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Ultimate Guide to Christmas in San Antonio: Riverwalk Lights & More

San Antonio is known for its beautiful Riverwalk, historic Missions, and vibrant culture.

But it’s still a little-known secret that the city hosts some of the best Christmas celebrations in the Lone Star State!

It’s time to get to know San Antonio’s incredible holiday spirit that will make your Christmas feel like a year-round celebration.

Here are some of the best things to do while spending Christmas in San Antonio.

San Antonio Riverwalk look stunning when decorated during the holiday season
San Antonio Riverwalk look stunning when decorated during the holiday season

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Christmas in San Antonio River walk

San Antonio’s River walk is an epicenter of festive cheer and Christmas spirit.

Located in Downtown San Antonio, the river walk is visited by millions of visitors every holiday season.

Here are the famous Christmas events on San Antonio’s River Walk.

See the holiday lights on the River Walk

The San Antonio River Walk is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Texas.

During the holiday season, the river walk is home to the famous holiday lights.

Over 100,000 lights light up the trees, bridges, and buildings on the riverwalk.

Even the boats are lit up for the holidays.

The lights continue even a few days beyond the New Year, making the entire holiday season a perfect time to visit San Antonio River walk.

Beautiful holiday lights on the San Antonio Riverwalk during Christmas
Beautiful holiday lights on the San Antonio Riverwalk during Christmas

There are two main areas to see holiday lights on the Riverwalk: The Arneson River Theatre stretch near La Mansion Del Rio hotel, and the river walk near the famed Aztec Theatre.

Visitors of all ages enjoy strolling along the San Antonio river and admiring one of the most beautiful light displays in Texas.

Also Read: Best Places to Visit in Texas in winter

Attend the Ford Holiday River Parade

This is one Christmas event in San Antonio that locals as well as visitors most look forward to during the holiday season.

This spectacular one hour parade on the San Antonio River walk features beautifully decorated and illuminated floats, costumed people, celebrities, and music.

The parade usually takes place the day after Thanksgiving.

The parade route begins near the Arneson Theatre and ends near Biga on the Banks restaurant.

This is one of the most popular Christmas events in San Antonio, so make sure to buy tickets in advance or get there early to reserve a good free spot!

San Antonio River Walk is just amazing in the holiday season
San Antonio River Walk is just amazing in the holiday season

Enjoy the Fiesta de Las Luminarias

One of the best known Christmas traditions on the River Walk San Antonio is the Fiesta de Las Luminarias event.

As part of the event – luminarias – paper lantern bags with a candle inside – are lit along the river walk at dusk.

The centuries-old Mexican tradition is symbolically held to guide the Holy Family to Bethlehem.

During the event you can also see boats filled with carolers and take a photo with the graceful lanterns placed by the bridges and fountains of the Riverwalk.

The event occurs on three weekends in December and is a special treat for visitors to the San Antonio River Walk.

Tourists taking San Antonio river cruise in Texas
Tourists taking San Antonio river cruise in Texas

Take the holiday cruises down the San Antonio River

Several cruises take off from the Riverwalk including narrated boat trips and lunch as well as dinner cruises.

During the holiday season, you can enjoy Christmas dinner cruise on the river barges.

Enjoy an amazing traditional dinner while you admire the Christmas spirit on the river walk.

The cruise is also one of the best ways to see the lights display.

Other cruises operated by Go Rio Cruises include Downtown Lights Cruise and the Pearl District Lights Cruise which takes visitors around the Museum Reach.

Enjoy holiday shopping on the Riverwalk

The San Antonio Riverwalk is home to several brands, malls, boutique stores, and even stalls selling right on the river walk.

During the holiday season, you can do some shopping of your own as well as buy unique gifts for the loved ones.

Holiday markets on the riverwalk
Holiday markets on the riverwalk

You can buy everything from ornaments, holiday garlands to locally made dishes and other unique souvenirs.

Christmas shopping on the San Antonio Riverwalk is a popular activity during the holidays.

Other Christmas Events in San Antonio

Besides the river walk Christmas lights, many other holiday events take place throughout the city.

You can enjoy thrill rides, live music, markets, and more in the city.

Here are some events and happenings to enjoy Christmas in San Antonio.

Christmas tree in front of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas
Christmas tree in front of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas

Celebrate Christmas at San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

San Antonio’s five famous Missions are home to some of the world’s most beautiful churches, which are also popular among visitors during the holidays.

The five missions – Mission Concepcion, The Alamo, San Jose, San Juan, and Espada- form a UNESCO World Heritage site known as ‘San Antonio Missions’.

These historic buildings are connected by trails along the river walk extension known as the Mission Reach, which make for amazing strolls during the holidays.

During San Antonio Christmas celebrations, these missions come alive with traditional events such as Las Posadas procession, plays, Mariachi masses, and more.

Walking the Mission Trail during Christmas is one of our favorite things to do in San Antonio in winter.

Entrance door to Mission Espada in San Antonio Texas on a bright sunny day with christmas decorations - Wooden rustic door
Christmas decorations at Mission Espada, San Antonio

Take kids to see the SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration

SeaWorld San Antonio is home to the amazing holiday-themed event, the Christmas Celebration.

During the event, visitors can enjoy Christmas shows, lights display, meet Santa Claus, hot chocolate, Christmas carols, as well as festive foods.

The event also features fireworks, winter-themed parades, and more.

Visit the San Antonio Botanical Garden for Christmas festivities

The famous San Antonio Botanical Garden turns into a wonderland during Christmas with its festive lights and holiday events.

