Celebrate the holidays in San Antonio at these December events

Festivals, free events and twinkling lights abound in San Antonio area this holiday season

Top Left: Santa at SeaWorld San Antonio, Top Right: Grammy and Latin Grammy nominee Lupita Infante who will be at 27th Annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza. Bottom Left: The Grinch (photo by Getty Images.) Bottom Right: Lightscape at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. (Noam Galai/Getty Images, KSAT 12)

SAN ANTONIO – Happy holidays friends! I’m not above watching Christmas movies year-round but there’s something special about watching them during the holidays.

A family favorite? “Jingle All the Way” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad. I know every word.

From holiday lights to New Year’s Eve - I’ve got you covered on what’s going on in San Antonio and the surrounding areas. Looking for things to do with your family? Or maybe you’re trying to get out of the house to get away from said family? Either way, there’s lots to do - because it’s the MOOOST WONDERFUL TIIIIME OF THE YEARRRRR! (Imagine me singing that. Because I just did.)

The weather is finally cooling off too - no more 90s! I love cold, rainy weather. Make sure you check out the forecast from my favorite weather team before you head out to any of these events.

And in case you didn’t know - Santa Claus is coming to town! Want to know where to go to get your photo with the big guy? I made a list for you.

Now, here’s the list of events going on in the San Antonio area in December:

  • Wynonna Judd - Country crooner Wynonna Judd will be performing at Gruene Hall Dec. 1-3. Tickets for one show are already sold out but there are still some available for the remaining two shows.
  • Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza - One of the largest and longest-running mariachi music festivals in the U.S. is returning to San Antonio. The festival starts with national competitions from nearly 1,000 student mariachi musicians throughout the U.S. on Dec. 3 and ends Dec. 4 with a performance by Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán.
  • Gruene Town Lighting - Cowboy Kringle will ride his horse into Gruene and light up the town for the holidays at 5 p.m. on Dec. 4. There will be live music, festival food and beer/wine available for purchase.
  • Sammy Hagar & The Circle - Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and spirits trailblazer Sammy Hagar, along with his supergroup, The Circle, will perform at the Aztec Theater on Dec. 4.
  • Natural Bridge Caverns - Christmas at the caverns takes place Dec. 4, 5, 11, 12 and 18-23 at Natural Bridge Caverns. Hear your favorite carols echo through Texas’ largest underground cavern and marvel at the 30-foot Christmas tree.
Emerald Lake is one of many large, natural pools found within Natural Bridge Caverns. The green color comes from the diffraction of light waves passing through the water. (2005, Natural Bridge Caverns, Inc.)
  • Santa’s Railroad Wonderland - This event takes place over several days at the Texas Transportation Museum. From 6-9 p.m. on December 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19 guests can visit the museum, which will be decked out in holiday lights. Santa will also be making visits from the North Pole and will be available for photos.
  • San Antonio Spurs - Our beloved Spurs will be playing eight home games in December. By the way, if you haven’t heard, they’re getting a state-of-the-art training facility on a new 45-acre development on the far Northwest Side. The first home game is Dec. 7.
  • Nutcracker - The Children’s Ballet of San Antonio is putting on their annual Nutcracker performance but this year there will also be a holiday market, opportunities to take contactless photos with Santa Claus, magical makeovers for kids and sweet treats for everyone. Performances are scheduled for Dec. 10 and 11.
  • Movie in the Park - You can watch the holiday favorite “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” at the base of the Tower of the Americas on Dec. 11. Food and drinks will be available for purchase.

