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’s 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!
Take in the Exotic San Antonio Zoo Lights
Image Courtesy of the San Antonio Zoo
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 this year!
When: Nov 17 - Dec 31, 12:00 - 9:00 PM
Where: San Antonio Zoo, 3903 North St. Mary's St
See the Sparkling Lights
Image Courtesy of University of the Incarnate Word
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. From November 18th through January 5th, you can stroll the grounds of the University starting at 6:30 to enjoy the twinkling spectacle.
When: Nov 18 - Jan 5, 6:30 PM
Where: University of the Incarnate Word, 4301 Broadway
Head to SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration
Image Courtesy of SeaWorld
SeaWorld may traditionally be a warm-weather destination, but from November 18th through January 2nd, this usually tropical park will transform into a holiday paradise, complete with holiday lights, festive foods, Santa Claus and more!
When: Nov 18 - Dec 31, 1:00 - 9:00 PM
Where: SeaWorld San Antonio, 10500 SeaWorld Drive
Get Your Adrenaline Fix at Holiday in Park
Image Courtesy of Trip Advisor
Looking for Christmas spirit infused with a little adrenaline? Head to Six Flags Fiesta Texas’s annual Holiday In The Park celebration! This event features over a million dazzling lights, entertaining shows, and two new immersive holiday light and music experiences! Take a trek around the park on the Holiday Express train, take your picture with Santa Claus, and more.
When: November 18 - January 7 (Various Hours Here)
Where: Six Flags Fiesta Texas, 17000 IH-10 West
Admire JW Marriott Resort’s Music and Lights Show
Image Courtesy of Life is Poppin
Northeast San Antonio is about to get lit! This year, the JW Marriott’s Light Up The Night holiday light-and-music show starts on November 19th and runs through New Year’s Eve. Stop by to view the twinkling lights and visit Santa every Saturday in December.
When: November 19, 5:30 PM
Where: JW Marriott, 23808 Resort Parkway
Shop at the 28th Annual International Peace Market
Image Courtesy of Esperanza Peace and Justice Center
Shopping for a gift that’s both unique and socially conscious? Skip Black Friday this year and do your Christmas shopping at the 28th Annual International Peace Market, 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.
When: Nov 24 – Nov 26, 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Where: Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, 922 San Pedro Ave
Support A Wonderland Christmas
Image Courtesy of Morgan’s Wonderland
As a theme park with a special cause (providing handicapped guests with a full theme park experience), Morgan’s Wonderland is used to making dreams come true...and the holiday season is no exception. Starting November 24th, this theme park will transform into a winter wonderland, complete with lights, carolers, a petting zoo, ice skating, Santa Claus, and more!
When: Nov 24 - Dec 23, 4:00 - 9:00 PM
Where: Morgan's Wonderland, 5223 David Edwards
See the Legendary Ford Holiday River Parade
Image Courtesy of Flicks and Food
As soon as Thanksgiving is over, the San Antonio River Walk plunges into full Christmas glory, starting with the 35th annual Ford Holiday River Parade! This festive parade will feature 28 lavish floats, boasting celebrities, music, and actors inviting everyone to join in the Christmas spirit. As one of the country's only nighttime river parades, San Antonio’s iconic River Walk will be illuminated by over 100,000 sparkling lights dancing on the water.
When: Nov 24, 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Where: Arneson River Theatre, 418 Villita
Stop by the Holiday Lighting in Travis Park
Image Courtesy of the San Antonio Riverwalk
As San Antonio’s favorite park, Travis Park is a natural local gathering space to celebrate the Christmas spirit. The Holiday Lighting in Travis Park will feature free hot chocolate, live ice sculpting, live performances, local artisan vendors, food trucks and free family activities! Just after 8:00 PM, the park will light up with festive colors and patterns.
When: Nov 24, 3:00 – 10:00 PM
Where: Travis Park, 301 E Travis St
Take a Deep Breath at Holidays in Bloom
Image Courtesy of SABOT
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 special 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!
