The holidays have arrived in Alamo City, y’all! The holiday season more than lives up to San Antonio’s reputation for being festive and fun. Best of all, there’s something free for families to enjoy every day from now through New Year’s Eve! Here are San Antonio’s best, don’t-miss FREE holiday events, listed chronologically, to get you and your family through the 2015 holiday season without breaking the bank.
Through Thurs. Dec. 31, Nightly, 6:30–10 PM | Crooked Branch Patio at JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, 23808 Resort Pkwy., 78261 — The spirit of the holidays comes alive at the JW Marriott with 18,000 LED lights, a 30-foot Christmas tree, and polar bears and penguins dancing to music in a spectacular display of cheer. Families can enjoy hot cocoa and thousands of twinkling lights choreographed to joyful holiday sounds, all for free! The public is welcome to visit for the nightly show. Watch a video for a taste of the magic!
Through Thurs. Dec. 31, Daily | Main lobby at JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, 23808 Resort Pkwy., 78261 — An artfully crafted gingerbread house wonderland ready to delight all ages is on display in the hotel’s main lobby, open (free entry) to locals and visitors as well as resort guests. The festive wonderland includes miniature replicas of Old European town shops.
Every Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, & Sunday at 9 PM, 9:30 PM & 10 PM | Main Plaza, Home Of San Fernando Cathedral, 115 N. Main Ave., 78205 — Enjoy a 24-minute video art masterpiece on the facade of the San Fernando Cathedral. This event is outdoors, so it is weather-permitting; check the website for cancelations. Please note: There will be no show on Dec. 11, and on Dec. 20 there will be shows at 9:30 and 10 PM only.
Through Dec. 20, Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays at Dusk | River Walk, San Antonio — Experience the holiday serenity of the River Walk as you stroll along the lush banks of the San Antonio River guided by more than 6,000 Luminarias. Warmly glowing candles in sand-filled bags line the walkways to symbolically mark the “lighting of the way” for the Holy Family, in a centuries-old tradition beginning at dusk on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through 12/20.
Sun. Dec. 13, 3:30–4:30 PM | La Villita — Maverick Plaza, 418 Villita St., 78205 — Free Moshav Band Concert and Menorah lighting. Chanukah on the River began in 1998 to bring the Chanukah Celebration of Light to the heart of San Antonio, the River Walk. Today, this event has grown to one of the largest Jewish events in Texas. This is a free event, but you can also purchase tickets here for a Menorah river cruise ($5 per person) and a Chanukah Wonderland carnival and crafts ($6 admission).
Sat. Dec. 19, 7–8 PM | Mission San José Church, 701 East Pyron Ave., 78214 — This folk play on the park grounds at Mission San José depicts the shepherds’ journey to worship the Christ Child and the obstacles the devil puts before them. Los Pastores has been a holiday tradition at Mission San José Church since 1947. Admission is free.
Thurs. Dec. 31, 5 PM–midnight | Downtown San Antonio —Experience the biggest free New Year’s Eve celebration and fireworks extravaganza in Texas – Celebrate San Antonio! With live music on three stages, carnival games and rides, and delicious festival food, this downtown fiesta is the place to celebrate the New Year. The evening culminates in a fireworks extravaganza off the top of the Tower of the Americas.
See Christmas Lights
River Walk, San Antonio
Stroll the banks of the river to view the gorgeous lights display at the River Walk, any night of the week.
Drive through Alamo Plaza or, better yet, stroll through on foot to enjoy the sparkling lights dotting the historic Alamo and the enormous 55-foot White Fir Christmas tree. This year’s theme for the tree is the Spurs (Go, Spurs!).
Splurge on Six Flags With This Deal
Simon Malls in Austin are selling Holiday Packs that include four tickets to Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio, and a $25 American Express gift card. The Packs are $85 which, after subtracting the gift card amount, makes each ticket to Six Flags just $15! The tickets don’t expire until May 22, 2016. Give the Guest Services of your local mall a call to make sure they still have Holiday Packs available: Barton Creek Square (512) 327-7041; The Domain (512) 873-8099; Round Rock Premium Outlets (512) 863-6688; Lakeline Mall (512) 257-8500. Read about Six Flags’ Holiday in the Park festivities.
Where to Stay
For a holiday vacation Texas style, consider a stay at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country, where you can have North Pole fun with Santa’s elves and swim in a heated lazy river on the same day! We were recently invited to welcome Santa and Mrs. Claus to the JW Marriott, and stay for the opening of JW Holiday Illuminations. Every inch of the resort is decked out for the holidays and the waterslides are open daily – it’s the best of both worlds!
The JW Holiday Illuminations lights show and Gingerbread Village are free and open to the public. But, if you stay at the resort, you can also take the Polar Plunge, visit Santa’s workshop, roast s’mores, attend Elf Storytime, and more. Check out the December Experience Guide and the Holiday Experience Guide. There is so much going on; it’s a hard place to leave once you get there.
For a great review of the JW Marriott–which details all of the free family fun on offer–check out San Antonio Mom Blogs!