Trail of Lights opens Tuesday with new free nights

AUSTIN (KXAN) -- An Austin holiday tradition opens Tuesday night. The annual Trail of Lights runs through Dec. 22.

One the biggest changes this year concerns which nights are free and which ones require a gate fee. Last year, was the first time the Trail of Lights Foundation charged a fee but just on weekends.  This year the first eight nights are free and the last seven nights will cost $3 for anyone 13 years and older.

The change on which nights require a fee is due to nearly 400,000 visitors coming to the trail and organizers discovered most visited the last few days.

"We want to charge a gate fee to try and levelize the crowds so to speak," said Mario Espinoza, Chairman, Trail of Lights Foundation.  "And we think that's what we're going to be able to achieve with our gate fee on the last seven days and making the first eight days free to the public."

Tickets are available at the gate, online, or at HEB.

The cost to put on the Trail of Lights is nearly $2 million.  The Trail of Lights Foundation, a non-profit, runs it and said 70 percent is paid through sponsorships from companies that put up a light display and the remaining is funded by the crowds that visit.

Some new features for this year's Trail include a carousel and the Ferris wheel that used to be located next to the Zilker Tree now on the main grounds of the Trail.

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