With legendary historic sites, first-class museums, and stunning natural features, San Antonio is a city with something for everyone!
The key is finding them, so we’re going to point you in the right direction for all of the best attractions, from the obvious (has anyone heard of The Alamo?) to the unique hidden gems.
Here are the 19 best things to do in San Antonio!
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How to get around San Antonio
Like most of Texas, the best way to get around San Antonio is to explore on your own by car!
If you’re visiting and need to rent a car, we highly recommend Discover Cars where they find you the best car rental deals from all of the competitors (has saved us so much money!).
Where to stay in San Antonio
From renovated VRBOS to boutique hotels, here are the best places to stay in San Antonio on every budget!
- ($) La Quinta by Wyndham San Antonio – if you’re looking for a budget and clean hotel in San Antonio that won’t break the beak, the La Quinta by Wyndham is for you. Included in the price is a hot breakfast buffet, as well as televisions in each room and a bright and clear swimming pool. Save your money for other activities in San Antonio by booking here. Click here to check prices and read reviews.
- ($$) Riverwalk Plaza Hotel – the San Antonio Riverwalk is one of the best areas to stay in, and this hotel allows you to experience it all within walking distance. Enjoy the charm of this older hotel, and if you’re really into views, make sure to book a room with a view of the river to really be part of the action. Click here to check prices and read reviews.
- ($$$) Mokara Hotel and Spa – want a life of luxury while in San Antonio. You’ll be super comfy at this marble-adorned and glistening hotel and spa right on the Riverwalk. Swim in the heated rooftop swimming pool (because, duh, why not?) and treat yourself to a spa treatment by expert spa staff. This is a great place for anniversary or birthday stays in San Antonio! Click here to check prices and read reviews.
- Vacation homes
1. The Alamo
As the site of the most famous battle in Texan history, the Mission San Antonio de Valero (The Alamo) is the most widely known of San Antonio’s missions and one of the top things to do in San Antonio.
Admission is free and includes a film overview of the Alamo’s 300-year history and access to the mission’s museum, but it is worth the small fee for the 45-minute audio tour if you’d like greater historical context.
Have an Alamo history buff in the group?
Opt for the one-hour guided tour for the details offered by experienced guides.
2. San Antonio Missions National Historic Park
Although the Alamo is certainly among the best-known San Antonio attractions, don’t overlook the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, containing the other four 18th-century Spanish mission sites: from North to South, Mission Concepción, Mission San José, Mission San Juan, and Mission Espada, each with unique architecture and features.
The missions are about 2.5 miles apart and connected by The Mission Trails system of pedestrian and vehicle routes running along the San Antonio River from the Alamo to Medina Lake- although you can drive between missions (each has free parking), taking a leisurely stroll or renting an electric bike is more scenic
If time is limited, hit Mission San Juan (visitor center with an excellent 25-minute film offering a history of the missions and their impact in San Antonio), a small museum and gift shop, and guided ranger tours) and Mission Concepcion (90% original).
Keep in mind that these are still operating Catholic Churches, so you may want to avoid visiting on Sundays
Explore San Antonio’s first suburb and historic district, consisting of 25 blocks of historic homes south of downtown and east of the San Antonio River.
The 19th-century homes along King William Street (named for King Wilhelm I of Prussia by the wealthy German merchants who built them) are notable for their architectural styles.
Although some of the houses feature markers with historical information, use the GPSMyCity app to create a self-guided hour-long walking tour of the district for further background.
Visit the restored Guenther House, whose original kitchen, dining room and outdoor arbor area have been transformed into a casual restaurant serving breakfast and lunch, and the library is now a small museum.
Discover one of the most fun things to do in San Antonio at the largest underground attraction in Texas at the Natural Bridge Caverns, where water and a whole lot of time have carved out impressive caves (the largest of which is the size of a football field) and created amazing formations.
Several tours are available, from the overview Discovery Tour to the “off trail wide cave experience” of the Adventure Tour.
Be aware that the experience involves wet, slippery ground, stairs heading down into the cavern (deepest section is 180 feet deep) and a steep incline at the end (the deepest section is around 180 feet), so choose appropriate footwear.
Don’t miss the surface attractions which include a 60-foot high aerial ropes course, gem and fossil mining, and a 5000-square-foot maze.
5. River Walk
Consistently ranked at the top of popular things to do in San Antonio (and the # 1 attraction in Texas!), the 15-mile urban waterway is a must-see!
Nestled just below street level and divided into three sections (the Museum Reach, the Mission Reach and downtown), the River Walk offers something for everyone.
The traditional downtown section of the River Walk connects the Museum and Mission reaches and is lined by a selection of bars, cafes, restaurants and shops (the shopaholics will want to hit RiverCenter, the 3-story indoor mall!)
Take an afternoon walk under the shade of massive Cypress trees or a romantic evening stroll when the water is beautifully illuminated by lights.
