The history of Austin’s 57-year-old Trail of Lights

More than two million lights make up the 70+ displays and tunnels on the Trail. | Photo via @danyetteheine

More than two million lights make up the 70+ displays and tunnels on the Trail. | Photo via @danyetteheine

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You probably know the Trail of Lights has been an Austin staple for 50+ years, and you may even know that the two-million-light display brings in more than 400,000 visitors annually — but did you know that the set-up takes ~15,000 hours to construct? ⏱

Yeah, neither did we.

In honor of the 57th year of one of Austin’s longest-running holiday events, we put together even more fun facts about the Trail of Lights. 🎄

Five decades of history

The Trail of Lights wasn’t always a trail. The original celebration — launched in 1965 and funded by Austin Parks and Recreation — was actually called “Yule Fest,and involved a celebratory lighting of a yule log.

Almost 30 years later, the event was renamed the “Trail of Lights.”

The Trail has looked a little different this year + last year, as it was revamped into a driving trail due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But it’s not the first time the Trail has been impacted by outside factors — long-time Austinites will remember it was canceled in 2010 + 2011 due to city budget restraints.

Local businesses and sponsors worked to raise funding to bring the show back, and the Trail of Lights is now funded + produced by the Trail of Lights Foundation.

Fun facts about the show

💡 Features 90 lit trees and 70+ displays and tunnels

💡 Assembled by ~1,000 volunteers

💡 Its electric bill in 2014 was $8,500

At least 15 people have proposed to their significant others at the Trail, which has even landed a spot on USA Today’s Best Public Holiday Displays for three years in a row.

There are still eight nights left to experience your own holiday magic — the Trail closes for the year on Dec. 31. General admission tickets for vehicles start at $35, and time slots are available from 7-9:45 p.m.

Are you looking to other ways to celebrate the season in ATX? Check out our list of holiday events and activities around town.

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