San Antonio Winter Getaway: Escape the Cold in Texas

With spectacular festivals and top-notch attractions, San Antonio, Texas is the perfect winter getaway. The best time to visit is November through March when hotel rates are low and temperatures are comfortable.

We visited the first week of December and loved the city’s holiday spirit! Dazzling lights twinkled along the River Walk. Hotels and restaurants joined in the merriment by decorating with lavish Christmas trees, gorgeous wreaths, and colorful lights.

Our lodging for the weekend was at Holiday Inn San Antonio-Downtown on the west side of the city. We picked up the local bus at the airport and it dropped us off a few blocks away from the hotel and we walked and biked the rest of the trip.

No need for a rental car!


Holiday Festivities

The entire town is decked out in lights and festive decorations. We had a blast strolling around town. We couldn’t believe how many buildings, hotels, restaurants and churches were adorned with holiday decor.

Holiday Lights San Antonio
Looks like a giant gingerbread house!
Hotels in San Antonio
Even the hotels were in the Christmas spirit

Exploring the River Walk

The River Walk is one of San Antonio’s most well-known attractions. It is a pedestrian-only pathway along the banks of the San Antonio River, one story beneath the streets of the city. The network weaves through four separate sections: Museum Reach, Downtown Reach, Eagleland Project, and Missions Reach. The path has been the subject of a decade-long revitalization project for improvement and expansion.

Most people who visit usually only spend time in the Downtown section, but we explored the entire path.

Yes, you read that right!

We walked the north path and rented bikes to ride the south half. If you aren’t feeling up to walking or biking over 20 miles, Rio Cruises also offers a water taxi that has 39 stops along the river.

Getting out of the touristy area and exploring other parts of town was one of our favorite things to do. It’s a cheap way to see the waterfront at only $15 for a 24 hour pass. It works well for transportation if you are staying outside the main area as well.

Although it only runs till 9 PM so if you are staying out late not so much.

River Walk San Antonio

Museum Reach

Museum Reach is the furthest north section, only around 1.5 miles long and includes the San Antonio Zoo, Museum of Art, Brackenridge Park, and the Pearl. The path is lined with interesting visual arts such as the Grotto and a school of giant fiberglass fish displayed underneath the overpass.

Museum Reach San Antonio Museum Reach San Antonio

We were disappointed at first to discover that the Pearl Brewery we saw from the path is not currently a brewery, but a complex of residential apartments, restaurants and shopping. When we first laid eyes on the large sign, Dave was extremely excited that we found a new brewery to try.

Hoping for a free tour, we walked around looking for the front of the establishment. We were so confused when we couldn’t find a door to get in.

A city worker who spotted us and chuckled a little, explained that the area used to be a brewery, but has since closed. We were happy to find the area was an up-and-coming lively neighborhood. My husband was able to get his beer fix when we stopped in The Granary ‘Cue and Brew for some local flavor for lunch. *2020 UPDATE: The Granary has since closed.*

Museum Reach San Antonio

Brackenridge Park Area

Brackenridge Park is a 343-acre public park that houses the Japanese Tea Gardens and the San Antonio Zoo. The Witte Museum and San Antonio Botanical Garden are next to the park. We were ecstatic to see leaves that still had some color even in December.

Brackenridge Park in San Antonio


We stopped in the Japanese Tea Gardens to explore and ended up giving our feet a rest as we sipped on some delicious hot tea at the Jingu House. The area is small, but extremely unique with a gorgeous stone pavilion and lush grounds. It is free so definitely worth a stop.

Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio


We walked through the formal and display gardens, conservatory and grounds of the San Antonio Botanical Garden. A temporary exhibit of ‘larger-than-life’ Lego sculptures were displayed throughout the garden.

San Antonio Botanical Garden

San Antonio Botanical Garden

























Downtown Reach

The downtown section of San Antonio is popular for a reason. There’s something special about eating and drinking under glistening lights while people watching along water. We kept wondering how many drunk people end up in the river after a long night of drinking. The pathway is quite narrow and on the weekends gets mobbed so I’m sure it happens! Thankfully, not to us on this visit.

Durty Nelly's San Antonio

MadDog's British Pub in San Antonio

There are various types of bars and restaurants along the path from established and old-fashioned to new and swanky. Our favorites were Durty Nelly’s Pub, MadDog’s British Pub, and The Esquire Tavern.

River Walk San Antonio


Eagleland Project and Mission Reach

We spent an entire day biking the southern section of the River Walk. We rented our bikes from B Cycle at a station two blocks east of our hotel which was simple and cheap.

Our day began with breakfast at The Guenther House, a restaurant in the King William Historic District. The stone house was built in 1860 and is listed on the Registrar of Historic Places.

The restaurant, along with the rest of town, was ready for the holidays. The outside was speckled with wreaths, bows, garland and lights. Inside was just as impressive with candy houses, poinsettia and Christmas trees. We had to wait to be seated, but they had free coffee, a shop and bakery to keep us busy while we waited.

