Given San Antonio’s old-world charm, fusion of cultures, and penchant for “go-big-or-go-home” type celebrations, we’d argue that the Alamo City is Texas’ most festive locale...and there’s no better time to witness our city’s joyous celebratory spirit than during the holiday season!
Below, we’ve compiled a list of essential San Antonio holiday events for any visitor or local. Mark your calendars, don your most festive outfit, and hit the town!
Image Courtesy of University of the Incarnate Word
1. Light the Way
University of the Incarnate Word, 4301 Broadway
With almost a million festive lights adorning the University of the Incarnate Word, Light The Way is one of San Antonio’s most iconic Christmas events. Starting on November 17th (and on into January!), you can stroll the grounds of the University starting at 6:30 PM to enjoy the spectacle. The kickoff celebration will take place from 3:00 to 9:30 PM on November 17th and will feature a holiday shop, Kid’s Corner, and food trucks!
2. Local Festive Theme Park Celebrations
SeaWorld San Antonio (10500 SeaWorld Drive) & Six Flags Fiesta Texas (17000 IH-10 West)
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 Sea World San Antonio's Christmas Celebration and Six Flags Holiday in Park run all month and will feature holiday lights, performances, festive foods, and more.
Image Courtesy of Downtown San Antonio
3. Delicious Tamale Festivities
Did you know tamales are a Christmas tradition? San Antonio is giving you plenty of opportunities this year to learn about AND feast on this delicious cultural tradition! Visit La Gran Tamalada at the Historic Market Square on December 8th to make your own tamales, head to Feliz Tamalidad to taste the goodness with live music (also on December 8th), and check out the second annual Sunday Masa on December 2nd, featuring tamales, local holiday vendors, a “pan dulce pavilion,” hot chocolate, pictures with Santa, live music from Los Nahuatlatos, and more!
4. Holiday Plays & Performances
The play’s the thing! This year, celebrate the holidays with several plays, musicals, and other various performances around town. A few of our favorites include The Nutcracker (by Ballet San Antonio) at the Tobin Center (November 23rd-December 2nd), A Charlie Brown Christmas at The Tobin Center (December 22nd), and Mr. Popper’s Penguins at The Magik Theatre (November 20th-December 23rd).
Image Courtesy of the Valero Alamo Bowl Official Facebook Page
5. Valero Alamo Bowl
Alamodome (100 Montana Street)
True football fans know that, although December 25th may be considered the height of the Christmas season, December 28th 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! This college football showdown pits the #1 Pac-12 team against the #1 Big 12 team after the College Football Playoff selections. Cheer for your favorite team on December 28th (and be sure to check out the Game Day Guide for more game info).
6. Holidays in Bloom
San Antonio Botanical Gardens, 555 Funston Place
Sparkling Christmas lights may be beautiful, but no city display can compete with the natural colors and beauty found at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. During the annual “Holidays In Bloom” event, step away from the holiday whirlwind of traffic and malls and take a breath in a more natural landscape. Relax, stroll the grounds, or take a family photo! Holidays in Bloom starts November 24th and runs through the end of December.
Image Courtesy of the San Antonio River Walk
7. Holiday Boat Caroling
The San Antonio River Walk
Never to be outdone, the San Antonio River Walk has some serious fun planned for the season. One particularly charming tradition is Holiday Boat Caroling: over the course of the holiday season, singing groups of all kinds will float down the San Antonio River and regale River Walk guests with favorite holiday tunes. Stroll the banks of the river, make a dinner reservation on one of the many riverside restaurants, and enjoy the sounds of Christmas. View dates and times here!
Image Courtesy of the San Antonio Riverwalk
8. Ford Holiday River Parade
San Antonio River Walk
As soon as Thanksgiving is over, the San Antonio River Walk plunges into full Christmas glory (over 10,000 luminarias!), starting with the annual Ford Holiday River Parade & Lighting Festival on November 23rd! This festive parade (themed “Christmas in San Antonio”) will start at 6:00 PM, featuring lavish floats (some carrying celebrities), costumed float riders (depicting traditional San Antonians celebrating Christmas), and holiday music.
9. Unique Holiday Markets
Looking to get your holiday shopping done early? Join the 40th Annual San Antonio Christmas Showcase on November 17th and 18th! Taking place at the Freeman Coliseum, the Showcase is Central Texas’ largest Christmas gifts show, featuring over 500 booths full of everything from decorations to handmade gifts to apparel and outdoor art! And, if you’re looking for something even more unique, head to the 29th Annual International Peace Market at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center (November 23-25). This market is a gathering of over 100 international and local artisans. Peruse plenty of handmade items, including hand-woven rugs, hand-crafted pottery, textiles, embroidered clothing, paintings, sculptures and so much more.
Image Courtesy of the San Antonio Zoo
10. San Antonio Zoo Lights
San Antonio Zoo, 3903 North St. Mary's St
For a rather exotic take on Christmas decor, head to the San Antonio zoo! A favorite local tradition, the San Antonio Zoo Lights is an immersive experience that features thousands of twinkling lights, iconic visuals, entertainment, music, and hands-on displays. Sip hot cocoa, roast s'mores, head to the ice skating rink, and try a camel ride. The fun starts on November 17th and lasts until December 31st.
Head to these festive events in San Antonio, and be sure to let us know which are your favorites. Happy holidays, y'all!
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