Given our city’s wonderfully distinctive sense of diversity and charm, it comes as no surprise that San Antonio, Texas celebrates the holidays with unique flair. From whimsical to traditional, here are 10 seasonal events that you definitely don’t want to leave off your calendar in 2016!
1. Light the Way’s Incredible Display
Though the days may be getting shorter, the University of the Incarnate Word campus will continue the tradition of keeping things merry and bright. Starting on November 19th, the University’s “Light the Way” display will include nearly a million sparkling lights of all colors and sizes! The kickoff celebration "A Cardinal Christmas" will begin at 7:30pm, featuring fan-favorite performers and entertainers.
2. Holiday River Parade
It’s common knowledge that all things Christmas are fair game as soon as the Thanksgiving dishes are cleared...and the Ford Holiday River Parade & Lighting Festival is giving you the chance to dive straight into the holiday spirit! This festive, floating parade will light up the River Walk with 31 lavishly decorated floats, including lights, costumed float riders and holiday music.
3. Local Festive Theme Park Celebrations
Looking for a larger-than-life way to celebrate the holiday season? Head to one of San Antonio’s several theme parks and wild attractions for special Christmas events and performances! Both SeaWorld San Antonio's Christmas Celebration and Six Flags Holiday in Park (November 19th - January 1st) will feature holiday lights, performances, festive foods, and more.
4. Delicious Tamale Festivities
Did you know tamales are a Christmas specialty? San Antonio is giving you plenty of opportunities this year to learn about AND feast on this delicious cultural tradition! Visit Tamales at Pearl on December 3rd and taste tamales from over 40 vendors, and head to La Gran Tamalada on December 10th (at the Guadalupe Theater) for some hands-on tamale-making experience from community experts.
5. Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza
As the longest-running mariachi music festival in Texas (and the largest competition of its kind in the country), the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza has a longstanding reputation as a San Antonio holiday tradition. From November 27nd - December 3rd, come listen to some of the most renowned groups in the world compete to be named the best vocalist, violinist, guitarist and more!
6. Christmas Plays & Performances
The play’s the thing! This year, celebrate the holidays with several playhouses and theaters around town. Both The Playhouse San Antonio and Magik Theatre will be putting on spellbinding holiday performances to usher in the season. The Playhouse’s edition of “All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914” follows a German soldier as he steps through an extraordinary night of camaraderie, music, and peace. The Magik Theatre’s production of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” will follow Amos the mouse as he stirs up plenty of excitement in an attempt to save Christmas from an evil ex-elf who wants to sell the naughty and nice lists to a department store.
7. Valero Alamo Bowl
True football fans know that, although December 25th may be considered the height of the Christmas season, December 29th is a close second. Whether you’re watching the Valero Alamo Bowl from the 50-yard-line or the comfort of your own living room, you can’t miss this traditional San Antonio game! The Alamo Bowl has quickly become one of the most popular games in the country, producing some of the most-watched bowl games in ESPN history while selling out six of the last eight years.
8. Morgan’s Christmas Wonderland
From November 25th to December 23rd, Morgan’s Wonderland will burst into holiday spirit for “A Wonderland Christmas!” Watch as this 25-acre theme park transforms into a Christmas extravaganza, complete with glowing lights, complimentary hot chocolate, a petting zoo, simulated ice rink, pictures with Santa, and way more.
9. River Walk Festivities: Boat Caroling and Luminaries
Never to be outdone, the San Antonio River Walk has some serious fun planned for the season. From River Boat Caroling to Ford Fiesta de las Luminarias, head downtown for music, lights, and plenty of hot chocolate!
10. Holiday Shopper’s Paradise
Looking to get your holiday shopping done early? Join the 37th Annual San Antonio Christmas Showcase on November 19th and 20th at the Freeman Coliseum (Saturday 9am-5pm and Sunday 10am-5pm)! As Central Texas’ largest Christmas gifts show, the event will feature over 500 booths full of everything from decorations to handmade gifts to apparel to outdoor art.