One of the greatest benefits of living in San Antonio is the variety of “things” to see and do- and the holidays are no exception! Whether strolling among millions of decorative lights or taking in dazzling displays throughout the city, San Antonio gives its residents millions of twinkling reasons to venture outdoors and explore the Alamo city during the holiday season. In this edition of 10 Things To Do in San Antonio we focus on getting into the holiday spirit as everything from the River Walk to Fiesta Texas lights up for the holidays.
1.Kick off the Christmas Season Gazing at Millions of Lights at The 34th Annual Ford Holiday River Parade
Known for its vibrant night life and popularity with tourists, The San Antonio River Walk becomes a treasured local tradition during the holiday season. Every year the trees are decked out with millions of twinkling lights, illuminated for the first time of the season with the pomp and circumstance of one of the country's only nighttime river parades. The day after Thanksgiving thousands will gather as 28 lavishly decorated floats donning celebrities, musical acts and festive-costumed participants wind down the river. With both the floats and the large backdrop of live oak trees adorned in an awe-inspiring amount of Christmas lights, this one-hour parade is adored by all generations of San Antonio locals.
When: Friday, November 27 at 7 p.m.
Where: The San Antonio River Walk/ Arneson River Theater
2. Watch the University of Incarnate Word Dazzle With the Flip of a Switch
A UIW tradition for nearly three decades, the university has hosted their annual Light the Way event since 1986. With this year’s theme, “A Cardinal Christmas”, visitors of all ages are invited to enjoy an evening of musical entertainment and holiday festivities. As Christmas cheer fills UIW’s Benson Stadium, the night begins to come to an end with the official flipping of a switch, illuminating nearly a million twinkling lights and turning UIW into a winter wonderland. And if tradition holds true, the evening will wrap up with mariachis leading event-goers in a candlelight procession through the college campus.
When: Saturday, November 21
Where: Benson Stadium
3. Look out for Mistletoe at Holidays in Bloom
The perfect excuse to spend time outside in the beautiful fall weather, Holidays in Bloom is the perfect event to add to your holiday activities. Explore the numerous areas and exhibits of the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Until you step into the garden, you may forget how many holiday symbols revolve around natural wildlife. From trees, to flowers, to reindeer, nature is center stage. As the holiday season demands more time and expense, Holidays in Bloom is the perfect opportunity to enjoy the natural changes of the season outdoors. Not to mention if you’ve put off family photos for the annual Christmas card, the garden provides numerous beautiful backdrops.
When: November 27 –December 31, 2015. Open from 9am to 5pm.
Where: San Antonio Botanical Garden
4. Start a Tradition with The Nutcracker
Possibly the most famous and recognizable of all ballets, The Nutcracker is a holiday classic. The nutcracker has such wide cultural and generational appeal that you can nearly always find a performance during the holidays. As such, the famous melodies and dances of the show make for a perfect yearly tradition. Follow Clara as she interacts with the mouse king, sugar plum fairies, and of course the nutcrackers. You are sure to be pleased with a beautiful performance provided by Ballet San Antonio and the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra.
When: Performances from December 4 to December 13.
Where: Tobin Center for the Performing Arts
5. Deck the Halls with River Christmas Carols
The San Antonio River Walk is a beautiful and cultural masterpiece during any season, but the area is especially memorable during the holiday season. One of the traditions that gives the River Walk its seasonal charm is Holiday Boat Caroling. For nearly 3 weeks in December the charming choruses and melodies of traditional holiday carolers fill the air as boats carry the singers through the twists and turns of the river. The ambiance of the tradition creates the perfect environment for a special meal enjoyed on the banks of the river. With very little effort, anyone can be transported back to the feelings of a childhood Christmas.
When: December 2- December 20, From 6pm to 8:15 pm.
Where: San Antonio River Walk Restaurants
6. Give Back with the Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner
San Antonio is proud of its reputation as a generous and friendly city. The city’s best qualities are on display each year at the Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner. The dinner began after a local business owner recognized a need within the community to welcome and feed senior citizens during Thanksgiving. Now in its 35th year, the dinner aims to provide a Thanksgiving meal to the senior citizens of San Antonio. San Antonio residents pour out in droves to volunteer at the annual event, and are given any job available. From helping in the kitchen, to serving food, to simply talking with attendees, the dinner provides a plethora of opportunities to serve.
When: Thanksgiving Day
Where: San Antonio Convention Center
7. Visit the North Pole at Elf Acres
It seems no holiday season is complete without a family trip to a drive-thru Christmas light show. The trip encompasses the beauty and wonder of the season as thousands of lights dance along to cheerful music. From Rudolph to Frosty, make sure to spot your favorite character! As the first locally owned Christmas light drive-thru in San Antonio, Elf Acres is the perfect place to complete your holiday season checklist. With 21 acres full of lights, lasers, animated displays and quality holiday tunes, Elf Acres is sure to excite adults and children alike.
When: From November 13, 2015 to January 3, 2016.
Where: 1475 Grosenbacher Rd, San Antonio, TX 78245
8. Look for Scrooge at Dickens on Main
Bah Humbug! One of the most clever traditions in the San Antonio area provides guests with the opportunity to celebrate amongst the characters and backdrop of Charles Dickens’ famous novella “A Christmas Carol”. The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future invite guests to attend Dickens on Main in Boerne, Texas. Located along the Hill Country Mile in downtown Boerne, attendees are encouraged (though not required) to wear their best petticoats and top hats as they take a stroll through the historic downtown. As with any good celebration, the event features Santa, train rides, a petting zoo, and much more to appease even the smallest visitors. Don’t miss out on a chance to step into a Christmas celebration of the past at Dickens on Main.
When: Friday November 27th and Saturday November 28th from 1-11pm.
Where: Main Street, Boerne, TX 78006
9. Ring in the New Year Downtown
San Antonio is largely considered a fantastic city in which to bring in the new year. In fact, one recent poll even rated San Antonio a top ten city in the U.S. to celebrate in. The largest of any area celebration, Celebrate San Antonio brings the entire city together to celebrate New Years as a community. After enjoying your fill of football and black-eyed peas make your way downtown to celebrate with the masses. The event features live music on multiple stages, a fireworks show, carnival games, and festival food to ensure your night is merry and bright. With the best fireworks in South Texas, there’s no better resolution than to begin the new year with Celebrate San Antonio.
When: December 31st beginning at 6pm.
Where: South Alamo Between Market and Durango and in La Villita
10. Celebrate Culture with Mariachi Extravaganza
Perhaps the most unique yet most San Antonio focused of all holiday events Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza is the largest and most well-known mariachi festival in Texas, not to mention the longest running. In fact, today’s event has even developed into the largest mariachi festival in the entire United States. Mariachi artist from around the world will compete for the titles of best vocalist, violinist, guitarist, and more. Arguably the most exciting portion of the event is a performance by Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitian. One of the most famous mariachi bands in the entire world, their performance is sure to impress all who attend!
When: Nov. 21, 2014 7:30pm
Where: Lila Cockrell Theater, San Antonio, TX