Where to see holiday lights and celebrate the Thanksgiving season in San Antonio area

What’s the nicest vegetable? A sweet potato.

Top Left: The Light Park at Retama, Top Right: SeaWorld San Antonio, Bottom Left: Ford Holiday River Parade, Bottom Right: Old West Christmas Light Fest (KSAT 12)

Guess what? I already have my Christmas tree up. I’m guessing you’ve either just rolled your eyes or given me a virtual high five. There never seems to be any in-between opinions when it comes to holiday decorating. Don’t judge me.

Speaking of the holidays, that’s what this mid-month edition of the Things To Do newsletter is going to be about.

I’ve written a ton of articles recently about places to go see holiday lights so it seemed like the perfect fit.

Also, in honor of the gift-giving season, 🎅 I give you this Santa emoji for being awesome - or is it because I’m always watching? I’m kidding! Well, I’m always watching out for things to do for you.

By the way, if you’re reading this as a news article and not via email you’re missing out, because I could be sending this right to your inbox so you’ll never miss anything. Plus, I only publish newsletters twice a month (if something exceedingly cool is happening there might be an extra, but that’s rare) so you won’t have to worry about me junking up your inbox.

Now that I’ve bored you with newsletter stuff and possibly angered you with news about my tree, let’s get to the good stuff.

Holiday Lights

Holiday light events are all the rage this year with several new attractions in San Antonio you can check out.

From an old Hollywood film set to a drive-through light park, there are plenty of options for people to kick off the holiday season with a little light viewing.

  • Alamo Lights - Starting Nov. 19, the Alamo will light up from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The lights will be located throughout the Alamo grounds and will be up through Jan. 3, 2022.
  • Christmas Tree Lighting - The annual lighting of the Christmas tree at Travis Park in downtown San Antonio will take place on Nov. 26. The tree is gifting the 50-foot tree to the city and it will be decorated with more than 10,000 red, white and blue lights and dozens of handmade ornaments.
  • Kaleidoscope of Colors: 2021 A Christmas Odyssey in Windcrest - The city of Windcrest is lighting up for a decades-old tradition on Dec. 4. A contest is held to pick the most beautifully decorated homes in various judging categories and the public is invited to drive along neighborhood streets to view the brightly-lit displays. Maps of the locations to visit are provided for a small donation and can be found at any of the three entrances to the city on Crestway, I35 frontage road or Eagle Crest.
  • Lights Alive! in Alamo Ranch - It’s an immersive light experience for the whole family at this drive-thru event. Located at the National Shooting Complex, this park and play event will allow visitors to get out of their car and enjoy crafts, confections and offer opportunities for Santa photos.
  • Old West Christmas Light Fest in Boerne - You can visit with jolly ol’ Saint Nick while exploring an old Western town decked out with twinkling lights. The annual event is returning from 6 to 9 p.m. on Nov. 25 through Dec. 24 on select dates. The old west town is actually part of an old Hollywood film set on Enchanted Springs Ranch which is typically closed to the public.
Old West Christmas Light Fest in Boerne (Enchanted Springs Ranch)
  • San Antonio River Walk - This year, City leaders turned the holiday lights along the River Walk on early. Traditionally, the lights are turned on the day after Thanksgiving at the Ford Holiday River Parade but this year they were illuminated on Nov. 12. There are more than 2,250 strings with 100,000 lights that line the River Walk each year for the holidays.
  • Santa’s Ranch in New Braunfels - This family-friendly drive-through takes guests through more than a mile of winding country roads lit up with holiday lights and Christmas displays. Santa’s Ranch, which originally opened in 2003, opened to the public for the 2021 season on Nov. 5 and will be available through Jan. 2. Hours are 6 -10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 6 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

  • SeaWorld San Antonio - The annual Christmas celebration at SeaWorld San Antonio is back. It opened to the public on Nov. 11 with more than 9 million lights that can be seen throughout the park. Referred to as the “largest light display in Texas,” SeaWorld San Antonio will be lit up through Jan. 2, 2022. There will also be opportunities to see Santa and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
  • The Light Park in Selma - A new drive-through holiday light park has opened in Selma. The Light Park proves everything is bigger in Texas and will have more than 1 million synchronized holiday lights on display, including one of the longest light tunnels in the world. The 700-foot animated LED tunnel will be one of the park’s main features. There will also be a light show synced and choreographed to holiday music on a music station designated specifically for the Light Park.
  • Trail of Lights in Austin - This year’s Trail of Lights in Austin will run nightly in Zilker Park from Nov. 27 through Dec. 31. The 57th annual event will be drive-thru only again this year due to COVID-19. The Trail of Lights will showcase more than 2 million lights, 90 lighted holiday trees and more than 70 other displays and tunnels.
  • Walkway of Lights in Marble Falls - The 31st season of the Walkway of Lights returns Nov. 19. The holiday celebration will run for 44 days, until Jan. 1, 2022, at Lakeside Park, which will be illuminated by two million lights that cover more than 350 sculptures. By the way - this event is free!
Marble Falls Walkway of Lights (Look Think Make)

