By: Steven Lindsey | From: Thrillist

Every April, San Antonio explodes with color, confetti, and culture in its biggest annual party, and it’s absolutely one of the best times ever to visit the Alamo City. Fiesta San Antonio (April 18–28) got its humble start way back in 1891 as a memorial celebration to honor those who fought to defend the Alamo and in the Battle of San Jacinto more than half a century earlier. The first parade featured bicycles and horse-drawn carriages adorned with thousands of fresh flowers, as well as children dressed as flowers. Participants and spectators bombarded each other with blooms and blossoms, which is why it’s known as the Battle of Flowers.

Though paper versions hand-crafted by generations of the same family since 1928 replace the fresh ones, the women-led Battle of Flowers endures as one of the biggest draws to the 10-day celebration. Fiesta also features lively carnivals, spectacular parades, and the coronation of royalty. Instead of throwing beads a la Mardi Gras, revelers here clamor for Fiesta Medals, sometimes elaborately forged creations, other times hand-crafted trinkets. As with Mardi Gras beads, the more medals you sport, the more impressive. (You can find several for purchase with proceeds benefiting various nonprofit organizations at San Antonio’s go-to resource for Fiesta accouterments, Amols’ Fiesta Party Supplies.

Several interactive options fill the 10-day calendar of events. Of course, there’s the Battle of Flowers Parade, where over half a million spectators will line the route and purchase bleacher seats for maximum enjoyment. Another highlight of the only-in-San-Antonio spectacular: Texas Cavaliers River Parade, which brings the spirit of Fiesta to the city’s iconic Riverwalk attraction. 

A Night in Old San Antonio (NIOSA) actually spans four nights—and several square blocks—with designated cultural sections, including South of the Border, Sauerkraut Bend, China Town, French Quarter, and Irish Flat. Food and drinks match each section’s theme, making it easy to find egg rolls, Micheladas, sausage-on-a-stick, or churros. NIOSA also highlights the live music component of Fiesta with 11 different bands performing on stages throughout the area.

Depending on the days of your vacation in San Antonio, you can also marvel at Fiesta Flambeau, the largest illuminated parade in America; chow down at the two-day Fiesta Oyster Bake; laugh the night away during the Fiesta Cornyation, a satire-filled, adults-only production that lampoons the more serious-minded royalty events; burn off some calories in the Our Lady of the Lake University Confetti 5K Run & Walk; and smile from ear to ear during the adorable Fiesta Pooch Parade.

More than 100 events pack the Fiesta San Antonio schedule, so boredom will never be on the agenda whether you’re popping down for two nights or staying for the entire week.

Drive Time

4 hours from Dallas

More things to Do in San Antonio During Fiesta

San Antonio offers visitors many unique experiences year-round, but several make for nice Fiesta diversions. The spring weather means kayaking the Museum Reach section of the Riverwalk couldn’t be more ideal. For a touristy-but-cool dining outing, book a river dinner cruise where Boudro’s (or one of several other top restaurants) can cater a leisurely meal while coasting through the scenic passages, learning a little SA history along the way. Afterward, head to a 9 or 9:30 pm presentation of The Saga. During a mesmerizing, high-tech 24 minutes, learn even more about San Antonio’s past through a remarkable video-and-music art projection on the side of the San Fernando Cathedral by international artist Xavier de Richemont. We can almost guarantee goosebumps.

If you need a relaxing break from all the walking and standing through parades, book an hour soak in the natural hot springs at Camp Hot Wells, located on the site of a former bathhouse and resort circa 1894, where Hollywood’s biggest names often vacationed. Be aware, though, the tubs are filled from deep sulfuric hot springs so expect that distinct eggy aroma. The black-tinted water feels so fantastic, though, you’ll soon be able to ignore the fragrant wafts—especially when you enjoy wine or beer from the on-site café window to take into your private tub retreat.

Where to Eat and Drink in San Antonio During Fiesta

Working our way from one street vendor to the next makes us exceptionally happy because there’s always so much variety to enjoy. Yet after a while, it’s typical to experience what Big Tex fanatics in Dallas know as “fair food fatigue.” Sometimes, we simply need to be waited on while seated in an air-conditioned restaurant, using real silverware instead of sporks. For those instances, treat your taste buds to some traditional San Antonio-style Tex-Mex at Rosario’s, which recently moved to gorgeous new digs. Breakfast tacos at the no-frills La Mexicana may be some of the best in the city and at shockingly great prices to boot. For a full brunch situation, Box St. All Day ranks among the best. Duck into Zocca d’Italia along a tranquil section of the Riverwalk for top-tier Italian (especially the fusion-forward Taste of Texas pizza that features brisket and country sausage). Mediterranean excellence awaits at Ladino in the culinary mecca of the historic Pearl District. Other excellent dinner-and-drink options include Bar LorettaPharm Table, and Liberty Bar.

Where to Stay in San Antonio During Fiesta

Delight in Fiesta San Antonio events all over the city, but the highest concentration of activities will be in or near the downtown area and Riverwalk. So you’ll want to book a hotel near the action so you can walk nearly anywhere on your itinerary or catch a quick, affordable rideshare. The Westin Riverwalk, San Antonio puts you smack in the heart of the Riverwalk district with well-appointed rooms (and super-comfy beds), a sparkling pool, and a state-of-the-art WestinWORKOUT fitness studio. Hotel Valencia, also overlooking the Riverwalk, delivers plenty of charm and comfort. And along the quieter Museum Reach section of the river, Thompson San Antonio - Riverwalk offers chic decor throughout, plus a lively 20th-floor rooftop lounge, The Moon’s Daughters.