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Past Lighting Ceremonies
The 2021 schedule for visiting the Zilker Holiday Tree is available in the Nightly Visitsion Section of this page.

2020 Virtual Tree Lighting Ceremony Video

2019 Ceremony Gallery

2017 Ceremony Gallery

2016 Ceremony Gallery

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 in kind services that keep the display available to the citizens of Austin.  

The Zilker Holiday Tree is sponsored by the Trail of Lights Foundation.   

Zilker Holiday Tree - Nightly Visitation Information

The Zilker Holiday Tree will reopen in 2021 for individual visitation after being closed in 2020 due to covid19.

  • Masks are required on City Property. An individual over age 2 is REQUIRED to wear a face covering while present in or on City property unless expressly exempted. Read Full Order: 08-12-2021 mask order
  • Schedule:   November 27 - January 1
  • Hours:         The tree turns on at 6 pm nightly.  Park curfew is 10 pm.
  • Directions:  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.
  • 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.

ALERT!:  There is NO walk-up or pedestrian access to the Trail of Lights from the tree area.  Vehicle entry passes must be pre-purchase in advance.

Vending without a permit on parkland is prohibited.  Alcohol is prohibited in all parks.

driving and parking graphic map for tree visitors

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, 25-watt 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.

Historic Zilker Holiday Tree Images (Flickr Gallery)

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

The Moontowers

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)

  1. Leland Street and Eastside Drive (NE corner)
  2. Monroe Street and S. 1st Street (SW corner)
  3. W. 9th and Guadalupe Street (SE corner)
  4. W. 12th Street and Blanco Street (SE corner)
  5. W. 12th Street and Rio Grande Street (NW corner)
  6. W. 15th Street and San Antonio Street (SW corner)
  7. W. 22nd Street and Nueces Street (SW corner)
  8. W. 41st Street and Speedway Street (SW corner)
  9. Zilker Park (used for Zilker Park Holiday Tree)
  10. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Chicon Street (SE corner)
  11. E. 13th Street and Coleto Street (NE corner)
  12. Pennsylvania Avenue and Leona Street (NE corner)
  13. E. 11th Street and Trinity Street (SE corner)
  14. E. 11th Street and Lydia Street (SW corner)
  15. Canterbury Street and Lynn Street (NE corner)
Art Contest 2021

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.  The competition is announced each fall.

2021 Art Contest - Now Closed!

Enter the 2021 Art Contest now!  Submissions are accepted and due by November 1, 2021, 5 p.m.

Who: Austin youth aged 5-10

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.

Entry Form - English                 Entry Form - Espanol


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. Entries must be received NO LATER than 5:00 p.m. on November 1, 2021, 5 p.m.

2021 Contest Winners

Gallery of Current and Previous Art Winners

  • Junior division - 5-7 Years Old
  • 1st place – Jane Pirkl
  • 2nd place – Ember Andresakis
  • 3rd place – Matthew Kim
  • Senior Division - 8-10 Years Old
  • 1st place – Soledad Radcliff
  • 2nd place – Ginger Tacha
  • 3rd place – Ayaana Kumar
Tips and FAQ

Dress - review the weather conditions/forecast and wear appropriate outdoor footwear and layered clothing.  Protect head, hands and feet from cold temperatures.

Grounds/event site - this is an outdoor site on unpaved/natural park grounds.

Footwear - this is an OUTDOOR setting.  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. 

Trail of Lights Information Resources

2021 Information

2021 Trail of Lights is a drive through event only.  All vehicles must be enclosed.

Vehicles passes are required in advance and include specific access route directions.   There is NO access from Barton Springs Road or other areas of the park.

For safety, there are no on-site admission sales, and no viewing areas of the site from the roadway or park. 

Event Schedule       

Trail of Lights event nights - see event website for details, ticket, pre-paid parking, etc...

PLAN YOUR TRIP!   The Trail of Lights event will be PRE-PAID ENTRY ONLY.  Motorists will not be allowed to wait and pay on site.  Extensive neighborhood parking restrictions will be in effect.