Hop aboard a river boat for a 35-minute narrated tour covering the city’s historical and cultural history as you sail about a mile and a half of the river (a few restaurants even offer dining river cruises!).
This blocks-long open market is one of the largest Mexican markets north of the border.
Sitting on a plaza that was gifted to the original settlers by the Spanish King in 1730, the Market originally sold fresh produce, meat and honey.
Stroll through this pedestrian marketplace to admire its stone fountains and ornamental street lights.
Browse the wares of over 100 local artists and vendors offering Mexican art, jewelry, pottery, clothing, and tasty food and treats.
Watch leather goods, candles, portraits and more being created on site.
Grab a street taco and sip a margarita while enjoying a live band!
For one of the more unique San Antonio activities, spend a day at the world’s first theme park designed with individuals with special needs in mind.
Morgan’s Wonderland was created by the father of a special needs child who was determined to bring together people of all ages and abilities for fun and greater understanding.
The 25-acre park’s attractions, including the Ferris wheel, racing cars, water park and play areas are all accessible, earning praise from those who call it an “oasis of inclusion.”
The part also earns rave reviews from parents of young children who love the ease with which they can navigate strollers.
Be sure to take a train ride around the park’s 8-acre lake on the Wonderland Express to take it all in!
If you’re hoping to find things to do in San Antonio that are a bit off the beaten path from the River Walk, head over to the Historic Pearl District.
The site of a brewery from the 1880s until 1999, this 22-acre neighborhood is now home to shops, restaurants, a campus of the Culinary Institute of America, and a weekend Farmer’s Market, all gathered around a central outdoor gathering place.
Stroll through the outdoor spaces which include a park with fountains and a splash pad.
Step inside the Hotel Emma to marvel at the transformation of this former brewhouse into a flagship riverfront hotel.
Spend an evening in the basement of the Bottling Department at historic Pearl Brewery enjoying the live music at Jazz TX.
Settle in for lunch on the patio overlooking the river at La Gloria or, for a greater selection of food types, pop into the Food Hall
Any list of unique stuff to do in San Antonio would certainly include the Japanese Tea Garden, which is both a Registered Texas Historic Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places!
Originally a rock quarry located next to Brackenridge Park, this free hidden gem offers the perfect cool and place to relax on a hot day.
After its abandonment in 1908, the city built “sunken gardens” with a zoo, an outdoor theater and a garden with lily ponds and invited a local Japanese artist to live on-site in a house built from stones from the old quarry – the family began serving light food and tea in the garden, and the “Japanese Tea Garden” was born!
An easy walk over from the zoo next door or leave the car at Brackenridge Park and hop aboard the miniature train, which will drop you at the Garden on request.
Wander the meandering plant-lined paths, watching for plaques with historical information, and notice the artificial palm thatch roof (an exact replica of the original palm leaf harvested from city parks – but without the fire hazard!), the columns with lights set inside and bridges hand built with quarry stone.
After sending the kids off to find the secret spot from which you can see the city skyline, have a seat and enjoy the waterfall as it tumbles into the koi pond.
Stop by the café for drinks (including tea!), light sandwiches and pastries.
10. Tower of the Americas
Looking for the ultimate views of San Antonio sightseeing?
Pay a visit to The Tower of the Americas.
When built for the 1968 Hemisfair, this 750-foot tower was the tallest in the United States and, although since surpassed by the Stratosphere Tower is Las Vegas, it remains the tallest in Texas and continues to offer spectacular 360-degree views from its indoor and outdoor observation decks.
The tower boasts 952 steps but don’t worry, there is an elevator to the top!
Look for the photos on the observation deck floor to pinpoint landmarks in your surroundings and check out the murals lining the walls which tell the story of the Texas.
Head over to the Skies Over Texas 4D Theater, which is included the ticket price, for a “high-flying” ride over the many sights of the Lone Star State!
If you can’t get enough of the mesmerizing views, enjoy lunch or dinner in the rotating tower-top restaurant or, for a light bite or coffee once you return to Earth, hit the courtyard Tower Café, and enjoy your treat by the beautiful waterfall fountain while the kids run through the sprinkler fountain.
Pay a visit to the Smithsonian-affiliated Institute of Texan Cultures for some historic perspective about the many cultures of early Texas history and how each has influenced the diversity of modern Texas.
After the video orientation, wander through exhibits highlighting the Texan experience of assorted settlers and immigrants: what drew them to Texas, the things they brought with them and how they acclimated to, and shaped, their new home.
Check the museum schedule for special events such as the Texan Cultures Festival, with food tasting and dance demonstrations, and the monthly Nationalization Ceremony for new American citizens.
A visit to the Botanical Garden is definitely one of the most beautiful San Antonio things to do.
This 38-acre oasis in the city features a dizzying variety of native and adapted plants and flowers.
Wander along a trail through the many gardens and conservatories (each showcases a different ecosystem).
