Top 5 Reasons San Antonio has the Best Holiday Cheer

Are you looking for a place to find festive holiday spirit and Christmas cheer? Do you love seeing holiday lights and listening to carolers, but also want to stay on the warm side? If so, consider the San Antonio for your next holiday destination. There are so many wonderful things that come together to make this Texas city an authentically fun and festive place for the holidays. Here are the Top 5 Reasons to San Antonio has the best holiday cheer.

A photo of the San Antonio River Walk showing why San Antonio has the Best Holiday Cheer.
Holiday Cheer on the San Antonio River Walk

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Top 5 Reasons San Antonio has the Best Holiday Cheer

1. The San Antonio River Walk

Of course! The famous San Antonio River Walk Holiday Lights are at the top of this list. If you are visiting San Antonio during the holiday season, the Holiday Lights on the River Walk is a must see. The downtown portion of the 15 mile long San Antonio River Walk is lit up with a sea of lights. And best of all, it is free!

But it’s not just the lights! In addition to the many strands of colorful lights that hang off the River Walk’s large trees, there are holiday cruises and boat caroling to get you in the holiday spirit! You can book a narrated or non-narrated holiday light cruise. Or book a private and festively decorated caroling boat for a one-hour cruise.

Here are 3 Tips for visiting the San Antonio River Walk during the holidays.

Tip 1: Arrive early and expect to stand in line

The San Antonio River Walk is a very popular attraction during the holidays. If you want to avoid long lines, arrive early. Expect to stand in line for a long time if you come during the evenings on a weekend.

Although we did not do a river cruise, we strolled along the River Walk from sunset to 8:30pm on a Saturday night. We saw that the lines for the holiday light cruises and they were extremely long. Some of them wrapped around a bridge onto the other side of the river walk. If you are coming to do a River Walk holiday light cruise on a weekend, arrive early and expect to stand in line. Or…

The Saturday night river cruise line is on the left and the Sunday night river cruise line is on the right.

Tip 2: Visit on a Sunday night

Sunday nights are usually less crowded than other nights of the week. If you can, plan your visit for a Sunday evening. You’ll still have plenty of time to enjoy the sights and sounds of the San Antonio River Walk without having to deal with large crowds.

Sal and I also strolled through the River Walk Sunday night and the lines for the River Walk holiday light cruises were so much shorter. If you want to beat the crowds and your schedule allows, visit on a Sunday night.

Tip 3: Do not expect much caroling coming from the boat caroling

One of the popular things to do on the San Antonio River Walk is to buy a boat and go Christmas caroling! However, don’t expect too much caroling from the caroling boats. Most of boats just play recorded music over the loudspeakers. But that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy yourself! Just be prepared for less live singing and more recorded music and you’ll still have a great time.

Before I arrived at the River Walk, I was excited to see the caroling boats go by. I was looking forward to a serenade by festive carolers under lights of the River Walk to put me in the spirit of the season for all the baking I had to do when I got home. However, out of the many caroling boats we saw during our time in San Antonio, only one boat was singing. I was a bit disappointed.

Sal at Travis Park in San Antonio, TX
Travis Park all dressed up for the holidays

2. Beyond the River Walk: Ice Rinks and Caroling

In addition to the River Walk, there are plenty of other festive attractions in San Antonio during the holidays. For example, there are several ice rinks set up around the city where you can skate with your family and friends. And if you’re looking to do some caroling of your own, there are several caroling groups that perform around San Antonio during the holidays.

For example, the River Walk is not the only place in San Antonio filled with holiday cheer. Travis Park is beautifully decorated with many white holiday lights, a giant HEB Christmas tree, and an ice rink. The weekend that we visited, there was a movie screening in the park and local artists and artisans selling their wares. Travis Park was fun.

We liked exploring Travis Park. It was a nice change of pace and a lot less crowded than the River Walk. Sal filmed my first holiday Movement Postcard there!

Three carolers wear Victorian garb as they sing at the Historic Market Square in San Antonio, TX
Carolers at the Historic Market Square in San Antonio

Another thing that made San Antonio so cheery was the caroling that we found throughout the city. While checking in to our hotel, we were greeted by carolers in the lobby. A local high school choir that performed three times that day. We also saw carolers performing at the Historic Market Square in San Antonio.

3. The Whole City is Festive

During the holiday season, the whole city of San Antonio is fun and festive! Not only is the River Walk decked out in lights, but so is the rest of the city! Downtown San Antonio is filled with holiday lights and decorations. Walking around downtown is like being in a warm winter wonderland.

The first thing you will notice if you fly in is that the airport decorations go above and beyond. Most airports decorate for the holidays, but San Antonio’s airport took it to the next level. Each gate sign was covered with ornament adorned garland and there were wreaths everywhere. SATX was decorated much more than the other two airports we visited on our way there.

