The lit tree at Alamo Plaza. Photo by Scott Ball.
The lit tree at Alamo Plaza. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report
A boy inspects the Christmas tree at the Travis Park tree lighting in November 2014. Photo by Scott Ball.
A boy inspects the Christmas tree at the Travis Park tree lighting in November 2014.

Nestled in the idyllic Hill Country on the outskirts of the bustling city, the JW Marriott San Antonio Resort and Spa has become a desired destination for San Antonians and visitors alike. During the holidays, the resort transforms into a Winter Wonderland filled with fun activities that aren’t just for hotel guests.

“Light Up the Night” is a spectacular show with thousands of twinkling lights that runs every 30 minutes nightly from 6-10 p.m.; an impressive gingerbread display including a 6-by-4-foot replica of the JW’s Sunday House graces the main lobby; real live reindeer visit the property on Sunday afternoons; kids can brunch with Santa and Mrs. Claus on Sunday mornings throughout December  – and the fun doesn’t end there.

Prices vary per event, so head to the JW’s website for more information.

‘Tis the season to give gifts: Those eager to get a head start on their holiday shopping can head to Mission Marquee Plaza for a holiday market featuring local vendors and artisans offering hand-made artworks, crafts, jewelry, and holiday decorations. The event, which is sponsored by the City of San Antonio’s World Heritage Office, will also include a farmer’s market, gift workshops, a tamalada, pop-up food and beverage vendors, and live music.

The morning will kick off with a free yoga class at 9:30 a.m. and a Zumba session at 10:30 a.m. provided by MIX FIT SA. The evening portion of the programming will conclude with a double-feature of the Thanksgiving classic Free Birds and the Christmas comedy ELF, beginning at sundown around 6 p.m.

For more information call 210-207-8612.

The crowd looks up as this year's tree is lit for the first time.
The crowd looks up as this year’s tree is lit for the first time.
A Hanukkah themed river float passes underneath the Arneson River Theatre bridge. Photo by Scott Ball.
A Hanukkah themed river float passes underneath the Arneson River Theatre bridge.

Ballet San Antonio’s The Nutcracker: Nov. 25-Dec. 4 (Tobin Center)

Kate Maxted as Clara in the first act party scene. Photo by Alexander Devora.
Kate Maxted as Clara in the first act party scene.

A holiday classic, Ballet San Antonio will present an updated version of the iconic ballet with new choreography by artistic director Willy Shives. Based on the story by E.T.A. Hoffman and accompanied by the San Antonio Symphony’s live rendition of Piotr Ilych Tchaikovsky’s music, The Nutcracker spreads holiday cheer through festive costumes and a cast of nearly 100 local children.

Tickets starts at $29. Click here to purchase.

Holidays In Bloom: Nov. 25-Dec. 31 (San Antonio Botanical Garden)

The Botanical Garden will be adorned with seasonal blooms and arrangements – poinsettias, pinecones, bows, lights, wreaths, and a giant Christmas tree – and provide a festive photo opp for locals an visitors of all ages.

Holidays In Bloom is included in general admission price. For more information and tickets, click here.

Home Free: A Country Christmas: Nov. 27 at 3 p.m. (Charline McCombs Empire Theatre)

The five-man a cappella band that skyrocketed to stardom after winning NBC’s The Sing-Off in 2013, is touring the country and sharing the holiday cheer. Home Free’s signature blend of all-vocal, no-instrument music and crowd-pleasing humor will delight attendees of all ages, as they reinterpret Christmas classics, pop hits, country and old-time favorites.

To purchase tickets, click here.

Holiday Magic: Festival of Lights: Dec. 1-Jan. 8 from 5:30-11 p.m. (Retama Park)
YouTube video

A first in San Antonio’s holiday line-up, the “East Meets West”-themed festival will not only display a breathtaking array of giant Chinese lantern and traditional Christmas light installations, but also feature performances by Chinese acrobats and folk dancers, a carnival with thrilling rides, parades with appearances by Santa himself, international arts and crafts, and delicious treats from all over the wold.

Tickets for this multicultural holiday extravaganza are available here.

Trinity University’s 23rd Annual Christmas Concert: Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m. (Laurie Auditorium)

Students perform during Trinity's annual Christmas Concert.
Students perform during Trinity’s annual Christmas Concert.

