56th Trail of Lights passes on sale for 2020 drive-thru event


AUSTIN (KXAN) — It will be different this year, but organizers are hoping it still brings the same joy and happiness to those in the Austin area.

Passes for the 56th Trail of Lights are now on sale, and as it transitions to a drive-thru event this holiday season, it will be open on select dates between Nov. 28 – Jan. 3, 2021.

James Russell, executive director of the Trail of Lights Foundation, said organizers started looking at the feasibility of a drive-thru event around June as the COVID-19 pandemic essentially canceled everything involving large gatherings.

“We started working with Austin Public Health on doing a drive-thru event, and the best way to do that to ensure safety,” he said. “Not just for our staff, but for the public that’s going to participate in it.”

Three types of passes are available: general admission, dash and premiere night. The general admission passes cost $25-$35 depending on the entry time and date, organizers say. There are staggered entries into the displays starting at 7 p.m. with general admission passes.

The dash passes provide vehicles with access to the displays at 5:45 p.m., and the passes also come with a box of cookies and bottled water, along with a discount card good for use at select Austin businesses.

The premiere night passes for Nov. 28 are $95 per vehicle and are limited, organizers say. The pass includes entry on opening night, a box of cookies and water, a Trail of Lights commemorative ornament and the discount card.

Passes cover any vehicle with nine or fewer people in them. If a vehicle has 10 or more people, two passes will have to be purchased. Enclosed, street-legal vehicles less than 27 feet long are welcome at the event. No vehicles with open tops will be admitted due to COVID-19 restrictions, organizers say.

There is no per person fee for the event, organizers say.

“Being able to bring the Trail of Lights to Austin in 2020 — regardless of the format — is very important to the Foundation, said Rachel Green, president of the Trail of Lights Foundation. “With holiday magic at every bend in the road, this experience is one that will bring joy to so many.”

Russell said the event used to be drive-thru, and people who remember it as one “got a huge whiff of nostalgia.”

“This has been very well received, and quite frankly, I think it has been well received who don’t remember the drive-thru simply because Austin is an event city, and we haven’t had any this year,” Russell said. “I think there’s quite a bit of pent-up demand to get out of the house and go something that’s traditional, and do it safely.”

The fun run associated with the Trail of Lights will be virtual. People can register for it at the event’s website.

In September, the Austin City Council approved the extension of the events from 15 days to 30, and the city released a memo Thursday regarding the size and impact the event changes will have on Zilker Park.

The display area is 17 acres less than it was in 2019, and with all other special events at Zilker Park canceled due to COVID-19, the park has 38 more days available for public use.

Barton Springs Road, typically closed while the festival runs, will be open for traffic. The city says 1,300 cars per night will be allowed in the event.

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