It’s that time of year again, when the Christmas lights in San Antonio shine, and we search for the most illuminated areas. We rarely get snow here in San Antonio, but the festive decorations will be glowing none-the-less. Visit some of the best areas around the Alamo City to see them in a different light. It only happens this time of year, so make your plans to see the holiday lights in San Antonio before the 2020 season ends.
Best Places to See Christmas Lights in San Antonio
Seeing the Christmas lights in San Antonio can be a wonderful experience. It’s also a dog friendly experience because most of the holiday lights are found outdoors. We have traveled through the city and into the Hill Country to find the brightest lights, and most unique displays. This guide will show you several areas inside San Antonio. Then it will take you to a few smaller locations you can visit north of the city.
Most of the Christmas lights in this guide are free to visit. However, a few places do charge for entry, and we have listed those fees in each section. More than likely you will not find any snow on the ground in San Antonio. However, the weather may warrant a jacket or sweatshirt. Grab your beverage of choice (hot chocolate, coffee, tea, etc.), round up your family including any dogs, and head out for some easy exercise at the best places we are about to discuss.
Christmas Lights Along the San Antonio Riverwalk
Let’s begin with the most popular area inside River City, and work our way out from there. Every year people travel here to visit the San Antonio Riverwalk, our nations largest urban ecosystem. Christmastime makes the riverwalk even more unique than usual. Thousands of lights are suspended from the trees throughout the downtown stretch.
Fees: The San Antonio Riverwalk is free to visit, but you may need to pay for parking depending on where you park.
There are many lights, but it will not be as bright as you might expect because they are spaced apart. One year we looked down upon the lights from the Tower of the Americas, and it was difficult to spot the riverwalk. Near The Pearl, the holiday lights in San Antonio are much brighter, and far more appealing.
When Do They Turn on the Lights?
If you plan on visiting the riverwalk to see the Christmas lights in San Antonio, they normally get turned on the day following Thanksgiving. They continue to sparkle until January 14th. However, the case is different in 2020, where the holiday lights began shining two weeks ahead of schedule.
The riverwalk is open 24 hours a day, and the lights will be on from dusk until dawn. It is free to use the riverwalk and see the lights everyday, except for the day of the Holiday Parade. Of course this year large social gatherings are discouraged, even outdoors.
The Holiday River Parade
This year the Holiday Parade was going to take place on the evening of November 27th. Due to the current state of things the parade has been cancelled. Once 4pm arrives you are not normally able to access the San Antonio Riverwalk without purchasing a ticket for the parade.
Address: 418 Villita St, San Antonio, TX 78205.
Fees: $15 – $43
Last years theme was Christmas music performed by Texas musicians. At 6pm there was a live performance at the outdoor theatre. Afterwards, the parade came down the river and was broadcast live on television. Many people enjoyed Texas Christmas music, festive floats, and an appearance by Santa. Better luck next year in 2021!
Christmas Lights in San Antonio Are Dog Friendly
The riverwalk in San Antonio is dog friendly, but the downtown stretch may not be appropriate for all dogs. Even the most well behaved pup may be difficult to maneuver on the riverwalk. The area is crowded and people move slowly.
We’ve taken our girl to the riverwalk several times. It has been the most difficult area to walk her because she wants to pass everyone and find all the ducks. She has witnessed one daytime river parade without any issues, but she is very well behaved. The San Antonio Riverwalk is our favorite place to hike when the Christmas lights in San Antonio are shining!
Christmas Lights at Hemisfair Park in San Antonio
Hemisfair Park is probably visited more than any other park in San Antonio. The park is full of tourists on a daily basis, and is fairly well lit at night. As the holidays approach you can see Christmas lights in San Antonio from ground level, and from 579 feet above ground. One year we viewed the lights throughout the city from the Tower of the Americas. My photo below simply does not do the view justice.
It was fun seeing the holiday lights from the top of the tower, and trying to determine where they were located around the city. The streams of traffic on various highways also added to the effect. If you have not been to the top of the Tower of the Americas, this is a very good time of year to do so.
Address: 434 S Alamo St, San Antonio, TX 78205.
Fees: Hemisfair Park is free to visit, but the attractions are not free.
Adult admission to the Tower of the Americas is $14, and it is normally open from 10am – 10pm five days a week. The other two days it is usually open from 10am – 11pm, and those days are Friday and Saturday. However, the hours have been shortened in 2020, and space may be limited. Check their website for adjusted hours and limitations before you visit.
San Fernando Cathedral and “San Antonio: The Saga”
Just west of the San Antonio River you will find the San Fernando Cathedral. This sanctuary is the oldest one operating in the country and can be accessed via the riverwalk. Christmas lights in San Antonio can be seen around the cathedral. You will also notice carriages being pulled by horses which are decorated with lights for the season. However, the cathedral light show is the real draw which takes place late in the evening. It’s known as “The Saga“.
Address: Find the San Fernando Cathedral at 115 Main Plaza, San Antonio, TX 78205.
Fees: San Fernando Cathedral and The Saga are both free.
The Saga at San Fernando Cathedral takes place year round and is not part of the festivities, but it’s worth mentioning here. Lights are projected onto the front of the building up to 12 times a week. The display will take you on an artistic journey through the history of San Antonio. It is scheduled to take place at 9pm, 9:30pm, and 10pm on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays throughout the year.
The visual arts display is free to watch. Unfortunately, the show may be cancelled due to weather, technical issues, or for other reasons. The first few times we arrived (prior to 2020) to see the show it did not take place. Apparently it is a very hit-or-miss event. For us it has been more of a miss, but we finally witnessed the 24 minute display of light in 2020. You can see a very short preview of “San Antonio: The Saga” in the video below.
Holiday Lights at San Antonio Zoo
Fees: $19 – $22
This year the San Antonio Zoo will be putting on a Christmas lights display beginning November 26th, at 12pm. You can bring your family here to see a blend of winter wonderland and starry safari. Walk under the holiday lights, drink hot cocoa and make s’mores.
Many park exhibits will be transformed to provide a festive atmosphere, in addition to the lakeside lightshow. The Christmas lights and lightshow are free to all after the price of admission, of course. Admission is $22 for adults, and $19 for children. The San Antonio Zoo normally opens from 12pm – 9pm. Visitors are encouraged to purchase tickets online.
Christmas Tree Lighting at Travis Park in San Antonio
Travis Park is located a couple blocks east of the San Antonio River in the downtown area. It’s a short walk from the northern stretch of the riverwalk. Each year the park hosts the lighting of a very large Christmas tree. The next event will take place on November 27th, 2020 at 7pm. The city is encouraging people to watch the ceremony via youtube this year.
Address: 301 E Travis St, San Antonio, TX 78205.
Fees: Travis Park is free to visit.
The Christmas tree lighting is free for all. There will also be live music, and an appearance by Santa, of course. Travis Park also has a dog park, although it is incredibly small. If you happen to miss the event, you can always visit the park throughout December to see the Christmas tree. Holiday movies are typically shown on various days throughout the month. Check the parks website for future movie dates.
Christmas Lights and Posada at the Pearl
The Pearl in San Antonio is known by several names, and is just north of the downtown area. The revitalized area has become very popular and is another good place to see the Christmas lights in San Antonio. The Pearl has its own style of lighting during the holidays, and the San Antonio Riverwalk on its west side has a special glow. It will also be hosting a unique event known as, Posada at the Pearl.
Address: The Pearl is easy to find at 312 Pearl Pkwy, San Antonio, TX 78215.
Fees: There is no cost to visit or park at the Pearl.
During the Posada you can be an active participant as Mary and Joseph ride through the Pearl on a donkey seeking a place to stay. Sing songs with the mariachi and celebrate the coming of Christmas. Last year the Posada at the Pearl took place on December 18th, at 6:30pm. Children dressed up as shepherds and angels.
The fourth annual Posada has not yet been scheduled for this year in 2020. Other events throughout the season include the Night Market, Chanukah, and Christmas caroling. Visit the Pearl event page for dates of those events.
Checkout our very first article to see why we love the Pearl in San Antonio.
Mission San Jose in San Antonio, TX
The Queen of the Missions in San Antonio will host a Christmas tree lighting on December 5th, 2020, from 5pm – 7:30pm. The event will also include cookies, drinks, balloons, and live music. Santa will be escorted by the San Antonio fire department.
Address: This family friendly event will take place at 43571 Mission Blvd.
Fees: This event is free to visit.
All four missions south of downtown hold mass every week. During the holiday season some of the missions have a special mariachi mass. Attendance increases substantially during December as visitors and residents celebrate Christmas. I’m not sure how well lit the missions are at night because we visit during daytime. If you would like more details and photos about our visits, read our article about the Missions in San Antonio.
Drive-Thru Christmas Lights in San Antonio, TX
This year will be a much bigger year for drive-thru Christmas lights in San Antonio. These lights will be free to drive through in San Antonio neighborhoods, but holiday parks charge a substantial fee. Additionally, some holiday parks will not allow visitors to leave their vehicles. This section contains the most popular areas to drive through the Christmas lights in San Antonio. We will share the costs (if any) and what you can do at these parks.
Lights Alive Drive-Thru Christmas
Address: 5931 Roft Rd, San Antonio, TX 78253.
Fees: $35 in person, or $30 online
At Lights Alive you will drive through computer controlled lighting which is synchronized to music. Some of the Christmas music is classic, and other songs are non-traditional remixes. At the end of the mile-long drive you can exit your vehicle at a park and play area.
Before you leave the park you can see a 50-foot tall light show tree, purchase crafts and snacks, or get a photo with Santa. Photos will cost an additional fee, but you can wander the park and play area for free. Lights Alive is open everyday from November 20th – January 3rd. Hours of operation are from 6pm – 10pm on weekdays and 6pm – 11pm on weekends.
Light the Way at University of the Incarnate Word
The University of the Incarnate Word will be celebrating Christmas for the 34th consecutive year with a drive-thru lighting experience. The opening celebration on November 20th – 22nd will include fireworks and performances by students. If you miss this weekend celebration, you can still tour the university in the comfort of your own vehicle. The Christmas lights will remain lit until January 6th.
Address: 4301 Broadway, San Antonio, TX 78209.
Fees: Light the Way is a free event, but you must reserve a spot in the schedule.
After November 23rd, you may drive through the campus, or walk through to see the Christmas lights. The campus is dog friendly. The drive-thru light tour begins near the US-281 northbound entrance ramp. You can view a map of the route, and listen to an audio tour here while you enjoy the Christmas lights.
Windcrest Holiday Lights Competition
Address: There is no single address, but I can point you to the neighborhood of Windcrest in San Antonio.
Fees: There is no cost to see the Christmas lights in Windcrest.
On the east side of San Antonio there is a small area known as Windcrest. The town has been having a Christmas lighting ceremony for years, and holds a competition among residents as well. The area may be small, but many residents participate by dressing their homes in lights. Every year people from other neighborhoods drive through Windcrest to see the bright display. During the month of December, traffic on certain streets will move at a snails pace.
We entered a few blocks down the street (Midcrown), turned into the neighborhood, and exited on the opposite side (Thousand Oaks). Most of the traffic was avoided, but we also didn’t get to see all of the residences. A few of the homes looked great, but there were some streets where very few participated. Furthermore, many of the homes appeared to have “normal” holiday lighting you might find anywhere. The neighborhood as a whole was not as bright as I expected, but families will enjoy the display, and dogs will enjoy the ride (Abbey did).
Elf Acres Holiday Park in San Antonio, TX
Elf Acres is a holiday park on the far west side of San Antonio. Here you can drive through the park in 20 minutes with your family, or wander around Santa’s Village. If you have a large family, the price might be worth seeing the Christmas lights in San Antonio here. However, it seems like a high price to pay to simply drive one mile through the park.
