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.
YOU'RE ALL SET!
Look out for our newsletters in your inbox soon.
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
To truly understand what San Antonio is all about, you’ll need to spend some time visiting the area’s various missions. 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.
The Alamo is the iconic symbol of San Antonio and a visit to this landmark is a must when you visit the city. 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. The Alamo is located in the heart of downtown San Antonio and is open for tours.
Things to Do on the Riverwalk
The other obvious but can’t-miss destination if you’re a first time visitor to San Antonio is the famous Riverwalk. 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. If you’re looking for ultimate convenience, consider booking one of the hotels along the Riverwalk as well.
Institute of Texan Cultures
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. 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. 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.
El Mercado Market Square
One of the best shopping districts in San Antonio is El Mercado, which is a historic market square with a Mexican vibe. Expect to find flea market-style stands in a giant space with some delicious Mexican food and colorful crafts. 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
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. This is one of the largest caves of its kind in the country and worth taking a tour of to learn more about the area’s geology. Kids also enjoy the treetop ropeway excursions and zip lines here.
King William Historic District
To see a different side of San Antonio, take a stroll through the King William District. The main area of this neighborhood only spans a couple streets, but it is lined with beautiful homes that represent historical architecture of the city’s settlement. You can take a guided walking tour to learn more about the area and the Greek Revival, Victorian, and Italiante mansions that have been inhabited by some of San Antonio’s famous residents.
La Villita Historic Arts Village
San Antonio residents love their local art, and the best place to explore this artistic spirit is La Villita Historic Arts Village. This was the city’s first established neighborhood in 1939 and is now home to dozens of shops and art galleries. 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
Most major U.S. cities have a beloved botanical garden, and San Antonio is no exception. 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, and 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
Albert Fredrich was a San Antonio resident that had an incredibly unique collection of artifacts, which now make up the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum. 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. The saloon has several locally brewed beers on draft and features their famous prickly pear margaritas too.
San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo
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. 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. This is a place to learn about animals and agriculture and experience live music and family-friendly fun.
San Antonio's Art Museums
In addition to visiting La Villita Historic Arts Village for a taste of the city’s local art, make sure to visit San Antonio’s top art museums as well. The San Antonio Museum of Art features art from many different ancient cultures, including Egyptian, Greek, Roman, European, and Chinese. 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.