  • Breakfast with the Grinch - The 4th annual Breakfast with the Grinch will return to Landa Haus in New Braunfels on Dec. 11. Tickets are limited. There will be Grinch-themed crafts following breakfast.
  • Flower Vault - One of San Antonio’s most Instagrammable spots is back with Christmas-themed installations for guests to enjoy. Flower Vault will be open for the first three weekends in December.
Flower Vault is open Saturdays and Sundays for limited time. (Flower Vault)
  • Kinder Fest in Boerne - The spirit of Christmas will abound in Boerne Dec. 17-19 at Kinder Fest. There will be a cookie crawl, appearances from Santa and a scavenger hunt that will take you through stores on a hunt for Old Saint Nick.
  • Westover Field of Lights - More than 300,000 lights are synchronized to Christmas classics at Westover Lights. This event runs through Dec. 19 and has opportunities for photos with Santa, kid-friendly games and more.
  • LEGOLAND Discovery Center - Celebrate the most wonderful time of the year at LEGOLAND Discovery Center San Antonio’s Holiday Bricktacular during the month of December. Enjoy seasonal build activities and take photos with LEGO Santa on select days.
  • SeaWorld San Antonio - SeaWorld San Antonio is decking out the halls for the biggest Christmas celebration in Texas. Guests will be greeted with more than 9 million twinkling lights blanketing the park and will have an opportunity to meet Santa while sipping hot chocolate and singing along with Christmas carolers.
  • San Antonio Zoo - The San Antonio Zoo has lit up again for the annual Zoo Lights holiday celebration. This year, a new 124-foot light tunnel and two new 32-foot holiday trees that dance to lights and music have been added to the decor.
124-foot light tunnel added to San Antonio Zoo’s annual lights celebration
  • Kaleidoscope of Colors: 2021 A Christmas Odyssey - The city of Windcrest is lighting up for a decades-old tradition that kicks off Dec. 4. A contest is held annually to pick the most beautifully decorated homes in various judging categories. 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.
  • Rotary Ice Rink - You can skate around San Antonio’s Travis Park at the Rotary Ice Rink in December. Travis Park will also host Rink Reel movie nights, live jazz music and Santa photo opportunities throughout the skating season. Rotary Club of San Antonio and Centro San Antonio help organize the event.
  • Lightscape - Tickets for the San Antonio Botanical Garden’s Lightscape lets guests walk through an immersive light display that illuminates a one-mile path through the garden. Lightscape will run through Jan. 2, 2022. Tickets are expected to sell out.
  • Old West Christmas Light Fest - You can visit with jolly ol’ Saint Nick while exploring an old Western town decked out with twinkling lights at this holiday event in Boerne. Old West Christmas Light Fest will run through Dec. 24 on select dates.

Pretty awesome getting a whole curated list of stuff to do isn’t it? I can send this directly to your inbox too. I usually only write two a month so it’s not going to junk up your emails.

Submit your email below to receive KSAT’s free Things To Do newsletter.

Free:

  • Tamale Festival - The San Antonio Tamales Festival is back for its third year and it’s expected to be the biggest year yet. Nearly 30 vendors will be selling food from tamales to tacos at the festival which will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 4 at 6750 Highway 87 East.
  • Weihnachts Parade - This Boerne Christmas tradition will continue at 6 p.m. on Dec. 4 in the Main Plaza Park. It’s free for guests and if you’re hoping for a good view, go early. The streets fill up fast.
  • Rink Reels Movie Nights - Enjoy free ice-rink-inspired movie nights in Travis Park on Dec. 4, 11 and 18. Bring your blankets and chairs and enjoy concessions from the St. Anthony Cabin.
The Rotary Club of San Antonio and Centro San Antonio Present the 2021 Outdoor Ice Rink. (Centro San Antonio)
  • Merry Movie Nights - Visit Travis Park for free holiday-themed movie nights starting at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 7, 14 and 21. Bring your blankets and chairs and enjoy Cheap Skate Night at the rink as well free Downtown Tuesday parking in select City-lots, garages and meters from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
  • Mornings with Santa - A bilingual Santa will be at Travis Park on Dec. 11 and 18 from noon to 3 p.m. to take photos.
  • Musical Bridges Youth Holiday Concert - Talented piano and string players of The Gurwitz Youth Ambassadors and Colburn-Pledge Music Scholarship will come together to perform at 7 p.m. on Dec. 12. Tickets are required for entry, but they are free.
  • Fishing- Thousands of rainbow trout will be stocked in lakes across Texas in December as part of the Neighborhood Fishin’ program from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. An additional 20,000+ rainbow trout are expected to be stocked along sections of the Guadalupe River.
  • Marble Falls’ Walkway of Lights - This holiday celebration will run until Jan. 1, 2022, at Lakeside Park, which will be illuminated by two million lights that cover more than 350 sculptures. Marble Falls’ Walkway of Lights is funded entirely by donations every year.

