2016 Guide to Holiday Events in San Antonio

The holidays are upon us and we’ve got you covered. This weekend kicks off the holiday season, and there’s no looking back. Our event guide includes holiday musical and theatrical performances, seasonal eats, Hanukkah events, live nativity scenes, downtown festivities, Hill Country happenings, and more. Plus, given our winter weather is often pleasant, there are even two outdoor movies in December. Be sure to check back often—we’ll be adding to the list as we find more family-friendly events.

Dates to remember: Thanksgiving is Thursday, November 24; Hanukkah is December 24–January 1; Christmas is Sunday, December 25; and Kwanzaa is December 26–January 1.

November 17–19

The Children’s Nutcracker, 7:00–9:00 P.M. at the Scottish Rite Theatre—Presented by the Children’s Ballet of San Antonio, an organization that offers world-class rehearsal coaching and performance opportunities for talented children from all backgrounds. Pre-show program begins at 6 P.M., including an opportunity for children to visit with cast members, have hair and make-up done, and face painting. Sugar Plum Fairy and Clara accessories available along with holiday treats. Be on the look out for Santa, too. Tickets are $15–25.



Saturday, November 19

Holiday Art Market, 9:00 A.M.–2:00 P.M. at Mission Marquee Plaza—Yoga and Zumba by MIX FIT will kick off the market, followed by interactive cooking demos and a locally sourced farmers market presented by Mercados de O’liva. The Holiday Market will feature tree giveaways, interactive gift workshops, a tamale cooking tasting and demonstration, live music performances, pop-up vendors, food trucks, and more. The evening events will include a double feature of Free Birds and Elf beginning at sundown, 6–10 P.M.

Holiday Lighting, 6:00–10:00 P.M. at Travis Park—There are 250,000 reasons to join Centro San Antonio downtown this holiday season. Join this holiday lighting event with over 250,000 lights. This year’s night-time event will feature free photo opps, artisan vendors, food trucks, entertainment, free activities, and free hot chocolate for all. Free.

November 19–20

Tamalada, 12:00–7:00 P.M. at Historic Market Square—Enjoy tamal vendors, a tamal-making class taught by Collectivo Cultural’s Jesus De La Torre, local entertainment, arts and crafts vendors, and more. Free.

Friday, November 25

Ford Holiday River Parade, 6:00–9:00 P.M. at the San Antonio River Walk—Tickets are on sale now for the 35th annual Ford Holiday River Parade, the San Antonio way to usher in the holiday season. The parade features 31 lavishly decorated floats including lights, costumed float riders, and holiday music. Tickets are $15–40.

November 25 & 26

Dickens on Main at the Hill Country Mile (Boerne)—Two days full of family activities, holiday entertainment, and shopping as you stroll through a decorated historic downtown. Read more in this post. Free.

November 25–27

27th Annual International Peace Market at Esperanza Peace and Justice Center—The Mercado de Paz combines the arts with economic sustainability, international exchange, and social consciousness. Over 100 international and local artists/artisans will offer a variety of artful, beautifully handmade items including rugs, pottery, textiles, hand-embroidered clothing, paintings, sculptures, and more. The market will also offer live music from local performers and affordable and delicious food options for the weary shopper from tamales to vegan menudo. Free.

The Nutcracker at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts—Presented by Ballet San Antonio. An iconic classic with new choreography and festive costumes, featuring Tchaikovsky’s elaborate and most beloved score, this show rejoices in the magic of the holiday and delights audiences of all ages. The ballet features live music by the San Antonio Symphony and a cast of more than 100 local children. Additional performances December 1–4. Tickets from $29.

November 25 & 27

messiah-ad-300x300_categoryHandel’s Messiah at True Vision Baptist Church (November 25) and Concordia Lutheran Church (November 27)—Join the San Antonio Symphony, Troy Peters, the Symphony Mastersingers, and four outstanding vocal soloists. Additional performances December 2–4. Tickets are $25.