Yvonne and Sal take a photo in front of a Christmas Tree with the Grinch in the back. Location at the Pearl in San Antonio, Texas.
Photo with a San Antonio Grinch in the back.

After you leave the airport and get into the city, you will see people walking around in their best holiday fashion. There are families and couples wearing matching ugly sweaters or Christmas pajamas. Many people, children and grown ups alike, donned headbands with antlers, holiday lights, or elf ears. There were also lots of light up holiday necklaces and, of course, Santa hats.

The buildings downtown are decked out in red and green lights including the Tower of the Americas and many of the hotels. The Hilton Palacio del Rio uses red and green lights in the guest room balconies to create a Christmas tree.

But that’s not all, there were people riding bikes on the River Walk blasting Christmas music. And my personal favorite, the Grinch! I love the Grinch. It was a delight seeing him taking photos next to Santa at the River Walk and posing for a photo shoot at Pearl.

4. Hotel Holiday Packages

If you’re looking to make your holiday trip extra special, consider booking one of the many hotel holiday packages available in San Antonio. Hotels in San Antonio offer holiday packages. For example, along the River Walk, some hotels offer packages that include things like a ticket per guest on a holiday lights river cruise, hot chocolate, and other goodies. If you are looking for a fun family holiday package at a nice hotel, consider San Antonio!

The hotel we stayed at was not on the River Walk, but it did offer a holiday package. The package included skate sessions at the ice rink at Travis Park, hot chocolate, a room with a view of the decorated Travis Park, and champagne. Unfortnately, we did not partake in the holiday package this year. Maybe next time!

5. The Weather

Last but certainly not least, one of the best things about celebrating the holidays in San Antonio is that you don’t have to worry about dealing with cold weather! Santa definitely doesn’t need his coat when he comes to visit us here in Texas! While it does cool off at night during December, daytime temperatures are usually still fairly mild, making it pleasant to be outside enjoying all of the holiday festivities taking place around town.

Although Texas winter weather can be unpredictable, chances are San Antonio in December will be warmer and milder than other places. In general, a light jacket is all that is needed for San Antonio in the winter. It is a nice place to experience the holiday spirit without the bitter cold.

During our trip to San Antonio, we managed with a few layers and a light jacket. It was great weather for December. I was happy to save room in your suitcase on this December getaway since we did not have to pack many warm winter clothes for this trip.

Speaking of packing, here are a few things I always bring with me when flying:

  • Compression socks. I have used Physix Gear Sport Compression Socks for years. I always use them, even on short flights.
  • Comfortable clothes for the plane. I got my two comfortable and warm plane ensembles for this trip at Stitch Fix.
  • Disinfecting wipes. I traveled with Clorox wipes and Wet Ones Antibacterial Hand Wipes even before the pandemic. And yes, I do wipe down my area in the plane!
Holiday Lights on the River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
Holiday Lights on the River Walk San Antonio, TX

One Last Helpful Hint

If you are visiting San Antonio during the holidays, please know that some of the regular year-round tourist attractions may be canceled.  Be sure to check websites for up-to-date information.

I did not do this, and Sal and I spent 40 minutes sitting in the cold waiting for San Antonio: The Saga to play on San Ferando’s Cathedral. There was a handful of other tourists waiting with us that evening. We were later informed by another tourist who checked the website on their phone, that the event was canceled due to the holidays.   

Overall, we loved our short and festive trip to San Antonio during the holidays. Next time, I look forward to bringing Buddy with me!

Have you visited San Antonio during the holidays? Are you planning to visit soon? Let us know in the comments below.

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12 thoughts on “Top 5 Reasons San Antonio has the Best Holiday Cheer

  1. I love a place that goes all out for the holidays, especially with the pretty light displays. I’m so used to being here in Canada at Christmas I never considered the benefit of a warmer place like Texas. Maybe one year I’ll have to make the trip south

  2. I absolutely loved the River Walk in San Antonio when I visited during the summer several years ago. I would love to see it all lit up for the holidays! Thanks for sharing this awesome list 🙂

  3. This sounds like so much fun! I love the sound of boating to sing carols (even if most groups were not actually singing…) It is such a fun sounding idea!

    I don’t think I have ever experienced Christmas lights somewhere warm! It I really like the idea of Christmas cheer without the chill. San Antonio really looks like a great option for that!

  4. I’ve lived in Texas for almost 8 years now, and I’ve only been to San Antonio once! It sounds like I need to plan another trip here and schedule it around the holiday season. I would love to see the River Walk all lit up for Christmas! Thanks for sharing. XX Sara

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