San Antonio can be found at the southwestern corner of what is known as the Texas Triangle, and pure Texas it is! With a population of approximately 1,409,200 as of 2011, it remains one of the fastest growing cities in the United States.
San Antonio has many popular attractions, welcoming over 26 million tourists every year who come to enjoy its Spanish colonial Missions which include the Alamo, an 18th-century Spanish Mission now preserved as a museum that marks the 1836 battle for Texan independence from Mexico, as well as the annual San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, to name but a few.
Read further to learn more about the best things to do in San Antonio!
1. River Walk
A really pleasant (and healthy!) way to get to know this lovely city is by taking a walk along the San Antonio River, now a network of walkways that wind below bridges with two parallel sidewalks filled with busy shops, bars and restaurants connecting to the city’s major tourist venues.
The San Antonio River Walk (known also as Paseo del Río) came about from a devastating flood that took 50 lives, with development of the river’s flood control put in place as the eventual outcome.
The area is now a great tourist attraction, in particular during the yearly Fiesta San Antonio; a springtime festival that features colorfully decorated floats slowly drifting along the river.
2. Mission San Jose
This beautiful, historic Mission was founded in 1720, and named at the time for Saint Joseph and the Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo, the governor of the Province of Coahuila and Texas.
Sadly, the Mission experienced a long period of gradual decline after the 1833 Mexican secularization act.
Many of the exquisite original structures have since been reconstructed and restored over the years, which you can learn all about in a short documentary before starting your walk through its peaceful grounds.
There is free access to the Mission together with a lovely gift shop.
3. Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch
For a really fun day out why not take the family on safari! In Texas? Actually, yes!
Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is a drive thru safari, home to 500 animals (no predators or elephants) of 40 different species, living within 400 acres of tree lined gently sloping hills.
As you drive through the private property you can see the animals roam freely within its 3 generously sized pastures.
Your kids will delight at the animals they see, from zebra and wildebeest to big birds like emu and ostrich and so many more, most of which will come right up to the car!
Best of all, you can drive through as many times as you want! You will get one free bag of food with your entrance fee.
4. The Alamo
The Alamo Roman Catholic Mission, now a museum, was founded in the 18th century and educates on the famous Battle of the Alamo in 1836.
A visit here would be a marvelous opportunity for the family to learn all about the Mission’s fascinating history through various eras, from the education of Native Americans to its role as a military fortress.
The tour guides are informative and passionate about the Mission’s history, so you are guaranteed to learn a lot of interesting facts.
Make sure you don’t miss the gift shop which has a diorama of the battle as well as some fun souvenirs like fake coonskin hats!
5. San Antonio Botanical Garden
The 38 acre botanical gardens are a super venue for a family visit the whole year round.
With each season, the gardens bring a wonderful mixture of color from the plant world, from the Rose Garden to the exotic tropic selections, or the natural grasses of the desert-like country area.
And if you’re thinking of redesigning your own garden, you can find lots of information on backyard design; take a walk along the WaterSaver Garden to see some examples and get inspiration.
Along the way you will also be able to see different birds feeding at the bird blind. Finish your visit with a yummy sandwich from the garden’s café!
7. Natural Bridge Caverns
The Natural Bridge Caverns are the largest known natural caves in the whole of the United States and well worth a family visit!
The venue’s name was the result of the awesome looking 60 ft natural limestone slab bridge that spans the entrance of the cavern’s amphitheater.
As you walk along the family friendly paved and lighted walkways you will discover the astonishing formations found in the underground chambers.
In the little mining town replica the kids can enjoy panning for gold and other gems and also have fun in the maze.
8. Majestic Theatre
For all you theatre lovers, attending a show at the iconic open air Majestic Theatre will make your day (or evening!).
The theatre is San Antonio’s oldest, and is also the city’s largest. The 2,311 seat theatre was designed in 1929 by architect John Eberson, and was home to San Antonio’s Symphony from 1989 to 2014. In 1993 it was designated a National Historic Landmark.
The theatre’s other claim to fame was that it was also the first theatre in the state to be totally air-conditioned! Fun for a casual day show or a chance to dress up for the evening!
9. San Antonio Museum of Art
The San Antonio Museum of Art opened to the public in 1981 and is popular with both locals and visitors.