Saturday, November 26

Black Friday Picture Frame Ornament, 9:00 A.M.–12:00 P.M. at Home Depot stores—You and your child can build a keepsake for your holiday memories. Create a picture frame ornament, perfect for adding some personalized decoration to your Christmas tree. Once the ornament is built, your child can decorate it with paint and add their own photo of family fun. Free.

Fantasyland, 12:00–6:00 P.M. at Milam Park—Presented by Jefferson Bank, this event will combine an old family tradition and a beloved tree lighting to create a magical event for children and adults alike. There will be various children’s entertainment groups, face painting, train rides, and of course visits with Santa Claus himself. Lighting of the Christmas tree will take place at dusk. One lucky child in attendance will be chosen to help Santa Claus pull the switch for the first lighting of the holiday season. Cookies and hot chocolate provided by Mi Tierra’s to follow. Free.

Messiah Community Sing Along, 7:00–9:00 P.M. at Travis Park United Methodist Church—Join with professional soloists, orchestra, and hundreds of musicians from churches, schools, and the community in performing the Christmas portion of Handel’s Messiah to make this the largest Messiah-sing in San Antonio. The audience is the chorus. We’re saving your seat! Bring your own score or rent one for $5 in the lobby that evening. This year we will partner with Corazon Ministries, Inc. to collect donations for helping to fight hunger and homelessness. Tickets are $15.

Thursday, December 1

Holiday Splendor, 6:00–8:00 P.M. at the Institute of Texan Cultures—Enjoy an evening at the museum and take an opportunity to learn how other cultures celebrate the winter holiday season. Make an ornament to take home, help us decorate a holiday tree, and be delighted by the San Antonio Children’s Ballet as they perform a suite from the Nutcracker. Cookies, cocoa, and eggnog will be served to keep you nice and toasty inside. The museum store will be open for a special night of savings, including free gift wrapping, for all of your holiday shopping needs. RSVP by November 25. Free with general admission.

December 1-4

The Nutcracker at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts—Presented by Ballet San Antonio. An iconic classic with new choreography and festive costumes, featuring Tchaikovsky’s elaborate and most beloved score, this show rejoices in the magic of the holiday and delights audiences of all ages. The ballet features live music by the San Antonio Symphony and a cast of more than 100 local children. Tickets from $29.

December 2–4

Handel’s Messiah at Coker United Methodist Church (December 2), Trinity Baptist Church (December 3), and University United Methodist Church (December 4)—Join the San Antonio Symphony, Troy Peters, the Symphony Mastersingers, and four outstanding vocal soloists. Tickets are $25.

Saturday, December 3

Winterfest, 10:00 A.M.–3:00 P.M. at Raymond Russell Park—Free community event. Free park and ride. Snow, Santa, horse carriage rides, pony rides, carnival rides, and more. Bring a new, unwrapped toy for Elf Louise. Lots of food and entertainment from our youth. Play a scavenger hunt and more! Call (210) 548-6448 for more info. Free.

Kristkindlmarkt, 10:00 A.M.–5:00 P.M. at Beethoven Maennerchor—You can find dancing, arts, crafts, and many other items for friends and loved ones for the holidays. Enjoy the Maennerchor’s famous Glühwein (a spiced hot wine), split pea soup made by the ladies of the Damenchor, and hang out with us for a day full of fun. Sankt Nikolaus (Santa Claus) will also make an appearance. Free.


Kwanzaa Market Festival, 11:00 A.M.–5:00 P.M. at Martin Luter King Dr.—A cultural community event to promote the celebration of Kwanzaa and support of African-American businesses. This event features entertainment, food, cultural vendors, educational information and more. Free.

Tamales! Holiday Festival, 12:00–6:00 P.M. at Historic Pearl—The city’s favorite chefs and restaurants will join over 40 tamal makers for San Antonio’s citywide holiday tamalada showcasing a wide range of tamales, from traditional San Antonio styles to Mexican regional variations and bold, surprising takes on the classic treat. Veterans (including Cocina Heritage, Chilito’s, and Marioli) will join many other vendors to cook up delicious bites for all to enjoy. There will also be live music from Mariachi Las Alteñas, Los Inocentes, Ilê Bahia de San Antonio (Capoeira), and Max Baca & Los Texmaniacs, entertainment, and a children’s activity area to guarantee a good time for the whole family. Free.

