Thousands of twinkling Christmas lights lining the tress of the romantic San Antonio River Walk. The world’s largest boots lit up with Christmas stars overlooking holiday shoppers. A beautiful colorful Christmas tree that stands tall amongst a charming downtown park. From giant ornaments and reindeer, to the biggest light show in Texas! San Antonio is a Christmas lover’s dream with everything it has to offer. The city is romantic, family friendly, and Instagram worthy all at the same time, especially during the holiday season. As a local born and raised, here is my travel guide to the best things to see and do for the holidays in San Antonio, Texas. So sit back and enjoy!
If there was just one thing you could do for the holidays in San Antonio, the San Antonio River Walk should be it! The River Walk is an official city park downtown made up of many walkways and bridges along the banks of the San Antonio River. I have featured the River Walk plenty of times on my blog, because it’s beautiful any time of year, however, during the holidays it truly is magical with over 100,000 lights draped over the trees that line the River Walk. My favorite way to experience it is by foot at night. The views and photos you’ll take are exceptional. Of course to top it off you can take a river barge boat ride as well, and end your night having dinner and drinks at one of the many River Walk restaurants. The Christmas River Walk lights are free to see. Tip: This is probably the busiest area of San Antonio for both tourists and locals. You may have a better experience on a week night. The weekends are PACKED! Of course, if you don’t mind crowds like me then that won’t be an issue for you 😉
La Villita is a historic district in the heart of downtown San Antonio. It’s a beautiful area to walk around with charming streets, the cutest souvenir shops, and great views of both the River Walk and Tower of the Americas. During the holidays, La Villita is even more beautiful with all of it’s Christmas lights and decor. I recently stopped by just last week and could not stop taking photos! This photo above is in the main outdoor fountain area where there are often special events and weddings. It’s also a good spot to get the Tower of the Americas in the background. As you see, during the holidays the Tower is lit up with red and green lights! Tip: There is an outdoor amphitheatre attached to La Villita called the Arnison River Theater. You can check their schedule for local performances. These are always nice shows because the Theater overlooks the River Walk.
Besides visiting the places I already mentioned downtown, I also highly suggest just taking some time to explore downtown in general for all of the beautiful Christmas vibes. So, as you leave the River Walk or La Villita, take a few turns and walk around a bit and you will not be disappointed. Main Plaza, Alamo Plaza, Market Square, Hemisphere Park, Commerce St, are all pretty festive during the holidays. Many of our larger hotels have beautiful window displays and are lit up red and green just like this!
While you are downtown, be sure to stop and explore all the holiday glory that Travis Park has to offer. This is where San Antonio’s official tree is located. It is so beautiful both in photos and in person. It stands fifty fee high with over 10,000 lights and custom ornaments on it. The Park itself is just beautiful too with over 250,000 lights spread across the trees. Seeing the tree is a local tradition, and one I look forward too every year. This year (2020) the city added an ice skating rink and small Christmas market area. The ice skating rink was the absolute cutest! We were there to see the sunset right over it! Oh, and if you have kids, the park also has a “letters to Santa” area which is the cutest! The Park is open and free to the public. Parking in the area is about $5 dollars.
Another nice option for the best holiday experience in San Antonio is to visit the Pearl Brewery, which is also located downtown. The Pearl is one of my favorite areas in San Antonio. I’ve featured it numerous times on both the blog and YouTube channel, and for good reason! There’s just so much to do and see, especially during the holidays. The Pearl has a Christmas tree, and a beautiful light display near the front entrance of Hotel Emma where the River Walk connects. Tip: There’s an elevator outside of Hotel Emma. Go down to level one for up-close views.
It’s the biggest light show in Texas! So, under full disclosure I haven’t been able to make it out to Sea World’s Christmas Celebration just yet (however it’s open until January 6th so technically I still have time), but I still wanted to make sure that I included it in this post because every family member and friend that I know who has gone loved it! The Celebration includes over nine million lights, dinner with Santa, a Sesame Christmas parade, and even performances by Merry Mariachis!
Visit the city of Windcrest if you’d like to see an elaborate display of homes decorated with lights for Christmas. It’s an annual tradition that has been going on for decades. The local residents of Windcrest decorate their homes, and thousands of tourists from San Antonio and the surrounding area drive through the neighborhoods to view. There’s even a judging to pick the best decorated home of the season. I remember experiencing the Windcrest lights when I was little, but I actually haven’t been back in years, so I’ll be making this short drive which is only about 20 minutes from San Antonio later this week and I’m super excited! To view the lights is free.
So, as an Instagramer, I can’t write this post and not also mention some of the most unique and fun Christmas photos to take while in San Antonio as well.
Starting off downtown at Sunset Station. This venue is usually rented out for special events including weddings. It’s close to the Riverwalk area, but I would still suggest driving there. The Instagram worthy photo here is at the train itself. It is lit up with Christmas lights, and is a beautiful sight! The light’s turn on, flash on and off, and then turn off. This is repeated every minute or so. There’s both free and paid parking in the area.
If you want the cutest unique Christmas card photo then head to the Rim and take a picture inside an oversized ornament. You can find it near the Lion and Rose British restaurant. I’ve gone both during the day and in the evening, and at night was the prettiest in my opinion. There’s also a large Christmas tree nearby for another nice picture!
Another fun Christmas Photo is by the oversized reindeer at La Cantera Mall. You can find it by the PF Changs. It’s a tough picture to get though because it’s on the roundabout, so I suggest going after mall hours if possible.
Down the road from La Cantera mall is the beautiful Eilan hotel, resort, and spa. If you fancy a nice dinner you can enjoy several fine dining options here. You could even stay at the beautiful resort of course! However, something else you could do is just park for free and walk around the main area. There’s a grand staircase, a very large Christmas tree, and holiday décor everywhere. Makes for beautiful family photos!
This is one of the coolest most instagramable pictures to get in San Antonio, it’s the world’s largest boots located at North Star Mall. You can specifically find it at the main entrance to the mall by Saks. It’s another hard photo to get because of the traffic right in front of it, so after hours is recommended. This photo is totally worth it though. What do you think?
That concludes your guide to the must see and do Christmas activities in San Antonio, Texas! I really hope you enjoyed this post. If so, be sure to subscribe to my blog. New posts out every Monday. To see my YouTube video where I visit many of these spots just click here. Happy holidays, and see yall next week!