Austin may not be a snowy winter wonderland this December, but that doesn't mean you can't be transported to a land of faux snow, Christmas trees and holiday cheer.
Here are six places that are hosting winter wonderlands in Austin.
Winter Wanderland at Austin Motel, 1220 South Congress Ave.
Get ready for a holiday experience you’ll never forget! From Dec. 2-26, the Austin Motel is hosting a neon rainbow holiday experience, which includes trees, rainbow lights, carols with Drag Mrs. Clause, Hunky Santa, weekly holiday film screenings and boozy holiday drinks galore. Thursdays through Saturdays offer some of these special holiday treats, so come ready to have a jolly time. This is a family-friendly event, reservations aren’t required and admission is free, but they do ask you to donate to CARY, Council on At-Risk Youth. The full schedule can be found here.
Yelp Pink Winter Wonderland at Revival Coffee, 1405 East 7th St.
This year, Yelp is hosting their Deck the Halls with Yelp, a $100K Holiday Winterization Fund which helps local businesses fund improvement projects needed for the winter season. To celebrate this launch, they have partnered with Enchantment Event Decor to create a pink winter wonderland at Revival Coffee. This winter wonderland will also serve as a way community members can nominate local businesses in person to receive funding, learn about the campaign and celebrate the holiday season. Expect unique lights, tinsel, pink trees and an overall Instagram moment.
Illuminate at W Austin, 200 Lavaca St.
This year, the famous secret holiday bar at W Hotel will become a sophisticated winter wonderland! Guests will truly have the chance to shine during this holiday season and enjoy appetizers and tasty Fire or Ice cocktails off their brand new holiday menu.
South Pole at Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt, 605 Davis St.
This year, the Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt is hosting a marvelous winter wonderland with its third annual fourth-floor South Pole. They have revamped the rooftop desk to showcase outdoor igloos for private dining, holiday-themed cocktails (and also Friendsgiving-themed cocktails), and holiday-themed meals from Geraldine’s. Reservations for the private igloos will open on Dec. 3 and will also be open for a week around Valentine’s Day. They can be made here. Guests also have the choice to purchase hotel and dining packages, which can be made through Hotel Van Zandt or Geraldine’s.
Austin Trail of Lights at Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Rd.
Get ready for the 57th annual Austin Trail of Lights running now through the end of the month. Tickets range from $15 to $65 and can be purchased online. The event is hosted by the Trail of Lights Foundation, and this year, it’s a drive-thru event. Enjoy over two million lights that light up the park, 90 holiday trees, and over 70 holiday displays and lighted tunnels. They also offer private nights in which entry is free through the STARS at the Trail program. More information about the Austin Trail of Lights can be found here.
Peppermint Parkway at COTA, 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd.
From now until Dec. 26, the Circuit of The Americas is hosting Peppermint Parkway, a winter wonderland where guests can enjoy a mile of immersive holiday displays, dancing elves, a plaza of food and activities and seven million holiday lights. There are four ticket packages that range from $40 to $95 and can include, along with regular admission, a fast pass and/or a chance to take a lap around the famous track. Regular admission includes a show, mailing letters to Santa, a mistletoe kissing booth, a holiday express train, amusement rides, treats, carols, a zipline and more!
Have fun walkin’ in a winter wonderland!
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A theory that’s been swirling around lately is that the web as we know it is on its way out and something called Web3 will take over.
It’s hard to know what Web3 is without first understanding the original versions. The first web is the 90s Internet where people had their own random websites that didn’t link together, making it decentralized. In Web2, we saw the rise of Google, Facebook and other major players who configured standard ways for people to share and receive information.
Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood and other blockchain developers say a decentralized version of the Internet, Web3, is on the way. Web3 can be thought of as synonymous with cryptocurrency, meaning it is based on the blockchain. Platforms and apps built on Web3 won’t be owned by a central gatekeeper, but rather by users. Those in the Austin crypto community believe to see a growing presence of Web3 in Austin.
Pujaa Rajan, an engineer at financial software company Stripe and adviser for startups, describes herself as a “digital nomad.” She has traveled all over from Hawaii to New York and San Francisco, looking for the crypto community in each place.
Having been in Austin for the past month, Rajan organized a Web3 meetup this week at Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden in South Austin open to folks working in crypto or the crypto-curious. About 30 people showed up. "Compared to a lot of other cities that I went to, it is a lot more open and community-oriented here, which is what Web3 is all about,” she said.
Pujaa Rajan, an engineer at financial software company Stripe, organized a Web3 meetup in Austin during a visit. (Andrea Guzman/Austonia)
ATX DAO member Roberto Talamas, who stopped by the event, talked about the crypto group’s expansion. Web3, in Talamas’ view, expands on the previous versions which allowed people to read, then read and write. Now, he says, people can read, write and own. To Talamas, blockchain technology has powered that ownership aspect, and it can be utilized through groups like a DAO, a group that pools together capital and goes on to make investments or take on blockchain-based projects.
“The ecosystem of work with (Web3) companies here in Austin is still relatively small,” Talamas said. “And that’s one of those things that we’re trying to deal with at ATX DAO is to do all the advocacy work needed to make Austin the best Web3 city.”
