Planning a trip to the Alamo City and looking for best things to do in San Antonio, TX?
Take a look at our epic list of incredibly fun, essential, and the very best things to do in San Antonio from the river walk cruises to theme parks and from Spanish colonial missions to ethnic markets!
San Antonio is one of the best cities to visit in Texas.
Visitors from the world over come to see the beautiful San Antonio River Walk and the historic Alamo mission.
The city offers everything from culture and history to cuisine and shopping.
San Antonio is just two hours away from Houston and Austin and makes the perfect day trip or a weekend getaway.
It is also perfect for longer visits where you can combine a urban vacation with nearby hiking trails and scenic drives.
Best Time to visit San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio makes the perfect year round destination in Texas.
Visit the city in the sweltering heat of the summer and enjoy splashing fun at Six Flags theme park.
Plan a trip during fall to explore the spectacular colors in the surrounding state parks.
Christmas in San Antonio, TX is the best time to visit to see the gorgeous San Antonio River walk lights.
And of course, you must plan a road trip to San Antonio in spring to see the gorgeous Texas bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes, and other wildflowers blooming along the roadsides.
We have visited the city in all seasons – and that’s why, are the very best people to tell you about all the cool and awesome things to do in San Antonio, TX!
Where to stay in San Antonio
The best places to stay in San Antonio are along the Riverwalk.
One of our favorites is the Hotel Valencia, which is a boutique hotel inspired by Valencia, Spain and really enjoyed our stay.
The hotel building is Spanish colonial style and the rooms open out on their Central courtyards and the Riverwalk.
We recommend getting a Riverwalk room, you get to see the Riverwalk from above.
Hotel Valencia has really nice decor, an amazing library, and a lavish buffet breakfast spread – perfect for a family vacation or a romantic holiday!
There are many other hotels on the San Antonio Riverwalk including Mokara Hotel & Spa, St. Anthony, Hotel Contessa, etc and it is a great central location for your stay in San Antonio.
Best Things to do in San Antonio
While the San Antonio Riverwalk is the first thing that comes to the mind when planning a trip to the city, there are many things to do in San Antonio besides the Riverwalk.
We recommend planning a two to three day trip to check out the city’s best tourist attractions including the Alamo, Pearl District, and the Mercado.
Here are our favorite things to do in and around San Antonio Downtown.
We have also included popular attractions located a few miles away from the city center including amusement parks and natural attractions.
Take a stroll on the San Antonio Riverwalk
The San Antonio Riverwalk is the most popular tourist attraction in the city.
It has beautiful landscaping and architecture and is a striking place.
Besides the architecture, there are many other things to do on the San Antonio Riverwalk.
In the downtown section, you can dine along the river, take a narrated river cruise, people watch, go shopping, enjoy fine dining, and admire the artwork.
Also Read: Best beaches near San Antonio, Texas
Or you could just drink a cold beer or a margarita and watch the world go by.
Whatever you choose to do, the time spent on the Riverwalk will make your trip the most memorable one.
There are so many things to do on the San Antonio Riverwalk, that we have a separate post on the Best Things to do on the San Antonio Riverwalk.
Read it before you go to plan your San Antonio trip!
Visit the historic and famous Alamo
After the Riverwalk, the Alamo is the second most popular San Antonio things to do for visitors.
The Alamo, originally known as Misión San Antonio de Valero, is a part of the San Antonio Missions UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Built in the 18th century, the historic mission was the site of the famous Battle of the Alamo that spurred the Texas War for Independence.
Visitors can visit the Alamo and pay respects to those that died during the 13 day historic battle including the texan heroes James Bowie, Davy Crockett, and William Travis.
The Alamo is also a national historic landmark.
Visiting the Alamo is a powerful moment.
It lets you relive Texas history and the iconic events that led up to the Battle of Alamo.
Inside the Alamo, you can admire its iconic façade, visit the Alamo Church, see the exhibits at the Long Barrack Museum, learn about the Texas Revolution, and walk around the courtyard.
Explore the other San Antonio Missions
The San Antonio Missions UNESCO Site constitutes 5 different historic Spanish frontier missions.
They are together preserved as the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.
The five San Antonio, TX Missions are Mission Concepción, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan, Mission Espada, and the Alamo.
These were the outposts built by the Spanish empire to spread Christianity and for defense purposes.