River of Lights + Free Admission, 4:00–9:00 P.M. at San Antonio River Museum Reach—The San Antonio River Authority will throw the switch on the holiday lighting of the Museum Reach. Enjoy live jazz music from the passing river barges plus Santa’s Wonderland and art activities on Brooklyn Avenue near the lock and dam. The San Antonio Museum of Art will be open with free admission from 4 to 9 P.M. Free.

Weihnachts Parade, 6:00 P.M. at Main Street (Boerne)—Up to 100 lit entries in this year’s theme of “A Lone Star Christmas.” The parade travels north to south, beginning at Frederick Street by the Fire House, and will end at River Road. Free.

Silver Bells in the City, 6:00–9:00 P.M. at Main Plaza—The official lighting of the Main Plaza Christmas tree set in a beautiful winter wonderland and joined by the first lighting of the San Fernando Cathedral and Bexar County Courthouse. Performances by Mariachi Corazon, singing by carolers, and photos with Santa. Free.

December 3 & 4

Drive-Thru Nativity at Concordia Lutheran Church—The story of Christmas within reach of each vehicle starting from Christmas today, all the way back to the birth of Jesus and the travels of the wise men. Ten decorated stations, complete with over 60 actors, angelic choirs, and live animals bring the story to life. You will receive a bag of cookies along with a CD that will take you through the Nativity. You can also download the Concordia app before you arrive and listen the to the tracks from your smartphone. The Nativity portion lasts about 20 minutes. During peak times (7–9 P.M.) you may wait 60–75 minutes, but there are live music and fun activities to help pass the time. Free. 

Friday, December 9

Free Outdoor Movie: Elf, 7:00–10:00 P.M. at Tobin Center for the Performing Arts—After inadvertently wreaking havoc on the elf community due to his ungainly size, a man raised as an elf at the North Pole is sent to the U.S. in search of his true identity. Plaza opens at 7 P.M., movie begins at 8 P.M. Bring your lawn chairs or blankets and enjoy the movie on our 32 foot LED screen. No outside food or drinks are allowed, but concessions will be available for purchase including full bar service. No pets. Free.

Saturday, December 10

La Gran Tamalada, 11:00 A.M.–1:00 P.M. at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center—The annual community workshop that honors the tradition of making tamales for the holidays. The free event blends storytelling and the history of the tamalada, and promotes cultural pride and lifelong learning. Children and adults participate in this hands-on opportunity to learn about the ingredients, recipes, and cooking methods used in making this culturally iconic dish. Participants take home both knowledge of and appreciation for the techniques that have been passed from generation to generation. For the second year, the Cortez Family, owners of the popular Mi Tierra restaurant, will share their love of family, tradition, and tamales with the community. Free.


A Christmas Carol, 4:30–6:00 P.M. at Villa Finale—Performed live with a Victorian home as its backdrop. See Scrooge look down from Villa Finale’s historic balcony as the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future remind him of the importance of being kind and loving to his fellow man. This unique presentation is a collaboration with San Antonio’s Classic Theater, the King William Association, Bonham Academy, and G.W. Brackenridge High School. The audience will be treated to delectable holiday refreshments both before and after the performance. Dress warmly and be prepared to embrace the spirit of the season. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for kids 12 and under.

Lighted Christmas Parade, 7:00–9:00 P.M. at Old Town Helotes—This event showcases local businesses, charities, and organizations. Numerous spectators fill the streets, as local vendors serve hot chocolate, pastries, and other goodies. Arrive by 6:45 P.M. to ensure you get a parking spot. It’s recommended you bring your own chairs, blankets, flash light, and umbrella. Free.

An Irish Christmas, 7:30 P.M. at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts—See Irish music, song, and dance in an engaging performance rich in history, humor, and boundless energy. This family-friendly performance features expressive Irish ballads, lively instrumental tunes, and thrilling Irish dancing, while evocative photographic images provide a backdrop to some of the rich historical traditions. Tickets are $29.50–56.50.

