Give your loved ones the best gift this year when you book a San Antonio holiday experience. It’s a chance to enjoy a city of lights and festivities, where the spirit of the season shines bright day and night. And when you celebrate the holidays together here, you’re creating the most important gift of all: unforgettable memories.
Lights and Parades
San Antonio is known for being a festive city, and the holidays are certainly no exception. In this special time of year, the historic streets and famous River Walk shine brighter than ever. While strolling among millions of decorative lights, visitors of all ages are treated to dazzling displays and breathtaking arrangements. San Antonio gives you millions of twinkling reasons to make the city your family’s favorite holiday tradition.
Light the Way, November 19: Nearly a million lights decorate the University of the Incarnate Word campus, starting with the "A Cardinal Christmas" kickoff event on Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. Come and witness this beautiful San Antonio holiday tradition.
Ford Holiday River Parade & Lighting Festival, November 25: The day after Thanksgiving, our river parade kicks off the holidays as thousands of lights illuminate the River Walk and decorated floats wind through the river in one of the country's only nighttime river parades.
Ford Fiesta de las Luminarias, December 2-18: Enjoy the holiday serenity of the River Walk with a stroll along the lush banks of the San Antonio River guided by more than 6,000 luminarias. These warmly glowing candles in sand-filled bags line the walkways to symbolically mark the "lighting of the way" for the Holy Family. This centuries-old tradition begins at dusk Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
SeaWorld San Antonio's Christmas Celebration, November 19 - January 1: Stroll through a sea of 5 million twinkling LED Christmas lights during SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration! These incredible holiday lights will make your imagination come to life and put you in the holiday spirit as they transform the park into a wintery, watery wonderland. The Christmas Celebration is offered on scheduled operating days in November & December 2016 and is included with your park admission.
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San Antonio Traditions
You can find holiday traditions nearly anywhere you go, but in San Antonio, we add a little more flavor to the season. For generations, the unique San Antonio tradition of tamale making has captivated people of all ages. Families gather every year to celebrate this delicious custom where the tamaleras put their classic recipes on display, and onlookers of all ages enjoy the tasty creations. This cultural and educational tradition is one that makes San Antonio a truly special holiday destination.
VIA’s Holiday Special on the Blue Route, November 27 - January 2: Take advantage of VIA’s Holiday Special on the Blue Route for special pricing and new stops at attractions, shops and restaurants to make your travels around San Antonio very merry and bright!
Tamales at Pearl, December 3: Since 2010, the Tamales! Holiday Festival at Pearl has established itself as one of San Antonio’s top holiday events. Located along the River Walk, Tamales at Pearl offers delicious tamales from over 40 vendors, live music and plenty of fun for the whole family. This festive event is the perfect way to celebrate the holidays, as well as the rich culture of San Antonio.
La Tamalada and Time Travel Saturday: South Texas Holiday Traditions at the Witte Museum, December 10: Make and flavor your own half-dozen tamales at the La Tamalada workshop. Afterward, join in on the holiday fun with Time Travel Saturday: South Texas Holiday Traditions.
La Gran Tamalada, December 10: To maintain such a resilient custom, you have to educate future experts. At the annual tamal-making community party known as La Gran Tamalada, you’ll get hands-on experience from community tamaleras and enjoy San Antonio storytelling at its finest. Every holiday season, participants of all ages learn valuable methods and techniques in this informative and highly entertaining workshop at the historic Guadalupe Theater.
Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza, November 27 - December 3: Dating back to 1979, this event is the longest-running mariachi music festival in Texas. And today, it's also the setting for the largest mariachi competition in the United States. You'll experience some of the most renowned groups in the world as mariachis strive to be named the best vocalist, violinist, guitarist and more! And to top it off, you'll enjoy a culminating performance by 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.
Holidays in Bloom, November 25 - December 31: Step away from the holiday whirlwind of traffic and crowds to enjoy the season in nature. With picturesque backgrounds for family photos and beautiful spots perfect for tranquil time together, your holiday memories are sure to be bright.
Ford Holiday Boat Caroling, November 30 – December 18: Listen to the joyous sounds of carolers from more than 185 school, church, company and civic choral groups along the banks of the River Walk. Each night, boats float on the river with groups performing live Christmas carols for the public, who can enjoy the performances while strolling the walkways or sitting on a restaurant patio.