Part of that community, however, has gotten a bad rep for being “crypto bros.” Rajan acknowledged that Web3 involves both finance and technology, which are fields women have historically been excluded from. But, she says the decentralization aspect creates a clean slate and a new means to form groups. “I feel like we can kind of take back the power or create a world for ourselves,” Rajan said.
The meetup at Cosmic brought together crypto users to talk about the prospects of Web3. (Andrea Guzmán/Austonia)
Meetup attendee Jonathan Hillis also talked about the idea that Web3 creates an opportunity to start over and how this could be something that grows in Austin. Born and raised in the capital city, Hills has left his Bay Area Web2 Instacart job behind to live in a cabin outside Dripping Springs last year. He and his wife, along with a group of internet friends formed a DAO called Cabin, and he's now writing on the Web3 version of Medium, known as Mirror.
When it comes to the state of Web3, four cities stand out. “The dam broke in Covid,” Hillis said. “Everybody no longer had to live in the Bay Area for tech.”
San Francisco is still rooted in Web2 traits with Big Tech and software as a service venture. New York is financial technology. Miami is another major player. But with Austin, Hillis sees a lot of potential.
“Austin is great at being a place for independent online creators of many types—musicians, but also artists,” Hillis said. “What excites me about Web3 is the opportunities for putting creators at more of the center of the value capture.”
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Once a bargain-hunter's paradise, Austin's reputation as a cheaper California seems to be dissipating. But does money have more value in Austin when compared to other U.S. metros?
For Carson Stanch, who moved to Austin from Brooklyn, New York, to be near family, Austin's lower cost of living was just an added bonus. According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, a $100 bill is worth $98.20 in Austin when compared to the national average in 2020, while it's worth just $84.53 in New York.
Houston native Carson Stanch moved from Brooklyn, New York to Austin just before the pandemic. (Carson Stanch)
Stanch soon realized she was a trendsetter—or perhaps a fortune teller—as the pandemic hit a few months after her move. No longer willing to spend extra money on their more expensive apartments, Stanch said many of her friends and other New Yorkers left the city amid COVID lockdowns.
"It's so expensive to live there (and) all of the reasons why you live in New York, you couldn't really do anymore," Stanch said.
Garrett Watson, a senior policy analyst with the Tax Foundation who wrote a 2018 report on the value of $100 in U.S. metros, told Austonia the report factors in the costs of goods and services with residents' incomes and compares them to the national average. The result is price parity, a number that varies drastically across the country—for instance, a $100 bill won't get you near as far in Austin as it would in more rural parts of the Hill Country.
While a Ben Franklin note was worth $4 more in New York in 2020 when compared to 2018, a $100 bill decreased by $1.60 in value in Austin. Austin's cost of living also saw the 12th-highest increase among U.S. metros from the 2010 to 2020 census.
And as the pandemic's nationwide housing boom gained extra momentum in Austin, peaking at a median home price of $575,000 in June 2021, Watson said the value of $100 could have dropped even further.
"There's just been a chronic hunger for building houses on the coasts and in certain cities in the heartland," Watson said. "Especially this year, we're seeing more and more discussion about that in Austin, and so that is a big, big factor."
Price parity bleeds into other factors as well—in San Francisco, where the value of $100 sits at $82.63, residents are nearly 18% poorer than their higher incomes suggest. But with higher incomes than the U.S. average, they may find themselves more flush with cash when moving to a cheaper city like Austin.
Many out-of-towners have used that extra change to make housing offers much higher than the asking price, Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather told Fox7 Austin.
"All those migrants are bringing with them high-paying jobs who are used to much more expensive housing and they’re willing to pull out all the stops to win these homes and move to Austin," Fairweather said.
But Austin is catching up to those traditional hotspots: the area was predicted to be the most expensive metro outside of the Golden State by the end of 2021.
In just two years, Stanch said she's seen some signs.
"I feel like I look around certain areas of Austin (and) they do feel more similar to downtown Brooklyn," Stanch said. "Some businesses I see might tend to cater to folks who have a little more income."
I cannot believe there’s a Hermès (an Hermès?) store opening around the corner from where I live. Oy vey. The scrappy, cheap, charmingly dusty locals-only South Congress of yore is receding into the past so very quickly. 😭 pic.twitter.com/sUHxI4pX8F
— Cari Marshall (@CariMarshallTX) August 3, 2021
So why not move to, say, Florence, Alabama, where money is almost 20% more valuable?
Watson said the difference comes down to the value of amenities—something the study can't track.
"Part of the value in New York City is all the amenities that you're near, the value of Broadway, the value of being able to get food delivered to your door," Watson said. "So that may be reflected in people's willingness to pay higher prices... there's a lot of really great reasons why people may want to be in Austin from an identity perspective that you can't get in other parts of Texas."
In Austin, tech salaries rose 5% from 2020-2021 as big-name corporations like Oracle and Tesla—alongside Tesla's billionaire owner Elon Musk—flocked to the nation's new "boomtown." With an ever-increasing job market, eclectic culture and reputation as one of the world's best cities for move-ins, Austin's appeal might still offset its price.
But for Stanch and many others, there may still come a time when price wins over location.
"If I was to the point where homebuying was more important than being near friends and family, then I would move to get the home," Stanch said. "I think that's kind of part of my plan."