San Antonio Experiences for Everyone on Your Christmas List

When it comes to holiday shopping, it can be daunting enough to think of things to buy for your own kids—and that’s long before family members drop the inevitable, “What do they want for Christmas this year?” while you’re still in a Thanksgiving post-turkey coma.

My house is far from a toy-free zone, and while I’m happy to buy toys for my two-year-old son to enjoy over Christmas and the coming year, I’m really hoping others will opt for experiential gifts this year. I’m not being rude, I just know what we have, what he’s into right now, and what he’ll enjoy best, and others filling the gaps with experiences is a huge help! Similarly, rather than the typical bottle bag, photo frame, or homeware options I usually cycle around (In my defense—they are always nice! But maybe I’m stuck in a rut?!) I’d like to offer family and friends either a special splurge that they can enjoy in the moment, or something they can appreciate all year.

With that in mind, I’ve created a list of experience gifts for the whole family with a unique San Antonio flavor. Grab some of that boozy winter wassail or mulled wine (Thanks, Trader Joe’s!), press play on a Christmas movie for the kids, and let’s tackle your list!

For Kids

Let’s start with the kiddos on your list—whether they are your own, your nieces, nephews, godchildren, or the kids of friends and neighbors.

Children of all ages will benefit from annual passes to local museums like The DoSeum, The Witte, and The Briscoe; as well as a membership to the SA Botanical Gardens, San Antonio Zoo, or SeaWorld. If you’ve got a little who is particularly interested in animals, the Penguin Interaction Experience at SeaWorld would be an extra special gift this year. Over the course of an hour, one of their animal educators will talk about the penguins and their care and lead a behind-the-scenes tour of the snowy penguin habitat. Parkas and boots are provided, and you’ll want to keep your camera at the ready for some extra special snaps. Several members of the ACM team have gifted this to their children, and parents and kids alike absolutely loved this memorable experience.

Take a little time to explore membership options to find the best fit for your family—it’s always worth finding out if they have reciprocal privileges with other attractions in the state, like The DoSeum and the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi. Membership at SeaWorld San Antonio offers a big bang for your buck and can include both the Aquatica waterpark and the theme park. Morgan’s Wonderland offers fun for all, regardless of ability, and a membership grants access to both the theme park and ultra-accessible waterpark. Last but not least, long-time local favorites Six Flags Fiesta Texas and Schlitterbahn offer great rates for unlimited access to their parks. When spring break rolls around, you’ll be thanking whomever gifted those passes, and you’ll be thanking them hard.

Beyond memberships, other gifts that keep on giving include swimming lesson subscriptions and gift vouchers for gymnastics, dance, or music classes. There could be no better gift than swim lessons and new swim gear (think: trunks or a suit and goggles) for a keen water lover. Similarly, cooking lessons at the Young Chefs Academy on Huebner would pair perfectly with an apron for boys or girls who already love helping out in the kitchen at home. The Little Gym of San Antonio has locations in Alamo Heights and Northside and offers active gym classes (and dance instruction) for kids from four months to 12 years. Babies and toddlers will enjoy music classes with instructors at local spots Musical Minds and Music Masters, while older children can always benefit from music tuition in their chosen instrument (especially outside of school, during vacations, etc.).

Thinking beyond Christmas, the ACM team highly recommends asking for (or gifting) camp attendance. Often an underrated gift, a week at a fun and engaging camp at The Witte or DoSeum; learning to code or build rockets; playing golf, tennis, and basketball; riding horses or playing music will be a gift adored by both the child and parent. There are SO many options available (take a look at our continually updated guide here) and costs can quickly stack up when you attend multiple week-long camps over the summer. Got yourself a kiddo who already goes away to a residential camp over the summer? A new trunk or camp gear can keep the excitement going in the winter lull and cut down on expenses in the weeks before camp starts.

As well as the zoo, animal- and outdoors-loving kids will adore tickets to see the llamas at Leslie Lane Llama Farm in Seguin or Black Barn Alpacas in Floresville; to the Natural Bridge Caverns and Safari (right here in town); or the Exotic Resort Zoo (safari) in Johnson City. The promise of a family hiking or camping trip to Big Bend National Park (or any national park!) would also be a huge hit, and you can create excitement with a small but useful gift like a nature guide, camping lantern, or journal.