A Christmas Carol, December 2-19: Experience Charles Dickens’ classic story of redemption told with a bold, original voice. Local artists Tony Ciaravino and Tim Hedgepeth offer a brand new take on the timeless tale of Mr. Scrooge learning the lessons of life and the spirit of love at the Playhouse San Antonio.
Winter Wonderland, TBD: The DoSeum is transformed into a magical winter wonderland. A reverse Santa’s engineering workshop and a Multicultural holiday celebration on December 5 will kick off the month of activities, which includes specialized workshops, Santa appearances and an interactive snowscape in the Special Exhibits Gallery.
Valero Alamo Bowl, December 29: The Valero Alamo Bowl showcases some of the best teams from two of the premier conferences in the country, the Big 12 and Pac-12. The Bowl has quickly become one of the most popular, producing some of the most-watched bowl games in ESPN history while selling out six of the last eight years.
U.S. Army All-American Bowl, January 7: The U.S. Army All-American Bowl is the nation’s premier high school All-American game, featuring the best 90 players in a classic East vs. West matchup every January at San Antonio’s Alamodome. Building upon the extraordinary players and incredible moments featured during each of the previous U.S. Army All-American Bowls, this year’s edition promises to provide an unforgettable look at the future of college and professional football.
While you're in the tamale spirit, you can start a San Antonio holiday tradition of your own. Here are a few simple and tasty recipes that could bring some extra flavor to your kitchen this season, including the delicious Pork Tamale recipe from Mi Tierra Café Y Panaderia that is featured in the Holiday Tamale Making video above. But whether you choose traditional or non-traditional tamales, there are endless ways to feature your tasty inventions on the holiday menu.
Here in San Antonio, you’ll find something for everyone, from upscale boutiques to shopping malls to outdoor markets. Perhaps that’s why Forbes named us the “Top Shopping Destination in the Nation.” And when you head to our upscale outlet malls, you can do all of your holiday shopping at post-holiday prices.
Hecho a Mano, December 2-4: Traditional and contemporary works of art are joined by pieces from local, regional and national visual artists for the launch of the Hecho a Mano Boutique at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center.
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SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration, November 19 – January 1: Enjoy SeaWorld San Antonio’s amazing array of family-friendly seasonal shows, including “Shamu Christmas: Miracles,” “A Dolphin Christmas” and “Elmo’s Christmas Wish.” You’ll also find dazzling Christmas lights, candy canes, hot chocolate and more.
Six Flags Holiday in Park, November 19 – January 1: Experience thrilling rides and exciting family entertainment, along with tasty treats and iceless skating, at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Watch the “Majesty of Christmas” holiday spectacular, celebrate with the Looney Tunes and meet Santa at his castle.
A Wonderland Christmas, November 25 – December 23: Discover a winter wonderland with sparkling lights, carolers and Santa Claus at Morgan’s Wonderland. This 25-acre theme park is full of popular rides and attractions that are accessible to people of all abilities.
Zoo Lights, November 19 – January 1: See the San Antonio Zoo in a whole new light, with wild colors, exotic decorations and intricate animal patterns twinkling in the night. Thousands of lights create an immersive experience using traditional and unexpected color combinations. And your journey of light, iconic visuals, experiential displays, festive entertainment and delicious dining will be complemented by a seasonal soundscape perfect for creating a holiday celebration both unique and memorable.
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New Year’s Eve
If you want to have a romantic New Year’s Eve, spend it in one of the nation’s top 10 romantic destinations. You’ll find millions of lights, fireworks and the ever-romantic River Walk.
New Year's Celebration/Celebrate San Antonio, December 31: Ring in the new year San Antonio style! Enjoy spectacular fireworks, live music on multiple stages, food booths, family activities and more.
Kids' Countdown, December 31: Children and families can ring in the New Year and watch the ball drop at the kid-friendly hour of noon. Toast in 2016 with complimentary sparking juices and other festive touches.
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Celebrating the Holidays
The River Walk lights, the tree at the Alamo, and plenty of shopping. Find what makes the holidays special in San Antonio
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Discover the Unforgettable
Take a journey through the amazing culture, natural beauty and wide range of activities you’ll find in San Antonio. Whether you’re looking for a family vacation, a girl’s night out or a romantic weekend, a legendary experience awaits.