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The Christmas season is truly the most wonderful time of year in San Antonio, as all of the city from downtown to the suburbs twinkle with stunning holiday light displays, one outshining the other. Some winter illuminations across the River City are among the nation's most impressive light shows. Here you'll get into the Christmas spirit with ease.
Holiday Lights on the River Walk (November 12, 2020–January 4, 2021)
Start your holiday light expedition at the city's top attraction. Holiday Lights on the River Walk is located in the very heart of San Antonio. Locals and visitors love strolling, dining, and shopping along the 15-mile (24-km) promenade in any season. Yet this place is unbeatable when adorned with 100,000 lights shining all night long from 6 pm to 8 am. In addition to Christmas lights, the city park hosts a range of events during the holiday season, namely Ford Holiday Boat Caroling, Ford Fiesta de las Luminarias, and the Holiday Artisan Show. Admission: free.
Whataburger Zoo Lights (November 20, 2020–January 3, 2021)
Your second Christmas stop is San Antonio Zoo, set 4 miles (6 km) north of downtown. Whataburger Zoo Lights is included in standard admission and is free for passholders. Apart from illuminations of the life-sized savanna animals and beloved Christmas tunes, the celebration highlights include Santa's visits, holiday snacks by Mrs. Claus, and Lakeside Light Show to Latin dance music. Admission: included with zoo admission; tickets cost $21.99 for adults, $18.99 for kids ages 3–11, and free for kids under 3.
UIW Light the Way Celebration: Holiday Drive (November 20–22, 2020) | Holiday Lights (November 23, 2020–January 6, 2021)
Another spectacular Christmas light display occurs at the University of the Incarnate Word, next to San Antonio Zoo. Light the Way Holiday Drive kicks off the holiday season. The ticketed event runs for several days in late November, from 6 to 9 pm. Whoever can't make it to Light the Way still has plenty of time to take in the enchanting glow all over the campus. The holiday show goes on till early January. Admission: Holiday Drive is a ticketed event; holiday lights can be enjoyed for free.
SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration (November 20, 2020–January 3, 2021)
Move a bit further to the city's western outskirts and you'll discover one of Texas’s largest Christmas celebrations at SeaWorld San Antonio. This winter wonderland of millions of twinkling lights is a great place to visit with family. You'll meet Santa and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, sing with carolers, enjoy Christmas shows and festive treats, and create incredible holiday memories. Admission: Christmas Traditions Tour $65 for kids and adults; Dinner with Santa and Mrs. Claus $34 for adults and $17 for kids ages 3–9. General admission ticket is $39.99.
Lights Alive! Drive Thru (November 20, 2020–January 3, 2021)
There's another captivating light show close to SeaWorld. Lights Alive! drive-thru is held near The National Shooting Complex, only 8 more miles (13 km) to the northwest. The musically synchronized display is 100% computer-controlled, making it the first of its kind throughout the state. You'll be riding to the tunes of Christmas classics as well as modern remixes. Park & Play Wonderland, at the end of the fascinating 1-mi course, amazes with a 50-foot (15-m) animated light show tree. Continue celebrating with Santa, try traditional festive foods, crafts, and more. The drive-thru is for cars only. Price: $35 per car ($30 when purchased online). Hours: 6–10 pm on Sunday–Thursday, and 6–11 pm on Friday & Saturday.
Old West Christmas Light Fest (November 26–December 25, 2020)
If you don't mind going a bit further from the city, another great option is Old West Christmas Light Fest, located at Enchanted Springs Ranch, Boerne, 35 miles (56 km) northwest of downtown San Antonio. The authentic western town provides a unique backdrop for holiday lights and Santa visits. Savor festive foods at the campfire, play laser tag, ride the mechanical bull, and have fun. The tickets are $15 per person (6 and older). A family pack for five—$60.
San Antonio Christmas tree lighting ceremony (November 27, 2020; virtual)
Lastly, regardless of every other light display, be sure to see San Antonio's official Christmas tree downtown. H-E-B annually donates the festive 55-foot (17-m) tree as a gift to the city and hosts the lighting ceremony in late November around Thanksgiving, at 7 pm. Since 2017, the Christmas tree has been erected at Travis Park. Decades prior, the tree used to be set up in front of the Alamo.