Things to Do in San Antonio
The River Walk winds through the heart of downtown San Antonio, past several parks, historic missions, and other major attractions. Lined with shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants, this pedestrian- and bike-friendly waterway—home to the largest urban ecosystem restoration in the United States—is popular with tourists and locals alike, and is a must-see for any San Antonio visitor.
The Alamo is one of the most famous sites in United States history, forever linked to the 13-day Battle of the Alamo in 1836, which ended with the deaths of defenders James Bowie, William Travis, and Davy Crockett. Today, the 18th-century Mission San Antonio de Valero complex—now known as the Alamo—welcomes more than 2.5 million visitors per year to its chapel, barracks, gardens, and small museum.
With more than 3,500 animals and upwards of 750 species, the San Antonio Zoo is home to many of the world’s creatures. Walk the zoo's winding paths to encounter giraffes, lions, elephants, tigers, pelicans, hippos, crocodiles, and other creatures in habitats designed to be engaging for both you and the animals.
Located in the center of Hemisfair Park, this 750-foot (229-meter) Tower of the Americas offers one of the best aerial views of San Antonio. The Flags Over Texas Observation Deck affords a bird’s-eye view of iconic sites, while the rotating Chart House Restaurant offers upscale dining with panoramic views of the city.
The oldest continuously operating religious community in Texas, San Fernando De Bexar Cathedral was constructed between 1738 and 1749 and served as General Santa Anna’s headquarters for a time. Don’t miss the Alamo Coffin, located near the church entrance, which is believed to hold the remains of the men who lost their lives at the Alamo.
San Antonio’s historic roots are preserved at La Villita Historic Arts Village, the city's first neighborhood. This protected enclave has a history dating back nearly 300 years, with a collection of heritage buildings that today house boutiques, restaurants, and art galleries which collectively play host to more than 200 annual events.
Just off the city’s River Walk, the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) is a must for anyone with an appreciation for art. It houses the largest collection of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Asian art in the southern US, with more than 30,000 pieces spanning 5,000 years in its collection.
The Spanish Governor’s Palace in San Antonio, which served as housing for a series of Spanish aristocrats, is the only remaining 18th-century Spanish colonial townhouse in Texas. Along with the Alamo and other historic missions, the Governor’s Palace invites visitors to witness an important chapter of Texas history for themselves.
Take a tour of San Antonio’s King William Historic District for a peek into the city’s first suburb, settled by wealthy German merchants in the late 1800s. Stroll throughout the 25 blocks of historical mansions—many of which have been converted to shops, cafés, and museums—to admire the district’s Greek Revival, Victorian, and Italianate architecture.
This restaurant, museum and store located in downtown San Antonio is stationed at the center of Bexar County and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Travelers can saddle up to the stunning covered outdoor terrace, or relax inside at one of the comfortable tables and enjoy traditional southern and Tex-Mex fare in a unique environment. Visitors should plan to spend some time exploring this historic home and its unique gift shop. And the world-famous baked goods should not be missed!
More Things to Do in San Antonio
The 15-acre (6-hectare) Hemisfair Park got its start in 1968 as the site of America’s first official Worlds Fair. Today, the green space attracts visitors and locals alike to its playgrounds, biking and jogging trails, native flower gardens, picnic tables, and one of San Antonio’s most prominent landmarks, the Tower of the Americas.
Tucked away in a Texas city known for its vibrant Mexican-American culture, San Antonio’s Japanese Tea Garden offers a refreshing, peaceful space that gives visitors a glimpse into another cultural treasure. The gardens, large pagoda, koi pond, and 60-foot (18-meter) waterfall make for impressive photo backdrops for locals and visitors alike.
Stuffed critters, a shooting gallery and museums of Americana and the Texas Rangers make having a drink at the Buckhorn Saloon a memorable experience.
From cattle to fish, birds and game, the Buckhorn Museum is a taxidermist’s dream, stuffed with more than 520 species from around the globe. Look out for the huge black marlin, ’78 Point Buck’ and prehistoric Irish elk complete with antlers.
The collection housed in the adjoining Ranger Museum includes weapons, badges, photos, a Bonnie & Clyde exhibit and ‘Ranger Town’, re-creating early-20th-century San Antonio.
Drop in for lunch at the cafe, or choose a locally brewed ale at 130-year-old saloon bar.
Mission Concepción, built in Spanish colonial style and dedicated in 1775, stands as the oldest unrestored stone church in the nation. Originally built to help convert local indigenous communities to Christianity, the mission is one of several that comprise the UNESCO World Heritage-listed San Antonio Missions.
Built in 1782 out of Texas limestone and stucco, Mission San Jose is the largest mission in San Antonio, earning it the nickname Queen of the Missions. While portions of the church and its gristmill and granary have collapsed over the years, much of the structure has been fully restored to its original design.
