San Antonio Guide
Want to know what the fastest growing city in the US looks like? Head to San Antonio, the 7th most populous city in the country. The rich colonial heritage of the city means there are plenty of sites to see and places to explore. Of course you’ll remember to stop by The Alamo while you’re there, but you also can’t miss the River Walk, missions and fabulous parks that make San Antonio so special.
5 Things You Must Do in San Antonio
Remember the Alamo
If ever there was a must do, visiting The Alamo while you’re in San Antonio would be it. While the site is best known for the 1836 Battle of the Alamo, it has 300 years of history beyond that event to explore. The church, barracks and gardens have existed under five different flags, and the onsite museum and remembrances chronicle the site’s existence.
Go Where Everything Happens
Have you ever wished that cars and pedestrians could just have their own separate streets? San Antonio has a solution to that: The River Walk. Everything in the city happens along the River Walk – there are hotels, walking tours, restaurants, shops and more. Take a stroll or hop on a boat for a narrated tour or as a shuttle. Historic Market Square is another great place to enjoy the best of San Antonio. Over 100 locally owned businesses including restaurants, bars, shops and live entertainment make this multicultural hub the place to be on the weekend.
Visit a Museum
Start at the San Antonio Museum of Art where you’ll find global art from ancient to contemporary all housed in a former brewery. The McNay Art Museum was the first modern art museum in Texas and hosts everything from Renaissance and Medieval art to theater art, art glass and sculpture. If you’re looking to see local creations, head to the San Antonio Art League and Museum which houses work by notable Texas artists. For more art and culture of the American West, check out the art and artifacts at the Briscoe Western Art Museum. The Blue Star Arts Complex is also a great place to wander through and explore the galleries, workshops, restaurants and more.
The DoSeum is an amazingly cool interactive children’s museum where the whole family will have so much fun playing that they’ll forget they’re actually learning. You’ll find more interactive exhibits at The Witte Museum, a renowned natural history museum almost a century old that was once part of the San Antonio Museum of Art. Spend a whole day at The Texas Ranger Museum and The Buckthorn Saloon and Museum, where you can see priceless artifacts from Ranger history, check out the exotic animal selection, and have a drink at the oldest saloon in the state.
The San Antonio Fire Museum is a hidden gem near The Alamo with antique fire trucks and equipment, as well as a 1953 fire truck that kids can explore. For vintage airplanes, try the Texas Air Museum at Stinson Field, the second oldest airport in the US. Visit the Fort Sam Houston Museum to learn how a small post became one of the nation’s largest military installations. Also at the Fort is the U.S. Army Medical Department Museum, where you can trace the history of Army medics through the years.
To get a sense of San Antonio’s influences, check out some of the exhibits at the Mexican Cultural Institute downtown. The San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum aims to chronicle San Antonio’s Black history and the legacy that reaches back to the early days of the Spanish colonists and Texas Republic. And the Institute of Texas Cultures at The University of Texas at San Antonio shares the culture of everyone who calls Texas home.
Go On a Mission to the Past
Start your journey through the historic landmarks of San Antonio at the Missions, the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas. The four mission sites tell stories from over 300 years, and the churches are still open for regular services. To learn more about Texas’s earliest history under Spanish rule, check out the remnants of Presidio San Antonio de Béjar, also known as the Spanish Governor’s Palace. The Casa Navarro State Historic Park is the former home of José Antonio Navarro, an important political figure who served on the committee that wrote the first two Texas constitutions and was one of two native Texans who signed the Declaration of Independence. The other was Samuel Maverick, whose son William Maverick commissioned a home and museum that hosts several educational events per year and is now called the Maverick Carter House. What was once a destination for relaxation at bathhouses and spas is now mostly ruins, but you can still stroll through what remains of the Hot Wells of Bexar County. With so much history, San Antonio is naturally haunted so a ghost tour that involves pirates, bloody battles, vice and sin is a great fit for the spookiest city in Texas. Not into scares? Tour the San Antonio Shoemakers Factory and General Store, which has been making some of the most comfortable kicks around since the 1970s.
