The Zilker Holiday Tree stands 155 feet tall and is composed of 39 streamers, each holding 81 multicolored led bulbs - totaling 3,309 lights. A double star at the top of the tree measures 10 feet from point to point with 150 frosted bulbs. The unique spiral pattern of lights was created by City of Austin electricians. At its circumference, the tree measures 380 feet. The diameter is 120 feet. The base of the tree is made up of 19 utility poles, each 14 feet tall, arranged in a circle around the Moonlight Tower.
Holiday Tree - Lighting Ceremony & Schedule
- Visit the Tree (Nov 27-Jan 1)
Schedule 2023 Season: November 27 - January 1
- Drive-Up Visitation Nights (green): November 27 - Dec 1,3-7, 11, 18, and 24-January 1. Free surface lot parking on site near the tree on these nights.
- ALL other nights (red) are during Trail of Lights event nights. Road closures and pre-paid parking only as thousands attend the nightly Trail of Lights.
Directions - Drive-up nights: Travel from Mopac or the eastbound Barton Springs lanes. If westbound on Barton Springs road, you will need to turn around at 2244 and use the eastbound Barton Springs lanes. This is NOT applicable on Trail of Lights event nights.
Hours: 6 pm - 10 pm park curfew.
Parking: Available on site first-come first-served on paved surface lots only. Expect higher traffic volume on weekends due to general park use and weekend pre-ticketed drive-through Trail of Lights patrons. Wear footwear appropriate for outdoor conditions, and layered clothing.
- Alcohol and vending at the park are prohibited without permits from Austin Parks and Recreation.
- Amplified sound is not allowed without a permit.
- Drones may not be flown around critical utility infrastructure, and a drone operator may not operate a drone on parkland without a permit.
Food & Beverage Vendors at the Tree 2023:
- 2023 Tree Lighting Ceremony (Nov 26)
Date: Sunday, November 26, 2023
5:15 pm Pre-event Music by the Austin Civic Wind Ensemble
6:00 pm Tree Lighting Ceremony. Featuring local entertainment, food, and live music.
- Performances by:The Austin Civic Wind Ensemble and the The Austonettes
- ASL Interpretation services on stage for the duration of the ceremony
The Zilker Holiday Tree is sponsored by the Trail of Lights Foundation.
Location: Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Road (on the south side of the park)
Parking: Free parking. Carpool to the event or take Cap Metro (trip planner). Free parking on site first-come first-served. Entry suggested via eastbound Barton Springs Road. Watch official social media accounts for information in case of inclement weather.
Sponsors and Production Team
The tree is installed, produced and managed by City of Austin Departments. They include Austin Energy, Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Austin Resource Recovery and Austin Police Department who provide services that keep the display available to the citizens of Austin.
- Trail of Lights Resources
The Austin Trail of Lights is an outdoor walking trail throughout beautiful Zilker Metropolitan Park. The event trail is 1.25 miles, but with all of the other fun activities, the average trail-goer will walk about 2.5 miles during their visit, including the walk to/ from the parking areas. This journey is comprised of mostly paved surface areas with some grass/turf/decomposed granite areas that exist as part of the park topography.
Pay careful attention to the allowed & prohibited items list on the event website.
Parking: Pre-paid vehicle parking passes are required in advance and include specific access route directions. There is NO on site parking access from Barton Springs Road or other areas of the park. All pre-paid parking entry is from the Mopac side of the event.
- Drop off and pick-up for rideshares is on Stephen F. Austin Drive near Austin High School
- Scooters/dockless devices park immediately south of the main gate.
- Bike parking is available immeidately south of the main gate. Bikes are NOT allowed on the event trail.
Make a plan on where and how to meet up with fellow guests in case you are separated.
Dress - review the weather conditions/forecast and wear appropriate outdoor footwear and layered clothing. Wear layers. Protect head, hands and feet from cold temperatures.
Footwear - Surfaces vary from paved, to turf/dirt. Shoes should be rated for outdoor conditions, and be moisture proof.
Walking - be aware of your own ability, and plan ahead when spending time in a cold outdoor setting.
Pets are not allowed inside the event. Trained service animals are allowed inside the event.
Review the event website for details regarding access, pre-paid parking, and other helpful information.
Art Contest and Winners
- Art Contest 2023
Art Contest Overview
Each year Austin area youth artists compete for the privilege to light the Zilker Holiday Tree. In the fall, the parks department accepts youth art submissions which compete to be in the top three of the 2 age categories.
2023 Art Contest - now closed!
Check back here in October 2024 for the 2024 competition.
