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The San Antonio Riverwalk Christmas: 6 Reasons to Visit

San Antonio, Texas, is a hot spot for tourists year-round. Still, this area comes alive during the holiday season, especially when discussing the San Antonio Riverwalk at Christmas!

The San Antonio River Walk is known for the great restaurants, shops, and fabulous hotels that line the banks of the San Antonio River in Downtown San Antonio.

What if I told you that visiting the River Walk at Christmas is even more magical? 

For you see, San Antonio seems to beckons visitors to come and enjoy all of the festivities, Christmas lights, and special events of the holiday season. 

Boasting a giant Christmas tree, Santa Claus, loads of Christmas lights, hot chocolate, the Zoo lights, and fun, festive events, the holiday season in San Antonio is sure to please.

San Antonio, Texas, has so much to offer visitors at all times of the year.

Embracing the Mexican culture that made San Antonio the vibrant city it is today, you can see many of these traditions in the holiday lights and festivities around the city.

A visit to San Antonio feels like you are visiting a small town, even though San Antonio is a big city. It is truly a Texas gem!

From the San Antonio Mission Trail to the glistening holiday lights, San Antonio shines bright for all to see.

We have been visiting San Antonio, Texas, for years and love it.

Christmas in San Antonio and all of the special events have become a tradition for us!

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    1. Enjoy the Christmas Lights in San Antonio, Texas

    Photo taken by David Gonzalez. Courtesy of Visit San Antonio

    Christmas in Texas is awesome, especially in San Antonio!

    Each year, the downtown San Antonio river glistens with over 100,000 Christmas lights draped through the trees that line its banks during the holiday season. 

    These holiday lights come on daily at dusk and remain on until dawn for all to enjoy! 

    The San Antonio Christmas lights are first turned on the day after Thanksgiving and remain lit each evening until January 2 of the New Year, rounding out the entire holiday season in San Antonio.

    The San Antonio holiday lights are one of the many free things to do in San Antonio for you and your family to enjoy.  Of course, I love that the River Walk is a public park, so it is always free to visit!

    The holiday lights here make it extra special.  

    An exception exists during the San Antonio Ford Holiday Parade when a ticket is required to enter the San Antonio area.

    Visiting San Antonio during the holidays should be on everyone’s Texas Bucket List, as it is a holiday season delight!

    2. Watch the Ford Holiday River Parade

    San Antonio River Walk at Christmas

    One of our favorite events is the San Antonio Ford Holiday River Parade.

    The Ford Holiday River Parade kicks off the lighting of the San Antonio River each year. 

    This parade is a nationally televised event that draws visitors to San Antonio from all over the country.

    This hour-long San Antonio parade features celebrities riding on decorated and illuminated floats to help ring in the holiday season. 

    The floats and costumes in this parade are incredible, especially when you pair it with the holiday music that so many include when passing by. 

    Of course, some of the crowd favorites at this San Antonio are Santa Claus and the Grinch, so keep an eye out for them.

    Santa Claus might grant your Christmas wish during your holiday season in San Antonio!

    The parade also kicks off the other Christmas events in San Antonio, including the holiday lights and Christmas tree lighting.

    To watch the Christmas time parade from the River Walk, tickets must be purchased through this website.

    If you so desire, you can make a reservation at one of the many restaurants here.

    Many offer dinner packages for you to enjoy while watching the parade.

    In my opinion, this is one of the best places to watch the holiday festivities.

    This is a great experience to add to your weekend in San Antonio itinerary.

    3. Check Out the Ford Holiday Boat Caroling

    Another fun tradition on the River Walk at Christmas is boat caroling. 

    The boats, which can be rented out, lap around the river’s downtown area while participants carol to those on the banks. 

    It’s truly a fun and unique San Antonio experience!

    Of course, you don’t have to participate in the caroling to enjoy the holiday season. 

    You can enjoy the music from the banks of the River Walk.

    Of course, the restaurants are the best places to do this, so make your reservations early as they fill up during Christmas due to all of the Christmas events.

    Read Next: 20 Fabulous Small Towns In Texas You Must Visit

    4. Gaze at the Fiesta de las Luminarias In San Antonio

    The Fiesta de las Luminarias is definitely a San Antonio experience you don’t want to miss. 

