A Guide to San Antonio’s Holiday Celebrations

A Guide (1)Looking for the best places to ring in the holiday season with your family? Look no further. We’ve compiled a list of the best places in San Antonio to celebrate the season.

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Where to See Santa

1. Santa’s Railroad Wonderland

December 6–7, 13–14, 20–21, and 27 from 6:00–9:00 P.M. at the Texas Transportation Museum (11731 Wetmore Rd., 78247)
Cost: $10 adults, $7 children over 2, FREE for children under 2
What to expect: Forty acres of Christmas decor, train rides, hayrides, and Choo Choo Claus

2. Story Time with Santa Paws

December 16 at 11:00 A.M. at the Grand Hyatt Hotel (600 E. Market St., 78205)
Cost: FREE and open to the public
What to expect: Kids can cuddle with puppies available for adoption while listening to a story, visiting with Santa, and snacking on holiday goodies (cookies, milk, cider, and coffee).

3. Santa’s Wonderland at Bass Pro Shop

November 15–December 24 at Bass Pro Shop at the Rim (17907 IH-10 West, 78257)
Cost: FREE and open to the public
What to expect: FREE crafts, games, and activities as well as a free picture with Santa! Expect long waits on the weekends; however, employees give out “Bass Passes” so you can leave and return at the time designated on your pass to see St. Nick.

4. Carriage Rides with Santa

November 29–30 (1:00–4:00 P.M.), December 6, 13, and 20 (5:00–9:00 P.M.), and December 7, 14 and 21 (1:00-4:00 P.M.) at the Village at Stone Oak by Aspen Leaf Yogurt (22506 U.S. 281 Ste. 101, 78258)
Cost: FREE
What to expect: You and your family can take a FREE ride in a horse-drawn carriage with Santa while carolers sing! Photographers are available on Saturdays.

5. Caring Santa

December 7 (9:00–11:00 A.M.) at Ingram Park Mall and December 7 (9:00–10:30 A.M.) at Rolling Oaks Mall (6909 N. Loop 1604 E., 78247)
Cost: FREE
What to expect: A special photo session with Santa for kids with special needs and their families, in an environment that supports their sensory and developmental needs.

6. Santa at the Shops at La Cantera

November 21–December 24, in the center court between Brio Tuscan Grill and P.F. Chang’s (15900 La Cantera Parkway, 78256)
Cost: Prices vary
What to expect: Standard mall Santa Claus pictures. Bring your pets Monday evenings! November 26, December 3, and December 10 are “Rudolph Wednesdays,” when kids receive a Rudolph activity pack with purchased photos.

7. Santa at North Star Mall

November 14–December 24 in front of Saks Fifth Avenue (7400 San Pedro Ave., 78216)
Cost: Prices vary
What to expect: Standard mall Santa Claus pictures. Bring your pets Monday evenings! November 26, December 3, and December 10 are “Rudolph Wednesdays,” when kids receive a Rudolph activity pack with purchased photos.

8. Photos with Santa

Throughout December at select Frost Bank locations
Cost: FREE
What to expect: Guests can enjoy cookies and juice while waiting to see Santa. Kids will take home candy canes and free framed photos.

9. Hyatt Hill Country’s Breakfast with Santa

Saturday mornings, November 29–December 20 from 9:00 A.M.–12:00 P.M. at Springhouse Cafe at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa (9800 Hyatt Resort Dr., 78251)
Cost: $21.95 for adults, $6.95 for children 5–12, FREE for children under 5
What to expect: A Texas-sized brunch buffet complete with hot cocoa and spiced cider. Santa will be waiting on the back porch to take pictures and talk with kids after breakfast.

10. SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration

November 22-30, December 6 and 7, December 13 and 14, December 20-24 and December 26-31 from 12pm-9pm
Cost: Adults $55/each, Children $45/each
What to expect: SeaWorld San Antonio is decking the halls for its annual Christmas Celebration, a magical holiday program. Enjoy stunning live shows in their wintery, watery wonderland. Immerse your family in the spirit of the season, sip hot cocoa as you stroll through a sea of sparkling Christmas lights, and share laughs at jolly shows.

Some of the lights at the Windcrest Light Up.

Some of the lights at the Windcrest Light Up.

Best Places to see Lights

Check out Brooke’s post on the best holiday lights here.

