5 unique ideas for embracing the holidays in Austin this December

By: Kristin Finan
December, 2022

From neighbors’ houses adorned with twinkling lights to the hint of a chill in the air, there’s no denying that the holiday season has officially arrived in Austin. And even if you’re planning to stay home for the holidays this year, there are plenty of unique and festive places where you can sip a winter cocktail, enjoy some festive decor and have a laugh with friends or family. 

From poolside igloos to ice skating rinks to waterparks, when it comes to holiday fun, Austin-area hotels have you covered. Here are five ideas for places where you can soak in the season.

Ice skating on the lake: Four Seasons Hotel Austin

The Four Seasons Austin Hotel is offering an ice skating rink for the first time this year. Contributed by Four Season Hotel Austin

Temperatures may not be freezing, but don’t let that keep you from slipping into a pair of skates this holiday season and taking a spin around the rink. The Four Seasons Hotel Austin is making it easier than ever to embrace this holiday tradition thanks to its new Ice Rodeo, a sprawling 3,360-square-foot outdoor rink overlooking Lady Bird Lake, complete with larger-than-life decorations and luxurious lakeside cabins. Skating is available to the public but available by reservation only from 4-10 p.m. daily through Jan. 8, 2023. Cost is $35 per person and includes skate rental. While you’re there, don’t miss the other festival decorations adorning the hotel, including a life-size Airstream trailer created by the hotel’s pastry chefs with 350 pounds of gingerbread, 250 pounds of icing and more than two dozen types of candy; elaborate holiday art installations including a Texas longhorn and a 10-foot electric guitar; and, of course, the stunning 30-foot Christmas tree that stands as the centerpiece of the Ciclo lawn.

The Airstream in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel Austin was made with 350 pounds of gingerbread dough. Contributed by Four Seasons Hotel Austin

Info: https://www.fourseasons.com/austin/

Apres ski in Austin: W Austin

The W Austin is showcasing an apres-ski-themed bar through Dec. 25. Contributed by W Austin

Austin may not have any ski slopes, but now, you can apres ski with the best of them thanks to the W Hotel Austin’s new apres-ski-themed bar. Through Dec. 25, the hotel has transformed its bar into a cozy winter wonderland complete with ski-themed cocktails, photo ops and much more. Come wearing your ski gear and enjoy a free glass of champagne.

Info: https://www.marriott.com/en-us/hotels/auswh-w-austin

Igloos by the pool: Kimpton Van Zandt

Grab dinner or drinks inside an igloo at the Hotel Van Zandt. Contributed by Hotel Van Zandt

If the weather outside is frightful, never fear. Inside the South Pole Igloos that line Hotel Van Zandt’s fourth-floor pool deck, it’s simply delightful. The Instagram-famous igloos, which feature heated seats and can hold up to six guests, are returning for another year of fun. Two seatings are available every night, one from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and one from 8-10 p.m. Reservations are $100 per igloo with a minimum of $200 in food and beverage spend; each reservation includes two hours of food and beverages from Geraldine’s restaurant, bar and live music venue. Igloos also feature a record player and a selection of vinyl records and board games. The hotel is also offering a smattering of holiday-themed cocktails, including Santa on a Beach (Santa Teresa Rum, Rumchata, pineapple, coconut cream and cinnamon) and Scottish Garland (Aberfeldy Scotch, caramel syrup and chocolate mole bitters).

Info: https://www.hotelvanzandt.com

Waterpark wonderland: Kalahari Resort

Enjoy the decor, and the year-round indoor waterpark, at Kalahari Resort in Round Rock. Kristin Finan photo

What’s better than spending winter break in a stunning resort that’s positively glittering with holiday decorations and installations around every corner? Taking in the country’s largest indoor waterpark at the same time. No matter the weather, the slides are fast, the lazy river is winding and the hot tub is bubbling at Kalahari Resort in Round Rock. The resort is also offering a variety of holiday-themed activities, including a free holiday model trail exhibit, character appearances and a winter celebration-themed buffet.

Info: https://www.kalahariresorts.com/texas

Cocktails in an Arctic Lodge: JW Marriot San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa

‘Tis the season for making unforgettable family memories, and if you’re looking for a fun-filled way to ring in the holiday season, point your sleigh toward the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa as the resort transforms into a glittering winter wonderland, complete with thousands of twinkling lights, a host of festive holiday fun and yes, visits from Santa Claus and his elves.

The JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa transforms into a winter wonderland each December. Contributed by JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa

RELATED: Embrace the most wonderful time of year at JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa

Through Dec. 30, the resort will be offering holiday activities that include nightly light show synchronized to holiday music favorites; penguin, reindeer and yeti animatronics singing festive tunes; visits from Santa’s live reindeer; horse carriage rides around the resort property; holiday cookie decorating; hot cocoa bar; s’mores with festive toppings; Elf on the Shelf DIY scavenger hunt for all ages; letter writing to Santa with his own dedicated mailbox; ornament decorating; and not-to-be-missed visits from Santa. Note: Activities are only for resort guests, and some may require an added fee.

New this year, the resort will also transform its Rivertop restaurant into an Arctic Lodge with holiday-themed cocktails such as the “Fizz Navidad” Gin Fizz and the “Treat Yo‘Elf” Frozen Peppermint Martini. The lodge will also feature kid-centric beverages such as hot cocoa and hot apple cider and tasty treats such as Candied Pecan Popcorn, Pumpkin Cherry Bread and other delicious bites.

Info: www.jwsanantonio.com

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