San Antonio, TX
Fiesta is an annual 11 day-long celebration held every April hosted throughout the greater San Antonio Area complete with street fairs and several parades. The festival began in 1891 as a single event to honor the battles of the Alamo and San Jacinot. The festival has grown dramatically over the years, at some points the festivities lasted for the whole month of April. More than 3 million people partake in the fun with over 100 events taking place throughout the city. The best part of the festival is that more than 100 local nonprofits groups benefit from the money raised. We are so glad we got to partake in the festivities, it was at time overwhelming like visiting Disney World in July but it was worth every minute!
Somethings we wish we knew:
- Many events are free: street fairs, military honor services, River festival, Hat contests, dances, etc the schedule of events clearly marks which events are free and which require tickets (can be purchased through the official site)
- There are 5parades, the biggest one is the Festival of Flowers (it lasts over 3 hours!)you do not need a ticket to attend a parade however it can be hard if you are not from the area to pick a spot along the path that is not already cordoned off by local businesses. We suggest you buy tickets for the first parade you attend to get a lay of the land.
- Getting to the festival is by far the trickiest part. Via bus system routes change for the festivals, this means you need to verify the route you choose. If staying on Fort Sam Houston bus route 16 will take you into downtown (near the Alamo) we sadly didn’t know this until our last day in the area.
- Yellow Cabs are great for getting you down to the festivities but they are surprisingly hard to find at the end of the night, we had to call them 4 times to get a pickup at a bar outside of the festival area. In that time we saw countless Ubers and Lyfts grab their passengers, I’d say go with them.
- We wrote an official letter about this issue to the Fiesta headquarters but the handicap section is NOT up to what we would call Fiesta standards. They simply left a blank spot on the parade route, no markings, no ushers just simply a spot they left blank. That was until the locals began setting up their chairs.So when we approached the section expecting there to be folding seats since we paid $16 a seat, we were shocked to find not only no chairs but no markings showing that the area was reserved/paid tickets. This lead to a lot of confusion, having to wrangle in volunteers and then eventually police had to come to police the area so that people who reserved spots would have a place to view the parade. Very disappointing. The area was full of veterans who were wheel chair bound, the Social Worker in both of us went in full drive for the entire evening trying to ensure these people who bought tickets to see the parade were in fact able to view it. All that being said, if you do buy tickets be sure to arrive in plenty of time to make sure you actually have a spot.
The big thing about Fiesta is the pins that businesses sell/give away. The goal for many is to collect as many pins as possible over the years. Since Fiesta has been happening annual for over 100 years you will see many people with 100s of pins. We left with 2 in our 2 days of festivities. One was earned by collecting bottles and cans before the parade to turn in to the waste management company and the other for our efforts in helping the handicap area get squared away.