During Lightscape Christmas event in San Antonio, visitors can walk down a mile long trail and see beautiful themed light displays such as Texas bluebonnets, arched tunnel of lights, and more.

The garden’s beautiful lights are sure to take your breath away during the holidays.

San Antonio downtown carriage rides
San Antonio downtown carriage rides

Enjoy Holiday in the Park at Six Flags Fiesta

Six Flags Fiesta Texas theme park is another popular destination for Christmas events in San Antonio.

The event features a winter wonderland theme and includes various holiday-themed activities such as photo with Santa, magical thrill rides, s’mores and hot chocolate, and more.

Visitors can also listen to live music while basking in the beauty of the lights display in the park.

Attend Zoo Lights! at San Antonio Zoo

San Antonio’s famous zoo remains open during the winter nights and is the place to be for family fun.

The zoo is decorated with millions of lights, colorful LED displays, and decorations for kids to enjoy.

The event also includes a Lakeside light show and meeting Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus.

Holiday light tunnel at Christmas
Holiday light tunnel at Christmas

Spend San Antonio Christmas underground at the caverns

Looking for a unique experience this holiday season?

Visit the Natural Bridge Caverns for their holiday festivities!

You will be able to listen to Christmas carols in the caves, enjoy a Christmas maze, as well as see the holiday lights just a short distance away from San Antonio.

Enjoy the delicious Tamales in the city

Did you know that delicious hot tamales is a unique Christmas tradition in San Antonio?

The Christmas season coincides with the tamale season and there are several places in the city that serve the amazing tamales throughout winter.

Some of the best spots to try pork, chicken, and even veggie tamales in San Antonio include Delia’s, Martinez, and Mimi’s.

Want to make your own tamale? You will also find several tamale making classes in San Antonio during the holiday season.

Fireworks over the San Antonio Skyline on New Year's Eve
Fireworks over the San Antonio Skyline on New Year’s Eve

Take a Stroll Down Henry B Gonzalez Convention Centre

During the holidays, San Antonio’s Henry B Gonzalez Convention Centre is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Texas.

The venue is decked out with beautiful decorations, lights, and festive displays for everyone to enjoy.

Even if you don’t have a convention inside the building during your trip to San Antonio, it’s still worth a visit.

Shop at the holiday artisan market at Pearl

San Antonio’s Pearl District is home to many boutique stores and artisan stalls.

During Christmas season, a large holiday market is held at the Pearl where you can shop local, buy presents for your loved ones, and even enjoy some food from the popular food trucks that ply the area around Christmas time.

Beautiful Christmas decorations on the San Antonio Riverwalk in Texas
Beautiful Christmas decorations on the San Antonio Riverwalk in Texas

Watch Holiday Movies at a drive in theater

Christmas movies are an integral part of holiday celebrations around the world, with children gathering around the television to watch their favorites on TV every year.

You can also watch many of these movies on a bigger screen at San Antonio’s The Drive-In at Fiesta Texas, just outside the gates of Six Flags theme park.

Catch a free movie in the city

Visitors can also watch free holiday movies such as The Polar Express and How The Grinch Stole Christmas while enjoying s’mores and hot chocolate at several spots in the city.

Popular venues include Will’s Plaza on the Riverwalk and the Mission Marquee Plaza.

San Fernando Cathedral And Christmas Tree Main Plaza - San Antonio Texas
San Fernando Cathedral And Christmas Tree Main Plaza – San Antonio Texas

Watch The Nutcracker Ballet

Ballet San Antonio, which is the official ballet company of San Antonio, hosts several performances of The Nutcracker during Christmas.

The story of The Nutcracker is wonderfully choreographed and a company nearby live music by the San Antonio Symphony.

The performance by San Antonio Youth Ballet is a must-watch for families visiting San Antonio during the holidays.

See the plays at Tobin Center

Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, which is located in downtown San Antonio, plays host to a variety of plays and musicals.

During the holiday season, it hosts several productions including classics such as A Christmas Carol.

The beautifully renovated theater is a favorite with visitors to enjoy local productions of hit Broadway plays.

San Antonio Christmas train ride at the Texas Transportation Museum
San Antonio Christmas train ride at the Texas Transportation Museum

Take a ride on Santa’s railroad Wonderland

This Christmas train ride arranged by the Texas Transportation Museum in San Antonio is a hit with kids as well as families.

Kids can ride the beautifully decorated train and meet Santa Claus himself at the North Pole.

The entire Museum and the historic Depot is beautifully decorated for the event and has many photo ops.

Also Read: Best beaches near San Antonio, Texas

Ice skate at Travis Park

Travis Park is the city’s largest public park.

It hosts the city’s Christmas tree and is home to several holiday events.

The Rotary Ice Rink is also located in Travis Park and is a hit with families.

Stunning decorations on the Christmas train
Stunning decorations on the Christmas train

Attend the Christmas events at San Antonio museums

The many museums in San Antonio host a variety of holiday-themed events.

From the Briscoe Western Art Museum and San Antonio Museum of Art to the Doseum, you will find festive events for all groups.

Enjoy Christmas at the University of the Incarnate Word

This is the largest Catholic University in Texas.

It hosts the popular ‘Light the Way’ Christmas festival every year.

The Christmas event activities include a tour of the campus, lights display, food trucks, and meeting Santa Claus.

Besides these other holiday events such as the Valero Alamo Bowl, pop up Christmas markets, festivals, and more.

San Antonio is amazing to visit during Christmas and should definitely be on your bucket list.

We hope you liked our guide to the Christmas season in San Antonio, Texas.

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