The spacious museum is home to an amazing collection of over 30,000 objects that represent 5,000 years of culture from all over the world, including principal works from Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities together with Latin American, Pre-Columbian, Asian and Contemporary art, all exhibited with very informative descriptions. There is also a super gift shop and excellent café to visit!
10. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
There is more than one Mission to be seen in San Antonio and the best way to visit them is by taking a trip to the Missions National Historical Park.
The Missions were established in the early 1700s, and looked on as shelter by the South Texan population after having lived in constant fear of attack from Apache raids.
Entering a Mission meant that they had to renounce their former lives and accept their new religion. In fact, many parishioners today are direct descendants of the Mission Indians who had built the churches.
There are 4 superbly preserved Missions to visit, all of them free of charge and all offering a peaceful and contemplative environment.
11. Morgan’s Wonderland
Morgan’s Wonderland is a wonderland of amusement for everyone indeed, child and adult, regardless of whether or not they have special physical or cognitive needs.
Once a limestone quarry, this 25 acre park was renovated and rebuilt and now offers over 25 attractions.
The venue is the very first theme park of its kind, developed by Gordon Hartman and inspired by his daughter Morgan who has a severe cognitive delay.
The comfortable, safe park and its very kind staff has welcomed over half a million visitors from all over the world and is now in its fifth season.
Entrance for those with special needs is free; and fees for accompanying family members, friends, caregivers and the general public are nominal.
12. Guenther House
For a special culinary treat with a difference, drop by Guenther House, the award winning restaurant of flour miller’s pioneer Carl Hilmar Guenther.
The restaurant is open daily for breakfast and lunch and, before or after your repast, you can tour the gracefully restored 1860 historic home.
This might be a sensible idea after all that yummy food which would probably include quiche, miniature blueberry muffins and other delicacies, cheerfully served by the restaurant’s friendly and efficient staff!
13. The Shops at La Cantera
This is a gorgeous up scale shopping venue combined with great ‘hill country’ charm and a great opportunity for the family who want to spend a little – or a lot! – of time shopping in a pretty location.
The 1,300,000 sq ft center offers shops and stores for every age and is easy to get around, with maps, places to relax and refresh from the sun in the shaded outdoor seating areas, (or heated areas in the winter months), as well as clean facilities and a play area for your kids too.
There is also the choice of standard mall store shopping as well.
14. The DoSeum – San Antonio’s Museum for Kids
This three storey museum is a must for families and their inquisitive kids! Promoting learning & discovery through creative programs and interactive exhibits, the DoSeum is a fantastic place for kids to create, build, make, discover and invent.
The museum is looked on as one of America’s best state of the art learning facilities and the kids will not want to miss a visit, while parents will be able to sit in comfort too.
From exhibits such as a musical staircase, an interactive robot and a spy academy filled with math challenges, as well as a tree house, three large water play areas and so much more, this is a perfect choice for the kids to get busy, thoughtful (and perhaps a little wet!).
15. The History Shop
Step back in time when you step inside this shop! Owned and managed by history buff Alfred, the store has a truly fascinating collection of original antique maps, books, militaria and even weapons!
The History Shop specializes in Texas history too, covering the Texas Revolution, Republic Era, the Civil War and more besides.
They also offer a restoration and preservation service where books, photos, maps and other documents are lovingly and painstakingly restored.
The family will just love seeing the shop’s audio and light show too, detailing the Alamo before the famous battle of 1836 had taken place.
16. San Antonio Fire Museum
A visit here should definitely be on the cards for fire buffs and families with young ones!
The museum, founded in 2013, tells the story of how the San Antonio Fire Department started life in 1854 with just a 20 man brigade of volunteers working with hand and horse-pulled carts, eventually transforming itself over time into the 1,660 manpowered departments it is today.
The museum is in the old Fire Station No. 1 garage and stuffed to the gills with old photographs, antique equipment and fire trucks from the early days.
Admission is free but donations are welcome, and any item you buy at the well stocked gift shop goes toward the museum’s funding.
17. San Antonio Market Square
For a taste of Mexico, drop into San Antonio’s Market Square where you and the family can stroll through the square’s three block outdoor plaza which is lined with colorful shops and lively restaurants.
In fact, Market Square is the biggest Mexican market in North America and where you can have great fun sourcing everything in Mexican artistry from specialty shops selling leather belts and hand embroidered dresses, to crafts, souvenirs and delicious snacks.
