Destinations North America

Christmas in San Antonio

Our Christmas this year was a little different than usual as we did not gather in our home in Victoria, but rather planned a weekend getaway in San Antonio. We rented a historical home through Airbnb, located on Grayson Street which is near the Pearl District. The home had been recently remodeled and updated with many nice amenities. I loved the open floor plan with the large bedrooms. It even had a beautiful front porch, too.

Before everyone arrived, my husband and I visited the local HEB grocery store to buy a few breakfast and snack items for our weekend retreat. We didn’t know when exactly everyone would be arriving, so we brought with us chicken spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread, along with a delicious peach cobbler we purchased from a local food truck in Victoria called Fabulous Dinners To Go.

After eating dinner, we called for an Uber and headed down to the San Antonio Riverwalk. This time of the year the city of San Antonio puts on an unbelievable display of holiday lights and decorations along the Riverwalk. Our Uber driver dropped us off in front of the Alamo where a tall fir tree stringed with bright white lights that reflected the snow on each of its limbs. Along the edge of the street, tourists were riding in Cinderella-like horse-drawn carriages trimmed in bright lights traveling through the downtown streets.  

Once down on the Riverwalk, the holiday lights were strung throughout the trees, providing a holiday glow along our path. Riverboats were decked with garland and holiday wreaths were hanging on the edges, while the boat captains were dressed as elves. Occasionally a riverboat would sail by full of carolers singing Christmas songs. The restaurants and shops along the water’s edge were full of patrons shopping or celebrating holiday cheer. As we strolled along, we shared memories of Christmas stories from the past. The time spent with family on nights like this is always treasured.

The next morning, the air was sunny and crisp with not even a cloud in sight. We let the kids sleep in as we walked down to the Pearl Farmers Market, only a couple of blocks away. With over 40 vendors selling homemade and organic products, my farmer’s market loving husband was in heaven!

The first vendor we came across was Southern Grit Flavor. They were selling fluffy and lightly sweetened beignets. They looked so delicious we couldn’t walk away without buying a couple of them. The young vendor quickly tossed the batter in the hot grease and, once cooked, she sprinkled them with powdered sugar and placed them in a ready-to-eat bag. We were so eager to eat them we didn’t even wait for them to cool down.

The next vendor we visited with was CKC Farms. This vendor sold fresh, homemade feta cheese made from goat milk. He offered a few samples which made my husband happy as he is a true cheese lover! This free sample was enough to hook him into making a purchase.

This farmers market had something for everyone! From fresh seafood, local honey, fresh produce, homemade soaps, fresh bread, and homemade doggie treats, there was a huge variety to choose from. I believe the variety of their offerings is what attracted so many people from across San Antonio. The place was humming with families and their pets!

In the center of the Pearl District is a green space where families with children and pets gather to play, socialize or just relish in the fresh air of the outdoors. A beautifully decorated Christmas tree stood in the center as families stopped to take pictures. Nearby, in the Bottling Department building, is a Food Hall with several local chefs offering a variety of food choices to indulge in. Many visitors were inside ordering from the brunch menu.

After our morning stroll, we returned to the house, met up with the kids and headed out on a day of sightseeing. San Antonio is a city full of culture and history. You can learn about 18th century Spanish missions and the battle for Texas’ independence from Mexico. Along with its rich history, the city offers an array of activities, restaurants, and shopping that bring people here from all over the world.

Although we’ve visited San Antonio many times, we’ve never visited its missions. So we set out to visit three missions: Mission of Concepcion, Mission of San Jose, and Mission of San Juan. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to enjoy the drive throughout the city.

Our first stop was the Mission of Concepcion, which still in its original form and is one of the oldest unrestored stone churches in America. The mission was transferred to its present day location in 1731 and was named in honor of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and Juan de Acuna, the Marques de Casfuerte. The exterior of the structure was once covered with frescos designs, but with time they have all worn out. You can find a few of frescos designs on the inside as I tried to capture in my photographs.

Inside, a cherry wood altar topped with dark red poinsettia plants along with tall candelabras caught the attention of visitors, who were sitting in the pews taking a moment to pray and appreciate their surroundings.

Check out Mission Concepcion on TripAdvisor here.

Our next stop was the Mission of San Jose, known as the “Queen of the Missions.” It is the largest of all the missions and the church within the mission is still operating and offering services to the community. Fray Antonio Margil de Jesus was the founder of the mission in 1720. It became a major social gathering place for the area. Here you will find the famous “Rose Window”, sculptured in 1775 and located on the south wall, designed by a Spaniard Pedro Huizar. Pedro, a carpenter, designed this window in memory of his sweetheart, Rosa, who on her journey to America was lost at sea. Unfortunately, due to a wedding ceremony taking place inside the church, we were unable to tour the inside of this “Queen of the Missions” parish. Located at the entrance is a small gift shop selling items created by the priests.

Check out Mission San Jose Church on TripAdvisor here.

Our final stop was the Mission of San Juan, which was established in 1731. Three different church buildings were constructed within this complex, all of which served as a mission and many of the Native Americans that lived in the area lived within the mission itself. The construction on the last of the three churches started in 1775 but was abandoned in 1786 due to lack of laborers to complete the construction. This mission, for many years, was a self-sustaining community with Native American artisans producing iron tools, clothes, fruits, and vegetables. Near the mission was a large ranch which raised over 3,000 sheep and cattle. Due to the surplus, this mission established a trade network stretching from Louisiana to Mexico at the time.

The Mission of San Juan is in a partnership with the San Antonio Food Bank and provides live demonstrations of farming. Although during the time of our visit the farmlands were at rest, we still managed to see the grounds being prepped for the spring planting season.

On the backside of the mission walls is the Yanaguana Trails, which stretch alongside the San Antonio River. Although we did not have time to walk the trail, many visitors ventured down the trail to explore it.

Check out the Mission of San Juan on TripAdvisor here.

After visiting the three missions, we had all worked up an appetite and decided to head back to the Pearl District to have a late lunch at Southerleigh where delicious food was awaiting us along with over 20 different beers on tap, brewed by Portland Kettle Works. The boys sampled a few of the beers while my husband and I shared one of the most delicious mouthwatering burgers we’ve ever had that was served with seasoned potato wedges.

My youngest son is the shopper in the group. Between him and my husband, they can shop like any girl can in a mall. San Antonio is a great place to shop where you will find vintage boutiques, department chains, as well as outdoor and indoor malls. One of my favorite malls here is the North Star Mall, as it has the largest cowboy boot sculpture standing outside. Here you will find over 200 specialty stores and restaurants. I thought here we would be able to find something for everyone, so we began our shopping spree at Dillard’s and worked our way down to Macy’s. We made a few stops along the way including Gap Store, Johnson & Murphy, The Lucky Brand and Clark’s. The mall was bustling with last minute Christmas shoppers. We made a few purchases and then headed to Target and World Market.

Another great area to explore if you enjoy shopping is the Alamo Quarry Market. Located in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood, it once was a cement factory. After the factory closed, developers decided to make this ugly, dilapidated site into a shopping center and tourist destination for San Antonio. Here you will find name brand stores and restaurants, along with a thriving movie theater. When you visit, you will still see remnants of the cement factory throughout the area. A couple of my favorite stores here are Charming Charlie’s and Chico’s.

Check out the reviews for the North Star Mall on TripAdvisor here.

One thing I love about my family is our sense of adventure and willingness to experience new, nontraditional foods. For dinner, we decided to go to a Thai restaurant and so my husband consulted TripAdvisor for a recommendation. Based on the reviews, he chose Tong’s Thai, which offered traditional and authentic Thai dishes. For starters we tried the Fried Eggplant and Ban Xeo (Thai Crepe), which is a rice batter crepe folded in half, filled with stir-fried shrimp, chicken, and bean sprouts. It’s also served with garlic sauce. For our main meal, everyone selected a different dish off the menu. I selected the Tom Kha Kai, which is a lemongrass soup with tasty shrimp, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, lime and Thai spices in a creamy coconut milk base, served in a flaming hot pot. The dish was very delicious! I highly recommend visiting Tong’s Thai if you are craving some flavorful Thailand cuisine.

See for yourself on TripAdvisor here.

After an awesome day of touring the missions of San Antonio, hanging out at the Pearl District, shopping at North Star Mall and dining at Tong’s Thai, it was time to head back to the house and celebrate Christmas. We gathered in the living room to exchange gifts while reminiscing about our fabulous day. I enjoy the small things about family gatherings such as the discussions about life, reminiscing on old times, and just seeing the smiles on their faces as they talk. I guess you would call me a mother crazy in love with her kids!

We had an amazing time as this was a Christmas holiday I will never forget.

Merry Christmas to all and Happy New Year!

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