Fun Things to Do in San Antonio
San Antonio has a strong hispanic presence which gives it a very latin feel. Enjoy the incredible sights and the food which includes Tex-Mex – a very Texas version of Mexican food.
San Antonio was one of the first cities to revitalize the downtown area to make it a city hot spot. After severe flooding in the area in the early 1900s the river was created as part of the flood control plan. In the 1940s work was started to create walkways and footbridges to make the area pedestrian friendly.
Since then, improvements have been made a little bit at a time. Restaurants and hotels flocked to the area and a design firm that worked on Disneyland had a hand in creating the early Texas and Mexican colonial style.
Now you can eat and stroll and even ride on the river in a boat. Visit the mall at one end of the river and listen to live music. At Christmas time there is a wonderful parade on the water, too! This is a MUST see if you visit the colorful city of San Antonio.
The River Walk is considered a public park and is free to visit 24 hours a day. Walk or take a boat ride!
Things to to remember:
*It is hot in San Antonio in the summer. Check the temps for your visit.
*Dogs are welcome if kept on a leash.
*There is no real address for the River Walk since it is 15 miles long, but you can use this address for your GPS:
Shops at Rivercenter
849 E. Commerce Street
San Antonio, Texas 78205
*parking is easily available downtown at garages and using meters on the street. Find FREE parking Tuesday evenings.
Ford Holiday River Parade – Usually held in November…This beautiful evening parade involves a lighting ceremony with live music and floats on the river. Check here for times and tickets.
Bud Light Haunted River – Usually held before Halloween….This fun and creepy parade is fun Halloween fun for the whole family. Wear your costume and hear live music and do some trick or treating, too. Check here for times and tickets.
Ford River Race – Every year the Boy Scouts of America and Paseo del Rio Association celebrate the great outdoors by racing down the river each summer. Have fun cheering them on! Click here for times for this FREE event.
Ford Mariachi Festival – This FREE fiesta (party) event is a great way to enjoy wonderfully colorful costumes and fantastic music. Listen to live music many groups over a 3 day period. Usually held in late spring. Click here for times for this FREE event.
Bud Light St. Patrick’s Day Festival – Everyone is Irish once a year here as this festival started 1968. Live music, dancing, art of different types, and ethnic food. They even dye the river green! Lots of fun for the whole family. Of course St. Patrick’s day is only one day but this festival is a 3 day affair. Click here for times for the FREE event.
That isn’t all! The River Walk is always a fun place to spend some time.
Remember the Alamo! The alamo has stood here since it was a mission in 1718 and was originally called Mission San Antonio de Valero, but it is best known as the last strong hold in the war for Texas’ independence from Mexico.
The Battle of the Alamo lasted 13 days and was between the 180 American rebels against 4000 Mexican soldiers.
We think of the phrase ‘Remember the Alamo’ of course when we think of the Alamo, but in fact Texas lost the battle of the Alamo. Three weeks later, when fighting the Battle of San Jacinto, Sam Houston led troops yelling to them as encouragement to find hard, “Remember the Alamo”. So, ‘Remember the Alamo’ is a battle cry.
Since the leader of the Mexican army said he would take no prisoners, the brave men who fought at the Alamo knew they had no hope of winning and would face certain death. Their bravery during the fought kept the Mexican army busy so that behinds the scenes Sam Houston was able to build an army who did defeat the Mexican army.
“Victory or Death!” is another famous phrase that comes from this battle. During the battle of the Alamo, William B. Travis sent several letters to the nearby town Gonzales. In one letter, Travis says,
“I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is our his own honor and that of his country. Victory or Death!”
Famous names of the Alamo:
William B. Travis
See some amazing artifacts – all donated by Phil Collins, the British musician. Yes, that musician. Turns out he has had a fascination with the battle of the Alamo since he was a kid and gathered an amazing collection of artifacts. He generously donated them to the museum in 2-14. Get ready for your trip by taking a loot at the ‘artifact of the month‘ shown online!
Events take place here all the time! Check the calendar to see what’s going on during your visit.
For the best possible experience get a guided tour, but you can wander around and read the signs yourself, too.Self guided audio tours are available in several languages: English, Spanish, French, German, and Japanese. Click here to reserve your audio tour.
300 Alamo Plaza
San Antonio, Texas 78205
May 26-September4 9:00 am – 7:00 pm
September 5 – May 25 9:00 am – 5:30 pm
CLOSED – Christmas Day
I learned in my Texas history class as a young student, and taught in my Texas history class as a teacher that the Battle of the Alamo was a fight of epic heroic proportions. Historians who consider the Mexican version of things beg to differ saying the Texans were caught off guard and were sleeping and thus the entire battle only lasted a few minutes. Choose the version that suits you, but I find it hard to believe that anyone was sleeping if you knew that 4000 soldiers were hoping to storm your position. Surely someone was on guard to wake everyone up. But no matter, explore the Alamo and form your own opinion.
Read before you visit a historical site. It really helps the kids have a better understanding of what they are seeing. The more you read and prepare the more interested they’ll be and will cut down on the whining!!! LOL!
Missions National Historical Park and Trail
The UNESCO World Heritage Site includes 4 of the historic missions in San Antonio. The 5th, the Alamo, is not included in this park. There are 15 miles of hiking and biking between the San Antonio missions. When the weather is pretty those are great ways to get out and explore all the missions. When you have less time – or less leg muscles 😉 you can use the VIVA Cultural bus routes which access the Missions National Historical Park.
807 Mission Road
Mission San Jose
6701 San Jose Drive
Mission San Juan Capistrano
9101 Graf Road
10040 Espada Road
Ethel Wilson Harris House (also on the Historic American Buildings Survey)
6519 San Jose Drive
Also located along the Missions Trail system you can visit:
This is a monument to the men and women who fought against overwhelming odds during the Battle of the Alamo.
300 Alamo Plaza
Lone Star Brewery
9045 Espada Rd
6420 County Road 144
San Antonio Zoo
Visit the 35 acres with 3500 animals and 750 species. Kids love animals and the freedom to be outside and run and talk loudly. Give the kids a little breathing room here at this cool zoo.
3903 N. St.Mary’s St.
San Antonio 78212
Open daily – 9 – 5. View the calendar for cool events and the hours related to them.
Tickets: Purchase on line to save time – no waiting in lines!
The Fun Day ticket includes a train ride, carousel ride and entry into the butterfly area.
Fun Day ticket prices; Adults (12+) $20.99 Children (3-11) $17.99 Children (0-3) FREE
Food – Food and drinks are NOT allowed in the park.
EXCEPTIONS that ARE allowed in the zoo:
small snack sized items
NO ice chests and NO coolers
Eat while you are at the zoo with three dining spots:
Beastro Restaurant (Love the name….get it? Beast….str?)
Longnecks Bar and Grill
BYOS (Bring your own Stroller) or rent one:
Walking and standing too much fro someone in your party? Rent a wheelchair.
electric wheelchair $35
electric wheelchair with canopy $45
San Antonio Aquarium
The San Antonio Aquarium is a very hands on experience for kids and adults alike. You’ll be able to see animals and pet some, feed others and learn along the way. Habitats that represent places around the world are home to 8000 animals . Ride the ponies, feed birds, iguanas, fish and an octopus. Ride the ponies! Some days (mostly weekends and holidays) you can even see mermaids! For an extra fee your child can visit the bouncy house!
Plan ahead and make your reservation to see how the animals get ready for a big day of visits! the crew will check water levels and feed all the animals. You can help! Assist with diets, feeding and checking the water. Members $19.95 Non-members: $29.95
San Antonio Aquarium
6320 Bandera Road
San Antonio, Texas 78238
Monday – Thursday – Adults: $13.95 Child $8.95 Senior/Military $11.95 College Student $11.95
Friday – Saturday – Adults $15.95 Child $10.95 Senior/Military $13.95 College Students $13.95
Children Under 2 FREE
Natural Bridge Caverns
Miles of caverns beneath the surface were hidden until the spring of 1960 when students went exploring. With each of multiple visits by the students more underground structures were found. Now you can visit the wonderful underground caverns, too!
The first 1/2 mile of the cavern is called the Discovery Tour. This underground cavner is one of the biggest in Texas and that is really saying something because everyone knows that everything is BIGGER in Texas!
How did such an incredible place develop underground? Well, way WAY back about 20 million years ago the coastal regions of Texas settled and along with cracks from tectonic stresses and erosion from underground water has carved these underground passageways. These passageways became longer and larger and place collapsed forming the areas you can visit today.
Natural Bridge Caverns
26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Rd
San Antonio, Texas 78266
Open daily. Closed only Easter, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day
Discovery Tour – Includes the first 1/2 mile of the largest cavern in Texas. Walking distance 3/4 mile total.
9 – 4 Tours depart every 10-40 minutes. Final tour departs 4. Adults $22.50 Child (3-11) $14.75
The Hidden Passages Tour
Go deeper into the cavern
9 – 3:40. Tours depart every 40 minutes. Final tour departs at 3:40. Adults $22.75 Child (3-11) $14.75
DUAL tickets for Discovery AND The Hidden Passages Tour Adults $33.25 Child (3-11) $21.50
Lantern Tour 9:00 am. Tours offered only on select days. Call to see if available on your visit day. Adult $24.75 Child (3-11) $16.00
Canopy Challenge 10 – 4. Tours offered daily if the weather cooperates.
The Amazon Ranch Round Up 9 – 5 ALL tickets $9.99
Discovery Mining Co 9 – 5. Pan for gold! Tickets $8.99 – $14.99 depending upon the experience.
Adventure Tours – Advance reservations. Call 281-651-6101 to book your tour.
*Hidden passages adventure tour (ages 13 and UP) $140.00
*Discovery Adventure Tour (ages 10 and UP) $115.00
Pearl District and Farmer’s Market
This cool area is hip and full of foodies and people wanting to experience the weather and food and fun all in one spot! Wonderfully designed with plants that thrive on the heat decorate the 22 acre site. Now home to wonderful restaurants, shops, breweries and The Culinary Institute of America.
The Farmer’s Market is open Saturdays and Sundays no matter the weather. Year round you can buy locally grown food along with all sorts of cheese, olive oils and baked treats of all sorts. With more than 40 vendors you are sure to find something you can’t live without. 😉
Pearl District and Farmer’s Market
312 Pearl Parkway
San Antonio, Texas 78215
Farmer’s Market Hours
Saturday 9:00 – 1:00
Sunday 10:00 – 2:00
The largest Mexican market in the United States is a fun and culturally rich experience! You should definitely visit when you come to San Antonio. There are 32 shops actually in El Mercado and another 80 at the nearby Farmer’s Market Plaza. Listen to live music, watch the dancers in gorgeous costumes and buy leather and embroidered dresses. Go hungry because there are lots of delicious items to try!
514 W. Commerce
San Antonio, Texas 78207
San Antonio Museum of Art
in 1994 two museums combined forces to become the San Antonio Museum of Art. Continually updated since then to add art and to make the front of the museum even more wonderful as it was connected to the Riverwalk.
See fantastic artwork from each of these art styles:
Art of the Ancient American World (Egyptian, Green, Roman, and Near Eastern)
200 W. Jones Avenue
San Antonio, Texas 78215
Monday – CLOSED
Tuesday – 10:00 am – 9:00 pm
Wednesday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Thursday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Friday 10:00 am – 9:00 pm
Saturday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
CLOSED ON THE FOLLOWING HOLIDAYS:
Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve (early closing 3:00), Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Easter, Fiesta Friday (April 27) Fiesta Flambeau Parade (April 28 early closing 3:00), July 4 (early closing at 5:00)
Students and Military $8
Children 12 and under FREE
ONE FREE ADMISSION – First full weekend of the month
Fun Things to do in San Antonio – EAT
Tex-Mex is big in southern Texas and is a wonderful fusion between traditional Mexican food and traditional Texas fare. You will LOVE it!
BTW – I have seen Tex-Mex in different places around the world. We even ate at a Tex-Mex place in Athens, Greece last summer. While the food is similar…it is NOT the same. The only place you can get real, honest to goodness, Tex-Mex food is here in Texas and the very best comes from San Antonio! You have to try it to believe it.
Here are a few things to try:
Salsa – This dip is tomato based – usually. It can be chunky or very smooth. Sometimes it is pretty mild and sometimes it can be fiery hot. It can be served cold, room temperature or warm. My favorite is the warm! I highly recommend waiting until the drinks are served before tasting. Just in case.
In addition to the tomato based salsa there is a salsa verde and it is green. Sometimes based with the tomatillo, which looks like a green tomato and sometimes it is heavy on the avocado. Either way….really, really yummy and not a spicy as the red salsa.
This is always served with chips and usually comes free of charge. It is RARE but sometimes on the riverwalk there can be a charge. Ask.
Guacamole – The ambrosia of avocado and tomatoes and a few spices makes this a fantastic addition to really anything. It can be a dip or added to fajitas! Try it yourself at home!
Margaritas – A must for Tex-Mex meals if you are drinking.
Enchiladas – Ok, thick and creamy cheese poured over a rolled tortilla. Inside the tortilla is a variety of things – more cheese, chicken or beef. All delicious. All a good idea.
Sopapillas – Dessert and a must try. Like a donut sort of….like a fried bread sort of…these are puffy with lots of air in the middle and are served with honey. My advice – EAT THEM. Calories on vacation don’t count anyway. 😉
Happy Travels to Texas,
Natalie, The Educational Tourist