Four San Antonio festivals celebrating Texan diversity, from Diwali to the rodeo
In Texas, you can take part in exuberant street parties and traditional Latin American holidays, colourful festivals from the east and modern incarnations of Old West gatherings. Travel to San Antonio to uncover Texas's modern multiculturalism.
The Texan city of San Antonio is famed for the history-steeped Alamo mission and attraction-packed River Walk. But, lesser known, is its status as one of the country’s most culturally diverse cities. Its intricate cultural tapestry is celebrated with a packed calendar of festivals, which honour the city’s rich Hispanic heritage, its Indian population and its Old West traditions. Here’s how to experience the events for yourself.
Fiesta San Antonio
This eclectic festival has been lighting up San Antonio’s streets since 1891, when a team of women organised the Battle of Flowers Parade. The original Fiesta San Antonio event honoured those who fought in the Battles of Alamo and San Jacinto with a procession of elaborate floats decorated in blooms. Fast-forward more than a century and the procession – which now unfolds in swirl of kaleidoscopic artificial flowers and colourful costumes – is still a key part of Fiesta San Antonio. But the giant springtime jamboree now also includes firework displays, street food and flamboyant music and dance shows.
A highlight is ‘A Night in Old San Antonio’, which celebrates the city’s cultural diversity with a series of heritage-themed zones brought to life with decorated food booths, cultural performances and locally made arts and crafts. Key events take place in San Antonio’s Downtown area and the festivities last for 11 days in late March or April.
Día de los Muertos
San Antonio has a large Hispanic population and Mexico’s traditional Day of the Dead celebration – which honours deceased loved ones – is a riot of soul-stirring music and vibrant parades. Expect the city to be bright with marigolds and dotted with burning candles. Head to Hemisfair at the end of October: this sprawling park, which is also home to the Institute of Texan Cultures, hosts the city’s key Día de los Muertos festivities. The space is filled with altars that heave under the weight of ofrendas (offerings), from toys and trinkets to calaveras (sugar skulls). Feast on tamales and horchata, listen to live Latin American music and buy colourful Mexican folk art from local creators.
There are more celebrations along the San Antonio River Walk – popular SpiritLandia includes a procession of richly decorated river barges. Or make a beeline for Centro Cultural Aztlan, where you’ll find cultural and historic exhibits covering Day of the Dead traditions.
Diwali, the Festival of Light, is India’s biggest festival, celebrating the triumph of good over evil – and San Antonio hosts one of the largest celebrations in the USA. The festival takes place in October or November, with specific dates decided by the new moon.
Make your way down to the San Antonio River Walk, where candles are ceremoniously lit and left floating in the water. You’ll also catch the River Parade, which represents India’s distinct states with traditional music and dress. There are more ways to immerse yourself in the festivities at Hemisfair park and the Arneson River Theatre. Browse handmade crafts and clothing at the Indian bazaar, visit a food court hawking dosas and masala chai, or learn how to dance bhangra. The event culminates in a glittering fireworks display.
Few things scream ‘Texas’ more than a rodeo, where cowboys showcase their handling and riding skills in crowd-filled arenas – and there are many opportunities to experience this traditional event in Alamo City. In February, the SA Stock Show and Rodeo offers a fascinating glimpse into Western culture through livestock and horse shows, plus live music, market stalls and themed exhibits. A key part of the festival is the charreada, which draws on long-standing traditions from Mexican haciendas and blends typical rodeo activities with impressive dressage.
Strike immediately north of San Antonio and you’ll reach the tiny city of Bulverde, home to the Tejas Rodeo. Family-friendly shows take place each Saturday from March through to November and the classic Steakhouse & Saloon is a crowd-pleaser. The self-professed ‘Texas Cowboy Capital of the World’, Bandera, is less than an hour’s drive away, too. Here you can stay at one of the town’s many dude ranches and learn the Texas two-step at a traditional dance hall.
Plan your trip
It’s easy to reach San Antonio from London Heathrow via gateways including Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and New York City Aiports (JFK/LGA). Once you’ve arrived, a fairly compact and navigable downtown area, rideshare apps and VIA bus services mean you can do without a rental car. For more information on travelling to San Antonio and to book, check out the package trips at Travelbag.
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