Not every city boasts a professional sports team, so if you’re in San Antonio during basketball season, catching a Spurs game at AT&T Center should be high on your list of things to do. During the rest of the year, you should take advantage of the many golf courses in the region, including TPC San Antonio where the Valero Texas Open is played the week before the Master’s. From March through November you can catch a quintessentially Texas experience at Tejas Rodeo Company just north of the city. Enjoy the rodeo along with live music, a steakhouse and a saloon.
5 Things You Might Not Have Considered in San Antonio
Hit Up Hill Country
San Antonio lies on the southern edge of Texas Hill Country, an area filled with a culture all its own. It’s only a 90 minute drive from the city to the heart of Hill Country, where you’ll find picturesque small towns and storybook farms as well as exceptional wineries and the best barbecue in the world. Many of the small towns have monthly craft and food markets and amazing live music venues. Take a detour and enjoy some of the greatest things Texas has to offer.
Have you ever explored an underground cave? San Antonio is a great place to give it a go! Natural Bridge Caverns offers tours of the amazing natural caverns as well as above ground fun like a ropes course, a gem and fossil mining experience, and a 5,000 square foot outdoor maze. The Robber Baron Cave is the longest in the county and the only one that has been open to the public. Nowadays, the surface and sink hole are open to the public but portions of the cave are only visitable on open house days, which happen about once every 18 months.
See a Show
San Antonio has an abundance of historic theaters, perfect for catching a touring Broadway performance or legendary music act. John T. Floore’s Country Store is the quintessential Texas Honky Tonk and often called the musical “birthplace” of Willie Nelson. Don’t miss their famous tamales and homemade bread when you stop in for a concert. The Aztec Theater opened in 1926, and its dramatic Meso-American architectural style makes the landmark a gorgeous place to see a concert or comedy show. To see Ballet San Antonio, the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio and much more, head to the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. The historic Majestic and Empire Theaters are where you’ll find nationally touring Broadway performances, comedy acts, children’s theater and more. Lastly, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center promotes and hosts works by Chicano visual artists, filmmakers, playwrights, actors, choreographers and musicians.
Enjoy a Meal with a View
If you’re looking for a meal you won’t forget, try one of the three restaurants inside the Tower of the Americas, a 750-foot-tall tower in downtown San Antonio that is home to rides, restaurants and, of course, amazing city views. For a fine dining experience, make a reservation at Chart House where the award winning cuisine is matched only by the breathtaking vistas. For great eats on the ground, try one of the student run restaurants at the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus. Plus, San Antonio has a thriving craft beer and distilling scene. Look out for local brews and spirits on menus or take a tour at Boerne Brewery, Freetail Brewing Co., Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling or Maverick Whiskey. Many local breweries also have tap rooms where you can sample their brews and eat some great food.
There are so many great outdoor activities in San Antonio, from gardens to parks to places to make new animal friends. Start at the San Antonio Botanical Garden where exotic plants live nearby native flora and fauna and gentle trails transport you all over the world within the 38-acre urban oasis. Head on to Brackenridge Park, home to museums, sports fields and a golf course. It’s also where you’ll find the beloved Japanese Tea Garden and the engaging San Antonio Zoo, which offers exciting animal encounters with some of the 750 species that call the zoo home. For an untamed experience, drive through Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch where ostrich, zebras, buffalo and more get up close and personal with your vehicle as you go on a Texas style safari. If you like bats, you have to visit Bracken Cave where the largest single-species bat colony in the world goes to roost. Looking to make some aquatic friends (and a splash!)? Visit SeaWorld and Aquatica. The San Antonio location is the largest marine life park in the nation.
For a family friendly park try Hemisfair, where you’ll find playgrounds, splash pads, restaurants and events. The San Pedro Creek Culture Park is the perfect place for a leisurely walk and to learn about the history of the region and view public art installations. Travis Park is one of the oldest municipal parks in the country and serves as an important green space in the city. Confluence Park combines science, nature and art in a serene and photogenic setting. Phil Hardberger Park is a 330-acre sustainable natural urban park with trails, undisturbed wildlife and a skywalk that lets visitors stroll through the treetops. Lastly, if you’re looking for longer hiking and biking trails, visit Government Canyon State Natural Area. Don’t forget to check out the 110-million-year-old dinosaur tracks!