Looking for the best things to do in San Antonio, Texas? You have come to the right place. Let’s get started!
San Antonio, Texas’s second-largest city and twice the size of Chicago, is visited by over 28 million people annually. There are a lot of tourist attractions that will appeal to everybody ranging from solo travelers, couples and even families traveling with toddlers: interactive museums, historical buildings, many amusement parks, and plenty of good restaurants that won’t leave you unsatisfied.
The local downtown area can easily be described as one of the busiest areas in the whole country. Besides that, this is the only city in Texas where the presence of Spanish and Mexican cultures are so easily distinguished. The Spanish influence makes San Antonio a truly unique city for the United States – with a daytime siesta, traditional street food and annual Latin noisy and fun holidays.
San Antonio is a city with a lot of cultural and entertainment facilities which may be impossible to cover in one visit, that’s why we came up with a recommended best things to do in San Antonio.
Table of Contents (skip directly to the info you're looking for)
- 1 Top Things to do in San Antonio, Texas
- 1.1 Historic Sites in San Antonio
- 1.2 Museums
- 1.3 Fun activities to do with family or friends
- 1.4 Places to get closer to Nature
- 2 Where to stay in San Antonio
- 3 Getting Around San Antonio
Top Things to do in San Antonio, Texas
Historic Sites in San Antonio
A trip to San Antonio would never be complete without a visit to the Alamo, one of the most historical and famous spots in Texas! Today it is a whole complex of buildings, including a restored church and various kinds of household and administrative buildings, surrounded by a wall. During the Texas War of Independence, it was here that one of the most famous and important battles took place. Mexican troops almost completely destroyed the fortress during that time, but luckily a small part of that has survived until today and is currently a museum.
Tip: Alamo is a historically significant place but it is rather small, so don’t expect to see a huge area.
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
On the territory of San Antonio there are four missions that form San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. The development of Texas is closely connected with the Roman Catholic Church missions that were spreading Christianity among the local population. The construction of religious outposts was carried out by the orders of Dominicans, Jesuits and Franciscans. Outposts were created not only to spread the Christian faith, but also served as strongholds on the borderlands of the Spanish Empire.
Tip: San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is one of the free things to do in San Antonio, so plan your visit without hesitation!
This UNESCO World Heritage Site preserves four Spanish frontier missions: Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan, Mission Concepcion, and Mission Espada (the Alamo is the fifth mission). You can cover all of them in one go as they are located in one area.
Tip: Also, all of the churches are still in service today so if you are religious, that’s something you might be interested in.
Learn more at San Antonio Missions
San Fernando Cathedral
The first stone of the Catholic Cathedral of San Fernando was laid in 1731 by immigrants from the Canary Islands. Located in the center of San Antonio, today this cathedral is one of the oldest operating ones in the United States.
The cathedral is located in the historic center of San Antonio and houses a sarcophagus with the remains of the heroes of the Alamo battle that’s been placed there since 1938. In the left and right entrance you can see memorial plaques – a reminder of the defenders of the fortress.
Today, the cathedral remains the heart of the Catholic life of the city with about 5,000 parishioners attending Sunday services that are held in English and Spanish. The cathedral building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Tip: See the visual show projected on the facade of the San Fernando Cathedral that tells the history of the city – it is completely free and one of the best things to do in San Antonio at night time. You can see the show on Tuesdays and Sundays at 7:30 p.m., 8:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., on Fridays and Saturdays at 9:00 p.m., 9:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.
Learn more at San Fernando Cathedral
McNay Art Museum
A Mediterranean mansion with patio, gardens and an impressive collection of post-impressionist paintings including the works of Chagall, Picasso and other modernists. In addition to the permanent exhibition, various thematic exhibitions are regularly held here.
Tip: the museum has free general admission on Thursday nights (4−9 pm)
Learn more at McNay Art Museum
The Texas Rangers Museum
To feel the spirit of Texas, be sure to check out the Texas Rangers Museum. Both kids and adults, will be interested in the opportunity to see real cowboys and the numerous attributes that we all saw in the movies: weapons, clothes, hats and horse harnesses. In the same building on Houston Street, there is a restaurant and another museum, The Buckhorn Saloon & Museum, where you can see a huge number of deer horns and stuffed animals from different parts of the world.The ticket to Buckhorn is pricey but it includes admission to other 5 museums including the Texas Rangers Museum.
Learn more at The Texas Rangers Museum
Pro tip: all of the main sightseeing spots are located in the center and close to each other, so it’s easy to get around. We recommend leaving your car at the hotel parking lot and just walk around or take the taxis as the parking options are extremely limited!
Fun activities to do with family or friends
Six Flags Fiesta Texas
Six Flags Park Fiesta is located in the city of San Antonio and offers visitors a wide selection of fascinating attractions. On the territory of the park there are walking recreational areas, cafes and a lot of entertainment for visitors of any age.
This amusement theme park is a 15-minute drive from downtown San Antonio, Texas. This is an amazing vacation spot with more than 20 attractions for the whole family with a wide variety of modern attractions from roller coasters to water rafting to watching The Looney Tunes sing and dance to enjoying a wonderful lunch with a view.
Learn more at Six Flags Fiesta Texas
Tower of the Americas
The Tower, 750 ft. tall, offers a gorgeous view of San Antonio and the surroundings from the observation level and the glass-walled elevators that ascend over 500 feet. The Tower was specifically constructed for HemisFair in 1968 as a symbol of the progress made by the confluence of civilizations in the Western Hemisphere.
In the lower part, at the very base of the tower, there is a 4-D cinema, cafe and gift shop. Visitors are also invited to listen to an audio tour and view the Texas History Exhibition.
Learn more at Tower of the Americas
Places to get closer to Nature
San Antonio River Walk
The pedestrian zone in the Spanish-Mexican style is a famous tourist spot in San Antonio. The promenade extends along both banks of the San Antonio River in the heart of the city. The romantic atmosphere and variety of cafes attract tourists every day, so it gets crowded but still we believe that it’s a must visit and one of the best things to do in San Antonio.
Tip: don’t forget to try Puffy Tacos – a local specialty dish of San Antonio. You can easily find this dish in the North end of the River Walk which has a bunch of restaurants and bars. Don’t stress out which place to pick for food, they are all very similar to each other and decent.
San Antonio Botanical Garden, Lucile Halsell Conservatory
The botanical garden is definitely among the best things to do in San Antonio in nature – the beautiful botanical garden of San Antonio provides an opportunity to explore a large collection of diverse palm trees, cacti and exotic plants. A special feature of the garden is a small garden for the blind people called the Sensory Garden.
This 33-acre living museum in San Antonio was built thanks to the co-joint efforts of citizens and local authorities and was opened in 1980 after about 20 years of construction.
Today there are several thematic sections. One of them is devoted to a collection of plants from tropical rainforests that is located in a pyramid shaped glass greenhouse. Visitors are also introduced to the amazing desert plants and typical West Texas nature. The territory of the park is decorated with orchid flowers, magnificent ponds with water lilies and cocoa trees.
Learn more at San Antonio Botanical Garden
San Antonio Zoological Gardens
This zoo is ranked as one of the best ones in the US exhibiting over 3500 animals and 750 species. The zoo takes up the area of 35 landscaped acres and includes one of the largest bird collections in the world. The Zoo offers educational programs for all ages such as Zoo camp, after hours programs and others.
Other Park attractions include the Sunken Gardens, and Witte Museum.
Learn more at San Antonio Zoo
Where to stay in San Antonio
San Antonio offers all kind of accommodations. You can find most of the big name hotel chains such as The Westin, Hyatt, Marriott, and more. If you are on a budget, you can also find hostels, or simply try to find an Airbnb accommodation. You can always find the best deals if you book in advance.
Getting Around San Antonio
The best way to explore San Antonio, Texas is by renting a car. For exploring the downtown area is best to find first a parking garage and then explore it by foot. The streets in the downtown area can be narrow.
To sum it up, we can conclude that San Antonio is one of the most interesting cities that we were able to visit in the USA. It perfectly portrays the history and the formation of Texas, first as a colony of Mexico, then as an independent state, and finally as a state within the United States. Many ancient churches and preserved historical buildings along with the overall Mexican feel combined with European and American features together create a unique look of this city that’s incomparable to anything else – it is so original and self-sufficient.
This is a guest post by: Inna from the ExecutiveThrillseeker.com
Author’s Bio: Inna Nedostupenko is a co-founder and a travel writer for the Executive Thrillseeker – a blog aimed to teach each and every one how to travel safer, cheaper, longer, and smarter!
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