1. Ford Fiesta de Las Luminarias

December 5–7, 12–14 and 19–21 starting at dusk on the River Walk
What to expect: The River Walk lights more than 6,000 luminarias, symbolizing the path of the holy family. Follow the path while sipping hot cocoa.

2. Holiday in the Park at Fiesta Texas

November 28–January 4 at Six Flags Fiesta Texas (17000 IH-10 West, 78213)
What to expect: Fiesta Texas is transformed into a winter wonderland during the holiday season, when thousands of lights and a 60-foot tree illuminate the park. Families can see Santa in Santa’s castle, enjoy rides and listen to carolers. There are also holiday-themed shows, including a nativity. Regular admission is required, but there are discounts available (including a Groupon here).

3. Windcrest Light Up

Beginning December 9, 8601 Midcrown, Windcrest, 78239
Cost: FREE
What to expect: Little-known fact, especially to this Yankee: Windcrest is known as the “city of lights” due to its abundance of elaborate Christmas lights displays. Entire neighborhoods in the 1.8-square mile city decorate their homes, and a contest is held every year to judge the decorations in various categories. Maps are available at city hall (address above).

4. Santa’s Ranch

November 7–January 3, 9561 I-35 N., New Braunfels, 78133
Cost: $28 per vehicle or $56 for a season pass
What to expect: Vehicles drive through a mile of lights displays, including over 100 animations and scenes. Hot cocoa and kettle corn are available for purchase.

5. Light the Way at University of Incarnate Word

November 22 at 7:30 P.M. at Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium (4301 Broadway, 78209)
Cost: FREE and open to the public
What to expect: The official switch is flipped to light nearly one million lights that illuminate the UIW campus. Afterwards, cider, cocoa, and cookies are available, and you can follow the candle-lit procession through the campus. Lights remain lit until January 6.

6. Christmas Light Fest at the Don Strange Ranch

November 27-January 3, Sunday-Thursday from 6pm-9pm; Friday, Saturday and Holidays from 6pm-10pm; 103 Waring Welfare Ranch, Boerne, 78006
Cost: Sunday-Thursday $20/car; Friday, Saturday and Holidays $25/car
What to expect: As Don Strange Ranch’s newest holiday festivities, this display features two million lights along two scenic miles. 

Small-Town Festivals and Celebrations

Sadie (9 months) and I on the carriage at Dickens on Main in 2011.

Dickens on Main :: Boerne, Texas

1. Dickens on Main

November 28–29, Main Street, Boerne, 78006
Cost: FREE
What to expect: Boerne’s Main Street is closed to vehicle traffic and transformed into a winter wonderland. Grab a cup of hot chocolate and check out the “snow,” and then be sure to stop in some of the cute shops and take a carriage ride. On the main square in Boerne, you can see Santa Claus, watch performances by local dance troupes, and visit petting zoos. People dressed in Dickens-era costumes perform carols outside the storefronts. My family goes to Dickens on Main every year; it’s a great way to start the holiday season.

2. Winterfest Helotes

December 6, 12210 Leslie Rd., Helotes, 78023 (Cornyval grounds)
Cost: FREE
What to expect: A free family festival that begins with a mini-parade at 10:00 A.M., followed by carnival rides, pony rides, a scavenger hunt, and visits with Santa. Winterfest also boasts REAL snow, so if your kids were born and raised in Texas like mine, now is your chance to see a real white Christmas.

3. Wassailfest

December 4, 6:00–9:00 P.M., 424 S. Castell Ave., New Braunfels, 78130
Cost: FREE
What to expect: In the midst of twinkling lights in downtown New Braunfels, merchants dress in period costumes and make their own wassail. At the end of the evening, three “wassail-meisters” are chosen. Local groups perform, and visitors can enjoy shopping and other holiday snacks.

4. Main Street Bethlehem

December 5–7 and 12–14, 108 S. Vanderveer, Burnet, 78611.
Cost: FREE
What to expect: From 6:00–9:00 P.M. each evening, the First Baptist Church of Burnet is transformed into a living Bethlehem. More than just your typical Mary, Joseph, angels, and shepherds, Main Street Bethlehem has over 120 characters. Visitors can expect to see live animals, rabbis, angry Roman guards, and merchants, among others. Attendees can then follow a path to the inn, only to find it full. Eventually the path leads to a quiet cave, where Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus can be found among the animals. After spending time in Bethlehem, families can enjoy hot chocolate and cookies. Both the event itself and parking are free! The church recommends visiting on a Friday or Sunday night to avoid the crowds. Burnet is a bit of a long drive (about two hours from San Antonio), but this event is not to be missed!