Nearly 200 musicians from Trinity’s student choirs and other musical ensembles will delight their audience with holiday classics and sing-alongs. Alumni and community members are invited to enjoy the holiday tunes provided by members of the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, the Trinity Symphony Orchestra, the combined Trinity choirs, the Trinity Handbell Ensemble, the Trinitones and the Acabellas, Trinity Flute Ensemble, and Trinity Jazz Band before and after the show.

The event is free and open to the public and seating is on a first-come, first-seated basis. Those who cannot attend the live performance can stream is here. 

Hecho a Mano: Dec. 2-4 (Galería Guadalupe)

If malls and strip centers just aren’t cutting it for your shopping needs this year, swing by the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center for Hecho A Mano, a three-day shopping event that showcases exquisite handmade goods by local and regional artists and vendors.

In celebration of the Guadalupe’s 30th anniversary, there will be an opening night preview and a membership holiday on Friday, Dec.2 from 6-9 p.m. (free for members, $10 for the public), followed by the market on Saturday and Sunday from 12-6 p.m. ($2 per person or free with a donation of two canned goods, which will benefit the Inner City Development Food Bank)

For more information and tickets, click here.

Ford Fiesta de las Luminarias: Dec. 2-18 starting at dusk on Fridays (San Antonio River Walk)

Luminarias are traditional Mexican Christmas lanterns which were originally made of a candle and sand set inside a small bag. More than 2,000 modernized versions of these holiday decorations will be on display along the banks of the River Walk starting at dusk on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays for three weekends in December. This is the perfect time to be a tourist in your own city or introduce visitors to one of San Antonio’s most famous landmarks – since it so rarely snows, we let it glow instead.

The event is free and open to the public.

Christmas Big Band Show: Dec 2, 9, 10, 16, 17, and 23 (Jazz, TX)

A holiday-inspired cocktial at Jazz, TX.
A holiday-inspired cocktial at Jazz, TX.

San Antonio’s newest live music venue Jazz, TX is ringing in the holidays big band style with a series of concerts by Doc Watkins and his orchestra as well as new, winter-inspired food and beverage offerings. 

Jazz, TX “has all the class of an upscale jazz club with the grit of a traditional Texas dancehall.” Conveniently located in the cellar of the Bottling Department in the Pearl, visitors can combine various festivities in the area and round out their night with Jazz, TX’s eclectic mix of holiday-themed jazz, blues, big band, Texas swing, salsa, conjunto, and Americana.

Tickets to the concerts are $20 and available here.

50th Anniversary Home Tour and Holiday Market: Dec. 3 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (King William Park)

Honoring half a decade of tradition, the King William Association (KWA) will host its annual tour of  homes alongside a holiday market at King William Park this year. The market, which will feature local arts and crafts vendors, holiday nosh, refreshing beverages, activities for old and young, live entertainment, and a visit from Santa, will also offer collectible KWA ornaments, and commemorative medals and T-shirts.

The market is free and open to the public. The tour of seven magnificent King William homes will take place in walking distance of the park, and tickets can be purchased here. 

Also on Saturday, Dec. 3, the Beethoven Maennerchor will host its annual free Kristkindlmarkt at 422 Pereida St.

Winter Wonderland: Dec. 3-23 during opening hours (The DoSeum)

Frosted windows, a snow day playscape, winter workshops, and, of course, a lavishly decorated Christmas tree are but a few attractions that will have your kiddos jumping for joy this holiday season. Adults get to partake in the fun during ReD0: Deck the Halls on Dec. 8, and visitors of all ages will enjoy the traveling holiday exhibit Holiday Lights exploration, which offers insight into the science behind the Christmas lights that illuminate our homes and our city.

Prices for events and workshops vary, so click here to learn more.

URBAN-15’s Holiday Laser Show: Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. (Lila Cockrell Theater)

For one night only, URBAN-15 will present its 12th annual Holiday Laser Show, a multimedia laser, light, and 3D animation extravaganza accompanied by holiday tunes, both traditional and experimental. The collaboration between laser artist Tim Walsh and Music and Media Director George Cisneros is split into two parts: the first half of the show is family-friendly and holiday-themed while the second half focuses more on the laser technology and a saxophone performance by Tim Walsh.

General admission tickets are $15, military, seniors, and students $12, and children $10. Click here to purchase tickets.