Enter the 2023 Art Contest now! Submissions are accepted and due by November 1, 2023, 4:30 p.m. (by mail/drop off), or 11:59 pm if uploaded through the website.
Who: Austin youth aged 5-10. Junior 5-7/Senior 8-10
Where: Artwork may be submitted by mail to Austin Parks and Recreation Department, 200 South Lamar, Austin, Texas 78704 or Submit Artwork Online.
Mailed submissions MUST include the entry form information form.
- Only 1 entry per child. Artwork must be no larger than 8½ x 11 inches.
- The artwork must fit into an 8½” x 11” flat frame. (Any larger artwork will be automatically disqualified.) Paper thickness only, please!
- All artwork becomes the property of the Zilker Holiday Tree Art Contest, City of Austin.
- Submissions are accepted and due by November 1, 2023, 4:30 p.m. (by mail/drop off), or 11:59 pm if uploaded through the website.
- Art Contest Winners
Each year Austin area youth artists compete for the privilege to light the Zilker Holiday Tree. In the fall, the parks department accepts youth art submissions which compete to be in the top three of the two age categories. The Junior Division is 5-7 years of age, and the Senior Division, 8-10 year of age.
Congratulations to winners both present and past!
Junior Division Senior Division
1st place – Claire Bonyun
2nd place – Ambar Benipal
3rd place – Nora Alwais
1st place – Maya Nolan
2nd place –Emma Zhan
3rd place –Neil Bhokare
Junior 2023 winners
Senior 2023 winners
Holiday Tree History
- About the Tree & Moontower History
Zilker Holiday Tree
The Zilker Holiday Tree stands 155 feet tall and is composed of 39 streamers, each holding 81 multicolored led bulbs - totaling 3,309 lights. At the top of the tree, a double star measures 10 feet from point to point. The double star displays 150 frosted bulbs. This unique spiral pattern of lights was created by City of Austin electricians. At its circumference, the tree measures 380 feet. The diameter is 120 feet. The base of the tree is made up of 19 utility poles, each 14 feet tall, arranged in a circle around the Moonlight Tower. On December 10, 1967, the first tree was lighted by Mayor Pro Tem Mrs. Emma Long. In subsequent years this honor has been awarded to the young winner of a city-wide tree art contest.
Facts about the holiday tree:
- The Zilker Moontower is 1 of 17 original Austin towers. Currently 15 remain.
- 155 feet tall
- 380 fee circumference, 120 feet diameter
- 19 utility poles at the base of the historic moontower
- 39 streamers
- Each streamer holds 81 multi-color bulbs (converted to LED in 2019)
- 3309 total lights
- A double star tops the display measuring 10 feet from point to point
- On December 10, 1967, the first tree was lighted by Mayor Pro Tem Mrs. Emma Long
in 1973, President Nixon declared the United States in an energy crisis. The tree was not illuminated that year.
Originally purchased from the City of Detroit in 1894, these 165-foot-tall towers were installed to help keep Austin streets illuminated and keep residents safe. Austin is the only city in the country that still operates moonlight towers (or moon towers, as they're better known in Austin). In the 1890's the towers were powered with bright carbon-arc bulbs.
In 1970, they were proclaimed Texas State Landmarks and were recognized in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places six years later.
2016 Zilker Moontower Restoration Project
In 2016 Austin Energy restored the historic moontower. The project deep-cleaned each of the tower's individual parts and repaired aging items. The restoration included new LED light bulbs that are brighter and more energy efficient, "saving approximately 131,400 kilowatt-hours annually, which is the equivalent of powering 11 average-sized homes year-round," according to Austin Energy.
Austin Moontower Locations (noted 2018)
- Leland Street and Eastside Drive (NE corner)
- Monroe Street and S. 1st Street (SW corner)
- W. 9th and Guadalupe Street (SE corner)
- W. 12th Street and Blanco Street (SE corner)
- W. 12th Street and Rio Grande Street (NW corner)
- W. 15th Street and San Antonio Street (SW corner)
- W. 22nd Street and Nueces Street (SW corner)
- W. 41st Street and Speedway Street (SW corner)
- Zilker Park (used for Zilker Park Holiday Tree)
- Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Chicon Street (SE corner)
- E. 13th Street and Coleto Street (NE corner)
- Pennsylvania Avenue and Leona Street (NE corner)
- E. 11th Street and Trinity Street (SE corner)
- E. 11th Street and Lydia Street (SW corner)
- Canterbury Street and Lynn Street (NE corner)
- Past Lighting Ceremonies