Top 10 Things to Do in San Antonio During Thanksgiving

Have the whole week off for Thanksgiving and wondering what to do with the kids? Or are family and friends coming to visit and you want to keep them entertained? From holiday lights to holiday shows, here are the top 10 things to do in San Antonio during Thanksgiving.

Twirl in the Glow at Lightscape

trees in red lightsInternationally acclaimed Lightscape is back and reimagined at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Enjoy a variety of different light displays, like brightly illuminated 16-foot tall stars, a tunnel of 13-foot tall LED hearts, and a field of brilliantly lit red poppy flowers. Fan favorites like the Winter Cathedral will return alongside reimagined installations, including the Fire Garden featuring a 25-foot dragon (which ACM Amiga and artist extraordinaire Cristina helped bring to life!). Guests will have an opportunity to enjoy festive food and drinks, including roasting s’mores.

Explore the Witte

Quest across land, sea and space while discovering the importance of maps and navigation in everyday life in “Explore Your World” at the Witte Museum. You can navigate through a shipwreck, escape a building, use a real sonar scanner and do more through cutting-edge technologies and experiences that effectively share STEM skills and knowledge. The exhibition’s hands-on interactive stations include a giant game of Battleship and a sonar scanner to map visitors.

While you’re there, don’t miss a chance to see a piece of history in San Antonio’s Space Endeavors—President Kennedy’s Last Public Speech, an exhibit marking 60 years since President John F. Kennedy visited San Antonio to dedicate the Aerospace Medical Health Center at Brooks Air Force Base and speak to the key role of San Antonio in medical space research. The speech on November 21, 1963, was President Kennedy’s final public address. The following day he was assassinated in Dallas.

President Kennedy at the podium during his last speech
President John F. Kennedy speaks  in San Antonio on November 21, 1963. Photo Tom Atkins / Public Domain

The exhibit includes the Kennedy lectern, which was built in 1963 by Brooks AFB carpenter Edmond Van Brandt Sr. The lectern was given to the Witte Museum in 2011. Also on display are the chairs built for the event by employees at the School of Aerospace Medicine and documents and photographs related to President Kennedy’s visit. Visitors can also listen to a recording of the final speech given by President Kennedy.

Get Wild at Night at the Zoo

a rhino made out of christmas lightsZoo Lights are burning brighter than ever at the San Antonio Zoo this year, with a new Polar Playground and an all-new Lakeside Laser Lightshow with fog, snow, lights and mesmerizing projections. Giraffes, hippos, lions, and rhinos are brought to life in lights and every once in a while, you’ll see the real animals in their evening routines – and getting ready for bed (or for the nocturnal friends, they’re glad to see you and ready to party!). And don’t forget to check out Tony Parker’s private collection of FAO Schwartz animals.

>>Tip:  Zoo Lights are free for members, so joining gives your family a way to enjoy the zoo all year long. And not-so-secret tip:  there’s a special Black Friday discount on memberships through Nov. 30.

See American Cowboys at the Briscoe

black and white photos on a wallHead west without leaving San Antonio at the Briscoe Western Art Museum and enjoy the Briscoe’s fantastic fall exhibition, Anouk Masson Krantz: “American Cowboys”, highlighting the enduring traditions around ranching and rodeo life from an outsider’s perspective. Nearly 100 images captured on solo journeys across the American West by the celebrated photographer Anouk Masson Krantz reflect the greatest virtues of America’s heritage.

>>Tip: While closed on Thanksgiving Day, the Briscoe is extending its hours to be open every day Nov. 16-27. The additional hours will allow everyone the opportunity to visit the museum while enjoying Thanksgiving week on the River Walk. Located just across from La Villita, the museum is a perfect stop before enjoying the Holiday Parade and the River Walk’s famous Christmas lights. The museum’s regular operating hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Thursday – Monday.

