Texas is hot. We know that. Once every ten years, we may get some frosty flakes that stick. More often than not, if it hovers below freezing point, it’s probably for just a quick dip when everyone’s sleeping.
So, while most Texans, and northerners, love not having to mess with snow and ice, during the holiday season, many miss the White Christmas.
Visitors to Austin have two easy ways to get in the winter spirit, without freezing their toes or burning a hole in their wallets.
Atop the corporate headquarters for Whole Foods, just north of the river, on Lamar and Fifth, is a winter wonderland. For kids and dreamers, anyway. Around the holiday season, you can take the elevator or walk up steps to the store’s rooftop, may a nominal fee, and circle around an ice skating rink. The admission fee includes skate rentals, and they give you a wristband to allow you in-out access.
So once you feel your cheeks flushed from the cold, or your ankles stiff from the skates, you can take a break and eat, drink and be merry in one of the biggest and best Whole Foods markets in the country. You can pick from one of the many deli and salad bars, pizza island, stir fry or bbq area, or even a raw foods counter. Heat up with plenty of a hot drink, or splurge on a smoothie or dark beer.
Then, back up on the roof to burn those calories away. If you’re bringing kids, there’s also a small playground area on the rooftop, and if only the kids are skating, mom and dad can hang out and sip their beverages at one of several picnic tables set up outside the rink. The real ice rink is open till Jan 11, 2015, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The skating area is open-air but covered, and at nighttime, you get a nice view of the city and the holiday lights in the vicinity. There are a few lights installed in the ring, and a wide assortment of music plays, from the “Frozen” hit to sounds from the 70s, to lend a celebratory high energy feel.
If you don’t want to brave the cold outdoors (warning–Austin may reach the 40s a few days a year), Northcross Shopping Center on Anderson Lane has an indoor skating rink. The Chaparral Ice is Austin’s only full-time skating rink, open for free skate, lessons, or hockey practice. They also offer parties and summer camps. Admission plus rentals is ten dollars per person, same as Whole Foods.
For more holiday lights in a festive setting, head to Lake Austin. Mozart’s Coffee Roasters has long been a favorite coffeehouse on the river (lake). There’s a large outdoor seating area with wooden and rod-iron patio furniture.
On one side, is an installation for a holiday light show. The 15-minute shows start at the top of the hour, and amid the dark evening background, are fun, almost free entertainment. There’s no cover, so just pay for your food and beverages of choice. Or, swing by and take a freebie look. Choreographed light shows start at 6 p.m. the last two weeks in December.
This is a favorite for Austinites and has been listed among the best light shows in the city. With hundreds of thousands of lights, and nice seating and dining options, it’s a great wintery perk for people of all ages.
If those lights spark your taste for more, consider Hula Hut, next door. Owned by the same Austin-based group as Chuys, Hula Hut is a fun, inexpensive Hawaiian Mexican eatery with excellent outdoor lakefront seating. It’s a quirky cute place with a nice variety of dishes like Palm Tree Hugger Nachos, Mexonesian Shrimp Flautas, and Grilled Veggie Tubular Tacos.
For those looking for something more traditional, Abel’s on the Lake is another dining option.