ReDo is a chance for 21-and-ups to unleash their inner children and play at the DoSeum: think Gingerbread Man and stocking decorating, a White Elephant gift exchange, adult beverages, and – oh yes – pictures with Santa. You don’t want to miss this adult holiday fun fest, so register now

Tickets are $25 and available here.

H-E-B Cinema on the Plaza presents ELF: Dec. 9 at 8 p.m. (Tobin Center)

If you’re looking for a more laid-back holiday experience, look no further than an open-air screening of Jon Favreau’s 2003 hit ELF on the Tobin Center’s plaza, sponsored by H-E-B. Bring your own lawn chair, cuddle up with a blanket and watch hilarity ensue as Buddy (Will Ferrell) tries to fit in with the rest of Santa’s helpers at the North Pole.

The event is free and open to the public. No outside food or drink is allowed, but concessions will be available for purchase.

La Gran Tamalada: Dec. 10 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (Guadalupe Theater)

A guest carries tamales and chicharones to a nearby seat.
A guest carries tamales and chicharones to a nearby seat.

No holiday season in San Antonio is complete without having at least one (dozen) delicious tamale(s). A local staple, most often made true to tradition from a recipe passed down over generations, this cornhusk wrapped, filled-with-goodness masa dish has a special place in San Antonio’s culinary scene and culture.

The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center and La Familia Cortez will host the annual community workshop which combines cooking and storytelling to promote tradition, learning, and cultural pride. Keep an eye out for Rivard Report Director Robert Rivard, who will follow up his culinary adventure with a column detailing the experience.

La Gran Tamalada is free and open to the public.

The San Antonio Chamber Choir’s A Baltic Christmas: Dec. 10-11 (various locations and times)

In this festive concert, the San Antonio Chamber Choir, led by Artistic Director Rick Bjella, will capture nuanced Christmas traditions and musical interpretations of the Baltic nations – Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

Tickets purchased in advance are $20; seniors, students, and military members are $15, and tickets at the door are $25. To purchase tickets, click here.

An Irish Christmas: Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m. (Tobin Center) 

Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.
Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

If the name Michael Flatley or his world-renowned shows Riverdance or Lord of the Dance ring a bell, this show is for you. Traditional Irish dancers, singers, musicians, and actors will fill the Tobin’s H-E-B Performance Hall an energetic performance full of joy, laughter, exuberance, and hope that will have you leaping out of your seat.

Tickets start at $23.60 and can be purchased here.

Winter Celebrations Around the World: Dec. 11 from 12-4 p.m. (UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures)

In honor of the plethora of indigenous customs and holiday traditions found around the world, UTSA’s Institute of Texan Cultures will celebrate this cultural diversity with student displays, a Pastorela play put on by members of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, two performances of the San Antonio Children’s Ballet “The Nutcracker,” and a food drive benefiting the San Antonio Food Bank.

Admission is free under the Institute’s Second Sunday Program. For more information, click here. 

The Children’s Chorus of San Antonio’s Winter Wonderland: Dec. 11 at 3 p.m. (Tobin Center)

San Antonio’s finest young vocal artists will whisk you off to a winter wonderland with their performance of traditional Christmas carols and holiday songs. Organizers will offer free on-site childcare, so bring the whole family and friends to celebrate the season. Tickets start at $8 and are available here.

12th Annual Santa’s Cruisers Toy/Clothing Drive: Dec. 11 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (Comanche Park)

A show and shine car, truck, and bike show is paired with a new and used toy and clothing drive to help those in need in the San Antonio community. Donations will benefit the Cesar Chavez Foundation, Bring Joy to a Refugee Child, and other local charities.

Mystic Productions will be providing live music throughout the event. Admission is free with donated items and barbecue pits and ice chests are welcome. Following the event, the San Antonio Police Department will escort the annual cruise to the downtown shelter to donate the items collected.

For more information, call Carlos or Ben.

Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis’ 19th Annual Holiday Shindig Tour: Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. (Gruene Hall) 

Renowned country singer/songwriter power couple Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis will be swinging through New Braunfels on their 19th Annual Holiday Shindig Tour. This family-friendly tradition has become a Texas staple in celebrating the holiday season over the years, with popular songs like “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” setting the tone as the temperatures continue to drop. Historic Gruene Hall presents the perfect backdrop for Robison and Willis’ Texas country Christmas songfest.

General admission tickets are $25 and can be purchased here.

