Fiesta San Antonio -- the city's own Mardi Gras -- kicks off with a peppy water parade. Credit: Larry Johnson.

 By Chris Hill

San Antonio may be known for its famous River Walk, but each year in April, the River Walk area comes alive for Fiesta San Antonio, celebrating the diverse history and culture of the Alamo city.  This year Fiesta will take place from April 7 to 17, and if you have never visited San Antonio during this event, you are in for an incredible party.

This 11-day festival features some of the finest food and art from the around the region.  From flower shows to river parades, local music and regional foods, San Antonio lights up with colorful hats, local music, street fests and the infamous water parade.  More than 100 events — more than half of which are free — entertain the locals.

The most popular of the events is NIOSA, or Night in Old San Antonio, the’s city’s own version of Mardi Gras. Festive costumes dot the streets, and when it comes to hats, the more embellished, the better. It’s common to see accents such as cascarones (confetti eggs), piñatas and maracas — and even the hometown team, the Spurs. Live music, dancing, food and drinks amp up the scene, making it one party that is definitely not recommended for children.

If tots are in tow, don’t miss the festival’s four parades.  The most popular: the Texas Cavaliers River Parade.  This unique event features more than 40 decorated river floats that travel the San Antonio River for all to view.  The floats are adorned with flowers and lights, with many including local or well-known celebrities and musicians to entertain and electrify the crowd.

Not much for water?  Then, check out the Battle of the Flowers Parade, the Fiesta Flambeau Night Parade, and the ever popular Fiesta Pooch Parade.  Watch the parade where standing is allowed, or for those who prefer to sit and watch close by from the sidewalks, seating may be purchased in advance.

If you want to stay close to the festivities, center your hotel search downtown, where many gems cater to history buffs. Try the elegant Emily Morgan or the Crockett Hotel, one of the oldest in the area. Both are across the street from the historic Alamo.

Because missing this local institution would be like going to Washington D.C. and not snapping a photo of the White House. It has to be done.

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Chris Hill is a market manager for Orbitz Worldwide who currently resides in Texas because it is too cold up north. His family members are theme park junkies, including his wife, his 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter who are always looking for the next adventure.

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Tagged: Family time, Holidays & Events, Travel Tips


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