Best Things To Do in San Antonio
Those seeking a little Texas frontier history are sure to find it here – San Antonio proudly touts sites like the Alamo, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park and the Spanish Governor's Palace. The museums, such as the San Antonio Museum of Art, are also not to be missed. This city also makes for a great family vacation – with educational and adrenaline-pumping fun. SeaWorld and Six Flags Fiesta Texas will thrill both you and the little ones. And no city tour would be complete without a stroll down the River Walk, a 3-mile-long path along the San Antonio River, which hits many attractions. For help navigating the city's top things to do, sign up for one of the best San Antonio tours.
Updated May 6, 2020
- #1View all Photos#1 in San Antonio2.9 miles to city centerParks and Gardens, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND2.9 miles to city centerParks and Gardens, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
When the River Walk seems too busy, seek refuge from the heat and the swarms of tourists in Brackenridge Park. Its 343 acres offer much in the way of relaxation: rustic stone bridges and shaded walkways are perfect for strolling, and the Japanese Tea Garden and San Antonio Botanical Garden beckon to botanists. Dress casual so you can take advantage of Brackenridge's jogging trails, golf course and athletic fields. The park also hosts outdoor concerts in the natural Sunken Garden Theater. In and around the park, you'll also find popular attractions like the San Antonio Zoo and the Witte Museum.
Past visitors appreciated the park's train, which runs through the zoo and offers an excellent opportunity to get around the large area. They also recommend bringing some bird seed to feed the ducks that float down the San Antonio River. The park is also a featured stop on many of the best San Antonio tours.
- #2View all PhotosfreeThe Alamo#2 in San Antonio1.3 miles to city centerChurches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.3 miles to city centerChurches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
If there's one thing San Antonio is known for, it's the Alamo. Once a Franciscan mission, it was here that 189 Texans fought and lost their lives in 1836 during a 13-day siege by Mexican ruler, President Antonio López de Santa Anna. The fight sparked Texas' struggle for independence and today, the Alamo stands as a tribute to these men, displaying artifacts belonging to some of the Alamo's most famous defenders, including Davy Crockett and James Bowie. Once you've finished visiting the Alamo (either on your own or by guided tour), head around back where a small museum and research library offer further insight into the siege. Alternatively, take a pass through the gift shop, where you can find a variety of souvenirs to help you "Remember the Alamo."
Recent visitors said the site can get rather busy, so try to visit early in the morning or later in the evening. Most visitors also agree that even when it's packed with tourists, the Alamo is a must-see in San Antonio.
- #3View all Photos#3 in San Antonio0.8 miles to city centerChurches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.8 miles to city centerChurches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
If you're touring San Antonio, the San Fernando Cathedral is hard to miss. Still an active house of worship, the cathedral is one of the oldest in the country, constructed in 1738 by colonists from the Canary Islands. It was here that Wild West legend James Bowie was married and that General Antonio López de Santa Anna indicated his plans for the Alamo. Some believe that many heroes from the Alamo (including Davy Crockett) are buried here in an unmarked tomb. And despite enduring damage from a fire in the late 19th century, the San Fernando Cathedral maintains its antique appearance, beckoning you to tour its breathtaking interior.
While the interior is open during the day, recent travelers insist that you visit the church at night to take advantage of the free light show. Every Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 9, 9:30 and 10 p.m., entrancing images are projected onto the building facade, delighting past visitors to San Antonio. You'll want to double-check the Main Plaza website to make sure the show is occurring.
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Many agree that the best way to see San Antonio is by taking a stroll along the River Walk, or Paseo del Rio. San Antonio's most-visited tourist attraction meanders along the banks of the San Antonio River through the center of the city, connecting major attractions like Brackenridge Park and the San Antonio Museum of Art. Flanking the River Walk are dozens of restaurants, boutique hotels and sidewalk cafes shaded by colorful umbrellas, and street performers often fill the air with mariachi music. If you're in San Antonio in January, don't miss the River Walk Mud Festival and Parade, during which the river is drained and the muddy riverbed becomes the prime venue for celebration.
If you want to see the River Walk from a different vantage point, try a boat tour. These 35-minute tours, offered by Rio San Antonio Cruises (one of the best San Antonio tours), take visitors on a leisurely ride down the winding river. Tickets cost $8.25 for adults and $2 for children. Many say the boat rides are a must. You could also opt to catch a Rio Taxi, which costs a bit less and makes continuous stops along the river.
- #5View all Photos#5 in San Antonio3.6 miles to city centerChurches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND3.6 miles to city centerChurches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Aside from the Alamo, this is where all of San Antonio's historic missions – Mission San José, Mission Concepción, Mission Espada and Mission San Juan – are located, making this a must-see site for history buffs. Established along the San Antonio River in the 18th century by Franciscan friars, the missions stand as a tribute to Spain's success in spreading Catholicism through the Southwest and into Mexico. Each mission (located approximately 3 miles apart from one another) is beautiful in its own way, from the undisturbed frescos at Mission Concepción to the Romanesque arches of Mission San Juan.
Recent visitors suggest taking advantage of the free tours offered by the park rangers, noting how much more they learned during their visit. You can also hike or bike the Mission Trail (there are also roads for visitors with cars) past each structure to learn about how the friars lived side-by-side with Native Americans. Scattered around the missions are remnants of granaries, workshops and water mills.
