13 Great Holiday Pop-Up Bars & Restaurants In Austin guide image


13 Great Holiday Pop-Up Bars & Restaurants In Austin

Our favorite Austin bars and restaurants to get into the holiday spirit.

We love when bars and restaurants get into the holiday spirit and dress up a little bit. It gives us something to do when it’s pitch dark at 5:30pm, and more importantly, it gives us an excuse to wear our ugly sweaters and order an eggnog at the bar without getting weird looks (we went through a weird phase this past summer). Thankfully, Austin has a ton of bars and restaurants that like to go all out for the holidays. Whether you want to play board games in a cozy inflatable igloo, watch a light show on the lake, or hang out and eat cookies by a giant menorah, there are events going on all month long. Here are our favorite holiday-themed bars and restaurants in Austin.   


Gibson Street Bar

Taking the award for “best dressed parking lot,” Gibson Bar doesn’t just turn into a holiday-themed bar—they close down the parking lot, cover it in astroturf and a giant plastic tent, and create their own semi-outdoor winter wonderland on South Lamar. Under the tent, there’s a big Christmas tree surrounded by a bunch of picnic tables where you can post up and pretend like you’re somewhere a lot colder. 

When: Dec 1 - Dec 31

Donn's Depot

From Thanksgiving until “late January,” Donn’s Depot transforms from an old dive bar and dance venue in Clarksville to an old holiday-themed dive bar and dance venue, complete with festive lights and drink specials. It’s free to get in most nights, but they do charge a cover on Fridays and Saturdays (and on weekdays as it gets closer to the holidays). 

When: Nov 25 - “Late January”

It’s always Christmas at Lala’s—complete with festive lights, drink specials, and little elves hanging from a string on the ceiling that dance when you open the restroom doors—so you can keep the celebrations going long after the holiday has passed. But despite the year-round decor, there’s something about the time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s that feels especially festive here. It’s a strip mall dive bar in Brentwood, so don’t come in expecting anything fancy—just a good, holiday atmosphere, all the time. 

When: Always

Most of the year, Mozart’s is where you go when you want a place to sit with a coffee on the lake. But during the months of November and December (and a little beyond), you can sit with a coffee on the lake while enjoying their annual light show. The event tends to draw a bit of a crowd, but you can reserve a table in advance, or try your luck with the standing room general admission. Either way, you’ll gain access to their Bavarian Marketplace with vendors selling snacks and holiday trinkets. 

When: Nov 10 - Jan 6 (2023)

Wanderlust Wine Co.

For the entire month of December, Wanderlust Wine turns their downtown location into a Tinseltown-themed bar, complete with drink specials and a festive decor. Tickets to the event run $22 and need to be purchased in advance, but also include a welcome drink on arrival. 

When: Dec 1 - Dec 31

The Driskill Bar

The 16-foot Christmas tree in the lobby of The Driskill downtown is one of the biggest in town, and it’s up on display for the entire month of December. There’s also a gingerbread village (decorated by patients at Dell Children’s Hospital) and holiday drink specials at the Driskill Bar, including the fabled pumpkin spice martini. 

When: Dec 1 - Dec 31

The Eleanor

Miracle on 5th Street is probably the most elaborate of Austin’s many holiday pop-ups. Occupying the Roosevelt Room’s next door event space downtown, The Eleanor, it even requires a ticket for entry (for $5-$15, depending on the date). If you want to bypass the (inevitable) line, you can also purchase a Dasher Pass (basically a fast-pass ticket) for a bit more.

When: Nov 17 - Dec 27

Even though Hanukkah only lasts eight nights, at the East Austin retro bar Kitty Cohen’s, you can celebrate the entire month of December. In addition to a handful of Hanukkah-themed drinks and a giant, inflatable menorah outside, Amanda Rockman (who has overseen the pastry programs at places like Cafe No Se, Mañana, and Il Brutto), will be selling baked goods, and Jewboy Burgers will be doing a pop-up on the first day of Hanukkah (December 19). 

When: Dec 1 - Dec 30

Every year around the holidays, Nickel City on East 11th turns into Sippin’ Santa, a Christmas-themed tiki bar. But this year, for the first time, you can grab reservations for larger parties via email (with a minimum order, tip, etc…), so you don’t have to worry about securing a space for you and your little gang of reindeer friends. 

When: Nov 21 - Dec 30

Otopia Rooftop Lounge

Up on the rooftop of The Otis Hotel by UT, Otopia has inflatable igloos you can rent out while you sip on cocktails and hot cocoa. An igloo will set you back $300, but it comes with cookies, hot chocolate kits, board games, and a record player (to use, not to keep). Plus, you can invite up to seven friends to join you, because bored games aren’t a lot of fun by yourself.

When: Dec 1 - Feb 18

For those in search of a more nostalgia-fueled holiday pop-up bar experience, the East Austin bar The Cavalier turns into “Nostalgic Noel” for the last couple weeks of December, with a drink menu inspired by classic cartoons of the 90s (but with a holiday twist). That means drinks like the Rocko’s Modern Toddy—a bourbon and fig toddy—or the Dexter’s Laboratory that comes out in a beaker. They’ll also have old viewfinders (for viewing the menu) plus lots of other nostalgia-driven touches. 

When: Dec 14 - Dec 28

If you’ve ever wanted to have drinks in an igloo (or at least one of those inflatable ones), you’ll be able to reserve one at the Hotel Van Zandt on Rainey Street. Reservations are available on Fridays and Saturdays in the early part of December, with a few extra days of the week opening up as the holidays approach. In addition to food and drink, you’ll be able to listen to record players and play board games in the igloos, but the whole experience will run you about $100/person (plus a food and beverage minimum). 

When: Dec 2 - Dec 24

Austin Motel

The pool area outside of the Austin Motel on South Congress turns into a “Winter Wanderland” for most of December. During the week, you can wander in and check out the decorations; on Thursdays, you can take photos with “Hunky Santa;” or on Fridays you can watch holiday movies while floating in the pool. On Saturdays there will be carols, and Sundays it will turn into a rotating gift shop pop-up, featuring different local vendors each week. 

When: Dec 1 - Dec 26

Sunny’s Backyard

For the last few weeks of 2022, Sunny’s turns their tiny bar on East 7th (with a giant patio) into a holiday-themed one. There’s a small menu of drink specials, and a fully decked out interior, plus you’ll have access to their usual kitchen menu of vegan bar foods on Thursdays-Saturdays. 

When: Nov 16 - Dec 31

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photo credit: David Douglass

13 Great Holiday Pop-Up Bars & Restaurants In Austin guide image