The atmosphere is always lively and there are often wonderful Hispanic festivals happening where you can partake in some authentic local food while listening to the sounds of mariachi music!
18. Six Flags Fiesta Texas
Get ready for family fun here at Six Flags Fiesta! This fantastic theme park, built on rock quarry and developed as a major entertainment module, is 200 acres of pure enjoyment.
You will be spoilt for choice deciding what and where to head first; from pulse quickening roller coasters like the 105 ft high Goliath to gentler rides for toddlers, and from cooling off at White Water Bay, to having fun on one of the many family rides like The Buckarooz.
There really is a great attraction for everyone and also a great choice of restaurants serving scrummy food!
19. The Buckhorn Saloon and Texas Ranger Museum
Five interesting venues in one, what a grand idea! The Buckhorn Saloon is home to a friendly, lively café, well stocked gift shop, two museums and even a shooting gallery.
Trust the Texans to get it right! There is plenty to keep the whole family interested; drop into the museums to learn all about Buffalo Bill, The Texas Rangers, Teddy Roosevelt and Bonnie and Clyde, as well seeing all sorts of interesting artifacts.
Added to this are 520 species of wildlife featured from all over the world, some of which have been collected over 100 years including a record 1,056 pound black marlin and a 10,000 year old prehistoric Irish elk!
Kids can also have fun on the saloon’s virtual skeet shooting video game.
20. San Antonio Ghost Tour
This ghost tour covers San Antonio’s most haunted and historical sites, and is great fun!
It is more of a historical and educational experience, so it can be enjoyed by every age.
As you stroll through the streets of Old San Antonio, the expert guides who are dressed in historical costume and carrying lanterns, will keep you thoroughly interested when they recount fascinating stories of centuries past, bringing the city’s history to life.
Wear some comfortable shoes as the tour covers one and a half miles!
21. Kiddie Park
This is a wonderful venue for families with toddlers! Kiddie Park was created in 1925 and renovated in 2009, making it the oldest children’s amusement park in the United States.
This old style, traditional park has so much to offer your little ones, from the park’s traditional Ferris wheel to the wonderful hand carved Herschell Spillman carousel together with many other classic children’s rides like the Helicopter and Flying Saucers (which parents are able to ride, too).
There is also face painting, donkey rides and lots more. Perfect for kiddies aged 1-12!
22. Monster Golf
Monster Mini Golf is golf with a difference – the golf balls glow in the dark!
Suitable for all ages, the family will enjoy playing mini golf with awesome monster décor as company!
The courses are interesting enough for the adults to navigate but not too hard for the kids to join in as well.
All the locations are unique with animated props awaiting you at every turn.
There is also a generous amount of arcade games, and two air hockey tables as well, so plenty to keep everyone happy! A fun day to be had for all the family.
23. San Antonio Zoo
This intimate, clean and well kept zoo is open 365 days a year, so there’s always an opportunity to drop by!
The 35 acre zoo has an impressive collection of 3,500 animals, representing 750 species, and is small enough to be able to see everything in about 2 hours but also large enough to keep everyone interested with interactive exhibits such as Africa Live!
Real Wild Fun Farm, the Parrots Nest where you can feed the birds nectar from a cup you hold in your hand. There is also a fun train which travels around the zoo.
Recently celebrating its 100 years in operation, it now has a new venue, the Zootenial Plaza, offering a great restaurant and one of a kind carousel.
24. Main Plaza Cathedral Light Show
Try not to miss this incredible show when you’re visiting San Antonio!
On Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays with show times 9, 9:30 and 10 pm, the San Fernando Cathedral projects a stunning 24 minute light show created by French artist Xavier De Richemont.
As light projects onto the cathedral, it tells the story of San Antonio and the surrounding area from its beginning.
This stunning light show really is a one of a kind experience. Seats are limited so try and get there early.
25. Lollypop Carriage Co
And here is another late evening treat for the family (or for you and that special someone!).
Between 6pm – 11pm, Lollypop Carriage offer carriage rides through downtown San Antonio making sightseeing even more fun.
The carriages resemble “Cinderella” type coaches making the females of the party feel like princesses themselves!
The drivers are very experienced and always happy to give you a thorough tour of the city.