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.

Home for the holidays: What students are most looking forward to during winter break

At the end of the fall semester, as studying for finals consumes both day and night, there is one thing college students cannot wait for — winter break. We went to Mozart’s Coffee Roasters and asked some what they are looking forward to the most during the weeks off for the holiday.

— Photos and text by Mackenzie Palmer/American-Statesman

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University of Texas international relations and global studies junior Samantha Gorny, 20, said she is looking forward to hanging out with her parents and dogs during the break in Houston, her hometown, as well as watching TV, riding bikes and ice skating. She also will be going to New Jersey for a week to visit her father’s side of the family.

 

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Seamus Hawley, 19, is from Minneapolis, Minn., and said he can’t wait to get back to the cold weather. “I only really like winter for about a month, so that is the perfect amount of time to go back,” Hawley said. He said finals burned him out and he is ready to relax.

 

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Sophomore Jessica Plasters, 19, said that after attending the Day for Night festival in Houston, she can’t wait to hang out with her cats and listen to rap music with her friends at home in San Antonio.

 

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Business marketing major Jared Malik Royal, 22, said he is ready to sleep in and wake up to a big breakfast once he gets home to Keller. In the spirit of the holiday, he said he loves giving presents to his friends and family.

 

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Kassidy Knight, 21, is a University of Texas senior computer engineering major from Haslet, outside Fort Worth. She said she is ready to nap a lot and eat a lot but is going to miss her teammates from Texas 4000, a UT biking group, during break.

 

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UT freshman Chris Uvalle, 19, said he is excited to head back home to Edinburg to hang with old friends and family. And after a semesterlong break, Uvalle said he can’t wait to be reunited with his piano at home.

 

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Austin Community College student Danny Fraser, 25, said he is ready to catch up with old friends in Williamsport, Md. Fraser said he’ll spend his time walking his parents’ dogs, visiting his favorite childhood spots and hiking.

 

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UT student Krissa Martin, 20, from Houston, said she can’t wait to mountain bike, play volleyball and see her 16-year-old sister, Wendy.

 

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Cameron Osmond, 20, a UT liberal arts honors program sophomore, said he loves to eat his parents’ cooking (especially the two dishes above). While back in Flower Mound, Osmond said he’ll dedicate his time to writing the second draft of his screenplay.

 

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Cade Stone, 20, said he is excited to return home, even though home is Austin. “It’s a 25-minute drive, but I’m still excited and looking forward to it,” Stone said.

Still time to share your favorite Christmas ornament

The holiday season can be stressful. I worry about how to afford the gifts, how to make sure everyone gets along at family gatherings, how to keep the kitten from eating all the decorations and just how much chocolate I can eat before I need to borrow Santa’s pants.

But as readers began to send me their most treasured Christmas ornaments, their stories and photos warmed my Grinchy heart.

Here’s one from Jill McCauley Bone of Georgetown:

“Back in about 1947, when I was less than 1, one of my aunts sent me this Santa for Christmas.  It has been in my Christmas tree every year since then.  I see it is getting a little raggedy, but when you are kissing up to 70, raggedy happens.  I love this old Santa and my whole family loves it.  ‘Twoundn’t be Christmas without him in the tree.”

I’d love to see your favorite ornament, too. Please email a high-resolution photo and a brief description of what the ornament means to you to equigley@statesman.com by noon Dec. 12. We’ll run all the photos in an online gallery, and a selection of our favorites will publish in print on Christmas Day.

 

Attention earthlings: This new ‘holiday’ celebrates planet’s trip around the galaxy

Attention earthlings: A man named David Sneider is doing his best to spread the word about a self-declared holiday celebrating our planet’s trip around the Milky Way. It’s called “Galactic Tick Day.”

FILE - In this early morning, Aug. 13, 2013 file photo, a meteor streaks past the faint band of the Milky Way galaxy above the Wyoming countryside north of Cheyenne, Wyo., during a Perseids meteor shower. On Thursday night, Aug. 11, 2016 into early Friday morning, the Perseid meteor shower is expected to peak with double the normal number of meteors. Scientists call this an outburst, and they say it could reach up to 200 meteors per hour. (AP Photo/The Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Blaine McCartney)
In this early morning, Aug. 13, 2013 file photo, a meteor streaks past the faint band of the Milky Way galaxy above the Wyoming countryside north of Cheyenne, Wyo., during a Perseids meteor shower.(AP Photo/The Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Blaine McCartney)

Related: ‘Bizarre’ Kepler discovery could be alien megastructure

On Sept. 29, 2016 Sneider plans to celebrate the first official Galactic Tick Day — though according to his calculations, this will technically be the 235th. Sneider, who works for a startup in San Francisco, defines the holiday as “a celebration of our progress around the Milky Way.”

According to his website, it takes the earth and the rest of the solar system 225 million years to travel around the galaxy. One centi-arcsecond of this rotation is what he calls a Galactic Tick, which happens every 633.70 days (or 1.74 years).

Read: Milky Way galaxy survey complete, see the stunning images

He marks the first Galactic Tick as the day the patent for the first telescope was filed by Hans Lippershey on Oct. 2, 1608. “This is in honor of the telescope’s power to allow us to achieve awareness of the nature of the universe,” the website reads.

Sneider said in an email that his call to make this a globally celebrated holiday is not a commercial project.

“Just doing it because our scale in the universe is amazing and it’s recognition can have untold positive repercussions for us humans,” he said.

Read: Repeated radio signal coming from space

So if you too have an affinity for celestial happenings and want to celebrate with Sneider, he already made an event page for a party in San Francisco on Facebook.

Happy soon-to-be Galactic Tick Day!