17 Family-friendly Christmas Activities

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The UIW campus, illuminated by nearly a million Christmas lights. - COURTESY
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  • The UIW campus, illuminated by nearly a million Christmas lights.

Christmas is fast approaching, and kids are going to be out of school soon for Winter break—cue the groans of stay-at-home moms everywhere as they anticipate the inevitable whines of "I'm bored" from their hyperactive children. Anticipating Santa's arrival makes otherwise normal kids lose their shit. Combine that anticipation with the stir-crazy effects of a routine driven child who suddenly finds himself stuck at home all day, and you've got a real problem on your hands.

But never fear! We've compiled a list of activities to get you through the holiday season without turning into a Scrooge McDuck. Take your family out to see some pretty Christmas lights, or go check out one of SA's theme parks which have recently transformed into magical Winter wonderlands. You could even adopt a puppy together (just don't go "look" at the puppies with no plan to adopt, because you will leave with a Christmas puppy).

Whatever activity your family chooses to enjoy together, it will stop that dreaded "I'm bored" before it even dares to leave your child's mouth. Instead, your darling cherubic child will probably be moved to quote the sweetest Christmas boy himself (not including baby JC, of course), Tiny Tim, and say "God bless us, everyone." He'll whisper it quietly to himself before falling into a deep candy cane coma, only to reawaken promptly on Christmas morning. Yup. Trust me on this. 

Here are some Christmas light displays to start off the list:

Light the Way
University of Incarnate Word invites you to enjoy its 28th annual Light the Way Christmas display. Every night the campus is lit up by nearly a million sparkling lights, transforming UIW into a Cardinal Christmas wonderland. The lights will be on display through January 6. Free, University of Incarnate Word, 4301 Broadway St, (210) 829-6000, uiw.edu.

Santa’s Ranch
If looking at your neighbor’s tacky inflatable snowman every day just isn’t doing it for you, then round up your kids and drive them over to Santa’s Ranch for a spectacular drive-through experience. The ranch is decked out in lights and features secular Santa themed displays as well as biblical scenes. $28 per vehicle, Sunday-Thursday 6pm-10pm, Friday-Saturday 6pm-11pm, Santa’s Ranch, 9561 I-35 N, (830) 743-1293, santasranch.net.

Santa’s Railroad Wonderland
The forty acre site of the Texas Transportation Museum is decked out with twinkling Christmas lights and railroad themed holiday displays. There will be nighttime train and hay rides through the site so you can enjoy the cool weather without having to walk around (which is a major plus if you have rowdy little ones). Don’t forget to meet Choo Choo Claus while you’re there! $7-$10, Saturdays and Sundays, 6pm-9pm, Texas Transportation Museum, 11731 Wetmore Rd, (210) 490-3554.

Museum Reach River of Lights
The San Antonio River Authority is making sure your holiday season is merry and bright by covering the stretch of river between Grayson Street and Lexington Avenue with a dazzling arrangement of lights. The river will remain decorated through the New Year. Free, Wyndham Garden River Walk Museum Reach, 103 9th St, (210) 515-4555.

Christmas Lights Fest
With nearly two million lights strung along a two mile stretch of Don Strange Ranch, the Christmas Lights Fest is an attraction that is sure to impress even the Scroogiest of Scrooges. Take your kids in their pajamas and, if you’re lucky, they’ll fall right to sleep on the way home. $20-$25 per vehicle, 6pm-10pm, Don Strange Ranch, 103 Waring Welfare Rd, (210) 434-2340, sanantoniochristmaslightsfest.com.

La Pastorela Folklorica at Guadalupe Theater. - COURTESY
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  • La Pastorela Folklorica at Guadalupe Theater.

If you're a really proud Texan, why not go to one of these Lone Star themed events? You could even pregame with some Texan Christmas tunes.

South Texas Holiday Traditions
Travel back to 19th century Texas and experience old school Christmas traditions in a log cabin. This Time Travel Saturday event will feature a performance of Los Pastores, a traditional Spanish play which focuses on the shepherds’ perspective on the story of Christmas. Kids can create their own holiday gifts, such as candles and ornaments, and can fill up on Mexican hot chocolate and cookies after the play. $5-$8, Saturday, December 13, Noon-4pm, Witte Museum, 3801 Broadway, (210) 357-1910, wittemuseum.org.

Cowboy Christmas
Enchanted Springs Ranch is hosting two full days of rootin’-tootin’ holiday activities for the whole family. There will be live music and caroling at the Wild West theme park, as well as several plays and skits. Kids will have the chance to arrest each other, get their faces painted, and to sit on a real live camel, Three Wisemen-style. $7-$14, Saturday, December 20-Sunday, December 21, 10am-5pm, Enchanted Springs Ranch, 242 State Highway 46 W, (830) 249-8222, enchantedspringsranch.com.

