December 02, 2022

25 San Antonio holiday traditions you have to try at least once to call yourself a local

Whether you're new to San Antonio and looking to get the scoop on local holiday traditions or a longtime resident eager to spice up your seasonal celebrations, anyone can benefit from finding out all the ways to partake in holiday cheer here.

We rounded up 25 seasonal festivals, events and activities that San Antonians keep coming back to year after year.
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Catch the Ford Holiday River Parade 
Taking place on the first Friday after Thanksgiving every year, it’s a little too late to catch this year’s parade, but still worth penciling in on the calendar for next year. Watching the brightly illuminated barges lighting up the River Walk is a great way to kick off a season full of cheer.
Photo by Jaime Monzon
Catch the Ford Holiday River Parade
Taking place on the first Friday after Thanksgiving every year, it’s a little too late to catch this year’s parade, but still worth penciling in on the calendar for next year. Watching the brightly illuminated barges lighting up the River Walk is a great way to kick off a season full of cheer.
See Trans-Siberian Orchestra play
Perfect for San Antonians who like their Christmas music on the metal side, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra rolls into town every year to put on a holiday show fitted out with pyrotechnics. The rock group’s tour, dubbed The Ghosts of Christmas Eve — The Best of TSO and More, wraps up in San Antonio on Dec 30.
Photo by Bob Carey
See Trans-Siberian Orchestra play
Perfect for San Antonians who like their Christmas music on the metal side, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra rolls into town every year to put on a holiday show fitted out with pyrotechnics. The rock group’s tour, dubbed The Ghosts of Christmas Eve — The Best of TSO and More, wraps up in San Antonio on Dec 30.
Go ice skating at Travis Park
It doesn't take long to become a tradition in San Antonio. Although it only debuted in 2019, the Rotary Ice Rink at downtown's Travis Park has already become a must for many residents. Admission can be purchased online, and the rink will be open to guests and staying cool until Jan. 16.
Photo by Michael Cirlos, Centro
Go ice skating at Travis Park
It doesn't take long to become a tradition in San Antonio. Although it only debuted in 2019, the Rotary Ice Rink at downtown's Travis Park has already become a must for many residents. Admission can be purchased online, and the rink will be open to guests and staying cool until Jan. 16.
Jazz up Christmas with Doc Watkins
Catch a holiday show by local jazz bandleader Doc Watkins and enjoy swinging Yuletide classics, including the infectious music from the band’s new album, A Tribute to A Charlie Brown Christmas. In addition to a slate of performances at Jazz, TX, Doc Watkins and His Orchestra will perform at the Tobin Center on Dec. 14.
Photo courtesy of Tobin Center for the Performing Arts
Jazz up Christmas with Doc Watkins
Catch a holiday show by local jazz bandleader Doc Watkins and enjoy swinging Yuletide classics, including the infectious music from the band’s new album, A Tribute to A Charlie Brown Christmas. In addition to a slate of performances at Jazz, TX, Doc Watkins and His Orchestra will perform at the Tobin Center on Dec. 14.
Stroll the River Walk to look at the lights
You don't have to be a tourist to wander the River Walk and take in the lights. It's romantic, and your out-of-town guests will expect a tour. While the lights will be on every night from November 25-January 9, you can also catch fun events like the Ford Fiesta de las Luminarias on select weekends.
Photo via Instagram / thesanantonioriverwalk
Stroll the River Walk to look at the lights
You don't have to be a tourist to wander the River Walk and take in the lights. It's romantic, and your out-of-town guests will expect a tour. While the lights will be on every night from November 25-January 9, you can also catch fun events like the Ford Fiesta de las Luminarias on select weekends.
Watch the tree lighting at Travis Park
An annual tradition, the lighting of the 50-foot christmas tree in Travis Park brings crowds every year to celebrate the start of the holiday season.
Photo via Instagram / travisparksa
Watch the tree lighting at Travis Park
An annual tradition, the lighting of the 50-foot christmas tree in Travis Park brings crowds every year to celebrate the start of the holiday season.
Stock up on holiday tamales
There's no culinary delight that captures SA holiday tradition like tamales. Don’t know where to start? Check out San Antonio’s own two-day tamal-centric festival, La Gran Tamalada, on Dec. 10-11, where you can pick up ready-made tamales and tamal kits.
Photo via Instagram / deliastamales
Stock up on holiday tamales
There's no culinary delight that captures SA holiday tradition like tamales. Don’t know where to start? Check out San Antonio’s own two-day tamal-centric festival, La Gran Tamalada, on Dec. 10-11, where you can pick up ready-made tamales and tamal kits.
Watch the lighting of the menorah on the River Walk
Head down to the Arneson River Theatre for the annual Chanukah on the River festival on Dec. 18. Enjoy a kosher dinner and a jelly donut while you're there.
Photo via Instagram / malach_eliyahu
Watch the lighting of the menorah on the River Walk
Head down to the Arneson River Theatre for the annual Chanukah on the River festival on Dec. 18. Enjoy a kosher dinner and a jelly donut while you're there.
Watch the Nutcracker
The Nutcracker is a can’t-miss holiday tradition, whether you keep it classic with BalletSA’s production at the Tobin Center, catch a charming show by SA Youth Ballet at the Scottish Rite Auditorium, or check out the innovative twist on the performance with “It’s a San Antonio Christmas,” a quinceañera-themed Nutcracker retelling at the Carver Cultural center.
Photo by Marty Sohl Photography
Watch the Nutcracker
The Nutcracker is a can’t-miss holiday tradition, whether you keep it classic with BalletSA’s production at the Tobin Center, catch a charming show by SA Youth Ballet at the Scottish Rite Auditorium, or check out the innovative twist on the performance with “It’s a San Antonio Christmas,” a quinceañera-themed Nutcracker retelling at the Carver Cultural center.
Visit a craft cocktail bar for a holiday libation
San Antonio's had an explosion in craft cocktail bars. Many local restaurants and bars are also putting together holiday pop-ups featuring lively decor and festive drinks. Put down your Bud Light, call up a date and savor some amazing seasonal cocktails.
Photo via Instagram / esquiretavernsa
Visit a craft cocktail bar for a holiday libation
San Antonio's had an explosion in craft cocktail bars. Many local restaurants and bars are also putting together holiday pop-ups featuring lively decor and festive drinks. Put down your Bud Light, call up a date and savor some amazing seasonal cocktails.