After three years of spending Christmas in San Antonio, my family and I pretty much have this whole Christmas-in-Texas thing down. Here’s how to have a Watts family-style Christmas in the Alamo City:
Visit The Alamo
What’s a trip to San Antonio without visiting the Alamo? A pivotal point in the Texas Revolution, the defeat at the Alamo and Santa Ana’s cruelty inspired many to join the Texian Army, later leading to the Texians defeating Mexico and ending the revolution just a month later. The museum offers a 45 minute audio tour of the mission grounds that brings the Battle of the Alamo to life. Just keep in mind that the Alamo is closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so on those days you’ll have to be content with just seeing the outside of it.
Segway Through the City
Segway tours are one of my family’s favorite tours. Always fun and exciting, a segway tour of San Antonio will on an amazing ride while also giving you plenty of historical information about the city. This tour will give you a whole new view of the Alamo, the River Walk, the Tower of the Americas, and more! And our tour ended with a wide open space to race and play!
Take a River Cruise
You should, of course, spend plenty of time walking the River Walk, but you should also take a cruise down the river. Rio San Antonio River Cruises run at all hours of the day and well into the night around Christmas time because they know they give the best view of all the lights (all 133,620 ft of light strands). The tours last about 35 minutes, all of which are filled with history and trivia. Lines can get incredibly long, especially at night. We’ve waited in line for a night tour once, because you might as well do it once, but after that we have only taken day tours, which are best done in the morning as they are less crowded so you get more space on the boat and it feels more relaxed. The tours do run on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Do Some Last Minute Christmas Shopping
I’m always up for a shopping trip, and there are some good sales around Christmas. The Shops at Rivercenter is located on the River Walk and has over 100 retailers as well as a movie theater. Just outside of the city center is Market Square and El Mercado, the largest Mexican market in the US. Here you can find locally owned shops and stalls and buy last minute gifts of handmade pottery, jewelry, clothes, and other works of art. La Villita Historic Arts Village, one of San Antonio’s first neighborhoods, is located just off of the River Walk and also has shops of local art, clothing, and antiques.
Marvel at San Fernando Cathedral
San Fernando Cathedral is one of the oldest cathedrals in the US and is at the heart of Catholic religious life in San Antonio. The beautiful Gothic Revival style of the church seen today is the result of an 1868 renovation project led by architect Francois Giraud. An 1889 report claims a tomb inside the cathedral contains the remains of three Alamo heroes, though many historians believe this is certainly not the case. The church is open for visitors throughout the day.
Take a Carriage Ride Through the City
You can feel like royalty in a lights-covered Cinderella carriage or a more traditional open-style carriage. You can find carriages lined up around Alamo Plaza and hop on for a ride. These carriages will take you through the best spots to see the holiday lights. And while most drivers are content to leave you to sit back and enjoy the ride, they’re all also very knowledgeable about the city, so ask them questions! That’s how we found out how they put up all these lights (just a few people, some cranes, and light strands with weights on the end; they set up for months and turn it all up after Thanksgiving!).
Maybe you can’t do it all in one Christmas (we certainly didn’t; this is compiled over 3 years), but any one of these activities is a great way to spend time with your family and see what this beautiful city has to offer.
How does your family spend Christmas? Let me know in the comments!