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San Antonio Holidays Bring Luminarias, Tamales, River Walk Caroling and More

July 17, 2014 Destination North America No Comments Email Email

The holiday season in San Antonio is an especially magical time with an array of activities and events. In this cultural and historic city, visitors can relax with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate while beautifully decorated river barges glide along the River Walk.

Bazaars and markets sell one-of-a-kind gifts. Plus, a popular tamale festival provides the most delicious treats of all.

Thousands of holiday lights adorn the River Walk while many cultural festivities promise an unforgettable getaway. Along the river, almost 200 trees are decorated with twinkling lights and 20 street bridges are colorfully illuminated with various patterns. The City of San Antonio holds a Light Up Downtown Holiday Contest that encourages downtown business owners to compete for the most decorative and creative use of LED lights. The result is a lit up river and street that combines for one magical holiday destination.

The River Walk is also home to the Ford Fiesta de las Luminarias. This centuries-old tradition takes place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from December 5 – December 21, when the River Walk is lined with several thousand luminarias (small paper lanterns) to symbolically light the way for the Holy Family. Another River Walk favorite is the Ford Holiday River Boat Caroling. From December 5-December 21, more than 185 choirs ring in the holidays by singing traditional carols on cruising barges. The eclectic mix of participants includes bell choirs, folk groups and Latino ensembles.

Need more reasons to spend your 2014 holiday season in San Antonio?  Here are just a few of the many festivities that will be sure to get you in the spirit of the season:

Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza — (November 16 – November 22, 2014) A week-long mariachi music festival that draws the world’s top mariachi artists. For location and ticket pricing call 210.225.3353, www.mariachimusic.com

SeaWorld San Antonio’s Christmas Celebrations — (Open select days November 22 – December 30, 2014) – Guests can celebrate the holidays at SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration® by enjoying Christmas lights, candy canes, hot chocolate and much more at the park. Even the animals get in the holiday spirit with seasonal shows such as Shamu Christmas Miracles, Clyde & Seamore’s Countdown to Christmas, A Dolphin Christmas and Elmo’s Christmas Wish. Sea World San Antonio, $$, 12-9 p, www.seaworldparks.com/en/seaworld-sanantonio

Ford Holiday River Parade & Lighting Ceremony— (November 28, 2014) The city’s holiday festivities kick off the day after Thanksgiving, when a switch is flipped to illuminate the River Walk’s holiday display and kick off the Ford Holiday River Parade. Some 150,000 patrons will line the riverbanks to experience the sounds and colors of the season with an entourage of radiant floats. The parade goes on, rain or shine. Riverwalk, $, 7-10 p, www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com/events

A Wonderland Christmas – (November 28 – December 20, 2014) The world’s first theme park designed with special-needs individuals in mind and built for everyone’s enjoyment, Morgan’s Wonderland will host “A Wonderland Christmas” from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday evenings.  Enjoy a winter wonderland – sparkling lights, carolers, Santa Claus and the 25-acre park’s popular rides and other attractions.  Morgan’s Wonderland, $, 4-9 pm, www.morganswonderland.com

Six Flags Fiesta Texas’ Holiday in the Park — (November 28-January 4, 2014) Six Flags Fiesta Texas transforms into a winter wonderland for all visitors. Six Flags Fiesta Texas, $$$, Evening, www.sixflags.com/fiestatexas

Music for Your Eyes – Holiday! — (December 4 and 11, 2014) Walter Mathis enhanced Villa Finale’s world of visual beauty by filling his home with the sounds of music.  A National Trust Historic Site, Guests to his home are treated to a unique visit as they tour Villa Finale’s collections while being entertained by the musical delights of antique machines.  In this special edition of our popular Music for Your Eyes tour, we recreate this experience by treating today’s visitors to demonstrations of some of the rare music machines in the Mathis collections and adding a festive holiday twist.  Villa Finale, $-$$ limited seating, 6:30-7:30 pm, to reserve a seat contact 210.223.9800, www.villafinale.org