Fiesta de Navidad La Pastorela Folklórica: Dec. 16-17 (Guadalupe Theater) 

The Guadalupe Dance Academy will present Hiedi Cabral’s La Pastorela Folklorica, a fun rendition of the traditional shepherd’s play, enhanced with a folklorico and flamenco element. Music and dance by experienced company members will depict the central characters of the nativity story – Mary, Joseph, and the archangel – while the younger generation will play the parts of townspeople and shepherds welcoming the newborn king.

Tickets starting at $10 are available at the box office between 1-6 p.m. or by phone at 210-271-3151.

San Antonio Symphony’s Holiday Pops: Dec. 16-18 (Tobin Center)

Eric Gratz, violinist and concertmaster, leads the San Antonio Symphony as he performs Vivaldi from L'estro Armonico as part of the Baroque Series at the San Fernando Cathedral. Photo by Bria Woods.
Eric Gratz, violinist and concertmaster, leads the San Antonio Symphony as he performs Vivaldi from L’estro Armonico as part of the Baroque Series at the San Fernando Cathedral.

Associate Conductor Akiko Fujimoto will lead the talented musicians of the San Antonio Symphony as well as the magnificent voices of the Symphony Mastersingers through one of the city’s holiday staples, Holiday Pops. Audience sing-alongs, special guests, and a mix of traditional and popular music to get you in the holiday mood.

For tickets, click here.

Holiday Saxophones: Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. (Guadalupe Theater)

With Regency Jazz Band leader George Prado at its helm, a selection of local and regional saxophone and horn players will come together to ring in the holidays San Anto-style. This fun and festive ensemble will have you grooving all the way into the new year.

The Guadalupe is offering a $5 early bird discount for Tier 1 tickets until Dec. 12. Tickets range from $20-30 and are available at the box office between 1-6 p.m. or by phone at 210-271-3151.

Magik Theatre presents A Charlie Brown Christmas: Dec. 16-23 (Charline McCombs Empire Theatre) 

Magik Theatre. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.
Magik Theatre.

An instant classic since its TV premiere in 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas has turned into a beloved and integral part of the holidays for both children and adults. Make it a family outing and witness Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and their Peanuts friends come alive on stage.

To purchase tickets, click here.

La Posada: Dec. 21 from 6-8 p.m. (Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center) 

The Guadalupe invites its neighbors, their friends, and families to partake in a fun and culturally meaningful program, which will include theater, music, food, and bring together the community to celebrate the forthcoming holidays.

La Posada is free and open to the public.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra: Dec. 21 at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m (AT&T Center)

The most rock and roll of all the Christmas music events, this tried and trusted, most beloved rock opera is making its annual stop at San Antonio’s AT&T Center. If multimedia, light and laser shows, pyrotechnical effects, moving components on stage…oh, and everything Christmas to the sounds of electric guitars, strings, and percussion are your thing, grab some tickets before they sell out.

Tickets start at $45 and are available here.

Queers and Beers 3 – Make the Holidays Gay Again: Dec. 22 from 8-11 p.m. (Paper Tiger)

In the spirit of unity and support, rapper and local LGBTQIA activist Chris Conde is bringing together local LGBTQIA acts to celebrate the holidays. Queers and Beers 3 will include an array of musical and artistic performances, a holiday market where local vendors and artisans will offer up their handmade goods, free STD and HIV testing provided by Beat Aids, and food and drinks.

The event is free and open to the public.

San Antonio Symphony Presents Home Alone Live in Concert: Dec. 22-23 at 7:30 p.m. (Majestic Theatre)

Ever since Macaulay Culkin’s on-screen parents left him at home and to his own devices in 1990, families all over the world have gathered in front of the TV to watch the Christmas classic year after year.

The Academy Award-nominated score by John Williams quite literally rings a bell with everyone who’s seen the movie and will delight even more when it is performed live by the San Antonio Symphony alongside the picture.

For tickets, click here.

Moscow Ballet’s The Great Russian Nutcracker: Dec. 26-27 (Majestic Theatre)

The perfect Christmas gift for anyone who loves dance and ballet, the Moscow Ballet’s The Great Russian Nutcracker embodies both artistic tradition and holiday spirit. The fact that San Antonio will play host to two different renditions of the timeless ballet speaks to its popularity – Why not check out both?

For tickets, click here.

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Hanna Oberhofer

Before moving to San Antonio in 2004, Hanna was a competitive rhythmic gymnast in her native Austria. She earned degrees from St. Mary’s University and the Texas State Graduate College before joining...