The mission grounds included farmlands, church, residential areas, and granaries.
While Alamo is the most famous and frequently visited of the San Antonio Missions, the rest are equally beautiful to explore.
They are one of the most important historical sites in America.
They can be easily accessed by walking or biking along the 10 miles of the Mission trail.
The Alamo is now a museum but the other four missions continue to operate as active parishes of the Catholic church and are open to the public.
Each of the Missions is beautiful and unique.
The missions are built in a beautiful Spanish colonial style of architecture and very well-preserved.
Mission San Jose is decorated with beautiful examples of Spanish colonial embellishments.
In Mission Concepcion, you will get to see original frescos in some of the church rooms.
Mission San Juan Capistrano is famous for its Romanesque entrance archway.
In Mission Espada, part of the original irrigation system is still in operation.
Entrance to San Antonio Missions is free of cost and we definitely recommend seeing them if you are a history buff.
Cruise down the San Antonio River
While the Riverwalk looks beautiful from the banks, to enjoy it from the water, we recommend a boat ride down the river.
The cruises last about 30 to 40 minutes and the tour guides do an excellent job of explaining the city’s architecture and history.
The tour is the best way to explore the entire river walk in the shortest amount of time.
You will pass by the lock fence and can take great photos of the historic buildings and structures that you will see along the river walk.
Kids especially enjoy the boat cruise and this is one of our favorite family friendly things to do in San Antonio.
You can also book private tours for special occasions and proposals.
Experience the Tejano culture at the El Mercado
El Mercado or the Historic Market Square of San Antonio is one of the liveliest places in the city.
It is more vibrant and authentic than the famous but touristy Riverwalk.
The Market Square has an interesting and rich history.
The land where the market stands was gifted to the first settlers of San Antonio by the King of Spain in 1730.
The market is spread over three city blocks surrounded by Dolorosa, Santa Rosa, and West Commerce Streets.
The Historic Market has beautiful Spanish colonial architecture and lots of colorful decorations to resemble an authentic Mexican market.
It has shops, restaurants, landscaping, fountains, and benches for people to sit.
The El Mercado is the largest Mexican market north of the border!
On weekends and during Hispanic festivals, the El Mercado is filled with festivities.
Cinco de Mayo is celebrated on a large scale and is accompanied by music, dancing, heritage performances, and lots of authentic food.
Even on weekends, you will find a festive atmosphere.
Traditional Mexican Mariachi bands play in the square and dancers in traditional attire entertain guests.
Even the visitors join in the dancing and fun.
Visit Mi Tierra and enjoy Christmas year round
The Historic Market Square is known for its delicious Mexican and Tex-Mex fare.
The most popular restaurants in the Market are Mi Tierra Cafe and Bakery, La Margarita Restaurant and Oyster Bar, and the Viva Villa Taqueria.
You should definitely visit the historic Mi Tierra Cafe. It is open 24/7 and renowned for its Tex-Mex cuisine.
A highlight of the visit is the decor.
Mi Tierra has a festive atmosphere and Christmas lights twinkle year round in the cafe.
The iconic “American Dream” mural inside the cafe is also worth seeing.
It features over 100 influential Hispanic personalities.
A separate Food Court is located inside the Farmer’s Market Building.
On a visit to the market, you can enjoy a variety of Tex Mex and authentic Mexican food and drinks by local vendors.
You can try tacos, enchiladas, tamales, chalupas, churros, empanada, and the popular street corn.
Do not forget to try the Michelada – Mexico’s famous spiced beer cocktail at the Mercado.
Also Read: Best Restaurants in San Antonio, Texas
Shop for authentic Mexican goods and decor
Of course, you cannot leave San Antonio without shopping at the El Mercado or the San Antonio Market Square.
The public market has everything from produce, Mexican curios, jewelry, accessories, and home goods.
It is also the perfect place to buy some San Antonio souvenirs such as magnets, postcards, frames, hats, and more.
The locally-owned shops offer a variety of products influenced by the American Southwest and Mexico.
You can buy unique items like hand-crafted leather goods, pottery, glassware, wood carvings, candles, jewelry, portraits, and spices.
You can also see artists creating the products at the market.
We love shopping for curious and unique Texas souvenirs at the market and recommend it as a fun activity while in San Antonio.
