My Family’s Top Five Favorite Things to Do During the Holidays in San Antonio

One of my favorite things about living in San Antonio is the endless number of things to do and places to see. Never is this more true than during the holiday season. I’m big on traditions, so my family has some holiday events and locations that we look forward to visiting every year, but we also love discovering new places. We are always on the go and don’t want to let a minute of this joyful season go to waste! If you’re like us and love discovering all our beautiful city has to offer, or if you’re looking to start your own holiday traditions with your family, here is my list of our top five things to do in San Antonio (or nearby) during the holiday season (in alphabetical order).

1. JW Marriott’s Light Up the Night

(Open through December 31, 2019)

The big red ornament at the JW Marriott is perfect for pictures!

We were invited to experience this event for the first time this year, and we may have found a new holiday tradition! The already gorgeous resort transforms into a sparkling wonderland, complete with a choreographed light show, live reindeer, a giant bright red ornament perfect for family photos, an elf hunt, campfire s’mores, movies under the stars, an Elf Express Train Parade (where your kids make their own train car and then participate in the parade), crafts, and visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus. You don’t even have to stay at the resort to partake in the experiences. Grab dinner or drinks at one of the resort’s fabulous restaurants and then enjoy an evening of holiday entertainment. However, guests of the resort can reserve elf tuck-ins for the kids, which sound like so much fun! And in the morning, make sure to reserve a table for breakfast or brunch with Santa!

There truly is so much to do here, so make sure to check it out for yourself here.

2. Johnson City Lights Spectacular

(Open November 29, 2019–January 5, 2020)

In the mood for a road trip? Just over an hour’s drive north of San Antonio, you’ll find a little slice of holiday heaven in Johnson City, Texas. This little town truly does Christmas right, and you’ll love the small-town charm and gorgeous sights and sounds. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride ($15 per person, children under 5 are free) or a tractor-pulled hayride (for a donation) and enjoy the beautiful lights while bundled up with your family. You’ll see the courthouse literally covered in thousands of lights, fun photo-ops and displays on the courthouse grounds, and there’s no way you could miss the Pedernales Electric Co-Op headquarters with its absolutely amazing, you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it light display. This little town has over a million lights filling three city blocks, and it’s totally worth the drive.

The Johnson City Courthouse is covered in lights for the Lights Spectacular.

While you’re there, don’t miss Pecan Street Brewing on the square. It’s worth the drive all by itself, but it’s even better when surrounded by the gorgeous courthouse square lights. But go early, because the word is out on this place and it gets very busy!

You could also make a day of it by visiting President Lyndon B. Johnson’s boyhood home or the Science Mill children’s museum.

Click here for more information on the Johnson City Lights Spectacular:

3. San Antonio Zoo: Whataburger Zoo Lights

(Open through December 31, 2019)

This is always a “don’t miss” on our Christmas list. Because Zoo Lights is included with an annual pass membership (which we have), this is a budget-friendly option with tons to offer. You may not see a lot of animals during this night-time stroll through the Zoo, but the dazzling lights, “snow,” and other attractions more than make up for it. You can decorate cookies with Mrs. Claus, ride a camel, watch the new Latin-inspired Lakeside Light Show, enjoy hot cocoa and s’mores, and even drop off your wish list with Jolly Old Saint Nick while you’re there. (Some activities have an additional cost.) And before or after your visit, take a ride on the Holiday Express train through Brackenridge Park. The train is decorated with holiday lights and plays festive music during your ride. And now that Kiddie Park has relocated next door to the Zoo, you can even enjoy Kiddie Park’s nostalgic rides as part of your Zoo Lights experience.

Find more information about this festive holiday event here:

4. SeaWorld San Antonio’s Christmas Celebration

(Open November 23, 2019–January 5, 2020)

Did you know that San Antonio is home to the largest Christmas light display in Texas? With over nine million twinkling lights, SeaWorld is truly a sight to behold this time of year. The park transforms into a winter wonderland, and every nook and cranny seems to be decorated with holiday cheer. As if the lights themselves aren’t enough, the park’s shows are re-themed for the holidays, special characters make appearances (hint: one is a red-nosed friend of Santa’s), your kids can dance and sing with all of their favorite characters at the evening Sesame Street Christmas Parade (check the schedule before you go and make sure to find a parade-watching spot early!), and you can hear the sweet sounds of the season from the Merry Mariachis and the angelic Christmas Story.

Also check out SeaWorld’s seasonal dining offerings, where you can dine with Santa and Mrs. Claus or Rudolph and friends (online reservations available).

Find more information about this Texas-sized Christmas celebration here:

5. Windcrest Light Up

(Open December 7–31, 2019)

It just wouldn’t be Christmas in our family without a trip (or two) through the Windcrest Christmas light displays. Every year, we get hot chocolate, put on the Christmas classics, and take a short drive over to the “City of Lights.” This small suburb of San Antonio really gets into the Christmas spirit, with a yearly theme and house-lighting contest. This year’s theme is “A Hometown Christmas,” and will no doubt be as spectacular as ever. Drive by the City Hall and Fire Department, where friendly firemen will gladly accept donations in exchange for a map of the winning houses. (Maps may be available online as well.) Then take a slow drive (and bring your patience, because it will undoubtedly be slow due to the sheer number of spectators) through the neighborhood to see the decked-out winners of categories such as “Martha Stewart Would Be Proud,” “Clark Griswold,” “Religious/Joyful,” “Nostalgic/Hand-crafted,” and “Charlie Browniest.” You will be amazed at the time, effort, and creativity these homeowners give to this event each year, and you’ll leave with a heart full of Christmas cheer and a head full of Christmas carols.

For more information on the Windcrest Light Up:

As I mentioned before, our festive city is chock-full of holiday events and celebrations worth visiting. Here are some others worth mentioning and visiting this holiday season:

Devine Acres Farm

Elf Acres

Holiday Lights on the San Antonio River Walk

Morgan’s Wonderland: Wonderland Christmas

Natural Bridge Caverns: Christmas at the Caverns

Old West Christmas Light Fest

Pipe Creek Christmas Tree Farm

Rotary Ice Rink at Travis Park

Santa’s Ranch

Six Flags Fiesta Texas: Holiday in the Park

Texas Transportation Museum: Santa’s Railroad Wonderland

Where is your favorite place to spend the holidays in or around San Antonio?

Jill is a small-town girl at heart but has loved discovering all San Antonio has to offer since moving here in 2004. She and her husband of 16 years are proud Texas Aggies and parents to two elementary-age girls. Jill worked as an editor, writer, and 4th-grade teacher before discovering her dream job as a taxi driver (for her girls). As a stay-at-home-mom, she spends her days volunteering at her kids' school and at church, attempting to exercise, pondering how four people can accumulate so much dirty laundry, and driving her kids to numerous extracurricular activities. She has recently taken her love for all things Disney to the next level by becoming a Disney Travel Planner. Follow along on her family’s adventures in San Antonio and beyond on Instagram at @satxfamily or email her for a Disney (or Universal Studios) vacation quote and planning assistance at [email protected] Favorite Restaurant: The Melting Pot Favorite Landmark: Japanese Tea Garden Favorite San Antonio Tradition: San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo