Now that the Thanksgiving turkey is eaten, you can step into Christmas by checking out San Antonio’s ever-brighter array of holiday light displays. Whether you’re feeling jolly on your own or want to experience the holidays around the city with family and friends, here’s a guide to seeing holiday lights in 2022.

The following light displays can be viewed free of charge:

The University of the Incarnate Word

See Christmas lights at the University of the Incarnate Word’s Light the Way display, located on the Broadway Campus at 4301 Broadway. From now until Jan. 6, campus is illuminated every evening beginning at 6:30 p.m. for self-guided tours.

Holiday lights on the River Walk

On Friday, over 100,000 lights will switch on and transform the San Antonio River Walk into a holiday spectacle. An official televised lighting ceremony will kick off the holiday at the Arneson River Theatre at 5:30 p.m. Anyone can visit 24 hours a day for free. Lights continue north of downtown along the river up to the Pearl District. 

Christmas tree lighting at Travis Park

On Friday, holiday lights will be switched on at the 38th Annual H-E-B Tree Lighting Celebration at Travis Park in downtown San Antonio, including the 50-foot Christmas tree, which will be adorned with 10,000 white lights and colorful handmade ornaments. The holiday event kicks off at 3 p.m. and lights will be illuminated at 6:20 p.m. A free screening of The Polar Express will be shown at 7 p.m. for the community to enjoy.

The event will include a holiday crafts station, an opportunity to write a letter to Santa, and live musical entertainment as well as a special visit from Santa.

The Rotary Ice Rink, which opened Nov. 18, will also be open during the event at Travis Park. H-E-B will provide free ice skating to guests from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and VIA will offer free rides to the tree lighting event on the bus service, VIA Link, and VIAtrans for registered patrons. When boarding, passengers just need to inform the operator that they are attending the H-E-B Tree Lighting to ride fare-free.

The Go Rio riverboats drew long lines along the San Antonio Riverwalk. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

City of Windcrest Light Up

An opening ceremony on Dec. 3 will transform local neighborhoods into a “Fiesta de Navidad” in Windcrest. Every year, the incorporated city in Northeast Bexar County holds a free Christmas decorating contest in which locals deck out their homes and compete against neighbors for the “People’s Choice Award.”

From Dec. 3 to Dec. 31, visitors are encouraged to visit the area to see free holiday lights and nominate the best decorated home in the neighborhood. 

The following Christmas light experiences require paid admission:

Alamo Lights

Starting Friday, visitors can enjoy holiday lights at the Alamo for $5 a person until Jan. 2. Visitors can walk the grounds, which will be decorated with festive lights that will illuminate the gardens. The display will feature figures of some of the Alamo defenders bedecked in lights. There will also be a Christmas tree at the Alamo Plaza. Friday’s event will include live performances, local artists and holiday food and drinks. Click here for ticket information.

Lightscape at the San Antonio Botanical Garden

Over 1 million lights and festive displays are available now at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. The outdoor illuminated trail walking experience will feature food, drink and light displays. The walking path through the garden is a mile long and most visitors finish within 90 minutes. 

According to the website, the event sold out on multiple dates last year, so purchasing tickets in advance is recommended. The garden opens from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. every year. Tickets begin at $26 for adults and $16 for children. 

Visitors enjoy the Christmas Lights display at the The San Antonio Zoo Tuesday.
Visitors enjoy the Christmas Lights display at the San Antonio Zoo Tuesday. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

San Antonio Zoo Lights

The San Antonio Zoo since Saturday has started the annual Zoo Lights holiday display. Included in standard admission and free for members, visitors can visit with Santa, ride the Holiday Express and see festive dazzling lights across zoo trails until Jan. 1. 

The 124-foot light tunnel is a favorite, including the outdoor museum of illuminated animal portraits and caroling in the park. There will be live music and parades daily. 

Lights Alive!

Lights Alive! is a drive-thru light show experience, completely computer-controlled and musically synchronized. The near-mile-long experience features an immersive experience and upbeat, nontraditional Christmas music and classics. Open from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. every night, it is located on San Antonio’s far West Side at 5931 Roft Rd. Prices per vehicle start at $37.

Visitors can also enjoy the Park & Play Winter Wonderland on site, where families can exit their cars and enjoy Christmas confections, create holiday crafts and take photos with Santa. There are also activities including a Nativity scene, gingerbread escape room experience, axe throwing and soccer darts. 

The Immersive Nutcracker, A Winter Miracle

The Immersive Nutcracker, A Winter Miracle features a 500,000 cubic feet immersive experience at Lighthouse ArtSpace that features Tchaikovsky’s music from the beloved holiday ballet. Visitors can walk around and view the immersive projections that reflect from floor to ceiling. Tickets start at $30.

For still more holiday lights, there are drive-thru experiences including Santa’s Ranch in New Braunfels and Elf Acres on the far West Side, where admission is $35 per vehicle. At The Light Park in Selma, tickets start at $39 per vehicle. With single-day tickets to enter the park, the SeaWorld Christmas Celebration costs $50 a person and the Six Flags Holiday in the Park event is $44 per person. 

Raquel Torres is the San Antonio Report's breaking news reporter. A 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University, her work has been recognized by the Texas Managing Editors. She previously worked...