🦃 Thanksgiving

  • 🥘 Raul Jimenez Dinner - This San Antonio tradition will continue for its 42nd year and provides Thanksgiving dinner to more than 24,000 senior citizens and less fortunate residents in the area. It’s one of the largest Thanksgiving benefits in the country. Volunteer registration will remain open until the non-profit reaches capacity. Traditionally, the dinner is served on Thanksgiving Day at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.
  • ⛸️ Outdoor Ice Rink at Travis Park - You can skate around San Antonio’s Travis Park at the Rotary Ice Rink, presented by Valero. This popular holiday tradition is returning on Nov. 19. Tickets are on sale now and skating will be available through Jan. 17. Organizers recommend buying tickets in advance to guarantee admission to the rink.
  • 🌽 Corn Mazes - Graff 7A Ranch in Hondo offers everything from a corn maze to hayrides and is open through Nov. 21. There’s a MatterCorn Slide Mountain, barrel train, kiddie korral, hay bale jump and tons of other kid activities. Traders Village in San Antonio has three mazes and is open weekends in November.
Submit your email below to receive KSAT’s free Things To Do newsletter.

River Parade

The Ford Holiday River Parade is set to take place on Nov. 26 along the San Antonio River Walk.

Photo Courtesy: David Finell

The annual parade means the holiday season is in full swing along San Antonio’s River Walk and this year the parade will follow the theme, “40 Years of Magic,” as a nod to the four decades the parade has taken place.

Illuminated floats and costumed parade participants will float along the one-hour parade route starting at 6 p.m. The event will also be broadcast live at the Arneson River Theatre starting at 7 p.m.

Tickets for the parade are currently on sale but there are also several free viewing areas along the route where you can bring your own chair. Free seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis and is located on the east side of the River Walk between Pecan Street and Richmond Ave.

Early ticket prices range from $15 - $40 and children ages 2 and younger will not require a ticket.

**Important note for all you parents out there - strollers and carriers are not allowed at the event.

Santa Photos

Santa Claus is coming to town! Want to know where to go to get your photo with the big guy?

The following locations are offering Santa photos for 2021:

  • Bass Pro Shops - Santa photos will be available from Nov. 6 through Dec. 24. One photo is free and additional packages are available for purchase.
  • Ingram Park Mall -Santa will be available for photos on select dates from Nov. 19 through Dec. 21.
  • Natural Bridge Caverns - A spelunking Santa will be available for photos on Dec. 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23.
  • North Star Mall - Reservations for Santa photos are available from Nov. 12 through Dec. 21.
  • Old West Christmas Light Fest - Located 20 minutes outside of San Antonio off of IH-10 West at exit 540 in Boerne, Santa will be available to take photos with guests for free from Nov. 25 through Dec. 24.
  • Rolling Oaks Mall - Santa will be available for photos at Rolling Oaks Mall from Nov. 19 through Dec. 21, excluding Thanksgiving Day.
  • SeaWorld San Antonio - Santa will be at the SeaWorld Christmas Celebration again this year to take photos. The celebration kicks off Nov. 11 and ends Jan. 2.
  • Shops at La Cantera - Santa will be available for photos on select dates from Nov. 18 through Dec. 21.
  • South Park Mall - Santa will be available for photos from Nov. 26 to Dec. 21.
  • Texas Transportation Museum - Santa will be seen at the museum on Dec. 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19.
  • Trader’s Village - Mr. and Mrs. Claus will be at Trader’s Village starting Nov. 27 for contactless photos. Kids will sit on a special bench, 6 feet in front of Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Little boy gets his photo taken with Santa Claus. Courtesy RaeTay Photography. (Rachel Taylor - RaeTay Photography)

If you know of any exciting upcoming events you think people want to know about send your ideas to my inbox - mpatton@ksat.com.

Mary Claire Patton, KSAT Digital Journalist

About the Author:

Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT and specializes in trending news and things to do around Texas and San Antonio.