5. Fireside Storytime and S’Mores with Santa

Friday and Saturday nights, November 28–December 20 from 6:00–8:00 P.M. at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa (9800 Hyatt Resort Dr., 78251)
Cost: FREE and open to the public
What to expect: Holiday carolers sing in the lobby while you make s’mores around the bonfire with your family. Holiday elves read stories and help kids decorate Christmas cookies and write letters to Santa.

6. Cowboy Christmas at Enchanted Springs Ranch

December 20–21, 10:00 A.M.–5:00 P.M. at Enchanted Springs Ranch (242 State Hwy. 46 W., Boerne, 78006).
Cost: $10 adults, $5 kids ages 3–12, FREE for kids under 3. (Groupon available here.)
What to expect: Wild West-themed Christmas events: Cowboy Santa, shows, and games. Crafts, face painting, tractor rides, and other vendors are available throughout the ranch. Families can see a live nativity and sit on a real camel!

7. Alamo Heights Chamber of Commerce Holiday Parade

December 6 at 5:30pm (Broadway from Cambridge Elementary to the Stewart Center)
Cost: FREE
What to expect: This family oriented parade is the longest running parade in the City of Alamo Heights. Donated toys will be collected along the parade route for Elf Louise.

8. Sights and Sounds of Christmas in San Marcos

December 3-6 in San Marcos Plaza Park (401 East Hopkins Street, San Marcos 78666)
Cost: Nightly Admission for $5, Kids 12 and under are FREE
What to expect: Experience the ice skating rink, the Town of Bethlehem, a carnival, free Santa photos, a food court, live performances, holiday shopping, arts & crafts for the kids, a petting zoo and pony rides!

Holiday Cultural Activities

Inside the Tobin Center's performance hall | Alamo City Moms Blog

For more cultural activities, check out Inga’s post here.

1. Junie B. Jones—Jingle Bells, Batman Smells at the Magik Theatre

November 21–December 27, showtimes vary, at the Magik Theatre (420 S. Alamo St., 78205)
Cost: $10 adults and children over 2, FREE for children under 2
What to expect: If you’ve never been to the Magik Theatre, this a great opportunity to check it out! Shows are usually about 90 minutes long, and cast members interact with the audience. Junie B. Jones is perfect for younger elementary-aged kids. Concessions are available in the lobby during weekend performances.

2. Ballet San Antonio’s The Nutcracker

November 28-December 7 at the Tobin Center (100 Auditorium Circle, 78205)
Cost: Prices vary
What to expect: Ballet San Antonio and the San Antonio Symphony team up to offer the holiday classic. Shows are at 2:00 P.M. and 7:00 P.M.—check schedule for details.

3. Irving Berlin’s White Christmas

November 28–December 28 at the Woodlawn Theatre (1920 Fredericksburg Rd., 78201)
Cost: Prices vary
What to expect: Broadway musical with classic songs guaranteed to put you in the holiday spirit! Shows are at 7:30 P.M. on Fridays and Saturdays and 3:00 P.M. on Sundays.

4. Kids’ Gingerbread at the San Antonio Children’s Museum

December 6 from 12:00–6:30 P.M. at the Children’s Museum (305 E. Houston St., 78205)
Cost: Gingerbread house—$16 for non-members/$14 for members; gingerbread cookie pack—$10 for non-members/$8 for members. Does not include museum admission.
What to expect: Decorate a gingerbread house with your family! Each holiday pack includes premium candy and icing.

5. SA Choral Society: Handel’s Messiah Community Sing-Along

November 29 at 7:00 P.M. at the Majestic Theatre (224 E. Houston St., 78205)
Cost: $15
What to expect: The largest Messiah sing-along in San Antonio! Bring your own score or rent one for $5. If you plan to sing, sit in the orchestra. If not, sit in the mezzanine or balcony. The audience is the chorus; soloists are singers from the San Antonio Choral Society.