The Guenther House San Antonio

The Guenther House San Antonio


The Guenther House San Antonio

The Mission Reach section is an 8-mile path connecting the historical missions of San Antonio: Mission Concepción, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan and Mission Espada. The missions were self-sustaining communities established in the 18th century by Spanish settlers looking to colonize the area. They have recently been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Sight.

From the World Heritage Inscription:

“The San Antonio Missions are an example of the interweaving of the cultures of the Spanish and the Coahuiltecan and other indigenous peoples, illustrated in a variety of elements, including the integration of the indigenous settlements towards the central plaza, the decorative elements of the churches which combine Catholic symbols with indigenous natural designs, and the post-secularization evidence which remains in several of the missions and illustrates the loyalty to the shared values beyond missionary rule. The substantial remains of the water distribution systems are yet another expression of this interchange between indigenous peoples, missionaries, and colonizers that contributed to a fundamental and permanent change in the cultures and values of those involved.”

San Antonio Missions Mission Espada San Antonio

Finally, our day ended with 100% organic beer and dinner at Blue Star Brewing Company. They had a few sour beers on tap which my husband fancied. I’m not a fan of sour beer in general, but I enjoyed the Cinco Peso, Cow Town, and Pilsner.

Blue Star Brewing Company San Antonio

Hey Oh, The Alamo

The Alamo (Mission San Antonio de Valero), also included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, extends into the historic Mission Trail. Its history dates back to the early 1700’s as a mission, but is infamous for the 1836 Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution. General Santa Anna marched from Mexico to Texas to enforce order and compliance. His forces killed 189 Texan defenders and later executed more than 342 Texan prisoners at the Goliad Massacre. The defeat was a major loss for Texas, but eventually the state was freed from Mexico’s tyrannical grip.


San Fernando Cathedral

In 2014, the Cathedral of San Fernando in the Main Plaza introduced “San Antonio – The Saga,” a 24-minute video installation of the story of San Antonio. It is creative, fascinating and entertaining. It plays Tuesday and Sundays at 7:30 PM, 8:00 PM, and 8:30 PM and on Friday and Saturdays at 9:00 PM, 9:30 PM, and 10:00 PM.

San Fernando Church Lights

Historic Market Square

The Market Square is a lively public market that has been opened for over 100 years. The plaza is closed off for pedestrians only and here you will find numerous restaurants, shops and galleries with Spanish flair. It’s a great place to find reasonably priced souvenirs.

Mi Tierra Bar in San Antonio

It is also the place where we found one of the quirkiest and colorful restaurants we have ever seen, the Mi Tierra Cafe. It actually made our list of Quirkiest Restaurants in the US. It is decorated year-round with Christmas lights and vibrant murals.  I wouldn’t recommend eating dinner here (just so-so), but maybe stop in for a drink or for breakfast pastry.

Mi Tierra Cafe in San Antonio

Mi Tierra Cafe in San Antonio

Mi Tierra Cafe in San Antonio

San Antonio’s warmth, activities, sights and attractions provide the perfect winter getaway.

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Angela E. is a travel writer from the Chicagoland area who has visited all 50 states in the US and has traveled extensively around the world. She is passionate about exploring the great outdoors and hiking in particular. Her love for nature has taken her to some of the most beautiful locations on the planet. She has written extensively about her travels on her own website, Dang Travelers, and has been published in collaboration with other travel websites and multiple visitor bureaus around the country.

10 Responses

  1. Chris Travels

    What a thoroughly engaging and informative post on San Antonio and the many, many things this Texas city has to offer! I’ve visited twice, but my most recent was 15 years ago. All I can say is that either alot has changed since then or I was totally ignorant of this city’s potential awesomeness. Basically I only knew of the Alamo and the Riverwalk…that was it! Now I’d really like to go back for a third time!

    • Dang Travelers

      Thanks Chris! We hadn’t been there in years either and we were excited to find some unique things to keep us entertained. The town really lights up for the holidays.

  2. Michelle

    Looks amazingly beautiful. We are from Dallas and my husband and I would love to visit San Antonio.

    • Dang Travelers

      Thanks Michelle! We found all different types of things to keep us busy in San Antonio like biking, beer tasting & even Japanese gardens. Great trip..

  3. Stephen

    If by chance you’re still in town, you should look up ‘Mi Tierra’ Mexican restaurant – some of the best mole’ sauce I’ve ever eaten anywhere.

    • Dang Travelers

      We did, it’s in the post (towards the bottom). One of the most festive places we’ve been too! We didn’t try the mole sauce. Next time we will. Thanks

  4. Reginia Cordell

    Until recently, I hadn’t thought much about Texas. Lately, I’m finding myself wanted to explore the cities of Austin, Houston, and San Antonio. There’s a lot to see in those areas.

    • Dang Travelers

      I didn’t think Houston was great, love San Antonio and haven’t gotten to Austin yet. Dave has been there a few times and says it’s awesome.

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