Sunday, December 11

Winter Celebrations Around the World, 12:00–4:00 P.M. at the Institute of Texan Cultures—Features holiday traditions from various cultures with crafts, family activities, performances, and more. December’s Free Second Sunday also includes a donation drive. Free.

Winter Wonderland, 3:00 P.M. at Tobin Center for the Performing Arts—Join the Children’s Chorus for an afternoon of music with melodies wafting like snowflakes through wintry texts. Listen to the words of great poets sung by San Antonio’s finest young vocal artists. As an added bonus, we will be offering free childcare for your smallest relatives. Tickets are $8–$28.

Monday, December 12

Tamal-making Workshop, 6:00–8:30 P.M. at the Westside Community Center (New Braunfels)—Learn the holiday tradition of tamale making. Hands-on training in the art of making tamales is provided. Participants will make a dozen tamales to take home. Pre-registration is required; call (830) 221-4370 to register. For ages 16 and up. $35 per person.

Tuesday, December 13

Hands on Chanukah, 3:00–6:00 P.M. at the Barshop Jewish Community Center—Celebrate Chanukah with your friends at the J with this free, fun annual event. Free.



Friday, December 16

Fiesta de Navidad: La Pastorela Folklórica, 7:00 P.M. at Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center—A fun representation of the traditional Shepherds’ Play with a folklorico and flamenco flair. La Pastorela Folklórica, written by Hiedi Cabral, highlights the Guadalupe Dance Academy performing beautiful traditional Mexican Folklorico and Flamenco music and dance throughout the evening. Guadalupe Dance Company members play the traditional characters of Mary, Joseph, Lucifer, and the archangel, while the Academy’s youngest performers play the parts of townspeople and shepherds. Under the influence of Lucifer, more experienced Academy performers do their best to distract the shepherds from their mission of welcoming the new born king. Tickets are $10.

December 16–18

Mejia Ballet International’s The Nutcracker at Lila Cockrell Theatre—Presented by ARTS San Antonio with San Antonio Metropolitan Ballet. Choreographed and directed by the founder of Mejia Ballet International, Paul Mejia, a former principal dancer under George Balanchine at the New York City Ballet. Tickets $29–99.


Holiday Pops at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts—Ring in the holidays with Associate Conductor Akiko Fujimoto, the Symphony Mastersingers, and your San Antonio Symphony in a magical celebration of the season complete with an audience sing-along, special guests, and a program featuring traditional and popular music to get you in the holiday mood. Tickets from $25.

Saturday, December 17

Free Outdoor Movie: It’s a Wonderful Life, 6:30–8:30 P.M. at Hemisfair—Get into the spirit of the season with the 1940s classic. Southtown Cinema is your community movie theatre with screenings of contemporary hits and classic throwbacks, brought to you by neighborhood businesses. Food, drink, and music starting at 7:30 P.M.; show time starts at 8:30 P.M. Come early and stake out your spot. Free.

December 17 & 18

The Nutcracker Ballet at McAllister Auditorium—Presented by Alamo City Dance Company. Approximately 100 dancers in 160 roles danced by San Antonians with the exception of the guest artists Jennifer Goodman and Ikolo Griffin. Tickets $25–30.

Wednesday, December 21

La Posada, 6:00–8:00 P.M. at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center—This new tradition offers the Guadalupe’s neighbors an opportunity to participate in a fun and culturally meaningful holiday program. Theatre, music, food, and community all come together on this magical night. Free.

December 22 & 23

Home Alone Live in Concert, 7:30 P.M. at the Majestic Theatre—A true holiday favorite, this beloved comedy classic features renowned composer John Williams’ charming and delightful score performed live to picture by the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra. Macaulay Culkin stars as Kevin McCallister, an 8-year-old boy who’s accidentally left behind when his family leaves for Christmas vacation, and who must defend his home against two bungling thieves. Hilarious and heart-warming, Home Alone is holiday fun for the entire family. Tickets are $26.75-66.75.

December 26 & 27

Moscow Ballet’s The Great Russian Nutcracker at Majestic Theatre—This company of almost 40 dancers is the only internationally touring ballet group to perform to critical acclaim in over 75 North American cities annually. Tickets $32.25–179.25.