6. Holiday Pops

December 19–20 at 8:00 P.M., December 21 at 3:00 P.M. at the Tobin Center (100 Auditorium Circle, 78205)
Cost: Prices vary
What to expect: The San Antonio Symphony and Children’s Chorus of San Antonio will perform holiday favorites. Songs from Frozen will be included this year just in case you haven’t already heard them enough.

 7. The Nutcracker Tea with the Ballet Conservatory of South Texas

Sunday, December 14 at 2:00 P.M. at the Historic Pearl Stable (303 Pearl Pkwy., 78215)
Cost: $60 per ticket
What to expect: Welcomed by Clara, the Nutcracker Prince, and the Sugar Plum Fairy, guests will munch on treats and sweets as they enjoy a theatrical reading of The Nutcracker and performances by the Ballet Conservatory Senior Company. Guests may also decorate a gingerbread man, complete with icing and sparkling candies.

Ballet San Antonio's The Nutcracker | Alamo City Moms Blog

Photo by Alexander Devora

Active Events

Just in case your idea of a holiday celebration includes running shoes and a jogging stroller, here are a few family-friendly fun runs:

1. Turkey Chase 5K, 10K, and Kids’ Fun Run

November 27 at 8:00 A.M. at the Dominion (1 Dominion Dr., 78257)

2. San Antonio 5K Santa Boogie

December 6 at 8:00 A.M. at VFW Post #76 (10 10th Street, 78215)

3. Jingle Bell Walk/Run

December 13 at Valero Headquarters

4. Jingle Paws Classic 5K

December 13 at 8:00 A.M. at Soler’s Trisports (14405 Old Bandera Rd., Helotes, 78023)

5. ING Kids Rock San Antonio

December 6 at 9:30 A.M. at Sea World (10500 SeaWorld Dr., 78251)

And don’t miss our ShopSATX Holiday Gift Guide for ideas on great gifts from local San Antonio businesses this holiday season!

What are you looking forward to most this year? My favorite part of the season is when my family goes Christmas shopping while I get to watch Love, Actually by myself. Many blessings to your family this year during the holiday season! Enjoy all San Antonio has to offer!

Did we leave anything out? Do you have something to add? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll be happy to include it!

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7 Responses to A Guide to San Antonio’s Holiday Celebrations

  1. Toni McKnight Adams December 15, 2014 at 11:12 am #

    Love your Blog, a Thanks for sharing

  2. Melissa Dockery December 7, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

    I am not usually one to rant & complain on social media, however I feel like this needs to be said: I attempted to take my 3 year old son to this event since it was so highly advertised in our local newspaper. What a mistake!!! Traffic took me 45 minutes on Bandera just to get in and then I ended up parking in Walmart’s parking lot. There were less than 10 rides appropriate for his age and they all had massive lines! It was mostly booths with people advertising insurance, health care, etc. It was not the event as described in the papers. I didn’t see any snow and I couldn’t even find the location to drop off my toy donation for all of the “free” activities. After 30 minues of wandering around, I left! Unless the city of Helotes can find a larger place to host this event, or at least get traffic control to extend the lights & make it more “kid friendly”, I won’t be returning.

    • Kristin
      Kristin December 8, 2014 at 6:51 am #

      Hi Melissa, I’m so sorry. The same thing happened to me. My kids are 3 and 5 and we rode 2 rides and left. I did see the snow, but the line was wrapped all the way around the fairground so I didn’t even mention it to my kids. Not having gone before, I just reported on the information I had (which was what you saw in the papers). Next year I’ll be sure to add my personal experiences (and we would probably not go again either).

  3. Kristin
    Kristin November 28, 2014 at 7:41 am #

    Thanks for the additions! Not sure how I forgot Sea World. Just wanted to share that Santa’s Railroad currently has a Living Social deal, tickets are $5.

  4. Heather November 23, 2014 at 8:42 am #

    Don’t forget about SeaWorld’s winter wonderland celebration along with good ol’ Santa Claus And story time with mrs. Claus, and a park full of lights and joyous, live holiday music.

  5. Dawn November 21, 2014 at 8:55 pm #

    Christmas lights at the Don Strange Ranch starts Thanksgiving night.

  6. Tatiana November 21, 2014 at 9:04 am #

    Don’t forget Sights and Sounds in San Marcos the first weekend of December! It’s like a mini fair.