"Zilker Holiday Tree Lighting Logo - Virtual Event premiers on Nov. 29th at 6 pm - ATXN channel 6 and City of Austin live stream channels"

About the Tree

Zilker Holiday Tree

The Zilker Holiday Tree stands 155 feet tall and is composed of 39 streamers, each holding 81 multicolored, 25-watt bulbs - totaling 3,309 lights. At the top of the tree, a double star measures 10 feet from point to point. The double star displays 150 frosted bulbs. This unique spiral pattern of lights was created by City of Austin electricians. At its circumference, the tree measures 380 feet. The diameter is 120 feet. The base of the tree is made up of 19 utility poles, each 14 feet tall, arranged in a circle around the Moonlight Tower.  On December 10, 1967, the first tree was lighted by Mayor Pro Tem Mrs. Emma Long. In subsequent years this honor has been awarded to the young winner of a city-wide tree art contest.

Historic Zilker Holiday Tree Images (Flickr Gallery)

Facts about the holiday tree:

  • The Zilker Moontower is 1 of 17 original Austin towers.  Currently 15 remain.
  • 155 feet tall
  • 380 fee circumference, 120 feet diameter
  • 19 utility poles at the base of the historic moontower
  • 39 streamers
  • Each streamer holds 81 multi-color bulbs (converted to LED in 2019)
  • 3309 total lights
  • A double star tops the display measuring 10 feet from point to point
  • On December 10, 1967, the first tree was lighted by Mayor Pro Tem Mrs. Emma Long


The Moontowers

Originally purchased from the City of Detroit in 1894, these 165-foot-tall towers were installed to help keep Austin streets illuminated and keep residents safe. Austin is the only city in the country that still operates moonlight towers (or moon towers, as they're better known in Austin).  In the 1890's the towers were powered with bright carbon-arc bulbs.

In 1970, they were proclaimed Texas State Landmarks and were recognized in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places six years later.

2016 Zilker Moontower Restoration Project

In 2016 Austin Energy restored the historic moontower.  The project deep-cleaned each of the tower's individual parts and repaired aging items. The restoration included new LED light bulbs that are brighter and more energy efficient, "saving approximately 131,400 kilowatt-hours annually, which is the equivalent of powering 11 average-sized homes year-round,"  according to Austin Energy.

Austin Moontower Locations (noted 2018)

  1. Leland Street and Eastside Drive (NE corner)
  2. Monroe Street and S. 1st Street (SW corner)
  3. W. 9th and Guadalupe Street (SE corner)
  4. W. 12th Street and Blanco Street (SE corner)
  5. W. 12th Street and Rio Grande Street (NW corner)
  6. W. 15th Street and San Antonio Street (SW corner)
  7. W. 22nd Street and Nueces Street (SW corner)
  8. W. 41st Street and Speedway Street (SW corner)
  9. Zilker Park (used for Zilker Park Holiday Tree)
  10. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Chicon Street (SE corner)
  11. E. 13th Street and Coleto Street (NE corner)
  12. Pennsylvania Avenue and Leona Street (NE corner)
  13. E. 11th Street and Trinity Street (SE corner)
  14. E. 11th Street and Lydia Street (SW corner)
  15. Canterbury Street and Lynn Street (NE corner)
Tree Lighting Ceremony Virtual Event

Premiering November 29, 6:00 pm

  • A Virtual Event presented by the Austin Parks and Recreation Department with support from Austin Energy and the Trail of Lights Foundation, the Zilker Holiday Tree will be lit November 29, 2020 – January 1, 2021.
  • The 2020 event will feature messages from City of Austin as entertainment from Austin Civic Wind Ensemble and Barton Hills Choir

Viewing options:

Sponsors and Production Team

The Zilker Holiday Tree is sponsored by the Trail of Lights Foundation.   

The tree is installed, produced and managed by multiple City of Austin Departments.  They include Austin Energy, Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Austin Resource Recovery and Austin Police Department who provide in kind services that keep the display available to the citizens of Austin.  

2019 Ceremony Gallery

2017 Ceremony Gallery

2016 Ceremony Gallery

Art Contest

Art Contest Overview

Each year Austin area youth artists compete for the privilege to light the Zilker Holiday Tree.  In the fall, the parks department accepts youth art submissions which compete to be in the top three of the 2 age categories.  The competition is announced each fall.

2020 Contest Winners

Gallery of Current and Previous Art Winners

  • Junior division - 5-7 Years Old
  • 1st place – Neil Bhokare
  • 2nd place – Anna-Caterina Tsai
  • 3rd place – Anamaria Banda


  • Senior Division - 8-10 Years Old
  • 1st place – Aaliyah Webb
  • 2nd place – Ava Wessels
  • 3rd place – Ayin Park

2020 Contest is Now Closed

Enter the 2020 Art Contest now!  Submissions are accepted and due by October 1, Thursday.

Who: Austin youth aged 5-10

Where: Artwork may be submitted by mail to Austin Parks and Recreation Department, 200 South Lamar, Austin, Texas 78704 or Submit Artwork Online.

Mailed submissions MUST include the entry form information form.

Entry Form - English                 Entry Form - Espanol


Only 1 entry per child. Artwork must be no larger than 8½ x 11 inches. The artwork must fit into an 8½” x 11” flat frame. (Any larger artwork will be automatically disqualified.) Paper thickness only, please!  All artwork becomes the property of the Zilker Holiday Tree Art Contest, City of Austin. Entries must be received NO LATER than 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 1, 2020.


Gallery of Current and Previous Art Winners



Zilker Holiday Tree - Nightly Visitation Information

2020 Zilker Tree - Season Visitation Information

As with all events or gatherings in 2020, covid19 local conditions are being monitored.  More information on nightly visitation allowances will be posted the week of Thanksgiving given local conditions and with consultation of the local Health Authority.

Tips and FAQ

Dress - review the weather conditions/forecast and wear appropriate outdoor footwear and layered clothing.  Protect head, hands and feet from cold temperatures.

Grounds/event site - this is an outdoor event on unpaved/natural park grounds.

Footwear - this is an OUTDOOR setting.  Surfaces vary from paved, to turf/dirt.  Shoes should be rated for outdoor conditions, and be moisture proof.

Walking - be aware of your own ability, and plan ahead when spending time in a cold outdoor setting. 

Trail of Lights Information Resources

2020 Information

Event Schedule        http://www.austintrailoflights.org/
Trail of Lights event nights - see event website for details, ticket, pre-paid parking, etc...

PLAN YOUR TRIP!   There will be PRE-PAID PARKING ONLY at the park during Trail of Lights Nights.  Motorists will not be allowed to wait and pay on site for parking.  Extensive neighborhood parking restrictions will be in effect.