San Antonio's River Walk at Christmas

San Antonio River Walk decorated with Christmas lights
Kimberly Brotherman / Getty Images

San Antonio's River Walk is a year-round hotspot for the city's visitors. The River Walk is a central area made up of shops, restaurants, and hotels, and a lovely place to be thanks to the walking paths, bridges, and canal boats. During the Christmas season, decorations and festivities take over this scenic tourist paradise, making it the perfect place to get into the holiday mood, eat out, and do a little shopping.

In 2020, some events like parades and festivals may be canceled or altered. Be sure to check the organizer's official website for the latest details. Most businesses on the River Walk are open with social distancing and safety measures in place.

Holiday Lights Fest and Parade

Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, the switch is thrown and over 100,000 twinkling lights form a magical canopy over San Antonio's River Walk, which will shine brightly every evening from November 12, 2020, through January 31, 2021.

Traditionally, the lighting ceremony is the official kickoff to the Holiday Light Fest and is preceded by the Ford Holiday River Parade, one of the best holiday parades in the U.S. that is streamed all over the country. For over 20 years, the spectacular one-hour parade along San Antonio's River Walk has featured decorated, illuminated floats with celebrities, bands, and lavishly-costumed participants. Typically, over 150,000 people will gather along the River Walk to watch the spectacle live along the parade route.

Fiesta de Las Luminarias

In December, enjoy San Antonio's Fiesta de Las Luminarias, a ceremony where over 2,000 paper lanterns are lit along the river, creating a magical effect. This centuries-old Mexican tradition symbolizes the "lighting of the way" for the holy family. You'll find the river lit up with candles from December 4 to 6, 2020.

Holiday Night Market

This event was canceled for the 2020 season.

At the Pearl Brewery, you can do some shopping on Thursday nights when the city's famous brewery puts on its Holiday Night Market. The market typically features live music and holiday treats from tamales to artisanal chocolates. Pearl Brewery is located right on the river and the event is free and open to the public.

Holiday Artisan Show

The 2020 artisan show was canceled.

Presented by the Hilton Hotels of San Antonio, the holiday art show offers a chance to peruse the booths of over 40 local artisans and pick up some unique gifts for the holiday. The show takes place on the River Walk Extension (near the San Antonio Champers of Commerce Building) and is usually only on for one weekend.

Christmas Dinner Cruise

Go Rio Cruises temporarily closed in 2020, canceling dining barges during the 2020 holidays.

For a special treat, consider having a holiday dinner on the San Antonio River. There are several restaurants that offer dinner on the river barges, such as Boudro's, one of the top restaurants on the River Walk. The staff will take orders for entrees before you set off on a short cruise, arriving back to the restaurant to enjoy the main course and dessert. Gliding underneath the canopy of Christmas lights as you sip wine and munch on tasty food is one of the best ways to enjoy the season in San Antonio. Make your reservations far in advance!