Drive-thru holiday lights:

Holiday light events are all the rage this year with several new attractions in San Antonio you can check out. I wrote a comprehensive list for you to peruse.

But if you don’t feel like getting out of your car, there are lots of drive-thru options to look at lights this year. Shoutout to my girl Rebecca Salinas for putting this together.

  • Crumbling Castle Lights: Located in Comfort, just north of Boerne, Crumbling Castle includes more than 30 acres of illuminated displays and holiday scenes.
  • Don Strange Ranch: This mile-long drive-through display in Boerne will be open through Dec. 24. It includes new displays, carriages, hayrides, food, shopping and photos with Santa Clause.
  • Elf Acres: Located on the far West Side of San Antonio, Elf Acres includes a mile-long display of holiday lights and animated displays. Santa’s Village also includes photos with Santa Clause, holiday treats and a gift shop.
  • Lights Alive!: The computer-controlled, synchronized light display is nearly one mile long. The event space also includes an escape room, ax throwing, soccer darts, photos with Santa Claus, food and more.
  • The Light Park: This drive-through display at Retama Park has one of the longest light tunnels in the world. The 700-foot animated LED tunnel is one of the park’s main features and Christmas music is choreographed to the light displays.
The Light Park will open in Selma on Nov. 3. (The Light Park)
  • Palo Alto College: The college located on the South Side will once again become illuminated with holiday lights for the festive season. A drive-through light display will be available to the public nightly from Dec. 3-23.
  • Santa’s Ranch: The venue that bills itself as “one of Texas’ favorite Christmas displays” has more than 1.5 million lights along a mile-long route in New Braunfels.
  • University of the Incarnate Word: UIW is celebrating the 35th year of Light The Way. In-person traditions of live music, food trucks, Shoppers’ Lane, photos with Santa Claus, and other activities will also return this year. This event is free.

Hanukkah:

There are only a few days left of Hanukkah this year but it’s never too late to learn about this Festival of Lights.

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that changes dates every year because it’s based on the Hebrew calendar which goes by the lunar cycle. You might also see it spelled Chanukah, which is the more traditional spelling.

Foods that are symbolic of Hanukkah include potato pancakes, or latkes, and jelly doughnuts.

Toasting with your Jewish friends? Instead of saying “cheers,” say “L’Chaim,” which means “to life.”

There will be a Chanukah on the River event at 4 p.m. on Dec. 5 at Arneson River Theater that is free and open to the public if you’d like to learn more about the holiday. There will be live music and lighting of a 9-foot menorah.


Kwanzaa:

Kwanzaa is another holiday that takes place in December but it’s rooted in cultural tradition as opposed to religious tradition.

This holiday is held annually from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1 and is relatively new in terms of origin.

Kwanzaa centers around seven principles. The National Museum of African American History and Culture lists those principles as:

  1. Umoja (Unity) - To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) - To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
  3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) - To build and maintain our community together and make our community’s problems our problems and to solve them together.
  4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) - To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  5. Nia (Purpose) - To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  6. Kuumba (Creativity) - To do always as much as we can to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  7. Imani (Faith) - To believe with all our hearts in our people and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

There will be a Kwanzaa Market from noon to 4 p.m. on Dec. 4 at 3455 Martin Luther King Drive. It’s an opportunity for Black businesses and Black entrepreneurs to connect with consumers, as well as an opportunity to learn more about the history of Kwanzaa and how it’s celebrated.


Trending:

Here’s what has been trending recently on KSAT:


Do you have any ideas or know about any events going on in the area. You can reach me at 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.