Watch Santa Float into Town

Yes, float. Santa rides into San Antonio on a river barge and kicks off one of the most festive times of the year for the Alamo City in the 2023 Holiday River Parade and Lighting Ceremony on Friday, Nov. 24. The parade is also the official kick-off of the famous lights on the River Walk. This year’s parade will feature 28 illuminated floats and over 100,000 lights (that’s 2,250 strands) illuminating the River Walk. Don’t forget: the lights stay on from sundown to sunrise every night until the weekend following New Year’s Day, so if you miss the parade, don’t miss checking out the lights!

Take in a Sea of Lights at SeaWorld

Dive into the largest light display in Texas at SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration. With Christmas shows – including Sesame Street and Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer – holiday treats and the opportunity to see Santa, there’s something for everyone to enjoy at SeaWorld.

Enjoy American Made at the San Antonio Museum of Art

Dive into the world of American art at the San Antonio Museum of Art’s “American Made: Paintings and Sculpture from the DeMell Jacobsen Collection”, an exhibition spanning over 250 years of American art and featuring more than a hundred works of art by renowned artists including Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, Thomas Moran, Robert Henri, Loïs Mailou Jones, Allan Crite, Elizabeth Catlett and Grant Wood. The exhibition features objects from museums around the country, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum – and is the first exhibition to bring the private collection together for viewing. And of course, SAMA’s permanent collection is filled with fantastic works housed in the former Lone Star Brewery, making it a great, unique destination to enjoy with visitors. Learn more here.

Add Some Magik: The Velveteen Rabbit

a young actress holding a stuffed rabbit for the Velveteen RabbitSprinkle your Thanksgiving with a bit of magic thanks to “The Velveteen Rabbit” at the Magik Theatre. Back by popular demand this holiday season, this delightful and heartwarming retelling of the classic children’s story comes to life with performances throughout Thanksgiving week. If you don’t know the story: a young child awakens on Christmas morning to discover a stuffed velveteen rabbit under the tree. As the child’s new favorite toy, the shy rabbit’s appearance becomes worn and shabby from play, and a wonderful change begins to happen. Don’t miss this inspiring, uplifting fable that so perfectly captures the spirit of the holiday season and for even more fun, add a visit to Yanaguana Garden and the new Civic Park at Hemisfair.

Have a Nightmare Before Christmas at the McNay

a movie modelCelebrate the 30th anniversary of Tim Burton’s classic film in “Dreamland | Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” at the McNay. Small models created for the film are on display and visitors can reacquaint themselves with the move cast that includes Oogie Boogie, Bone Crusher, and the beloved hero, Jack Skellington. The models, called maquettes, are paired with unusual characters found in art from the McNay’s collection, and fans will enjoy glimpses of how the movie was designed. Note:  timed reservations are recommended as the exhibition has been incredibly popular.

Hit the Ice at Travis Park

The Rotary Ice Rink is back at Travis Park, so lace up and show off your skills. There are deals for Tuesdays (Cheap Skate Nights) and special pricing for military and first responders. San Antonio’s Christmas tree will light the park starting Nov. 24, making a trip to skate even more fun.

Looking for more fun? Check out this list for more tips.

An Army brat who came to Texas for college and ultimately managed to make the Lone Star State her permanent home, Dawn became a mom “AMA” (advanced maternal age), giving her the opportunity to use a stroller vs. a walker as she navigates the world of motherhood. Her growing up way too fast native Texan loves all things Star Wars, Legos, dinosaurs and keeping his parents on their toes. When she’s not busy parenting the original strong-willed child, Dawn runs Tale to Tell Communications, a San Antonio-based PR and marketing agency. An award-winning writer, Dawn also contributes to San Antonio Woman, Rio Magazine and Texas Lifestyle Magazine. She and her family enjoy exploring all that San Antonio has to offer, going on adventures and playing tourist together as much as possible. Favorite Restaurant: Clementine Favorite Landmark: The beauty of the River Walk, especially La Villita Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Celebrating anything and everything with color, music and food