Are you heading to sunny San Antonio for the holiday season? As the founder of R Public Relations, I have become familiar with every hotel, restaurant, and attraction in the city. From partnering with clients throughout the region to living and working in Texas, I’ve become a pro at curating experiences in San Antonio. Read on for my bespoke holiday season guide to San Antonio!
Why Visit San Antonio Over the Holidays?
San Antonio over the holidays features old-world charm and contemporary festivities, making it a unique and enchanting destination. One of the most cherished traditions is the iconic Ford Holiday River Parade along the scenic San Antonio River Walk, where lavishly decorated floats drift beneath the twinkling lights, casting a magical glow on the water. Plus, the city’s historic downtown comes alive with the annual H-E-B Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, a dazzling spectacle that ignites the holiday spirit.
For a taste of the old, the historic Alamo Plaza transforms into a winter wonderland, blending centuries-old traditions with modern flair. Visitors can savor the warmth of tamale-making demonstrations, witness the glow of luminarias lining the pathways, and immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage that defines San Antonio. With a perfect blend of old and new celebrations, from the spirited Fiesta de las Luminarias to the contemporary delights of Six Flags Fiesta Texas’ Holiday in the Park, San Antonio promises a holiday experience like no other.
Stay: Hotel Emma
Hotel Emma is a unique 146-room boutique hotel with seven top-floor suites, a handsome bar and club room, an excellent restaurant, a purveyor of fine foods, and public spaces reminiscent of fine old hotels in far-flung locales. Comfortable and unconventional, the hotel’s historical ambiance proclaims a new standard of South Texas luxury and geniality, making it the premier luxury hotel in San Antonio. In fact, Hotel Emma is Texas’s only 5-diamond resort!
Hotel Emma’s history is rich and uniquely Texan. In 1881, J.B. Behloradsky Brewery was established, and by 1883, it had been acquired by the San Antonio Brewing Association. As of 1916, it was the largest brewery in Texas.
The hotel building originally became Pearl’s Brewhouse when it was built in 1894. The building was designed by Chicago-based architect August Maritzen in the Second Empire style. Maritzen specialized in breweries, designing more than eighty in the U.S., Canada, and South Africa.
Pearl’s was the only San Antonio brewery to survive Prohibition, thanks primarily to Emma Koehler’s astute leadership during those lean years. The fortunes of the brewery waxed and waned over the next six decades until it was closed down in 2001.
In 2002, Silver Ventures purchased the property and began the conscientious renovation and adaptive reuse process that has created today’s Pearl, a vibrant culinary and cultural village. Holiday guests of Hotel Emma can explore the property’s many amenities and gorgeous decor that winks at its storied past.
Sweat: Amp Studio
Wake up feeling refreshed, then enjoy a cycling ride at Amp Studio. The inclusive, friendly studio offers an electrifying combination of high-intensity, low-impact, beat-based cycle and strength workouts.
Each class at Amp Studio is led by one of its highly trained instructors. The studio prides itself on creating a community where everyone feels welcome; classes are designed for anyone regardless of age, fitness level, or gender. The team works hard to create a fitness journey for all levels to help improve mobility, flexibility, and strength.
Plus, Amp Studio is unique to San Antonio, so you’ll get a one-of-a-kind workout experience — just in time for the indulgent holiday season!
Eat: Boudros, Chilaquil, and Davila’s BBQ
There are countless wonderful restaurants in San Antonio, but these three favorites bring good vibes and incredible food to the table every time.
Boudro’s, a bistro nestled on the San Antonio River Walk, is the perfect place to snag lunch while out on the town. Request an outdoor table if the weather is nice, then settle in for an afternoon of warm and welcoming hospitality. The restaurant is known specifically for its knock-out guacamole, which is made tableside.
Or, grab an afternoon bite at Chilaquil, which opened as a family-owned and operated business in 2018. Susana and Orlando, the owners of the establishment, grew up in Mexico and started this project hoping to bring the dishes they most enjoyed eating as a family to their neighbors.
Chilaquil’s menu is built on Mexican staples such as tortillas, beans, and spicy salsas. The restaurant offers traditional Mexican street food, comfort dishes, and classic snacks like elote and Tostito’s® Preparados. Order a few dishes to share and an Agua Fresca to go to fuel you through an afternoon of exploration!
Finally, do dinner at Davila’s. This classic Texas BBQ joint serves mesquite-smoked meats and sides and has been in business for over 60 years — so you can trust that they know what they’re doing. Brisket is a must, but don’t forget to grab a copy of owner Adrian Davila’s new cookbook on your way out the door.
Drink: Prestige Motorsports Motorclub and Colette
Grab a happy hour beverage at Motorclub’s full bar. This under-the-radar watering hole is nestled inside Prestige Motorsports, where guests can enjoy an F1 simulator alongside drinks.
Later in the evening, go for a nightcap at Colette, a swanky new rooftop bar at Paramour at The Phipps, and enjoy a meal at Collette at The Phipps. Colette is inspired by Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, a French novelist, journalist, and performer. She was born in 1873 in Burgundy, France, and became one of the leading female writers of her time. Colette is best known for her novel “Gigi,” and the food and drinks at this establishment are similarly groundbreaking. Paramour is nationally recognized as one of the best rooftop bars in the country and offers one of the largest bourbon lists in the state, not to mention full view of the downtown San Antonio scene.
No matter how you spend your time in San Antonio, you’re certain to fall in love with the city’s charm and history, especially during the holiday season. Cheers!