With its stunning historical sites, blend of cultures, and lively pedestrian streets, this city is on any traveler’s USA bucket list, and Christmas in San Antonio means visitors get to experience even bigger and brighter celebrations than usual.
This city didn’t earn the title of one of Texas’ top tourist destinations without the goods to back it up, and Christmas activities in San Antonio include everything from seeing the iconic Riverwalk in a new light (literally) with its dazzling holiday decorations to chowing down on some mouth-watering Tex Mex.
With so many hotspots to see even in non-holiday seasons, you’ll definitely need some help narrowing down your Christmas itinerary. That’s where we come in.
So keep reading for all our favorite festivities that will make your San Antonio Christmas totally unforgettable!
12 Festive Ways to Celebrate Christmas in San Antonio
San Antonio is often touted as the best city in Texas for tourists to visit. Of course, iconic attractions like the Alamo and the River Walk draw visitors all year round, but Christmastime brings a special shine to this central spot.
We’ve gathered a range of activities, from more high-energy outings to the best of the food scene to classic Christmas light viewing. These are the best things to do in San Antonio if you want to celebrate Christmas in Texas. Check it out!
Have a cozy collegiate Christmas at the University of the Incarnate Word
For more than three decades, the University of the Incarnate Word has hosted its annual Christmas extravaganza for community members and tourists alike.
From the comfort of your own car, you can tour the gorgeously glowing campus, enjoy performances by the university’s students, and even catch a glimpse of Santa passing by.
A heartily stocked Food Truck Yard welcomes hungry customers, and while the Kids’ Corner is mostly for the little ones, guests of all ages can snag some complimentary cookies and cocoa to warm up.
Grab your free ticket in advance (but make sure to hurry, because they go fast), then visit between November 20-22 from 6 PM-9 PM. You’ll have an hour-long time slot to drive through the displays.
The decorations will be shining every evening through January 6, 2021, so even if you miss the kickoff celebrations, you can still enjoy the lights at a later date.
Go for a riverside stroll at the Fiesta de las Luminarias
The beautiful, delicate paper lanterns–luminarias–that give this event its name are an unmissable sight for your Christmas in San Antonio.
In a tradition that stretches back hundreds of years, the famous San Antonio River Walk is lined with thousands of these Mexican Christmas lanterns, meant to guide the holy family on their way.
With them at your feet and over 100,000 lights twinkling overhead, an evening walk along the water is sure to be an unforgettable affair.
The event runs for the first three weekends in December and begins at dusk. It’s free to wander around, but you can also pull up a chair at one of the many bars or restaurants on the waterfront and indulge in a meal or a few drinks as you take it all in.
Watch The Nutcracker at Ballet San Antonio
Calling all culture lovers! The Christmas season marks the return of a beloved audience favorite at the Ballet San Antonio.
Travel to a winter wonderland of dazzling costumes and larger-than-life sets with Clara and the sugar plum fairies at the annual performance of The Nutcracker.
It’s the perfect family-friendly activity but makes for a magical date night getaway as well.
Ballet San Antonio has been around since 1985 and is involved with several community initiatives, including the Boys and Girls Club and the Parks and Recreation Department, so you’ll also be supporting local causes.
The performances will run on weekends from November 27-December 13, and tickets cost between $40-$114.
Enjoy underground caroling at Natural Bridge Caverns
If you’re searching for one of the truly unique things to do in San Antonio for Christmas, look no further. Christmas at the Caverns takes all the typical holiday festivities…and puts them underground.
In Texas’ largest underground cavern, you’ll hear the echo of carols and even catch a glimpse of a spelunking Santa.
After you’re done, the fun continues aboveground with an outdoor maze, 30-foot tall Christmas tree, and of course, a walking trail with lots of lights.
When it gets a little chilly, just gather around the Christmas campfire to warm your hands, roast some s’mores, and sip on hot chocolate or eggnog.
The event takes place Saturdays and Sundays from December 5-16, then opens again for a longer run on December 19-23. Make sure to stop by between 4.30 PM-6.30 PM if you want to catch one of the underground caroling tours.
Indulge in TexMex traditions at Tellez Tamales & Barbacoa
Any San Antonian will tell you that tamales are a crucial part of celebrating Christmas in this Southern city.
Luckily, there are lots of restaurants cooking up fresh TexMex treats all holiday season long. One of the local favorites is Tellez Tamales & Barbacoa, a family-owned spot specializing in traditional homemade tamales since 1975.
Plenty of people will be lining up in the early hours of the morning on Christmas Eve to get their holiday tamales, so make sure to show up before they sell out.
Some years, Tellez sells 1 million tamales between Thanksgiving and Christmas alone, so you can rest assured that the entire San Antonio community has vouched for the tastiness of this TexMex!
Take them to go and enjoy along the River Walk or at one of the city’s lovely parks with all your friends and family for a truly local Christmas in San Antonio.
Say hi to Santa at Christmas on the Ranch
Sure, plenty of places boast that they have the best light shows in San Antonio, but Don Strange Ranch is home to over 4 million lights and dozens of displays that come to life every night in a complete Christmas extravaganza!
The ranch was settled by German immigrant Nicolas Zink more than 150 years ago and has lived on a stunning destination for a range of events.
But Don Strange is best known for its Christmas festivities, including everything from a mile of eye-popping driving under dancing lights to hot cocoa and s’mores with Santa.
