Top 12 Things to Do When Visiting San Antonio

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San Antonio makes a wonderful travel destination whether you’re visiting with your family, your partner, or a group of friends. This is a great place to experience the dual culture of Texas and Mexico and even learn about the Wild West. Several of the city’s Spanish colonial missions were designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites, and don’t’ forget the Alamo!

In recent years, there’s been a culinary explosion in San Antonio, which is enticing for foodies, and the local art scene is thriving too. The Riverwalk has always been the big tourist draw, but there are also lots of other off-the-beaten-path destinations around town to check out as well. So if you’re looking for an affordable vacation with plenty to see and do, consider adding San Antonio and these top attractions to your to-do list.

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

What Is It? To truly understand what San Antonio is all about, you’ll need to spend some time visiting the area’s various missions. 

Why Do It? Mission Conception was established in 1716 and is the oldest stone church in America that has remained un-restored. There are four Spanish mission stations that were founded between 1718 and 1740 in San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, which makes this a great place to start if you want to explore the missions. In addition to Mission San Concepción, you can also see Mission San Juan Capistrano, Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo, and Mission San Francisco here. 

Good to Know: On a budget? This is one of the top budget-friendly activities in San Antonio.

The Alamo
The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas

The Alamo

What Is It? The Alamo is the iconic symbol of San Antonio and a visit to this landmark is a must when you visit the city. 

Why Do It? You might remember from history lessons that a small group of Texans stood their ground in 1836, hence the battle cry, “Remember the Alamo!” Today, the fortress still represents the independent spirit of Texans. 

Good to Know: The Alamo is one of the top attractions in San Antonio’s downtown area and is open for tours.

The Riverwalk

The Riverwalk

What Is It? The other obvious but can’t-miss destination if you’re a first time visitor to San Antonio is the famous Riverwalk. 

Why Do It? This is a 2.5-mile-long stretch of pedestrian walkways that run alongside the San Antonio River. You’ll find lots of restaurants, bars, and shops along this route, but be advised that many of these are more touristy and expensive than those found elsewhere in the city. You can take a boat tour down the river or visit the Riverwalk’s oldest bar, the Esquire Tavern, which opened in 1933 to celebrate the end of prohibition. 

Good to Know: If you’re looking for ultimate convenience, consider booking one of the hotels along the Riverwalk as well.

Institute of Texan Cultures
Institute of Texan Cultures

Institute of Texan Cultures

What Is It? Undeniably, Texas has a culture that is all its own, so to get a sense of how this culture has emerged and evolved, visit the Institute of Texan Cultures. 

Why Do It? You will find exhibits about many different ethnic groups that have settled in the state over the years and understand just how multicultural the state really is. 

Good to Know: If you can schedule your visit around the annual Texas Folklife Festival in June, you can learn even more about 40+ Texas cultural groups through music, crafts, food, and performances.

Historic Market Square
A shop in the "El Mercado" section of Historic Market Square

Historic Market Square

What Is It? One of the best shopping districts in San Antonio is Historic Market Square, a bustling market place known for its Mexican vibe. 

Why Do It? Expect to find flea market-style stands in a giant space with some delicious Mexican food and colorful crafts.

Good to Know: This is also the site of several festivals throughout the year and a fun place to dine outside under a restaurant umbrella and people-watch.

Natural Bridge Caverns
Natural Bridge Caverns

Natural Bridge Caverns

What Is It? You might not expect to find an extensive cave system in the San Antonio area, but you only need to drive about 17 miles northeast of the city to find spectacular caves with thousands of stalactite formations. 

Why Do It? This is one of the largest caves of its kind in the country and worth taking a tour to learn more about the area’s geology. 

Good to Know: Kids also enjoy the treetop ropeway excursions and zip lines here.

King William Historic District
King William Historic District

King William Historic District

What Is It? To see a different side of San Antonio, take a stroll through the King William District. 

Why Do It? The main area of this neighborhood only spans a couple of streets, but it is lined with beautiful homes that represent the historical architecture of the city’s settlement.

Good to Know: You can take a guided walking tour to learn more about the area and the Greek Revival, Victorian, and Italianate mansions that have been inhabited by some of San Antonio’s famous residents.

La Villita Historic Arts Village
La Villita Historic Arts Village

La Villita Historic Arts Village

What Is It? San Antonio residents love their local art, and the best place to explore this artistic spirit is La Villita Historic Arts Village. 

Why Do It? This was the city’s first established neighborhood in 1939 and is now home to dozens of shops and art galleries. 

Good to Know: Most of the shops are condensed into a single-block area, so it’s easy to walk around to see local and regional artists’ paintings, sculptures, and drawings.

San Antonio Botanical Garden
San Antonio Botanical Garden

San Antonio Botanical Garden

What Is It? Most major U.S. cities have a beloved botanical garden, and San Antonio is no exception. 

Why Do It? The city’s botanical garden spans 33 acres and has many types of vegetation native to East Texas, as well as alpine and aquatic plants too. Don’t miss the garden for the blind, the children’s garden, and the rose garden.

Good to Know: Check the botanical garden’s online events calendar to see if there are any special exhibits or activities going on during your visit.

Buckhorn Saloon & Museum
Buckhorn Saloon & Museum

Buckhorn Saloon & Museum

What Is It? Albert Fredrich was a San Antonio resident that had an incredibly unique collection of artifacts, which now make up the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum. 

Why Do It? Here you can see mounted taxidermy wildlife from around the world, Texas Ranger Division guns and badges, the famous Bonnie & Clyde getaway car, and lots of relics from Native American and cowboy culture. The bar here is over 100 years old and often has old west performers to entertain you while you sit. 

Good to Know: The saloon has several locally brewed beers on draft and features their famous prickly pear margaritas too.

San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo
San Antonio Rodeo

San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo

What Is It? If you don’t think your trip to Texas would be complete without seeing a rodeo, then head to the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. 

Why Do It? This event typically takes place in February each year and has grown to be one of the largest events in the city with over two million visitors annually. 

Good to Know: This is a place to learn about animals and agriculture and experience live music and family-friendly fun.

San Antonio's Art Museums
San Antonio Museum of Art

San Antonio's Art Museums

What Is It? For a taste of the city’s local art, make sure to visit San Antonio’s top art museums. 

Why Do It? The San Antonio Museum of Art features art from many different ancient cultures, including Egyptian, Greek, Roman, European, and Chinese.

Good to Know: For modern art, head to the McNay Art Museum, which is housed in a Spanish Colonial Revival home and also has pieces from Medieval times, the Renaissance period, and contemporary Indian art.

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