Look for the creative displays of small homes with yards highlighting the variety of Texan gardens.
Let the kids romp, climb, splash and explore at the Family Adventure Garden’s 2.5-acre nature space.
Take a peek into history in several authentic historic buildings that have been transported from their original locations to the Garden’s lakeside: an East Texas pioneer’s 1850s log cabin, an 1880s pinon pine cabin (the largest ever built in Texas), the house of one of Fredericksburg’s earliest settlers, and an adobe home from the South Texas plains.
Head over to the historic carriage house turned restaurant and relax on the outdoor patio, surrounded by Ash trees, with a dish featuring ingredients from the on-site Culinary Garden.
One of the great things to see in San Antonio if you’re an art lover is the Museum of Art.
Housed in a historic former brewery along the River Walk’s Museum Reach, the museum showcases 5000 years of art from around the world and, if you happen to visit on Tuesday, admission is free.
Survey the most comprehensive collection of Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities in the southern U.S.
Explore pre-Columbian, Spanish colonial, Latin American and Asian-Pacific art.
Discover the works of international and local Texan artists alike.
Catch one of the rotating exhibits.
Enjoy lunch or dinner in the former brewery Hops House, now a lovely restaurant overlooking the San Antonio River.
14. The Witte Museum
One of the best things to do in San Antonio is the Witte Museum.
This museum showcases 9000 years of the natural and cultural history of Texas – spend some time examining dinosaur bones, learning about native animals, and exploring the stories of the region’s indigenous peoples and first settlers.
Head over to the popular Body Adventure exhibit, where you can try various interactive activities to learn about the human body.
Don’t miss the gardens, historic buildings and climbing treehouse tucked along the riverbank out back!
Constructed in the early 18th century, this National Historic Landmark is one of the oldest buildings in San Antonio.
It served as the original residence and office of the San Antonio military Presidio from 1722 until the early 1800s.
Tour the restored building with its thick adobe walls, ten period-furnished rooms and unique architecture, following the plaques which detail the expansion of the house over time.
Look for the impressive carved doors made by the same Swiss woodcarver who later carved the massive front doors at the Mission San Jose.
Take a few quiet moments on the lovely terrace to admire the beautiful gardens.
16. San Antonio Zoo
Named the best zoo in the state by the Texas Travel Awards and consistently a family-favorite, the 56-acre San Antonio Zoo is a crowd pleaser!
Hop on the train for a trip along the river and an overview of the zoo’s more than 8500 animals before feeding the giraffes and exploring Kangaroo Krossing (look for the fun photo opportunity where you can pop out of a kangaroo pouch).
Take a ride on the zoo’s one-of-a-kind carousel with its hand-painted assortment of animals, both real and imagined, four of which are Texas natives.
Cool off and recharge with some wild entertainment in the 4D theater.
Check out the website before you go for numerous VIP tours, Behind the Scenes opportunities and special events (breakfast with a hippo, anyone?).
Discover the homestead of a prominent 19th-century political figure, Jose Antonio Navarro, tucked in what used to be a bustling Tejano neighborhood on the west side of San Antonio.
Begin with the short film which provides context about the former neighborhood known as Laredito and Navarro, one of only two native-born Texans who signed the Texan Declaration of Independence.
Learn about typical early Texas architecture as you tour the original one-story, white-washed adobe and limestone house, the free-standing kitchen and office building where Navarro lived and worked.
18. The DoSeum
One of the best spots in San Antonio for young families is The DoSeum, featuring 68,000 square feet of space designed especially for kids.
The interactive exhibits, from robotics to detective work, engage, entertain and encourage imagination – the child-scaled Little Town where, among other things, kids can fly an airplane, drive a Bobcat, be a veterinarian or run a food truck – is a particular favorite!
The outdoor playground – divided into active and quiet zones featuring a giant slide, 30-foot climbing structure, water tables, treehouse, splash “river” – has something for children of all ages.
Refuel with a snack, lunch or bakery treat from the museum café’s kid-friendly menu.
19. Hill Country
Take a day trip to the rolling hills, wide-open spaces and unique attractions of the Texas Hill Country.
Hike through Enchanted Rock State Park to view one of the largest rock formations in the country.
Cool off at Schlitterbahn Park, Texas’s oldest and most innovative water park.
Sample some of the region’s best vintages at the award-winning Fall Creek Vineyards in Driftwood.
Float down the Guadalupe River on the Horseshoe Loop through the hill country.
Discover the works of art known as “painted churches” built by Czech and German immigrants: among the best, St Mary’s Catholic Church in High Hill (its 18 German-style-stained glass windows have earned it the title of “Queen of Painted Churches”), St Mary’s Church of the Assumption in Praha (featuring a stunning white altar, gilded in 24 karat gold) and Saints Cyrus and Methodius Church in Dubina (the most elaborate of the painted interiors).
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Written by: Heather Bakas