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Although it may not be as large as other art museums, the San Antonio Museum of Art is a cultural gem that's not to be missed. It hosts top-notch collections of Native American, Spanish colonial and Latin American art. What's more, the museum is also home to the largest collection of Asian art in Texas, not to mention a respectable grouping of more contemporary pieces.
Visitors are consistently impressed by the rotating exhibits that feature work by renowned artists, such as Harry Bertoia. The museum also holds a variety of special events every year ranging from film series to children's programs. If you don't make it here on your own, you'll find that it's a featured stop on many of the best San Antonio tours.
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Although it was never actually a palace, this adobe building certainly looks the part with rooms heavily decorated in 18th-century furnishings and a spectacular cobblestone patio. This National Historic Landmark and former seat of the Spanish government (dating back to when San Antonio was the capital of Spain's Texas territory) caters to both history buffs and art lovers. You can explore the property on your own or tag along on a guided tour during which staff members can explain everything from the building's general history to the intricate carvings on the doorways.
Recent visitors discourage visiting this site with kids, however, as there's little here to keep tots entertained. They also warn the palace doesn't take too long to go through, so history enthusiasts may be a bit disappointed.
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The San Antonio Zoo is a great alternative for animal-loving families who don't want to spend a fortune at SeaWorld San Antonio. This 56-acre facility is home to one of the largest animal collections in the country (more than 700 species reside here). Exhibits include a butterfly habitat, four-legged friends from the African plains and colorful critters from the Amazon. Special events, such as animal feedings and various festivals, take place throughout the year.
Past travelers particularly enjoyed the expansive butterfly exhibit, while families appreciated the small train that winds through the zoo. And, according to some parents, one of the best things about this zoo is that visitors don't have to worry about running into a gift shop at every turn.
- #9View all Photos#9 in San Antonio11.7 miles to city centerAmusement Parks, Zoos and AquariumsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND11.7 miles to city centerAmusement Parks, Zoos and AquariumsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Beat the Texas heat and take the kids to SeaWorld San Antonio, a massive marine-themed amusement park. Get up close and personal with penguins, dolphins, sharks and sea lions in the walk-through habitats or cool down in the pools and water slides at the adjacent Aquatica water park. When you notice your fingers are beginning to prune, dry off on one of SeaWorld's many rides, such as the Steel Eel "hypercoaster" or the Great White inverted roller coaster. Alternatively, grab a bite to eat at one of the dozen concession stands located throughout the parks.
Past travelers praised the park's mix of rollercoasters and animal exhibits, saying that there certainly no shortage of ways to spend a day here. That said, many recent visitors were disappointed by the San Antonio outpost when comparing it to SeaWorld's other locations, claiming that the park's admission price was too expensive given the number of activities offered.
- #10View all Photos#10 in San Antonio3.2 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND3.2 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
For a relaxing and mostly air-conditioned afternoon, take your kids out for some educational amusement at the Witte Museum. This often-overlooked site delves deep into natural science, anthropology and Texas history with exhibits featuring everything from dinosaurs to mummies to tarantulas. You can also take an in-depth look back through Texas' intriguing past by exploring the historic log cabins located on the grounds. And don't forget to check out the rotating special exhibitions covering space and other fascinating topics.
This quirky site has grown in popularity over the years, and visiting families say its collections and interactive features entertain children of all ages. Past visiors particularly praised the interactive exhibits, as well as the on-site rock climbing tower, as excellent ways to burn off some extra energy.
- #11View all Photos#11 in San Antonio20.6 miles to city centerNatural WondersTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND20.6 miles to city centerNatural WondersTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
The Natural Bridge Caverns are home to the biggest commercial cave system in Texas. Above-ground adventures include zip lining, a rope course, a maze, gem mining, shopping and dining. But the primary reason to visit the caverns is to partake in one of the five underground tour options, which include tours lit by only lanterns and others that explore the caverns' hidden passages.
Recent visitors particularly enjoyed the area's cavern tours. That said, many travelers recommend skipping the rope course and zip line, saying that the offerings underwhelmed them.
- #12View all Photos#12 in San Antonio20.9 miles to city centerZoos and AquariumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND20.9 miles to city centerZoos and AquariumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Located about 25 miles northeast of downtown San Antonio, Natural Bridge Wildlife Park brings the feel (and some of the animals) of an African-style safari to Texas. The ranch covers more than 450 acres and is populated with animals like southern white rhinoceroses, lemurs and Damaraland zebras. Hungry visitors can stop at the Safari Camp Grill, while the Safari Trading Post provides a number of knickknacks for purchase.
Past travelers generally enjoyed their experiences driving through the park. A handful of visitors were disappointed with the petting zoo portion of the ranch, though they conceded that it was still relatively entertaining for kids.
- #13View all Photos#13 in San Antonio13.3 miles to city centerAmusement ParksTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND13.3 miles to city centerAmusement ParksTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Located about 17 miles northwest of downtown San Antonio, Six Flags Fiesta Texas is a year-round destination for families and adrenalin seeking travelers. The park's more than 50 attractions run the gamut from coasters to slides to pools to go-karts. With shopping options and an assortment of restaurants to boot, it's not hard to spend an entire day (or three) at Six Flags Fiesta Texas.
Past visitors particularly appreciated the water park at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, which provides relief on scorching summer days. But, a handful of reviewers note with disappointment that the water park was closed during their visit, so be sure to check beforehand.
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