Book-loving kiddos of all ages are well-served in San Antonio! You can read my round-up of independent bookstores here, but gift vouchers for local stores like The Twig, Nowhere Bookshop, and chains like Half Price Books and Barnes and Noble (both well-represented across the Alamo City and beyond) are ideal for all bookworms, hard-to-buy-for teens, and college freshmen.

For Families

It’s true that spending time together (whether during the holidays or otherwise) is the best gift, and with that in mind, experiences that families can enjoy together are always welcome.

From the Majestic Theatre to the Tobin Center and Aztec Theater, San Antonio has a wealth of performances and stage shows to enjoy. Tickets for a specific show (Aladdin, Hamilton, Pretty Woman, Chicago, and Riverdance are all coming to the Majestic in the first half of 2023!) are a really thoughtful gift and the kind of splurge-gift that they might not buy for themselves. Young children can learn and grow a love of the theater at The Magik Theatre, which has offered a diverse range of classic performances and educational programs in a historical venue. (Check out The Velveteen Rabbit this Christmas!) Nurture your older kids’ love of music with tickets to orchestral performances at the Tobin, or check out the upcoming performances from big stars at the Frost Center or Alamodome. Don’t rule out tickets for indie festival performances (like SXSW) or larger gigs and music festivals further afield. Experience gifts don’t have to offer immediate gratification—tickets for an event sometime in the coming year can still be a total home run, especially for older kids. Pair them with a road trip and hotel stay and you’re looking at a weekend full of happy memories and golden family or one-on-one time.


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Back to the Frost Center—let’s get ready to rodeo, San Antonio! The San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo offers a huge number of opportunities for fun experiences and performances that you can enjoy as a family. Tickets are available now, and it’ll quickly be rodeo season once the new year rolls around.

San Antonio Spurs tickets make for another great family night out—whether your kids are crazy about basketball or have never been to a game and can just enjoy the fun atmosphere and experience, watching a live game is so fun! Tickets or season passes for San Antonio Missions and San Antonio FC games will delight young baseball and soccer fans, too.

Physical gift cards and e-gift cards for movie theaters are a great gift for families to enjoy together, as well as for driving-age teens and college students in San Antonio. Cards for local favorite Santikos can be purchased online, at any of their theaters, or found at H-E-B, and used across the city for tickets and concessions. Going to a movie together is a great family afternoon or evening activity, whether you want to escape the cold winter weather or the heat of summer! The AMC Classic Theater in Boerne is an underrated choice but a great experience if you’ve got movie lovers who enjoy artisan productions and seeing classics on the big screen.

If your family is one that thrives on adrenaline and competitive spirit, San Antonio boasts a number of go-karting tracks: K1 Speed and Andretti are indoor, while the San Antonio Karting Complex has a large outdoor track. Prefer to let your feet leave the ground? iFLY indoor skydiving will be a huge hit! The experience lasts almost two hours, with trained instructors teaching you how to fly safely. Truly a gift for all the family’s daredevils, flyers between three and 103 years old can learn to fly, and fly together.

Lastly, all generations will enjoy crafting together at the likes of Pinspiration and Board and Brush (three locations across San Antonio); a cookie decorating class with talented local baker Jessica Hall of Baked Goodness; or a balloon workshop with Josie of Party Hat Celebrations. No experience required, and all materials are provided. A recipe for fun family time together!

For Adults

Kids don’t have the monopoly on experiential gifts, and San Antonio (and its surrounding area) caters well to adults with various interests. By thinking out of the box a little, you’ll find something memorable and fun for everyone on your list.

Personally, as a mom, some of the most thoughtful (and appreciated) gifts I’ve received are vouchers for photoshoots. Though we can snap quick photos on our phones daily, moms are too often the ones taking the photos and aren’t in them. (Case in point, on a recent trip to a pumpkin patch, I got about 18 nice photos of my husband and son together, and just one selfie of the three of us with my son looking at a barrel train going past.) Having photos taken—proper ones, when I can actually make a little effort and enjoy getting some photos of us together—is a gift because I know someday I’ll be able to look fondly at beautiful photographs of my son at every age and stage. With that in mind, if you know someone has enjoyed working with a particular photographer before (or has always wanted to shoot with them!) a gift voucher towards a session is a very welcome gift. Grandparents will particularly love the opportunity to get the whole family together to have photos taken, and everyone benefits from the final result. Mini sessions for bluebonnet season or holiday card photos can be some of the most affordable options.