    This annual holiday season tradition in San Antonio makes the river look absolutely magical when over 2,000 paper lanterns grace the water. 

    The centuries-old Mexican tradition is said to help “light the way” for the holy family, making it one of the beloved Christmas festivities. 

    Take a stroll under the holiday lights, sip some hot chocolate, and take in all the glorious holiday wonder surrounding you this time of year in San Antonio.

    Be sure and visit San Antonio on the weekends in December to enjoy this beautiful tradition.

    5. Browse the San Antonio River Walk Holiday Artisan Show

    Photo taken by Megan John. Courtesy of Visit San Antonio

    The San Antonio Holiday Artisan Show is another great holiday season activity on the San Antonio River Walk at Christmas. 

    This annual show allows visitors to get their holiday shopping done at over 40 booths filled with handmade artisan goods. 

    Here, locals and visitors to San Antonio can enjoy shopping for items like pottery, textiles, woodwork, paintings, and jewelry.

    This is one of the great special events during the Christmas season.

    The show takes place on the San Antonio River Walk extension near the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce building and is just one piece of the San Antonio holiday magic.

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    6. Enjoy a Christmas Dinner Cruise in San Antonio

    Consider participating in a Christmas Dinner Cruise for a special treat while visiting the San Antonio River Walk. 

    The San Antonio river barges transform into floating restaurants, allowing guests to see the River Walk from an entirely different viewpoint. 

    The river’s holiday lights reflecting off the water as you cruise along is truly a magnificent sight during the Christmas season.

    This is truly a winter wonderland experience as you enjoy dinner under the beautifully lit cypress trees while cruising along the river through San Antonio!

    Read Next: 20 Fun Things To Do In Galveston

    Visiting the San Antonio River Walk at Christmas-Final Thoughts

    San Antonio River Walk at Christmas

    As you can see, the San Antonio Riverwalk at Christmas is truly a magical experience. 

    That’s probably why a visit to San Antonio and the San Antonio River Walk is one of the Texas Christmas destinations we love.

    Of course, these are only a few of the holiday events in San Antonio during the holiday season.

    San Antonio boasts loads of fun events that you can enjoy!

    Some examples of the special events include the Zoo lights, Holiday in the Park, and winter wonderland holiday-themed performances.

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    Michelle Snell founder of That Texas Couple and Totally Texas Travel

    About The Author

    Michelle Snell is a travel writer, history buff, wine lover, and enthusiast of different cultures. Michelle enjoys bringing places to life through her informative writing style on her blogs, That Texas Couple and Totally Texas Travel.  Her practical tips and suggestions help make travel dreams a reality while immersing her readers in the history, culture, and food of a region.  She is happiest sipping wine in Italy or chilling on a beach with her husband, Marty.


    Thursday 19th of November 2020

    The San Antonio River Walk Christmas commercials airing right now remind me of some of the Kew Gardens lights in London which I'm going to miss tremendously this year now that we're back in the USA. Do you know if most activities and restaurants will even be open? Curious if it's a gamble booking things or not.


    Thursday 19th of November 2020

    Hi Lori. Honestly, I am not sure the answer to this given the current situation. My brother is going down soon, so I will let you know after he visits.

    Yukti Agrawal

    Wednesday 21st of October 2020

    It looks pretty and I have never been to such Christmas festivals. San Antonio river walk looks awesome.


    Monday 19th of October 2020

    Oh my gosh I love the Riverwalk but never have been here during the holidays! Will need to do this next year!


    Monday 19th of October 2020

    You really should. It is such a cool experience. Thanks for reading the post!

    Wellness Travel Diaries

    Sunday 18th of October 2020

    I love European Christmas markets, I had no idea they had such festive places in Texas! I'm adding this to my travels in the US.


    Monday 19th of October 2020

    Oh yes, Texas is full of festive places. We love touring our state during the holidays :)


    Saturday 17th of October 2020

    I was just telling my husband that I'd love somewhere with Christmas Magic to visit this year, and this sounds great! I love the idea of boat caroling, how fun!!