How To Experience Fiesta San Antonio Like A Local

During my recent visit to San Antonio, I had the opportunity to experience their annual Fiesta celebration. The community’s deep-rooted pride and enthusiasm for this annual celebration were remarkable. The vibrant atmosphere and volunteer efforts left me both inspired and impressed!  

There is truly something for everyone at Fiesta in San Antonio, and I encourage you to make plans to experience it for yourself. In this post, I will share everything you need to know about San Antonio’s Fiesta celebration and how to experience Fiesta like a local! 

Fiesta San Antonio Everything You Need to Know - Kids Are A Trip

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**Sarah was a guest of Visit San Antonio for the purposes of this review. As always, opinions are her own.***

Fiesta San Antonio

If you are unfamiliar with Fiesta San Antonio, it is an annual 11-day celebration that locals call a “party with a purpose.” For local residents, the excitement builds up over the course of the celebration as events and parades become larger and more impressive.  

San Antonio Fiesta vendors

As someone living in Alabama, I saw many parallels to the Mardi Gras festivities here in the South. But there are also quite a few differences. 

At the heart of Fiesta San Antonio is a rich history, cultural heritage, timeless traditions, and philanthropy. Many community members come together to create unique events that celebrate local culture and give back to the San Antonio community.

According to the Fiesta San Antonio website, the annual event has an economic impact of over $340 million across all 100+ Fiesta San Antonio events.

History of San Antonio’s Fiesta Celebration

The very first Fiesta San Antonio was in 1891. It was a simple flower parade to honor the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. 

It was then that San Antonio resident Mrs. James L. Slayden was inspired by the flower parades in Spain, and soon, the Battle of Flowers Association was born.

Today, this is the oldest and most anticipated Fiesta San Antonio event. Local schools are closed for this Friday parade, and half of a million people are on the streets of downtown San Antonio to watch it. 

When Is Fiesta San Antonio?

While the exact dates vary from year to year, Fiesta San Antonio is usually held in April because the Battle of San Jacinto was fought on April 21, 1836.

Here is a list of future Fiesta San Antonio dates so that you can plan your trip. 

  • 2025: April 24 – May 4
  • 2026: April 16 – April 26
  • 2027: April 15 – April 25
  • 2028: April 20 – April 30

The celebration always kicks off with Fiesta Fiesta held on the opening Thursday. However, as I will mention again below, the larger most popular events tend to be at the middle and end of the event. So, come Monday through Saturday to experience the most fun!   

Fiesta San Antonio Events

With over 100+ events each year, Fiesta offers something for everyone! There are plenty of free Fiesta events, family and pet-friendly celebrations, and adult-oriented activities. 

Many of the events are held in downtown San Antonio, but they are also spread out throughout the greater metro area. Many are centered around live music, great food, or both, such as the Fiesta Oyster Bake held at St. Mary’s College or the Taste of New Orleans.

Dress Display Fiesta San Antonio

However, others celebrate the arts, including the Southwest Fiesta Arts Show and special exhibits at the Witte Museum, such as Fiesta Looks To The Skies display of past Fiesta Queen dresses. 

Popular Fiesta Events

Night in Old San Antonio, often called NIOSA, is a 4-day-long celebration held in the Historic La Villita Historic Arts Village District. This charming community is a hidden gem all year, and lunch at the La Villita Cafe is a must-do.  

For NIOSA, La Villita transforms into 14 unique areas. Each one celebrates a different culture. Its mission is to preserve unique sites and historic structures around San Antonio, such as the city’s Spanish Colonial missions.

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This event is the largest fundraiser. It brings in six to seven million dollars each year, with about 30% of that going back to preservation. Tuesday and Wednesday tend to be family night, and Thursday is college night. You must visit and get the Chicken (or anything) on a Stick! 

Another popular Fiesta Event I personally attended is the Fiesta De Los Reyes held in the Historic Market Square. This event raises money for education and includes an all-day music and food festival.

Fiesta Vendors Decorations

If you have time, stop and eat at Mi Tiera! This family-owned restaurant has been a community favorite since 1941. Check out the mural in the back room, which pays homage to famous Latinos and the American Dream. 

With over 100 different events held over the 11 days of Fiesta San Antonio, I can’t possibly cover them all. So, click here to view the current Fiesta San Antonio event schedule. Generally, the specific events and activities for each Fiesta start showing up on the calendar in late Fall or early Winter. 

San Antonio’s Fiesta Parades

In addition to all of the vibrant events, three main parades are held yearly, as well as several smaller parades, such as the Fiesta Pooch Parade and the King William Fair

You don’t need to reserve seats for each of the parades below. However, doing so will make your experience much better! Plus, selling the seats is a non-profit initiative, and the money raised goes directly into future Fiesta San Antonio celebrations and the community. 

You should also give yourself plenty of time to get to and from the parades, as many roads are closed. Since all are located downtown, I recommend booking a hotel in downtown San Antonio so that you can walk to them. 

Battle of Flowers Day Parade

Held on the second Friday of Fiesta, this beloved parade has the most beautiful floats. I had the opportunity to see some of them up close a few days before the parade and was so impressed by the over 400 ladies who volunteer each year to create and attach over 15,000 handmade flowers to floats!  

San Antonio Fiesta Float

When attending the Battle of Flowers Parade, yell, “Show me your shoes,” to see the intricate yet comfortable footwear worn on the floats as they traverse over three miles of downtown San Antonio. 