Got a new mom or mom-to-be on your list? It may not be a surprise, but she would really appreciate any contribution toward maternity or newborn photography in lieu of a gift! These can be expensive and come at a time when other costs are high, but you can’t get back those sleepy newborn moments when they are gone.

Speaking of moms-to-be, locations of The Woodhouse Day Spa and Hand and Stone across San Antonio offer vouchers for prenatal massage, as does the beautiful Hiatus Spa located just across the alley from Hotel Emma at Pearl. A little pampering should be on everyone’s list—a gift voucher for a deep tissue or hot stone massage, mani-pedi, facial, or even a couples massage is often an unexpected but very welcome gift.


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While hotel stays would be a fantastic gift for families (especially at the likes of the La Cantera Resort or JW Marriott Hill Country… See Tiffeny’s guide to the best kid-friendly hotels here!) a couples’ retreat at one of the smaller downtown hotels—The Fairmount, Hotel Emma, Menger Hotel, and Hotel Havana—is definitely at the top of many parents’ Christmas lists. This parenting gig is both rewarding and tough! Having a little break now and again is what makes us better, more patient, and happier parents.

Got a foodie on your list? Make them ecstatically happy this holiday with cooking classes at The Culinary Cottage, a fun and vibrant learning kitchen with classes in everything from festive appetizers and artisan bread, to full and complex menus inspired by different world cuisines. I’m intending to gift my husband (and self!) a pasta masterclass this year: a three-hour in-home lesson on perfect pasta making by the incredible Chef Elena D’Agostino. If food is their love language, never underestimate the joy that a voucher for their favorite restaurant can bring. Thinking a little more outside the box, San Antonio’s charcuterie scene is on fire! Check out my list of board makers here, and consider gifting a cheeseboard or grazing box to enjoy over the holidays. Ditto: pies, cookies, cakes, and chocolates by local chocolatier Charity Teague. Food is what brings us together over the holidays—sharing it is the ultimate gift.

Whatever your preferred tipple, the Hill Country surrounding San Antonio has lots to explore and enjoy. There are more than 50 unique wineries, and a simple and easy way to enjoy them is with a Texas Hill Country Wineries event passport. Four times a year, this self-guided event allows passport holders to taste at up to four wineries per day and receive exclusive discounts on bottle purchases. Sister Creek, Becker, Barons Creek, and Signor Vineyards are just a handful of the stops; while the Texas Wine Collective is just a beautiful spot to enjoy a glass of wine with friends.

If spirits are more your thing, a trip to Dripping Springs will open your eyes to the production of big names like Deep Eddy Vodka, Treaty Oak Bourbon, and Hye Rum. There are also some incredible breweries for beer lovers! My pick would be a visit to the Milam and Greene distillery in nearby Blanco, a beautiful spot to enjoy some of the finest bourbon and rye whiskies made in Texas. Enjoy neat spirits and cocktails in an oak tree grove, often accompanied by live music and food trucks.

Well, just call me Mrs. Claus! There are so many experience options to gift here in San Antonio. I really hope you’ve found something new and exciting to add to your list this year.

If you’ve been gifted a particularly fun and memorable experience in the past, what was it? Please share it with me in the comments.

Natalie is a proud Brit, but moved to Texas at the end of 2017 to be with her husband, a native San Antonian. Their son was born in late October 2020, so her entire experience of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum has been under the cloud of Covid-19. She spent the frivolous years of her early 20s pursuing a PhD in Renaissance history, living in Venice, Italy, and teaching students. She pivoted into editing when she moved to the US, but currently has her academic pursuits on hold while she focuses on her son. Despite being in San Antonio for a few years now, she still considers herself a newbie. She loves to find out more about the history and culture of the city, explore new places, and find local businesses to support. A fastidious researcher and lover of lists, she’s always excited to share her finds and experiences with others. Favorite Restaurant: Dough Favorite Landmark: World’s Largest Cowboy Boots Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Riverwalk Christmas Lights