When our family was invited to experience a San Antonio Christmas, we didn’t know what to expect. Ten years had passed since our last visit to Alamo City, and we were excited to see how the city had changed. Let me say, San Antonio did not disappoint. Our days were filled with sunshine and the nights were filled with holiday lights. Here are some of the best ways to experience a San Antonio Christmas.
What Not to Miss in San Antonio During the Holidays
*We partnered with Visit San Antonio and Travel Mindset for the purpose of the article, but as always, opinions are 100% our own.
Downtown Lights Cruise
Odds are, if you are visiting San Antonio, one of the stops on your itinerary will be a visit to the River Walk. There are plenty of things to do along the River Walk, as it is home to restaurants, shopping and many hotels. The San Antonio river runs through the heart of downtown, and it’s hard to miss.
A River Walk cruise any time of year is enjoyable, but in December, the ride is magical. We took a nighttime holiday cruise with Go Rio Cruises, and the River Walk Christmas lights were mesmerizing. On our hour long tour of downtown we encountered other boats filled with local carolers and saw the beautiful buildings decorated for the holidays. It was the perfect holiday event to kick off our trip.
The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center
Our family always enjoys learning about the local culture when we travel, so we were very excited to experience Celebrando Tradiciones: Fiesta de Navidad at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. We were treated to two hours of beautiful dancing and music, showcasing the wonderful Mexican heritage of San Antonio. The dancers were elegant and the mariachis really knew how to put on a show.
SeaWorld San Antonio
Our family hasn’t visited SeaWorld since we lived in San Diego, so everyone was excited to visit the park. SeaWorld San Antonio puts on one of the most spectacular Christmas shows in San Antonio, the SeaWorld Christmas Celebration.
The park is decorated in over 9 million lights, and has a Sesame Street Christmas parade, a holiday market, Christmas themed shows, Santa, and reindeer! Be sure to visit at night to enjoy all of the lights, and don’t miss the snow showers in the Christmas village, where you’ll feel like you’re at the North Pole!
Zoo Lights at the San Antonio Zoo
Our family didn’t know what to expect when we first entered Zoo Lights. Would there be animals? Would there be lights? How does it all work? We were pleasantly surprised to find Zoo Lights has a little bit of everything!
As we entered the zoo, we realized it was really dark in some spots, but that only added to the fun. As we continued along the path, we found animals made of lights, nocturnal animals, and an amazing light show! Our kids found a place to purchase s’mores kits, so of course we joined in the fun and roasted marshmallows at the zoo! Other fun options include cookie decorating with Mrs. Claus and photos with Santa. This was our first Zoo Lights, but it definitely won’t be our last!
Christmas at the Caverns at Natural Bridge Caverns
This might be the most unique thing to do in San Antonio during the holidays. Natural Bridge Caverns is about an hour outside of San Antonio and is exactly what it sounds like, giant caves! My kids were so excited to visit and didn’t even know what they would find.
On the grounds of the property is a winter wonderland. Families can ice skate, take pictures in a giant snow globe, visit Santa, and even take a hayride. All of that is amazing, but the best part happens underground.
Caroling in the Caverns is a tour of the caverns with Christmas music along the way. There are four different areas where the tour group stops for a serenade from local musicians. One of our favorites was an a cappella group from an Austin area high school, but we enjoyed the others just as much. And the quality of the music was superb! That’s what happens when you sing in the caverns.
Unfortunately, we ran out of time to check out all of the Christmas events in San Antonio, but a few others that are on our list for next time include: ice skating in Travis Park, Fiesta Texas Holiday in the Park, and Christmas lights at the Alamo. There are just so many fun places to see the holiday lights in San Antonio, and not enough time!
Other places not to miss in San Antonio
Should you find yourself with extra time on your hands, there are several places to visit in San Antonio that are fun any time of year!
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
Did you know the Alamo isn’t the only mission in San Antonio? San Antonio has a network of five missions built in the 18th century, that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They span eight miles, and all but the Alamo are managed by the National Park Service. We visited the largest mission, Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo as well as Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purísma Concepción de Acuña. The park office at Mission San José is a great starting point for learning about the history of the missions in San Antonio.
King William neighborhood and Guenther House
The King William historic district of San Antonio is just south of downtown. This area was settled by the Germans and features stunning Victorian mansions that are beautifully decorated for the holidays. We had a delicious breakfast at Guenther House, the home of the founder of Pioneer Flour Mills, built in 1859. There are several home tours of the neighborhood offered throughout the year.
Briscoe Western Art Museum
We weren’t quite sure what to expect from this museum, but we were pleasantly surprised. My son’s favorite exhibit was the Alamo diorama, since he is learning all about Texas history in school. He enjoyed walking around the display and sharing extensive details of the battle. There was also a full size stage coach and chuck wagon within the museum, and artifacts and artwork depicting San Antonio through the centuries.
Where to Stay in San Antonio
Many visitors choose to stay at hotels on the River Walk, and that’s the perfect choice. We stayed at Hotel Valencia, which has a central location, comfortable rooms, and excellent service.
The San Antonio holiday events did not disappoint, and we would not hesitate to return. San Antonio is the perfect mix of history, culture, and entertainment, and during the holidays, everything is over the top amazing!