Check out the stunning San Fernando Cathedral and the Main Plaza light show
The San Fernando cathedral of San Antonio is located in the city’s main plaza and is a must visit.
Built in 1873, the cathedral has very beautiful architecture. You can take a guided tour to see it from the inside.
The remains of those who died in the battle of the Alamo are buried here.
The exterior facade of the church is also very striking and is one of the top places to photograph in San Antonio.
In the evening and at night, you can see the San Fernando Cathedral Light Show.
The laser show is accompanied by music and takes place every 30 minutes.
The Main Plaza cathedral light show show depicts the history of Texas in pictures and lights and is a must for every Texan.
See the beautiful collection of the San Antonio Museum of Art
The San Antonio Museum of Art, located in the Museum Reach of the San Antonio Riverwalk, is definitely worth a visit.
The museum is located in the historic Lone Star Brewery building and looks like a sprawling castle.
The Museum of Art has more than 30,000 art pieces from across the world.
It has historic and cultural artifacts from Egypt, Greece, and Rome.
It also has a vast collection of Asian Art, Latin American Art, and post-war American art.
The museum features a big collection of artwork by contemporary Texas artists. The museum also has many temporary exhibitions which are worth a visit.
Enjoy the culinary side of San Antonio
Did you know that San Antonio is named a ‘Creative City of Gastronomy’ by UNESCO?
This is a much-deserved honor since San Antonio has given delicious cuisine to the world – it is the birthplace of Tex-Mex dishes!
This blend of Mexican and European cuisine is responsible for everyone’s favorite dishes including enchiladas, fajitas, nachos, hard-shell tacos, and even chili.
The city’s gastronomy is always developing as new flavors from around the world are merged with its own.
While the most popular restaurants are located along the Riverwalk, do not forget to try out other popular eateries in other areas of the city.
Read our post on Best Restaurants in San Antonio to know where to go.
Take a horse carriage ride around the city
Visiting San Antonio for a romantic weekend or anniversary? Take a horse carriage ride around downtown!
When you visit the Alamo, you will be struck by the many horse carriages standing around the Alamo Plaza.
Visitors can take a horse carriage ride to explore the San Antonio downtown and Riverwalk area.
It is definitely one of the more fun and romantic ways to see the popular places in San Antonio.
We have taken the carriage ride many times and love it.
The horse carriage rides are about 20 minutes long and cost about $25 per person, kids ride free.
No bookings are necessary. To get a ride, you can simply walk up to the carriage and pay the driver.
See the beautiful San Antonio Botanical Garden
To spend a day outdoors, visit the San Antonio Botanical Garden.
This 33-acre large oasis is located in the middle of the city and was conceived in the 1940s.
The highlights of the San Antonio Botanical garden include the Sullivan Carriage House, formal and display gardens, native gardens, an overlook tower, and the Lucile Halsell Conservatory.
The conservatory is our favorite place to visit.
It has alpine plants, aquatic plants, cacti and succulents, carnivorous plants, epiphytes, ferns and aroids, tropical fruits, and large palms!
There is also a Japanese garden, known as Kumamoto En, that mirrors styles of Suizenji Park and Katsura Detached Palace garden in Kyoto.
An interesting feature of the San Antonio Botanical garden is the Sullivan Carriage House.
It was designed by Alfred Giles for banker Daniel J. Sullivan in 1896 and serves as the main entrance to the garden.
Here, you will also find a restaurant and gift shop.
We recommend about 2 to 3 hours to explore the garden.
View the artwork along the Riverwalk Museum Reach
The Museum Reach of the San Antonio Riverwalk has plenty of sculptures and public artworks.
One of the most popular works is The Grotto.
This striking sculpture is carved in cement and has seashells, stalactites, stalagmites, waterfalls, and a face hidden on the inside of the sculpture.
The sculpture is three-story tall and immense, It makes a great photo opportunity in San Antonio.
Explore the vibrant Pearl District
San Antonio’s lively and trendy pool district is fast becoming one of the top San Antonio attractions.
At the center of this neighborhood you will find the historic Pearl Brewery, one of Texas’ largest breweries.
The iconic Pearl beer was brewed here from the late 18th century to 2001. Today the brewery houses a food hall.
A must-visit is Bakery Lorraine which is located just opposite the brewery.
You will also find many cafes, bars, and restaurants in the area. Paul is also known for boutique shopping, loft apartments, and office spaces.
The gorgeous Hotel Emma is also located in the brewery and is worth a look.
The district hosts many events and festivals including the Monarch Butterfly festival and the Dia de Los Muertos Festival.
Even if nothing is going on, the Pearl is a great place to just hang out on the lawn, play games, and spend quality time with your loved ones.
Shop at the Farmers Market in Pearl
On the weekends, the Pearl District is home to San Antonio’s famous farmers market.
We love visiting this market and it’s many stalls. You can easily find artisan goods, cheeses, baked goods, produce, local honey, wine as well as small eats.
That is always plenty to see, eat, and drink at the farmer’s market.
Visit the Natural Bridge Caverns
The Natural Bridge Caverns is the largest underground attraction in Texas.
The caverns are stunning and feature a variety of geological formations.
Visitors can see the Natural Bridge caverns and explore its beautiful formations on a guided tour.
There are a couple of different types of tours depending on your interest.
We recommend the popular Discovery tour if you are physically fit.
The tour is about 75 minutes long and takes you through several rooms inside the Natural Bridge caverns.
You can see stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, flowstones, and chandeliers on the tour.
Apart from the caverns there are many other attractions near the Natural Bridge.
Kids can have fun panning for gems and minerals at the Natural Bridge Mining Company Sluice.
You can also see bats fly at Natural Bridge at sundown – in fact, this is one of the most popular bat watching sites in Texas.
They can also go zip lining or complete the obstacle course.
Spending a day in the Natural Bridge area is fun for the whole family.
Natural Bridge Caverns is definitely one of the best things to do in Texas with kids.
Take a safari at the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch
Our kids love visiting the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch Safari.
This is a drive through African style safari. Families can watch and feed many different animals from the car.
It is an amazing experience to drive through the park and get up close with so many free wild animals.
On different trips we have been lucky enough to feed zebras, goats, wildebeest, horned oryx, deer, antelope, and llamas.
Apart from the drive-thru Safari area there are many other attractions at the ranch including a small zoo, the petting barn, the trading post gift shop, and a restaurant.
Tip: We really love the fries served at this restaurant! They are crunchy and delicious.
See the marine life at SeaWorld San Diego
SeaWorld San Antonio is a marine theme park that is extremely popular with kids.
SeaWorld San Diego offers many thrilling roller coaster rides, fun animal performances and shows, and interactive experiences with marine animals such as dolphins, penguins, Beluga whale, and sea lions.
This is a great place to visit for animal lovers.
Ride the thrilling roller coasters at Six Flags Fiesta Texas
Located around 16 miles away from downtown San Antonio, Six Flags Fiesta Texas is a must visit if you have more time in the city.
The amusement park has many thrill rides, family rides, kids rides, and water park rides for visitors to enjoy.
The most popular and famous Six Flags Fiesta Texas rides including Batman, Goliath, Superman Krypton Coaster, White Water Rapids, and Kidee Koaster can be found in the San Antonio location.
We recommend spending an entire day here to get your money’s worth.
Spend a day playing at the Doseum
The Doseum is San Antonio’s museum for kids and is a wonderful place to keep the little ones busy on a rainy or hot summer day.
While there are not enough activities to keep older kids interested, toddlers and preschoolers have a blast at the museum.
There are many toys, interactive exhibits, and activities and you can easily spend anywhere from a couple of hours to half a day at the museum.
The museum is popular with both San Antonio residents as well as tourists.
See the animals at the San Antonio zoo
Located inside the urban Brackenridge Park, the San Antonio Zoo is great to visit with kids.
The San Antonio Zoo is quite large and has over 8,000 animals.
It also has a reptile house where you can see snakes and amphibians.
Kids can see elephants, jaguars, lions, bald eagles, hippos, kangaroos, alligators, monkeys, zebras, giraffes, turtles, and many birds.
Kids can also feed the giraffes for an additional price.
Other attractions in the San Antonio zoo include the carousel, a train ride, and the butterfly exhibit.
Take in the beauty of the Japanese Tea Garden
San Antonio’s Japanese Tea Garden is free to visit and hence, one of our favorite San Antonio attractions.
This beautiful Japanese garden is created in an unused rock quarry. Hence it is also called the Sunken Garden.
You will find many beautiful trees, ponds, waterfalls, and even koi fish in the pond.
The garden looks beautiful year round, but our favorite time to visit it is during spring.
It also provides a great respite on a hot summer day.
The garden has rocky paths and steps so we advise being cautious, especially if you have kids.
The garden is located right next to the zoo in Brackenridge Park and you can easily see both the attractions in a single visit.
Be amazed by the dinosaurs at the Witte Museum
If you have kids who love dinosaurs, then make a beeline for the Witte Museum.
The small museum is nicely laid out and has enough displays to keep the kids interested for a couple of hours.
This natural history museum is based on Texas and has exhibits on everything from the dinosaurs that were found here to the history of the state.
There are many interactive exhibits as well including feeling animal hides, digging for dinosaur bones, and more.
That is also information about the weather, and native plants and animals, indigenous people of Texas, the first settlers, etc.
See the view from the Tower of the Americas
The magnificent Tower of the Americas building was built for the 1968 HemisFair held in San Antonio.
The tower is 750 ft tall and has an observation deck that is open to visitors.
The view of the city from the top is just amazing.
There is a revolving restaurant at the top of the door where you can go for drinks and appetizers during the happy hour.
If you are dining at the restaurant you can go to the top and admire the view for free, otherwise you will need tickets for the observation deck.
Walk around the King William Historic District and dine at Guenther House
King William Historic District is one of the hidden gems of San Antonio.
This was the city’s first suburb and was settled by wealthy German merchants in the late 1800s.
The suburb is located by the river walk and is amazing to take a stroll.
On a visit to the historic district you can admire the beautiful grand old mansions.
They have striking architecture and intricate details. Most of the houses are extremely photogenic.
They all have beautifully landscaped lawns and gardens. The neighborhood is peaceful and charming for a walk.
You can end your visit at the Guenther House Museum and Restaurant.
They have amazing food and dining in the historical setting is great fun.
This is a great place to have breakfast in San Antonio.
See the beautiful Majestic and Empire Theaters
If you are a history buff then you should definitely visit the beautiful Majestic theatre and Empire theatre in Downtown San Antonio.
Located in the heart of the city on Houston Street and St Mary’s Street, these theaters are beautiful works of architecture.
Majestic theater was built in 1929 while the Empire Theater is slightly older and was built in 1914.
Both the theaters are national historic landmarks and are beautiful to look around and photograph.
Seeing a performance in the magnificent old theater is an amazing experience.
The theaters have impressive decor and beautiful intricate designs while the show quality is equivalent to that of Broadway.
Also Read: 10 Best German Towns near San Antonio, Texas
Step into the Wild West at the Buckhorn Saloon and Texas Ranger Museum
The Buckhorn Saloon and Museum is one of the most interesting museums to visit in Texas.
It offers a unique, fun, and intensive experience for the entire family. It is located right by the river walk and easily accessible.
You can learn more about history in the Texas Ranger section.
Our favorite though is the oddities, curiosities, and mystery area.
The taxidermy animals are also amazing to see.
You will also see a lot of guns, relics, and an entire replica of an old Western city.
After seeing the museum have a beer and some Texas style barbecue in the saloon.
Both the brisket and pulled pork served here is spot on.
The decor is that of an old time saloon and you can almost imagine cowboys sitting at the table with their horses tied outside in the days of the Wild West.
We recommend this underrated San Antonio attraction for everyone and suggest keeping aside two to three hours to explore it fully.
Take the kids to the San Antonio Fire Museum
The San Antonio fire museum is a great place to take kids of all ages.
The museum has many exhibits about narrating the history of the San Antonio firefighters.
Kids love seeing the variety of fire trucks and meeting retired firefighters who volunteer at the Museum.
We hope you enjoyed our post on the best things to do in San Antonio.
Did we miss out on any attraction? Please let us know in the comments.
Popular resources to plan your Texas trip
- Looking for Best Road Trip Ideas in Texas. Read this.
- Want to plan your Texas road trip in a few easy steps? Read our Texas Road Trip Planner now.
- Best Places to Visit in Texas. Read our list of favorites including the San Antonio Riverwalk and the Bolivar Peninsula here.
- Read Things to Know Before you go to Texas prior to planning your trip!