When: Nov 24 - Dec 31, 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Where: San Antonio Botanical Gardens, 555 Funston Place
Marvel at Fantasyland at Milam Park
Image Courtesy of Everlasting Elopements
Every bit as magical as it sounds, Fantasyland at Milam Park revolves around the lighting of the beloved tree and includes plenty of holiday entertainment. Kids will enjoy face painting, balloon art, train rides, and visits with Santa Claus, while adults are sure to appreciate beautiful cars displayed by Pushrods Car Club and a plethora of the city’s favorite food trucks. Plus, one lucky child in attendance will be chosen to help Santa Claus pull the switch for the first lighting of the holiday season.
When: Nov 25, 12:00 – 6:00 PM
Where: Milam Park, 500 W Houston St
Experience Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza
Image Courtesy of Texas Public Radio
Perhaps the most unique holiday event in the city, Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza is the largest and most well-known mariachi festival in Texas (not to mention the longest running)! Mariachi artists from around the world will compete for the titles of best vocalist, violinist, guitarist, and more. Plus, the final performance will feature Mexico City-based Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán on November 27 at the Lila Cockrell Theatre. It's one event you don't want to miss!
When: Dec 12, 7:30 PM
Where: Lila Cockrell Theater, 200 E Market St
Listen to Ford Holiday Boat Caroling
One of the traditions that gives the River Walk its seasonal charm is Holiday Boat Caroling. For nearly 3 weeks in December, over 185 school, church, company, and civic choral groups will don their most festive gear and float down the San Antonio River, regaling visitors with traditional holiday tunes. Enjoy the performances while strolling the walkways or sitting on a restaurant patio!
When: December 1 - 22, 6:15 - 9:30 PM
Where: San Antonio River Walk
Drive Through Concordia’s Annual Nativity
Remember the reason for the season! At Concordia’s Annual Drive-Thru Nativity, the Christmas story will be brought to life by over 60 actors, live animals, and elaborately decorated sets. Admission is free!
When: Dec 2 – 3, 5:00 – 9:00 PM
Where: Concordia Lutheran, 16801 Huebner Rd
Stroll Through Ford Fiesta de las Luminarias
Image Courtesy of Yelp
One of the most traditional events in San Antonio, the Ford Fiesta de las Luminarias brings the magic of the River Walk to life, featuring over 6,000 warm, glowing luminarias that symbolically mark the "lighting of the way" for the Holy Family. This centuries-old tradition begins at dusk Friday, Saturday, and Sunday!
When: Dec 8 - 12 (starting at dusk)
Where: San Antonio River Walk
Taste the Tradition of Tamales
Image Courtesy of Sweet Life Bake
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 Tamalada and Time Travel Saturday at the Witte Museum on December 9th, and head to La Gran Tamalada on December 10th (at Market Square) for some hands-on tamale-making experience from community experts.
When: December 9, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM (La Tamadala) & Dec 10, 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM (La Gran Tamadala)
Where: Witte Museum, 3801 Broadway St, Historic Market Square, 514 W. Commerce
Sit Back and Enjoy a Live Performance
Image Courtesy of Groupon
The play’s the thing! This year, celebrate the holidays a special rendition of The Nutcracker at San Antonio’s McAllister Theatre. This timeless story follows a young girl named Clara, a Nutcracker doll come to life, and an army of mice. The Alamo City Dance Co's. production features a cast of 100 San Antonio dancers!
When: Dec 16-17 (Times and Tickets Here)
Where: McAllister Theatre, 1300 San Pedro Ave
Cheer for theValero Alamo Bowl
Image Courtesy of WorldStrides
What would the holidays be without the Alamo Bowl? As the best of the Big 12 and Pac-12 come together, this popular bowl game is sure to be a wildly exciting one.
When: Dec 28, 8:00 PM (Kickoff)
Where: Alamodome, 100 Montana St
Head to these festive events in San Antonio, and be sure to let us know which are your favorites. Happy holidays, y'all!