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Ready to celebrate the holidays, but dreading a trip the mall or waiting hours to get a photo with Santa? Skip the overcrowded, last-minute shopping trips this December and check out San Antonio’s holiday events and markets for unique, one-of-a-kind holiday experiences. We’ve assembled a quick guide to the coming holiday markets that will make the holidays a fun, local and relatively stress-free time of year.

OPEN Holiday Market, Dec. 11-19: Local pop-up shops will return to Downtown San Antonio in time for the gift-giving season, thanks to the OPEN Holiday Market. The pop-up program offers local entrepreneurs the chance to display their products thanks to no-cost, short-term leases in vacant downtown storefronts. Shoppers can keep it local with more than a dozen local businesses that include homemade doggy treats from Katie’s Jar, vintage fashion finds from Socorro Society and fine art from AME Collaborative.

“OPEN Holiday Market will again give local entrepreneurs and creatives the opportunity to see how their brand fares in this market,” said John Jacks, interim director of the Center City Development and Operations Department. “There is no better time for OPEN to return to San Antonio than the holidays, the perfect occasion to shop for unique gifts while celebrating and supporting local businesses.”

OPEN Holiday Market will run between 11 a.m.-7 p.m. OPEN kicks off the week with a “Progressive Opening Party” on Dec. 11 from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Click here to see the market’s full list of vendors, locations and times.

A variety of vendors are on tap at BRICK Marketplace. Photo by Page Graham.
A variety of vendors are on tap at BRICK Marketplace. Photo by Page Graham. Credit: Page Graham for the Rivard Report

Holiday Artisans Market, Saturday, Dec. 12: Stop by the colorful Yanaguana Garden for food trucks, live music and original works of art from local artists and artisans.  The family-friendly event will feature unique products and gifts, and also offer a photo booth on-site. The event takes place in the Yanaguana Garden from noon to 4 p.m.

Multicultural Winter Festival at Encino Branch Library, Saturday, Dec. 12: The San Antonio Public Library kicks off their inaugural Multicultural Winter Festival with a celebration of cultures and countries. Families can enjoy food samples, experience traditional costumes and participate in cultural activities from more than 18 different countries and cultures. Attendees can look forward to door prizes and a free portrait with Santa Claus. The event takes place at the Encino Branch Library, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

La Gran Tamalada, Saturday, Dec. 12: You can learn about your tamales and eat them too during this free, annual tamale-making event. Community members will share the cultural history of the beloved holiday dish, while highlighting San Antonio stories and feasting on delicious tamales. The event takes place at the historic Guadalupe Theater from 11a.m. to 1 p.m.

International Artisans Mini-Fair, Dec. 10-12: Explore creative works and give back to artisans from Niger, India, and Namibia during the free mini-fair held at the Pearl. “This is non-profit event. Ninety percent of the proceeds go to the artisans to help meet the needs of their communities and keep these art traditions alive,”said the event page. Look for jewelry from Elhadji Koumama, textiles from Self-Help Enterprise (SHE) in India and an assortment of toys, baskets and beaded paintings from Omba Arts in Namibia. The event will take place at Niche at Pearl. The fair will run on Thursday, Dec. 10 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Friday, Dec.11, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 12 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Queer the Cheer Holiday Market and Celebration, Saturday, Dec. 12: LGBTQ artists and allies create a fun and welcoming space for unique live performances, handcrafted art and gifts during the holiday market event. Hosted by the San Antonio Queer Collective, the market will offer shoppers food, beer and wine in exchange for a small donation. The event takes place at the Southwest Workers Union from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.

SoFlo Holiday Market, Saturday, Dec. 12: You can enjoy the growing South Flores art scene every Second Saturday, but the special holiday market will feature locally-made jewelry, handmade soaps, recycled art, and knickknacks that are sure to make great gifts and stocking stuffers. The SoFlo Market offers family-friendly activities, local food truck cuisine and a pet-friendly atmosphere. The event takes place at 1344 S. Flores St.  from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free street parking available.

San Antonio Coffee Festival, Saturday, Dec. 12: Whether you’re a coffee novice or  reading this over the umpteenth cup of the day, there’s something for you at the coffee festival.  The event offers $5 coffee flights, demonstrations and on-site experts who can make everything from drip coffee to snow cone coffee. The event takes place at La Villita, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Due to inclement weather, the event has been postponed until Jan. 9, 2016. More details will follow.

(This story has been updated to reflect that some events on this list have already occurred.)

Past Events:

San Antonio Clay Arts Festival and Museum Shop Holiday Fair, Saturday,Dec. 5: More than 30 Texas potters will be onsite at the San Antonio Museum of Art for live demonstrations and a showcase of hand-thrown bowls, ornaments and more. The free daytime event will run from 10:30 a.m.- 5 p.m.

Need a short food break? Head north on Broadway a short distance to savor the sixth annual Pearl Tamale Festival, Saturday 12 – 6 p.m.

Families can head to the SAMA’s grounds for locally-made jewelry, folk art, and fare from local food trucks from 4 p.m.- 9 p.m. The evening festivities include free general admission to the museum, live music and a great view of the San Antonio River Authority’s lighting of the Museum Reach at 6 p.m. Officials advise against early arrival on Saturday morning; Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio 10K will cause road closures from 8:45 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

Shop and Sip San Antonio Saturday, Dec. 5: Stop by this one-day marketplace to find the best local artisans, eateries and retailers in San Antonio. Take home gifts for friends (or yourself) from vendors like Thaïs Ann Boutique,honeysuckle, and Raba Vintage. Shoppers receive a complimentary Bloody Mary cocktail while they sample treats and wrap up their gift list. The event takes place at Brick at Blue Star Arts Complex, from 12 – 4 p.m.

Hecho a Mano at Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, Dec. 5-6: Experience traditional and contemporary fine art and handmade items during this holiday shopping event. Featured pieces are created by local artists and students make a unique gift for anyone. Cost of entry: $2 or two cans of food. The event runs from 12 – 8 p.m.

Commander’s House 35th Annual Open House and Craft Sale, Sunday, Dec. 6: Shoppers and families of all ages can shop for unique and creative gifts at this holiday event. Attendees can enjoy music, light snacks and get a photo taken with Santa Claus. The event takes place at Commander’s House Adult and Senior Center, 622 S. Flores, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

*Top Image: Behind the counter, Melissa Unsell (left) talks to a customer at Canvas. Photo by Page Graham.

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Your Guide to the Holidays in San Antonio

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Lea Thompson

Lea Thompson is a Texas native who has lived in Houston, Austin and San Antonio. She enjoys exploring new food and culture events. Follow her adventures on Instagram, Twitter or Culture Spoon.