Fees: $30 per vehicle
Inside Santa’s Village you can see a light show, get a pic with Santa ($10 extra), or shop for treats and gifts. Elf Acres is open from November 13th – December 30th in 2020. The park is open every night from 6:30 – 10pm, and 11pm on weekends. They also offer a three-visit fun pass for $60. You can purchase tickets at the Elf Acres ticket booth upon arrival.
Christmas Lights in Texas Hill Country
Natural Bridge Caverns
Address: Natural Bridge Caverns can be found northeast of San Antonio at 26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Rd, San Antonio, TX 78266.
Fees: General admission to Natural Bridge Caverns is between $15 – $20, and some of the activities are $10 extra. Cave tours can be done year round, and Christmas concerts may be held inside the caverns on certain nights.
The Christmas lights in San Antonio are above ground, but you can travel into Texas Hill Country this season for a different experience. Natural Bridge Caverns is located north of San Antonio, and is the largest of its kind in Texas. The family friendly attraction has the following things to do this holiday season:
- Christmas hayride
- Ice skating
- Giant snow globe
- Underground nativity
- Twisted trails
- Reindeer maze
You can purchase Christmas at the Caverns tickets here, and choose your package of desired activities ahead of time.
Cave Without A Name
Address: Cave Without A Name is a short drive to Boerne. You will find it at 325 Kreutzberg Rd, Boerne, TX 78006.
Fees: Tours are $10 for children, and $20 for adults.
In Boerne, Cave Without A Name also gives tours and hosts concerts throughout the year. Although the caves are smaller, a concert underground will be like no other you have heard. We recently attended a Halloween concert at Cave Without A Name, and the acoustics were phenomenal.
There is definitely no need for additional reverb in a cave. The concerts typically cost $30 per person and last about two hours. There are currently no holiday performances scheduled before the end of the 2020 season.
Enchanted Springs Ranch Has Phenomenal Christmas Lights
Boerne has a place that replicates an old town in the Wild West. They call this place Enchanted Springs Ranch, and it was once a Hollywood movie set. It is currently used primarily for private events. However, they assemble a huge display of lights during the holiday season and allow the public to visit.
In all honesty, Christmas lights in San Antonio are quite dim compared to what you will find at Enchanted Springs Ranch.
Address: 242 SH46 West unit a, Boerne, TX 78006.
Fees: Tickets are $15 for adults, and $10 for kids if purchased online ahead of time.
Sadly, I could not find my photos of the front of the property, which is the brightest area. In addition to the Christmas lights, the ranch also has several family friendly games and things to do during your visit.
- Reindeer roping
- Scavenger hunt
- Lazer tag
- Cookie decorating
- Light maze
- Escape room
- S’mores around the campfire
- Free photos with Santa
If you have a family and are looking for the best places to see holiday lights in San Antonio, Enchanted Springs Ranch is a must-do. The ranch calls this event the Old West Christmas Light Fest. In 2020, it begins Thanksgiving evening and ends Christmas night.
The first few weeks Old West Christmas Light Fest takes place Thursday through Sunday, from 6pm – 10pm. The week of Christmas the fest takes place everyday from 6pm – 10pm. Arrive as early as possible because the ranch fills up very quickly. You may purchase tickets here prior to visiting the ranch.
What to Expect at Enchanted Springs Ranch
When you arrive you will wait at the entrance in your vehicle. You can pay with cash, or credit card. You cannot miss the ranch because the lights can easily be seen from an airplane. The staff will wave vehicles ahead by rows.
You will drive through the extremely festive property for nearly half a mile until you reach a parking area. Once you park you may wander the property, or enter the Old West Town. This is a fantastic place for families and visitors.
Christmas Lights in New Braunfels, TX
This ranch in New Braunfels is similar to the two mentioned previously, except for the fact that you cannot get out of your vehicle. You simply drive about one mile through the Christmas lights displays inside the ranch. The price tag seems rather high, but they do have a 50-foot Christmas Tree and easy access from I-35.
Fees: $35 per vehicle
Santa’s Ranch is open from November 6th – January 3rd. Hours of operation are from 6pm – 10pm everyday except weekends, when they are open until 11pm. You must use the southbound I-35 Access Road, near exit 199. Christmas lights in San Antonio may not be quite as bright as these ranches, but they also don’t cost as much.
