familiar with and looking for,” Leah said.
The crown jewel at the park is the Zilker Tree. At 155 feet tall, it’s said to be the world’s tallest manmade Christmas tree. This tall tree has been a tradition since 1967 and one of folks’ favorite things about this fake fluorescent fir is taking a spin under its lengthy lights.
What this Trail of Lights truly illuminates is the heart of Texans in the heart of Texas.
“It’s near and dear to my heart. It’s part of what makes, Austin for me, and it’s part of what makes Christmas, Christmas for me,” Leah said.
For many who take the mile walk The Trail of Lights is all about spending time with those they love.
“It makes me realize more about the Christmas spirit where I can spend time with my family and stuff like that,” Victor Rosorao of Austin said.
Bringing people together is what the trail is all about according to Leah.
“The Trail represents what we’re really about. It’s about family, it’s about community, it’s about gathering together, common purpose, common cause, enjoying the spirit of the holidays,” Leah said.