San Antonio Travel Guide

USA  #2 in Best Places to Visit in Texas
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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 Historic 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.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated October 2, 2017

  • #1
    Brackenridge Park
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    #1 in San Antonio
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME 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 Gardens and San Antonio Botanical Gardens beckon to botanists. Dress casual so you can take advantage of Brackenridge's jogging trails, golf course and athletic fields, or let your kids take a spin on the carousel and the miniature train. 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.

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  • #2
    The Alamo
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    #2 in San Antonio
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME 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 General 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. Or take a twirl around the gift shop where you can find a variety of souvenirs to help you "Remember the Alamo." Recent visitors say the site can get rather busy, so try to visit early in the morning or later in the evening. Most visitors agree that even when it's packed with tourists, the Alamo is a must-see in San Antonio. "[T]he feeling of bravery and history that took place here makes it all worthwhile," said one TripAdvisor user.

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  • #3
    River Walk
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    #3 in San Antonio
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    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.

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  • #4
    San Fernando Cathedral
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    #4 in San Antonio
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME 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 the 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.

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  • #5
    San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
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    #5 in San Antonio
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME 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 individual 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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  • #6
    San Antonio Museum of Art
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    #6 in San Antonio
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    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, but it's 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 Matisse. The museum also holds a variety of special events every year ranging from film series to children's programs.

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  • #7
    Spanish Governor's Palace
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    #7 in San Antonio
    Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    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.

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  • #8
    San Antonio Zoo and Aquarium
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    #8 in San Antonio
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The San Antonio Zoo and Aquarium is a great alternative for animal-loving families who don't want to spend a fortune at SeaWorld. This 35-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. Take your younger kids by the Children's Zoo, which features rides and a hands-on discovery center. Special events, such as safaris and training demonstrations, take place throughout the year. And, according to some, one of the best things about this zoo is that parents won't have to worry about running into a gift shop at every turn.

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  • #9
    SeaWorld San Antonio
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    #9 in San Antonio
    Amusement Parks, Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Amusement Parks, Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME 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 park's pools and water slides. And let's not forget Shamu, everyone's favorite killer whale who never fails to put on a great show. When you notice your fingers are beginning to prune, dry off on one of SeaWorld's many non-aquatic rides (such as the Steel Eel "hypercoaster" or The Great White inverted roller coaster) or grab a bite to eat at one of the dozen concession stands located throughout the park.

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  • #10
    Witte Museum
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    #10 in San Antonio
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    If Six Flags and SeaWorld seem a little too daunting, 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 interactive exhibits about the San Antonio River, exhibits which include a hands-on water-works display and the popular H-E-B Science Treehouse.

    ...Read More »

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