Fiesta de Navidad
Fiesta de Navidad is a fun alternative to watching another old Christmas movie with your family. The Guadalupe Dance Academy is performing La Pastorela Folklorica, a vibrant, choreographed version of the traditional Pastorela. $10, Friday, December 19-Saturday, December 20, 7pm, Guadalupe Theater, 1303 Guadalupe, (210) 271-3151, guadalupeculturalarts.org.

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Does your family love animals? Celebrate your fur babies with one of these activities.

Blessing of the Animals
The 28th annual Blessing of the Animals will take place on Saturday, December 13. The event will include live music, food, a parade of pets, and a blessing of all animals. Free, Saturday, December 13, 12pm-6pm, Market Square, 514 W Commerce St, (210) 207-6968.

Story Time with Santa Paws
Looking to adopt a Christmas pup? This event at the Grand Hyatt hotel is catered to kids and their furry friends. Representatives from the San Antonio Humane Society and from the San Antonio Public Library Foundation will be present for Santa Paws Story Time. There will be adoptable puppies there for families to meet, and young people will have the opportunity to sign up for their very own library cards. Cookies and other refreshments will be served. Free, Tuesday, December 16, 11am, Grand Hyatt Hotel, 600 E Market St, (210) 224-1234.

Holiday in the Park at Fiesta Texas. - SIX FLAGS
  • Six Flags
  • Holiday in the Park at Fiesta Texas.

These are easily the most elaborate holiday activities SA has to offer. Take your kids to one of these and let them run around until their cheeks are nice and rosy, like in that one Christmas Carol.

SeaWorld Christmas Celebration
With its red and white lights of Candy Cane Forest, the 1950s inspired ambience of Christmas Cove, and the 4,000 square feet of snow that has materialized in SnowWorld, SeaWorld is taking the holiday season very seriously. There will also be several seasonal animal shows at the park, and Santa Claus himself will be present for photos. $45-$55, SeaWorld, 10500 SeaWorld Drive, (800) 700-7786, seaworldparks.com.

Christmas at the Caverns
Natural Bridge Caverns has added two new underground shows this holiday season in addition to bringing back its popular Caroling in the Caverns attraction. The caverns are offering 14 nights of family friendly fun, including hayrides, a maze, a Christmas village, and the Journey to Bethlehem Show which can be seen within the caverns. $20-$50, Natural Bridge Caverns, 26495 Natural Bride Caverns Rd, (210) 651-6144, naturalbridgecaverns.com.

Holiday in the Park at Six Flags
Six Flags is bringing the holiday cheer this year with several seasonal attractions, including a life-size snow globe, ice skating, a walk through Santa’s Castle, a cookie and cocoa workshop with Mrs. Claus herself, and more. In addition to all of the activities going on in the park, guests can also check out Six Flags’ most popular holiday show, the Majesty of Christmas. $46.99-$66.99, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, 17000 IH-10 W, (210) 697-5050, sixflags.com.

Okay, maybe this gingerbread house is a little too advanced for children... - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Okay, maybe this gingerbread house is a little too advanced for children...

Rounding off our list of holiday hoopla are these last events for the families that are looking for something a little different.

Ford Holiday Boat Caroling
More than 185 choirs and musical groups will be participating in boat caroling this holiday season. Barges carrying carolers will float down the San Antonio River every night through December 21. The caroling groups cover a wide range of genres from folk musicians to Latino ensembles to bell choirs, so there will be something to satisfy every one of your family member’s tastes. Free, 6:15pm-9:15pm, the River Walk, thesanantonioriverwalk.com.

Kid’s Gingerbread Too!
Does your kid have a fit every time you pass a cookie kiosk in the mall? If yes, then they’ll love the San Antonio Children’s Museum’s Kid’s Gingerbread Too! event. Set up in the Dillard’s Wing of North Star Mall, SACM’s gingerbread event will allow your kiddo to decorate his very own gingerbread house or cookie before greedily shoving the creation into his mouth. Free (quantities limited), Sunday, December 14, 11am-4pm, North Star Mall, 7400 San Pedro Ave, (210) 340-6627.

Junie B. Jones: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!
It’s Christmastime and Junie B. is ready to enjoy all the holiday festivities—that is, until she picks her arch nemesis Tattletale May’s name for Secret Santa. This play for kids will keep your whole family laughing and teach them a lesson in kindness, to boot. Jingle Bells, Batman Smells will be at Magik Theatre until December 27. $9-$10, The Magik Theatre, 420 S Alamo, (210) 227-2751, magiktheatre.org.

Healthy Holidays Family Day
Don’t overindulge this holiday season. Take your family to the Institute of Texan Cultures this month for nutrition and wellness education, cooking demonstrations, and more. There will be crafts and activities for kids as well. Healthy Holidays Family Day is being presented in part by the San Antonio Food Bank, and admission is free with the donation of a food item. Free, Saturday, December 13, 10am-3pm, Institute of Texan Cultures, 801 E César E. Chávez Blvd, texancultures.com.

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