More than 260,000 holiday lights lit up Travis Park Friday night as a decades-long winter tradition found a new location.

For more than 30 years, H-E-B has donated, decorated, and illuminated a large Christmas tree for the City of San Antonio in Alamo Plaza. This year, city officials decided it was time for a change and instead placed the 55-foot White Fir tree in nearby Travis Park.

Along with the tree lighting, Centro San Antonio continued its own annual lighting of Travis Park with a place for families to write letters to Santa, take pictures in a snow globe photo booth, and jump in an inflated wonderland play area.

Travis Park is lit up during the 33rd Annual H-E-B Christmas Tree Lighting celebration.
Travis Park is lit up during the 33rd Annual H-E-B Christmas Tree Lighting celebration. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

John Jacks, director of the Center City development and Operations Department, said that the goal of moving the tree to Travis Park was to activate more of downtown with longer-lasting programming.

“In the past the tree lighting ceremony was just a one-day event at Alamo Plaza, and so really after that there weren’t opportunities to do any programming,” Jacks said. “With Travis Park, we have the opportunity to not just have the one lighting event, but to then continue on through the entire holiday season with different events in Travis Park so the tree can be highlighted again and again.”

The decision to move the tree lighting ceremony from Alamo Plaza to Travis Park was met with some local protest. Several reports indicate that some people will boycott the event in Travis Park. One local placed a tiny tree in Alamo Plaza in protest that has since been removed. H-E-B plans to install an 18-foot tree there on Monday, Jacks said.

“I like it better when it’s in front of the Alamo,” Anysa Hammonds while attending the festivities in Travis Park. “For people who have never been to San Antonio before, especially during the holidays, it’s a two-for-one. They can see the [Christmas] tree lighting and the Alamo. It gives a better view of San Antonio than [Travis Park].”

Travis Park has had its fair share of attention this fall. A monument honoring fallen Confederate soldiers was removed in September after heated public debate.

Holiday events are scheduled to run in Travis Park throughout the month of December. Tuesday movies in the park will show The Santa Clause on Dec. 5, Elf on Dec. 12, a special Saturday screening of Frozen on Dec. 16, and Home Alone on Dec. 19. Click here to download a full schedule.

Each weekend will also have dedicated holiday events. Friday night lights will host live music performed by local musicians, free photos with Santa, holiday drinks, and free gift wrapping services. Saturday family days will have more opportunities to sit with Santa, face painting, candy cane hunts, food trucks, and more.

Alamo Plaza renovations slated to begin next year will likely keep the annual tree lighting in Travis Park, Jacks said.

Elena Chapa, 6, listens to the music before the 33rd Annual H-E-B Christmas Tree Lighting celebration in Travis Park.
Elena Chapa, 6, listens to the music before the 33rd annual H-E-B Christmas tree Lighting celebration in Travis Park. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Jeffrey Sullivan is a Rivard Report reporter. He graduated from Trinity University with a degree in Political Science.

Bonnie Arbittier worked as a photojournalist for the San Antonio Report.