San Antonio is one of the brightest stars in the Texas firmament and remains one of the Lone Star State’s most visited cities. With a myriad of attractions and top-shelf festivals staged throughout the year, it is little wonder the Alamo City draws a crowd. But more and more visitors are attracted to San Antonio during the holiday season, when you can experience the warm hospitality and rich cultural mix that this diverse city provides, along with milder weather that should please.
Lighting of the River
On the Friday night after Thanksgiving, the annual Holiday River Parade and Lighting of the River will take place on the River Walk. The River Walk is “lit” at 7 p.m. The Holiday River Parade begins shortly thereafter and lasts for an entire hour as festive floats and decorated river barges wind their way on the San Antonio River along the River Walk corridor. Once lit on Nov. 25, the River Walk and the surrounding area around downtown San Antonio will be illuminated every night through Jan. 1. This is one of the most impressive holiday light displays in all of Texas.
The Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza presents outstanding mariachi artists in dignified settings and promotes a positive image of Mexican culture. It’s the largest mariachi festival in the United States. Many who were not previously fans of this music go away with a newfound appreciation for it. Nov. 27-Dec. 3, Lila Cockrell Theater, 200 E. Market St.
Tamales at Pearl
The Tamales! Holiday Festival at Pearl has established itself as one of San Antonio’s top holiday events. Located along the River Walk and near the historic Pearl Brewing Co., Tamales at Pearl on Dec. 3 offers delicious tamales from over 40 vendors, live music and plenty of family fun. Get a true taste of the city at this festive event, as well as the rich culture of San Antonio.
Paseo Del Rio
The Lighting of the River also kicks off the annual Paseo Del Rio holiday festivities, an assortment of events that are held along the River Walk throughout the holiday season. Among the activities scheduled are Holiday Boat Caroling, Christmas Caroling with Santa, and the Fiesta de las Luminarias.
Holiday Boat Caroling Listen to the joyous sounds of carolers from more than 185 school, church, company and civic choral groups along the banks of the River Walk, Nov. 30-Dec. 18. Each night, boats float on the river with groups performing live Christmas carols for the public, who can enjoy the performances while strolling the walkways or sitting on a restaurant patio.
Fiesta de las Luminarias Experience the holiday serenity of the River Walk as you stroll along the lush banks of the San Antonio River guided by more than 3,000 luminarias. This century’s old tradition begins at dusk Friday, Dec. 2 and continues through Sunday, Dec. 18 only for three weekends in December. Luminarias are a traditional Mexican Christmas lantern originally consisting of a candle set in sand inside a small bag. The River Walk luminarias display features 2,000 bags during nine nights over three weekends.
As the holiday season winds to a close, San Antonio gives it a festive send-off with its annual New Year’s celebration. Carnaval de San Antonio, also called Celebrate San Antonio, features live music, fireworks and more. Each New Year’s Eve, more than a quarter million people flood into downtown San Antonio in and around Hemisphere Park, with other stages and venues in the immediate vicinity to take part in this six-hour countdown to the new year. The fireworks go off at midnight.
The city’s primary art museum houses the largest and most comprehensive collection of ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman, as well as Asian, art in the Southern United States. The museum also has a significant collection of Latin American art, from Pre-Columbian times to the present, showcased in the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art. Its growing contemporary art collection balances some true masterpieces with notable Texas and regional art. The current exhibition featuring a retrospective of Guatemalan painter Carlos Mérida runs through Jan. 29, 2017.
Experience Charles Dickens’ classic story of redemption told with a bold, original voice. Local artists Tony Ciaravino and Tim Hedgepeth offer a brand new take on the timeless tale of Mr. Scrooge learning the lessons of life and the spirit of love at the Playhouse San Antonio. Dec 3-21 at the Russell Hill Rogers Theater.
Shopping San Antonio
The Alamo Heights neighborhood is a favorite of locals and seems like a small town itself. This is where you go to shop for luxury clothes, shoes, perfume, art and jewelry. Penny Lane, 5928 Broadway, is a gem of a shop. This edgy fashion boutique is stylish to the max, and a good place to find that perfectly fitted pair of jeans, designer tees or accessory. Julian Gold, 4109 McCullough Ave., offers major designer labels plus a new focus on contemporary collections, including several new lines that highlight casual and modern such as Trina Turk, Milly, Yigal Azrouel.
Get that special pair of cowboy boots at Lucchese Boot Company in the Alamo Quarry Market. You can grab them off the shelf or have them custom-made and shipped home to you. 255 E. Basse Rd.
The Rivercenter Mall’s convenient location right on the River Walk provides easy access to major stores like Macy’s, Gap, Victoria’s Secret, Express, Chico’s and many more. 849 River St.
Where to Stay
Perfectly situated across the street from The Alamo, this historic hotel offers a good value. Rooms from $146/night.
Created from a 19th-century brew house, this 146-room boutique hotel forms part of the Pearl Brewery community downtown. Rooms from $267/night.
Hotel Indigo at the Alamo
Blending historic preservation with contemporary style, this boutique hotel offers elegance as well as comfort. Rooms from $138/night.
Mokara Hotel and Spa
This 99-room gem located right on the River Walk soon becomes a favorite. Perfect for a romantic getaway. Rooms from $256/night.
Sheraton Gunter Hotel
Fully renovated downtown hotel, convenient to most attractions. Rooms from $149/night.
Where to Dine
Chef owned and operated, this restaurant serves upscale new American cuisine. Frequent menu changes reflect the seasons and Chef Mark Bliss’s inspirations. 926 S. Presa St., 210-225-2547
Bohanan’s Prime Steak and Seafood
A classic Texas steakhouse with a flair for seafood as well. A special occasion destination. 219 E Houston St., 210-472-2600
A cozy romantic restaurant on the River Walk. Fresh Texas ingredients used exclusively. 515 Villita St., 210-224-1976
Las Canarias Restaurant
Gourmet Mexican cuisine in a white tablecloth setting with attentive service. Wonderful view of the River Walk. 112 College St., 210-518-1063
When locals want to splurge on dinner they come here. It’s world-famous for its Italian-inspired cuisine and excellent service. 233 E. Houston St., 210-226-7256