Hop on a hayride, check some of that holiday shopping off your to-do list, or sit back and relax at one of the ranch’s drive-in family-friendly holiday movie nights. There’s truly something for everyone at Christmas on the Ranch!
The event will run between November 27-December 24 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights from 6 PM-10 PM.
Play pickleball at the Special Olympics Texas Holiday Tournament
Pickleball, the all-American sport that combines tennis, ping pong, and badminton, is always excellent for a laugh and some good old family fun. If you’re looking for a more active Christmas in San Antonio, this is the event for you.
In honor of the holidays, Special Olympics Texas has partnered with a totally over-the-top San Antonio sports bar, Chicken N Pickle, to throw the most festive fundraising event of the season, full of music, food, and fun.
In addition to the delicious Southern cuisine at Chicken N Pickle, you’ll find 11 pickleball courts, as well as spaces to play bocce ball, shuffleboard, cornhole, Jenga, and ping pong.
The tournament will take place on December 4, 2020, from 6 PM-9 PM, but feel free to show up early and spend a day playing all the games on offer.
Teams can consist of 2-4 players, and it costs $100 per group to register for pickleball or $25 to register for cornhole. Not only is everyone sure to have a blast, but you’ll also be raising awareness and money for Special Olympics Texas athletes as you compete!
Spread some Christmas cheer at the Ford Holiday Boat Caroling
This is one of the classic things to do in San Antonio for Christmas and a great way to see the famous San Antonio River from an even more up close and personal perspective than along the River Walk banks.
So assemble your caroling team, snag a boat, and head out to spread some holiday cheer as you cruise under the beautiful bald cypress trees strung with lights.
Your caroling boat will make random stops at the bars and restaurants by the river so you can serenade diners and passersby.
The boats will be running from December 3-22, 2020. Visitors can book a private boat for a group of up to 15 people and make a one-hour loop around the gorgeously lit downtown.
Bookings cost $125 per group for a Monday-Thursday slot and $150 for a Friday-Sunday slot.
Each boat comes decked out with lights and other festive decorations, as well as a driver, lyric binders, and fully-stocked iPods for all your holiday jamming needs.
Witness The Majesty of Christmas at Six Flags Holiday in the Park
If you prefer rollercoasters to rockin’ around the Christmas tree, then San Antonio’s largest amusement park, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, is a great place to spend the holidays.
Every year, they transform the park into a winter wonderland full of impressive light displays, lots of live entertainment, and rides that range from heart-pumping spins and drops to heart-warming holiday-themed singalongs.
Six Flags’ most popular show, The Majesty of Christmas, is a breathtaking reenactment of the nativity scene, featuring live animals, a singing Mary and Joseph, and angels soaring through the sky.
Holiday in the Park will be in full swing from November 21, 2020-January 3, 2021, but some events only run on particular nights, so check their website before you go.
Swap the sleigh for a railroad car at Santa’s Railroad Wonderland
The Texas Transportation Museum is yet another San Antonio institution that gets a makeover for the holidays.
Bagpipers, carolers, and other live entertainment will make appearances throughout the evening. Of course, Santa Claus will show up too.
And all 40 acres of the park will be decked out with the famous holiday lights and displays, so there will be plenty of holiday magic to soak in through the windows of the train as you ride around.
The event will run for the first three weekends of December, with the grounds opening at 5 PM and the last admission at 8 PM. Tickets are just $12 for adults and $10 for kids age 4-12. The littlest ones get in free!
Hike or bike through history on the Mission Trail
Technically, this isn’t one of the typical Christmas things to do in San Antonio, and it’s actually a popular activity all year-round.
But Texas’ winter weather makes November and December an especially lovely time to walk or bike the Mission Trail.
While temperatures often spike above 100 degrees in the summer, the holiday season brings easier, breezier riding along the 15 miles of hiking and biking trails that lead you between five historical San Antonio missions.
Along the way, you can enjoy views of local flora and fauna, charming neighborhoods, and rustic farmland.
Then, take some time to explore the stunning Spanish colonial missions that make San Antonio such a popular tourist destination.
It’s the perfect activity for nature lovers and history buffs, or anyone that wants to step away from the hustle and bustle of Downtown San Antonio during the holidays and get some fresh air.
Celebrate Christmas like a cowboy at Enchanted Springs Ranch
No Christmas in San Antonio would be complete without a little Texas flair, so head over to Enchanted Springs Ranch for food, fun, and over 40 old Western storefronts all dressed up for the holidays.
Just 20 minutes from the city center, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a different world at the annual Old West Christmas Light Fest.
There are more than enough activities to keep guests of any age entertained all night long, from games of laser tag in the Christmas lights to rough and tumble mechanical bull rides.
You can also make your way through a light maze, shop for gifts, try your hand at some oversized lawn games, and warm up with a holiday drink at the Silver Spur Saloon.
The ranch will be lit up every Thursday-Sunday starting November 26, 2020, and remains open for all of Christmas week.
General admission is $15 per person, and kids under 6 get in free. They also offer a family 5-pack deal for $60, so bring the whole gang!
Christmas in San Antonio
Plan your trip to see and experience Christmas in San Antonio that is sure to get you in the holiday spirit.
After all, the city is packed with lovely Christmas events for the whole family, and you surely won’t want to miss all of that fun, will you?
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