Ford Holiday Boat Caroling — (December 5 – 21, 2014) Joyous caroling fills the evening air along the San Antonio River Walk as more than 185 school, church, company, and civic choral groups ring in the holidays by singing traditional carols on cruising boats. The eclectic mix of participants includes bell choirs, folk groups, and Latino ensembles. Join visitors from around the world in impromptu sing-a-longs from the patios of River Walk restaurants. Riverwalk, Free, 6:15-9:15 pm,www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com/events

Ford Fiesta de las Luminarias — (December 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, 2014) This centuries-old tradition will take place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, when the River Walk is lined with 6,000 luminarias (small paper lanterns) to symbolically light the way for the Holy Family. Riverwalk, Free, 7-10 pm, www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com/events

Santa’s Railroad Wonderland — (December 6-27, 2014) Santa’s Railroad Wonderland is an extravaganza of holiday activities at the Texas Transportation Museum. Every Saturday and Sunday in December there are nighttime train and hayrides. Just about every part of our forty-acre site is decorated, from the historic depot, trains, garden railroad, and three other scale model railroad layouts. Bring your camera for a photo with the museum’s own character, Choo Choo Claus.  Texas Transportation Museum, $, 6-9 PM, www.txtransportationmuseum.org

Tamales! At Pearl — (December 7, 2013) Pearl Brewery, the city’s newest culinary star, celebrates the beloved San Antonio holiday tradition of tamales. Sample dozens of tamales, from traditional to dessert, from more than 30 vendors. Plus enjoy live music and a children’s craft area.  The Pearl, Tamale prices vary, 11 am-5 pm, www.atpearl.com

La Serenata — (December 11, 2014) San Fernando Cathedral will host the annual Serenata a la Virgen de Guadalupe.   The Serenata is a special celebration honoring the Virgin Mary on the eve of the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The focal point of the Cathedral’s celebration will be traditional and contemporary music and dance performed by local artists. The Serenata brings together performers as varied as Mariachis, Norteño music and Mexican indigenous dances. There is a Mass at midnight following La Serenata.  San Fernando Cathedral, Free, 8:30-11:50 pm, www.sfcathedral.org

La Tamalada and Time Travel Saturday: South Texas Holiday Traditions at the Witte Museum — (December 13, 2014) It’s a delicious San Antonio holiday tradition—ever wonder how tamales are made? The La Tamalada workshop lets visitors make and flavor their own half dozen tamales. Afterward, join in on the holiday fun with Time Travel Saturday: South Texas Holiday Traditions.  Witte Museum, $$, 11 am-5 pm, www.wittemuseum.org

La Gran Posada — (December 21, 2014) La Gran Posada is the reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter through historic downtown. It is one of the oldest Christmas Traditions dating back to colonial times. It will begin at Milam Park (across from Market Square), then make its way to the Cathedral where the large crowd is welcomed with festive singing and a party. The journey symbolizes the trials which Mary and Joseph endured before finding a place to stay where Jesus could be born. At the end of the long journey, Christmas carols (villancicos) will be sung and children will break open piñatas. Milam Park to San Fernando Cathedral, Free, 6-8:30 pm, www.sfcathedral.org

22nd Annual Valero Alamo Bowl — (January 2, 2015) Major college football comes to the Alamodome in San Antonio. The Valero Alamo Bowl is an annual post-season collegiate bowl game featuring the #2 Pac-12 Conference team (after the Rose Bowl) and the #3 Big 12 team (after the Fiesta and Cotton Bowls). The Bowl has quickly become one of the most popular bowls in the country, producing some of the most-watched bowl games in ESPN history while selling out four of the last six years. Alamodome, $-$$, 5:45 pm, www.alamobowl.com

Celebrate San Antonio — (December 31, 2014 – January 1, 2015) Ring in the New Year San Antonio style! Enjoy spectacular fireworks, live music on multiple stages, food booths, family activities and more. South Alamo between Durango and Market streets; La Villita and HemisFair Park, Free, 5 pm-1 am, www.saparksfoundation.org/celebrate_sa.html

For more details and to discover the many events in San Antonio, go to visitsanantonio.com or call (866) 517-7779.

Stay connected on Facebook at facebook.com/visitsanantonio and Twitter at @visitsanantonio.

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