- Nature-lovers shouldn’t miss Natural Bridge Caverns, San Antonio Botanical Garden, San Pedro Springs Park or the Japanese Tea Garden.
- Must-see family destinations include The DoSeum, San Antonio Zoo and San Antonio Aquarium.
- History buffs shouldn’t miss the Quadrangle Fort Sam Houston, Mission Trail and The Alamo.
- Other key attractions include The River Walk, San Antonio Museum of Art, Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center and Alamo City Ghost Tours.
San Antonio is a culturally rich city in south-central Texas, best known as the home of The Alamo, where an infamous battle for Texas freedom was fought against Mexico in 1836. Despite being home to about 1.4 million people, San Antonio is a relatively small Texan city. However, its small size doesn’t deter thousands of visitors from flocking there each year to experience its rich culture, history and architecture.
1. The River Walk
Located 20 feet below street level, The River Walk boasts 15 miles of pathway running alongside a river filled with river taxis. Also called Paseo del Río, this attraction has been rated the No. 1 site to see in the area. You can take a river taxi down the water while admiring the breathtaking historic architecture. Traditional mariachi bands dot the busiest parts of this stretch, giving the area a jubilant atmosphere. Unique shops, quaint hotels and fascinating museums can also be found in abundance on The River Walk.
2. San Antonio Museum of Art
The San Antonio Museum of Art is best known for having the most extensive collection of Greek, Roman and Egyptian art in the southern United States. Located in the complex once home to the Lone Star Brewery, the museum’s art collection spans over 5,000 years, with an impressive exhibit on Latin American art. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children over 12. Children under 12 are free, making this an affordable outing for traveling families.
3. Natural Bridge Caverns
Named after a 60-foot limestone slab at the entrance, Natural Bridge Caverns is the largest known commercial cavern in Texas. You can take guided tours of these natural wonders underground, and once finished, there are plenty of attractions at ground level to keep the fun going. Besides visiting various shops and eateries, you can also choose to go gem mining or take a zip rail adventure. Prices vary based on the tour or attraction, but you can save money by booking ahead online.
4. San Antonio Botanical Garden
The San Antonio Botanical Garden has been nationally recognized for its commitment to botanical diversity, environmental stewardship and outstanding displays. The 38-acre property is home to unique gardens and fascinating art exhibits that regularly change with the season. The garden also hosts public events and is committed to helping endangered plant species thrive. While visiting, you can stop by the gift shop for a souvenir or grab a bite to eat at the in-house restaurant.
5. Quadrangle Fort Sam Houston
Built in 1876, Quadrangle Fort Sam Houston is best known for once holding the famed Apache leader, Geronimo. Today, visitors are drawn to the fort’s rich history and the abundant wildlife freely roaming the grounds, such as deer, rabbits, peacocks and turkeys. The property is beautifully landscaped, and with free admission, guests are encouraged to spend some leisure time strolling outdoors. The Fort Sam Houston Museum is also on-site, where history lovers can view more than 8,000 artifacts that tell the story of the fort’s history.
6. Japanese Tea Garden
San Antonio’s Japanese Tea Garden is the result of turning something unwanted into something beautiful. The site where these lush, year-round gardens now stand was once an abandoned rock quarry. Now, you can experience the tranquil scenery, koi pond and beautiful stone architecture whenever you need a break from the hectic modern world. Visitors are welcome from dusk to dawn and can rest from the sun’s heat on the shaded walkways. In 2008, the gardens were updated, and future renovation plans include adding lighting to the gardens.
7. San Pedro Springs Park
If you’re looking for somewhere to relax in nature, San Pedro Springs Park is an excellent choice. Opened in the 18th century, this 46 acres of outdoor bliss is the nation’s second-oldest park. You can spend significant time hiking trails to get a good look at Texas flora and fauna. Afterward, consider swimming in the pool to cool off, or play tennis on the lighted courts. Numerous picturesque picnic locations and barbecue pits are also available for some one-of-a-kind outdoor dining.
8. Alamo City Ghost Tours
San Antonio is called one of America’s most haunted cities, so if you’re looking for something chilling to do during your trip, Alamo City Ghost Tours is exactly what you’re looking for. The tours take you through some of the city’s most haunted locations, where grizzly murders, horrific crimes and ghostly appearances have taken place. You’ll receive the complete ghost-hunting experience with guides combining researched factual history and unique haunted locations into one unforgettable tour.
9. The DoSeum
TripAdvisor awarded this hands-on children’s museum the 2020 Travelers Choice Award for a good reason. The DoSeum houses more than 68,000 square feet of hands-on exhibits that help kids immerse themselves in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, literacy and the arts. For example, the spy academy exhibit teaches children how to interact online safely and respectfully. The innovation station provides kids with the physical and mental space they need to imagine, create and build. There’s something for every child in the museum. Tickets for most people are $14, while children under age 1 are admitted free.
10. Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center
The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center is the largest community-based, multidisciplinary organization in the United States. Its vision is to revolutionize how people imagine the world through Chicano, Latino and Native American arts and cultures. On most days, you can see unique, ethnically based shows at the historic theater. Ticket prices for these may vary. If theater isn’t quite your thing, check out the center’s full rotating calendar of events and exhibits. Consult the schedule ahead of time to see what’s going on at the center during your trip.
11. San Antonio Zoo
The San Antonio Zoo is an animal-lover’s paradise, featuring over 8,500 animals on more than 56 acres. Most people and families can see the zoo in about 2 to 4 hours, but feel free to spend as much time as you’d like! Exhibits include the Asian Forest, Cat Grottos, Reptile House, Kangaroo Krossing, The Savanna and Africa Live! General admission tickets are $33.99. Children under 3 are free, and kids under 12 are $29.99. The zoo often has deals and discounts that can make the trip even more affordable.
12. The Alamo
No visit to San Antonio would be complete without a stop at The Alamo. This famed piece of history was established in 1718 and has been under the rule of six different nations. The building served as a garrison for five different armies and is considered a significant part of American and Texan history. Visiting The Alamo is free, but you can pay for a guided tour. Visitors are welcome to watch a unique documentary on the building’s history, explore the museum and participate in living history demonstrations.
13. San Antonio Aquarium
The San Antonio Aquarium features an array of cold-water fish, tropical fish and sharks as well as a stingray touch tank. But it’s not just an aquarium. It also features an interactive lorikeet and parakeet aviary and amphibians. Mammals on exhibit include red-ruff lemurs, kinkajou, ring-tailed lemurs and a sloth. General admission is $19.95, and tickets for children over 3 are $14.95. Toddlers and infants are free. One excellent perk of the San Antonio Aquarium is that foster children are always free.
14. Mission Trail
Get your daily exercise, and experience a hefty dose of Texas history on the Mission Trail. This 9-mile pedestrian route begins at The Alamo and meanders past four other historically important missions. These include Mission Concepción, Mission San José, Mission San Juan and Mission Espada. You’ll also pass by the Spanish Colonial Demonstration Farm. The average person takes between 3 and 4 hours to walk the trail, but feel free to take as much time as you’d like.