You won’t believe the new holiday spectacle coming to COTA in December

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A new holiday tradition is coming to town this December, and, if we’re being honest, it sounds pretty magical.

Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, best known for playing host to the Formula 1 racing series, will this holiday season swap race cars for Santa’s sleigh during the inaugural Winter Wonderland at the Circuit.

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A map of Winter Wonderland at the Circuit. credit: COTA

According to a press release, this “magical world of holiday amusement” will incorporate a million lights and will feature the following: a tunnel of lights, a walking light trail, a petting zoo, Santa’s workshop, a human snow globe, holiday movies on the lawn and more. A skating rink, train rides, carnival rides, a hot air balloon float, camel rides and souvenir photos with Santa will also be available for an additional cost.

“Winter Wonderland at the Circuit will be a wonderful family holiday experience for Central Texas,” Circuit of the Americas Chairman Bobby Epstein said in a statement. “The Circuit’s Grand Plaza and surrounding grounds will be transformed into an immersive experience of lights, music and fun.”

The event will also feature live entertainment, food trucks, hot cocoa stands and a Bavarian Village with local vendors.

Winter Wonderland at the Circuit will be held Dec. 1-2 and Dec. 8-30. Hours are 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Admission is $16; children 5 and under are free.

Circuit of the Americas is located at 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd. For more information, visit circuitoftheamericas.com/winter-wonderland.

 

 

Trail of Lights tickets are about to go on sale; here’s what you need to know

No holiday season in Austin is complete without a visit to the Trail of Lights, and if you’re eager to map out this year’s excursion, never fear — we’ve got the scoop on what to expect.

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No holiday season in Austin is complete without a visit to the Trail of Lights, and if you’re eager to map out this year’s excursion, never fear — we’ve got the scoop on what to expect.

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This is the 53rd year for the Trail of Lights celebreation. Dave Creaney/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The 53rd annual Austin Trail of Lights will be held Dec. 9-23 in Zilker Park. More than 400,000 guests are expected to visit the trail, which will feature more than 2 million lights, four light tunnels, a 90-foot Ferris wheel, 40 displays, more than 20 food trucks and two stages.

“The 2017 Trail of Lights celebrates the creativity, talents, accomplishments and generosity of Austinites,” Trail of Lights Foundation Board President Leah Davies said in a statement.

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Visiting the Trail of Lights is a holiday tradition for many Austinites. Ricardo B. Brazziell/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Just in time for the latest cold snap, here are four things to know about this year’s event.

  1. Music will take center stage. Confirmed performers include the Mother Falcon String Trio, Whiskey Shivers and DJ Mel at the Night Lights Preview Party Dec. 8 and Alan Haynes at the grand opening Dec. 9. The full music schedule will be announced in the coming weeks at austintrailoflights.org.
  2. There will be various specialty nights. They include the Zilker Tree lighting (Nov. 26); the Trail of Lights Fun Run (Dec. 2); the fifth annual UT night (Dec. 10); the annual HEROES night honoring first responders (Dec. 12); and Movie Night (Dec. 19).
  3. It’s possible to avoid the crowds. You can access the park early and receive other amenities if you purchase a Platinum Pass or a ZIP Fast Pass. Learn more here.
  4. Tickets go on sale Wednesday, Nov. 8. Buy them here.

 

Learn more about this year’s Trail of Lights at austintrailoflights.org.

Tom Hanks reads a story, talks typewriters and helps a couple in love during charming Texas Book Festival appearance

Tom Hanks points to his book, “Uncommon Type,” while discussing the 17 short stories it contains during a talk Saturday at  the Texas Book Festival. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

By Charles Ealy, Special to the American-Statesman

About 1,000 people packed the sanctuary Saturday at the First Baptist Church in downtown Austin to hear Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks talk about his debut collection of short stories, “Uncommon Type,” with Pulitzer Prize-winning Austin writer Lawrence Wright.

It was the highlight of a day of events at the Texas Book Festival, which was held at the state Capitol and surrounding grounds, with about 300 authors in attendance.

The day kicked off with Barbara Pierce Bush and Jenna Bush Hager sharing stories about their new book, “Sisters First,” with book festival co-founder and former first lady Laura Bush on hand in the House Chamber. The day also included a session with Dan Rather, author of the new book “What Unites Us” and the recipient of this year’s Texas Writer Award.

But it’s safe to say that Hanks was the biggest, last event of a day jam-packed with cooking demonstrations, children’s events and multiple panel discussions on politics and other current events.

DAY TWO: 5 things to know about the Texas Book Festival on Sunday

Hanks was genial and gregarious during his talk, revealing that he owns about 140 typewriters. Yep, you read that right. He has a typewriter obsession, he says, and there’s a typewriter in each of the 17 stories in his new collection.

Tom Hanks discusses his book, “Uncommon Type,” with Austin writer Lawrence Wright during the Texas Book Festival on Saturday. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Why so much love for a rather technologically obsolete office machine? Hanks says he loves the idea of permanence – of putting ink on paper, and that most of his typewriters are from the 1930s to the 1960s. But he also says he loves the percussive sound of the keys hitting the paper, signifying that he’s headed for the end of something and helping him along the way.

Of his typewriter collection, he says with a laugh, “It’s easier than collecting player pianos.”

He talked about his love of the late Nora Ephron, the author and screenwriter of such Hanks hits as “You’ve Got Mail” and “Sleepless in Seattle.”

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He says he complained about a scene between a father and son in “Sleepless in Seattle” and came up with new lines for his father character. Later, Ephron told him he was contributing to the movie as a writer.

And that started the idea that he might be a writer. But the writing didn’t come quickly. Instead, he thought about it for many years before attempting his first short story.

Hanks read a part of one of his short stories in the collection, “A Special Weekend,” which features Kenny Stahl, a thinly veiled autobiographical character based on himself. It deals with the 10-year-old who goes on a day trip with his mother in a sporty car, and his dad and his mother are divorced.

As Hanks dryly noted after reading part of the story, “Mom and Dad found the loves in their lives,” and he says his mother “found it on her third marriage.”

Wright noted that nostalgia played a prominent role in some of the stories, but Hanks said that of the 17 stories, 12 are contemporary. “I write from a lack of cynicism” rather than relying on nostalgia, he said, adding that he’s interested in “strange moments of serendipity where our lives change … with great connections that we don’t expect.”

“I’m a softie, without a doubt,” he said.

And in that regard, Hanks neared the end of the session by reading a note from a member of the audience, who proposed to his date. The proposal came from a man named Ryan McFarling, and the object of his affection was Nikki Young. Both came up on stage, with McFarling kneeling and Young crying in joy.

Yep, Hanks is a softie.

MORE TEXAS BOOK FESTIVAL: See all our previews and live coverage

An audience member photographs Tom Hanks as he discusses his book, “Uncommon Type,” on Saturday at the Texas Book Festival. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN