AUSTIN, Texas - The Downtown Austin Alliance will be holding the 26th annual Downtown Holiday Stroll, but with a few changes due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Downtown Alliance says that this year’s event is designed to allow the community to enjoy the holiday season downtown in a safe and socially distant manner. The now month-long festivities kick off on Saturday, November 28, and extend through the end of the year.
Free, family-friendly activities will take place throughout downtown and include a holiday shopping experience, curated weekend artisan markets, photo opportunities, pop-up activations, holiday-themed window displays, and the signature 45-foot holiday tree located in front of the Capitol at 11th Street and Congress Avenue.
“This year’s event aims to bring joy into a year that has been turned upside down,” Mandi Thomas, Downtown Alliance director of strategic partnerships, said in a release. “We are thrilled to continue this tradition and welcome everyone to come downtown, do your holiday shopping, stroll the amazing window displays and create new holiday traditions in a socially distanced manner.”
The Downtown Holiday Stroll began in 1994 with a small and spontaneous tree lighting ceremony and has grown into an iconic event that attracts thousands each year to the south steps of the Texas State Capitol, says the Downtown Alliance. Throughout the month, shoppers will be treated to pop-up entertainment including buskers, carolers, Mr. & Mrs. Claus, and ample “selfie” opportunities at several decorated Austin landmarks.
This year, the Downtown Alliance says it is introducing new elements designed to create a festive sight-seeing and shopping experience. The Holiday Passport is a pocket-sized guide filled with deals, discounts, and activities for the month of December that makes it fun and easy to explore downtown and support local shops and restaurants.
Beginning November 28, Passports can be downloaded online or picked up from participating businesses while supplies last. Passport holders can create their own downtown adventures and discover new places while visiting various locations and collecting “stamps.”
Participants who collect a certain number of stamps in their Passport are eligible to win prize packages provided by retailers and curated by the Downtown Alliance. The grand prize is a New Year’s Eve Downtown Austin Staycation, including a two-night stay at the W Hotel, complimentary spa treatments at AWAY, dinner at TRACE, and a backstage tour at ACL Live.
The event website includes a calendar of downtown holiday events and activities as well as a map of businesses throughout downtown with decorated holiday-themed storefronts, creating a walkable path of festive decorations, including installations by Austin Trail of Lights, Central Texas Food Bank, and more.
In addition to the multiple participating businesses and buildings on Congress Avenue, the 2ND Street District will showcase the 10th annual Holiday Window Walk, featuring designs from St. Edward’s University students, who will compete for a chance to win scholarships on behalf of the District. Visitors can cast their vote on the 2ND Street District Facebook page for the store they think deserves a prize for the best holiday window display. Residents are also encouraged to decorate their exterior balconies, adding to the festive holiday cityscape.
Events like the Downtown Holiday Stroll are a key part of helping businesses downtown recover from the hardships many have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Downtown Alliance. Recently, the Downtown Alliance launched the Roadmap to Recovery initiative, intended to help guide downtown's economic recovery from the pandemic, and says the Downtown Holiday Stroll and the City of Austin’s Shop the Block program are concrete ways for Austinites to support the downtown economy.
“The past several months have been tough for downtown businesses and the residents who call downtown home,” Dewitt Peart, president and CEO of the Downtown Alliance, said. “This year, the Holiday Stroll is a chance to welcome people back to downtown and restore a sense of normalcy and tradition, while helping support the businesses and artists who help make downtown the vibrant, welcoming place we all love.”
For more information on Downtown Holiday Stroll and more, visit the event's website.