Wednesday, December 28

Chanukah on the River, 4:00–5:00 P.M. at the Arneson River Theatre—Menorah game show and river parade. Free live concert with Jewish rock band Soul Farm, plus Menorah lighting. Tickets are $8 per person and include jelly donut, boat ride, and sack hot dog dinner.

November 18–December 30

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Ken Ludwig at the Magik Theatre—Not a creature was stirring . . . or was he? Amos the mouse stirs up plenty of excitement as he and his friend Emily attempt to save Christmas from an evil ex-elf who wants to sell the naughty and nice lists to a department store. Sensory-friendly performance on Saturday, December 3 at 2:00 P.M; click here for tickets. Tickets are $12-15.

November 25–December 11

Las Nuevas Tamaleras at Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center—A hilarious one-act play that captures three Latinas in an uproariously comical attempt at making tamales for the first time. Tickets $12–25.

November 25–December 31

Holidays in Bloom at the San Antonio Botanical Garden—A perfect getaway to bring family and friends together for a magical experience in nature. Visitors will encounter poinsettias, a giant Christmas tree, wreaths, and red bows throughout, enhancing the seasonal beauty of the garden. Included with general admission.

November 26–December 11

BookCellar Holiday Blowout Sale at Central Library—The Friends of the San Antonio Public Library BookCellar will have a holiday sale. Free.

December 1–January 8

Holiday Magic Festival of Lights at Retama Park Race Track—The first-ever Chinese lantern festival in the San Antonio area. We are excited to bring this east-meets-west cultural festival to life! Come enjoy the sights and sounds of Christmas with these beautiful lanterns, tons of entertainment, food, drinks, and fun. Open daily 5:30–11:00 P.M. Admission is $26 for adults, $21 for ages 4-17 years old. Free admission for children 3 and under.


December 3–23

Winter Wonderland at The DoSeum—Stroll the holiday grounds of Little Town, take pictures in front of the DoSeum’s frosted window panes and snowy eaves, and unleash your inner snowstorm in the Snow Day Play Scape. Winter Wonderland visitors will enjoy light, bright, and wintery workshops and activities throughout the month and can even make a visit to the infamous man in red—Santa Claus! Super Saturday Workshops on December 10 and 17 require separate registration fee. Winter Wonderland exhibit is free with general admission.


December 10, 11 &  17-23

Christmas at the Caverns, 5:30–10:00 P.M. at Natural Bridge Caverns—Christmas attractions that are unlike anywhere else. On select nights throughout the Christmas season, the entire park will be illuminated by thousands of twinkling lights. Within this magical wonderland will be featured Caroling in the Caverns, along with several above-ground Christmas attractions. Fill your nights with the joy of the season in the Texas Hill Country. Cavern Christmas Package tickets are $29.99 per child and $44.99; other ticket pricing options also available.

December 16–23

A Charlie Brown Christmas at Majestic Theatre—Presented by the Magik Theatre. A Charlie Brown Christmas became an instant classic when it premiered on television in 1965, and has only grown in popularity since then. Now it comes to life on stage as Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang come to understand the real meaning of Christmas. Tickets are $20–30.

Heather was born and raised in San Antonio and became a mom in 2013 and again in 2018. She never imagined she'd be raising two sons but is grateful for the opportunity! Heather enjoys the outdoors and even mowing her own lawn. She and her husband Santiago look forward to raising two feminist boys who will hopefully be better at Spanish than she is. Her professional experience since graduating from Tufts University with a degree in Art History includes working for a variety of arts and cultural nonprofit organizations, from grassroots to governmental. She spent a few years as a stay at home parent and is easing her way back into the workforce. Her dream job would be to work for Sesame Workshop, or President of the United States. In the meantime, Heather enjoys filling her family's weekends with the diversity San Antonio has to offer. Favorite Restaurant: La Tuna Favorite Landmark: Hemisfair Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Breakfast tacos


    • Did you try the tabs near the top of the post? The events are arranged into 7 tabs by date. Let me know if that doesn’t work.

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