Northern Lights of New Braunfels
The family located at this private residence runs a Christmas light show every night from Black Friday to New Years. They have more than 70,000 lights which are synchronized with Christmas music. According to the facebook page you can show up anytime between 6pm and 11pm to watch the festive show they have designed.
Address: 656 Northgap Dr. New Braunfels, TX.
Fees: This event is free
Holiday Lights and Ball Drop in Fredericksburg, TX
We visited Fredericksburg to witness the New Year’s Eve ball drop. Fredericksburg is about 80 miles north of downtown San Antonio, and the furthest destination in this article. It’s a small town filled with tourists, and residents of Austin and San Antonio on any given weekend. Many of their events take place at MarktPlatz on Main Street. This is where the ball is lowered from a crane on New Year’s Eve.
Address: MarktPlatz in Fredericksburg can be found at 126 W Main St, Fredericksburg, TX 78624.
Fees: Fredericksburg is free to visit.
The town celebrates New Year’s twice so that people have the opportunity to see it early. We had our girl, Abbey, with us so we opted for the ball drop at 6pm, and left before any fireworks could go off during the “real” drop. The shops on Main Street were decorated, and the park contained a large Christmas tree as well as other decorations. There is always a lot going on in Fredericksburg, Texas.
Here is a short list of the other holiday events:
- German Christmas pyramid and tree lighting
- Holiday Trade Days
- Christmas Wine Affair
- Ice skating
- Trolly Christmas lights tour
- Turkey Trot
- Christmas parade
- Sip with Santa
- Santa’s Fly-in
You can find dates for these and other events on the Texas Hill Country calendar. Furthermore, you can find other great things to do in our article, Amazing Things to do in Fredericksburg TX. Fredericksburg is a very dog friendly town, as are most of the activities.
Spectacular Holiday Lights in Johnson City, TX
Johnson City is also north of San Antonio, and nearly as far as Fredericksburg. This town may be small, but they wrap their trees and buildings in more lights than I have ever seen. We drove through one year and it appeared as if everyone in the community must have contributed. They have been illuminating the former home of President Lyndon B. Johnson for at least 30 years. They really know how to light up a town.
This year you can witness the lighting of the courthouse on November 27th, 2020 at 6:30pm. The ceremony normally includes fireworks, just in case you were planning on bringing your dog. Visitors are being encouraged to enjoy the festivities from their own vehicles.
Address: The address to the courthouse is 101 W Pecan Dr, Johnson City, TX 78636.
Fees: There is no cost to visit Johnson City.
The following day you can see the Lighted Hooves and Wheels parade (may be cancelled this year in 2020) at the same time. Checkout Johnson City’s calendar of events for other things to do in town. You will be blown away by the Christmas lights in this town, and the effort it must take to accomplish it all.
Other Places to See Christmas Lights in San Antonio, TX
This guide is by no means all inclusive as far as Christmas lights in San Antonio go, but we have found a plethora of lights. I’m sure there are many other good places to see holiday lights. However, these are the best places we know about, and have personally experienced most of them. I will be updating this guide to include more places in the San Antonio area.
In the meantime, feel free to share the places you like to visit this time of year. Let us know if our 2020 Guide to Christmas Lights in San Antonio has been helpful, and share it with your neighborhood.
The Christmas lights in San Antonio are great to see during December, but hiking in San Antonio is great all year. If you enjoy finding dog friendly places to hike in the Alamo City, you can find everything you need to know in our Indisputable Guide to hiking in San Antonio.
I’m a certified personal trainer in San Antonio. After adopting Abbey, I created Places for Pups to help you get outside, exercise with your dog and have fun doing it.
We have mastered hiking in Texas Hill Country. Though we emerge from the woods unharmed, we are not responsible for you or your pets. You are solely responsible for trying exercises, or places discussed on this site.
Grab the best hiking gear and go dog friendly. I wish you good fortune on the trails to come.