Since 1993 the Alamodome in downtown San Antonio has been hosting sporting events like football and baseball games, conventions and concerts for crowds from around Texas and across the globe. With more than 65,000 seats the super-sized stadium has been home to the famed Alamo Bowl, Corps Classic and the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. It is the top destination for sports in San Antonio and is the perfect place to check out a soccer game or indoor football match.
Travelers can tailgate in the vast parking lot outside the Alamodome and tuck into classic Texas fare once inside.
Visitors who want to make the most of their trip to the Alamodome can check out the Institute of Texan Cultures, the HemisFair Urban Park or the popular River Walk, which are all nearby the center.
San Antonio’s Historic Market Square is filled with the wonderful sights, sounds, smells, and tastes you might typically associate with life south of the border. Stroll the indoor/outdoor malls filled with more than 100 vendors selling handcrafted pottery, leather goods, clothing, toys, and jewelry in the largest Mexican marketplace outside of Mexico.
Like everything in Texas, the Natural Bridge Caverns are big. In fact, they are the largest known caverns in the state. Discovered near San Antonio in 1960, the Natural Bridge Caverns’ name is taken from the 60-foot (18-meter) natural limestone slab bridge that spans the entrance. During excavations, artifacts dating back to 5000 BC were unearthed. While the caverns are still being explored today, visitors can enjoy adventures ranging from underground cave tours to an enormous outdoor maze.
J. Riely Gordon designed this iconic historical sandstone courthouse that’s stood in downtown San Antonio since 1896. The Romanesque Revival-style building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1977.
Despite numerous renovations and reconstructions, travelers say the Bexar County Courthouse has managed to maintain its original charm. The courthouse remains a fully functional operation, with a network of tunnels connecting offices below the surface. But visitors say its external beauty is worthy of photographing—especially during the evening, when nearby streetlights cast a holy glow. Visitors may also enjoy photographing the courthouse during winter months when holiday displays offer a festive touch.
The Hard Rock Café San Antonio has been a staple of the city's River Walk since its opening in 1995. The café provides three floors of patios from which you can enjoy signature food and drinks, listen to rock n’ roll classics, and look out over the tourist boats on the San Antonio River from Texas’ No. 1 tourist destination.
Like other Hard Rock Cafes around the world, the Hard Rock Café San Antonio features music memorabilia on the walls. Be sure to tour the restaurant and see various guitars, platinum records, and more. The Hard Rock Café San Antonio features Ozzy Osbourne’s black velvet jacket, Eddie Van Halen’s Charvel guitar, and a brick wall spray painted by Aerosmith during the 1994 groundbreaking ceremony.
The Hard Rock Café San Antonio offers space for large events of up to 400 guests as well, so is a perfect spot for a wedding reception or conference. You can reserve a patio, space inside the café, or even their private dinner barge.
Brackenridge Park is a park and recreation area located near the San Antonio River in San Antonio, TX. There are many activities visitors can enjoy, such as fishing, boating, hiking, running, bird watching, golf on the oldest municipal golf course in Texas, and other sports. Some people come for picnics in the park or gatherings with friends and family. You can also take a train ride on a 3.5-mile miniature railway. Adjacent to the park, you'll find the San Antonio Zoo which has the third largest collection of animals in North America. Another popular attraction is the Japanese Tea Garden, a garden with flowers on display all year round, stone bridges, shaded walkways, a 60-foot waterfall, and a few ponds.
The Brackenridge Park Conservancy was created to preserve the park's natural, historic, educational and recreational resources. The Mabel Jingu Enkoji Fund supports the Japanese Tea Garden and provides cultural programming. Both are partnered with the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department in their efforts to conserve and improve the park.
Welcome to history on the big screen—that is, a six-story IMAX screen, with an all-encompassing sound system and seats that recline while you settle in for your film. This theater’s long-running feature, “Alamo: The Price of Freedom,” tells the story of the Alamo for San Antonio visitors before or after they visit the real thing.
Outdoor enthusiasts, hikers, walkers and bikers love the popular San Antonio Mission Trail. With 15.2 miles of well-kept paths it’s easily accessible year round. And while this scenic loop attracts those who prefer to have their fun in the sun, history-lovers find their way to the trail, too, since it connects San Antonio’s missions in an easy-to-follow route.
Travelers can explore the winding river, bike over picturesque paths, and make stops to Mission Concepcin, Mission San Jose, Mission Espada and Mission Capistrano along the way. These historic complexes once served as centers of the Catholic faith and today, some still have active congregations. Visitors will learn about the history of both San Antonio and the Catholic Church while wandering these structures.
Easy-to-follow trail maps and guides make navigating the San Antonio Mission Trail a breeze, but it’s also possible to check out the missions as part of a trolley tour or San Antonio sightseeing tour for visitors who want the chance to see it all.
A Smithsonian affiliate museum in San Antonio, the Institute of Texan Cultures celebrates the indigenous people and immigrants from many different cultures who have helped shape Texas through the years. Exhibits on race, military history, and folklore help visitors understand the region’s rich cultural heritage.
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