Cavalier’s River Parade

Drawing over 250,000 spectators each year, this parade is held Monday evening along the San Antonio Riverwalk. Many great restaurants, such as Boudros Texas Bistro on the Riverwalk, right along the water, and hotels with balconies overlooking the parade, such as the Historic Omni La Mansion del Rio

Fiesta Flambeau Night Parade

Often referred to by locals simply as the “Night Parade,” this 2.6-mile illuminated parade is held on the last Saturday of Fiesta, San Antonio, and is the perfect way to wrap up the Fiesta celebrations. This is the largest illuminated evening parade in the United States!  

Medal Trading at Fiesta

In addition to the vibrant events held throughout San Antonio during Fiesta, there is a lot of Medal trading going on! Each year, businesses and organizations create and sell a Fiesta medal.

San Antonio Fiesta pin trading

Collecting, displaying, and sharing them is a tried and true tradition during Fiesta San Antonio. Like Swifties at the Eras Tour, friends and strangers talk about their various medals, swapping and sharing as they go! 

The most popular way to display your Fiesta medals is on a vest or a Serape sash, as shown here in a photo I took of an employee at the Alamo. 

Fiesta San Antonio: Local Tips

With each conversation I had during my recent visit to San Antonio, I felt more and more appreciation for the connection that this community has with this annual event. There is a lot of pride shown by the organizers of various events, and the energy was contagious! I only wish I could have stayed for the entire event because I felt that I had only scratched the surface.  

However, I did gather an incredible amount of first-hand knowledge from San Antonio locals, one of whom is even celebrating his 70th straight Fiesta this year! So, I want to share some Fiesta San Antonio tips and ways in which you can experience Fiesta like a local.

1. Plan Parking in Advance or Rideshare

Parking is very limited for large events. So, unless you know exactly where you will be parking, consider taking VIA’s Park & Ride service, a rideshare, or staying in a hotel nearby. 

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2. Stock Up On Decorations & Accessories

Half of the Fiesta Fun is centered around fun hats, flower tiaras, and other accessories. Many locals even decorate their porches and yards with Picado. In the weeks leading up to Fiesta, stop by Amol’s Party Store to stock up on decorations and accessories, many handmade! 

3. Don’t Try to Do It All

This was a common theme when I asked San Antonio locals to share advice with me. Many said to savor and enjoy these events instead of trying to do it all. If you are having a great time, stay and enjoy. Let yourself get caught up in the moment! Pick one or two Fiesta events per day, and know that you can always try another one next year.  

4. Let Your Taste Buds Lead The Way

If you need help deciding which Fiesta event to attend, see what type of food is served. You can choose something specific, such as a Chili Cookoff or Cajun food, or something broad, such as the Taste of New Orleans. 

Mi Tierra restaurant

5. This is NOT a Weekend Event

I made the mistake of visiting for the first weekend and was sad to see the festivities truly kicking off as I was leaving! So, while there are parades on Friday and Saturday, there are also a lot of fun events during the week, such as NIOSA and the River Parade. 

6. Fiesta is For Family and Friends

Bring your loved ones to Fiesta with you! This event is meant to be celebrated throughout generations. It’s a time to be together and have fun. In fact, I was told that everyone is one big family during Fiesta! 

7. Ask Locals For Recommendations

In every Uber I rode in, the friendly drivers told me about Fiesta. They didn’t know that I was in town to write about it; they were just so excited about the festivities. San Antonio locals want to tell you about their favorite Fiesta events; there is no gate-keeping here! So, ask your questions, and you may uncover a hidden gem. 

Other Things to Do in San Antonio

In addition to San Antonio’s Fiesta events, there are countless other things to do with kids in San Antonio.   

Some of my favorites include:

And if you have older kids like me, check out these fun things to do in San Antonio with teenagers. My kids would love the ghost tours and some of the immersive art experiences.   

Witte Museum dinosaur skeleton
Dinosaurs at the Witte Museum

If you stay in downtown San Antonio, a riverwalk cruise is fun for the entire family, as is a trip up to the top of the Tower of the Americas at Hemisfair Park. While there, pop into Box Street Social for brunch. 

San Antonio CityPASS

You may want to consider purchasing a San Antonio CityPASS. I used one on my recent trip, and it really did provide great value. It got me admission to the Witte Museum, a Riverwalk Cruise with GoRio, church and exhibit access at the Alamo, a trip up to the top of the Tower of the Americas, and more!

There are actually eight options, including the San Antonio Zoo and DoSeum, and you get to choose four. 

Make Your Plans To Experience Fiesta in San Antonio

As I write this, the 2024 Fiesta celebration has just wrapped up. The focus will turn to Fiesta 2025, with the annual Fiesta poster released and parade themes chosen. Before you know it, Fiesta Fiesta will kick off another year of celebrations.

If you live in Texas, or anywhere for that matter, keep Fiesta San Antonio on your radar. It’s never too early to book hotels along the Riverwalk, and I really enjoyed my stay at the Omni La Mansion del Rio.

Texas Alamo

About six months in advance, as events are released, buy tickets to anything that may sell out. As Fiesta gets closer, sit down with your friends and family and start choosing which events you want to attend that year.  

Safe Travels and Viva Fiesta!

For more information on San Antonio, head to the Visit San Antonio website. All photos credit to Sarah Blevins with the exception of the lead Pinterest image.