Planning a trip to Texas? As you put together your itinerary, don’t forget to throw in all the best things to do in San Antonio, Texas. Explore the largest city in South Central Texas to discover the art, history, music, and cultural diversity that make San Antonio so unique.
From cowboy culture to historic Spanish missions, the city’s rich history is well preserved throughout the top tourist attractions in San Antonio. Here in “Alamo City,” it’s only fitting to stop by The Alamo, one of the most famous sites in the USA. Visit one of San Antonio’s first neighborhoods, La Villita Historic Village for local boutiques and tasty eateries. Or, spend an evening meandering along the San Antonio River Walk for some of the best scenery, art, and atmospheric dining in the city.
Wondering what to do in San Antonio? Plan the perfect trip with this guide to the best places to visit in San Antonio, TX.
Best places to visit in San Antonio, TX
San Antonio River Walk
First-time visitor to San Antonio? Start to discover the city’s culture by exploring the San Antonio River Walk. Also known as Paseo Del Rio, the riverside boardwalk is one of the best places to see in San Antonio for travelers.
Located in the heart of the city, the 15-mile span of shops, restaurants, markets, and museums is alive with glittering lights, flowers, art, and music. You can take a stroll along the banks or enjoy a riverboat cruise tour.
As you meander along the San Antonio River Walk, find your way to the San Antonio Museum of Art. Located in the River Walk’s Museum Reach section, the art museum has curated relics from around the globe, from Latin America to Egypt and Rome. Its art and historical pieces will keep you fascinated for hours.
Along the parks of the San Antonio River Walk, among the eclectic statues and flourishing plants, you’ll notice giant yellow metal flowers towering above you. These pieces, crafted to look like local flowers, are collectively called “Bloom” by local artist Leticia Huerta. They’re part of The Public Art Garden, spanning the banks of the San Antonio River.
Visiting in the morning? Swing by La Panderia for a tres leches croissant and a frothy cappuccino. If you’ve got more of an appetite, try Domingo Restaurant for relaxed al fresco dining with authentic Mexican tacos, elote, and even churros.
One of San Antonio’s top landmarks is The Alamo, situated downtown. This historical site dates back to 1718 but is most known for being the location of the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. Having served as a fortress for several countries, it’s beautifully preserved today as a monument to Texan Heritage.
You can brief yourself on The Alamo’s significance at the Wall of History. You’ll love meeting actors, portraying soldiers and historical figures, and even watching scheduled reenactments of various battle scenes. The effort put into keeping the spirit and history of The Alamo alive is astounding!
The grounds of the Alamo compound are stunning, too. Admire the cactus garden, Alamo Church, or the original battlegrounds. All are kept pristine. After your visit, you will always, “Remember the Alamo!”
San Antonio Zoo
Ready to see the wild side of San Antonio? Take a trip to the San Antonio Zoo to appreciate over 8,500 animals, both exotic and local. Founded in the 1800s, the zoo maintains much of its charm with attractions like a vintage carousel, while incorporating modern features for guests and animals throughout its 56 acres. Today, it’s one of San Antonio’s top attractions.
Spend a few hours at the San Antonio Zoo gazing upon elegant giraffes and zebras as they graze the well-maintained land in their exhibits. Meet rhinos, hippos, bears, elephants, kangaroos, and countless other species. You’ll be glad to see that the animals are well looked after and are quite active.
The San Antonio Zoo is great for bird lovers, housing one of the world’s largest bird collections.
Note that the San Antonio Zoo heats up under the Texan sun around noon. Morning trips to the zoo are best before the animals retire for an afternoon nap.
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
Texas has no shortage of marvelous historic missions. But, as the state’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is a must-see destination.
As you walk the grounds of San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, you’ll come across brilliant cacti and flowers, museums, and four ancient mission buildings—San Jose, San Juan, Espada, and Concepción. The rustic 17th- and 18th-century Spanish Colonial architecture is still stunning as it stands today.
What better way to learn about the trials the indigenous people faced 300 years ago in the midst of Colonialism than by hearing it from their families? The “We’re Still Here” exhibit is dedicated to telling the stories of these people from their direct descendants. The displays give the modern community a voice, a connection to their roots, and a way to honor the people who built San Antonio.
Mission San Jose
If you’re interested in history dating back to 1720, you’ll want to visit the “Queen of the Missions,” Mission San Jose. Formally known as Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo, this church is breathtaking. If you only have time to visit one mission on your San Antonio itinerary, make it Mission San Jose.
Wander under rounded archways, around the elaborate halls of Mission San Jose, and into the lovely church. As you peer up at the ornate rose window, it’ll be clear why this is allegedly the most photographed window in the world.
Mission San Jose has free guided tours led by park rangers. Whether you take part in a tour or explore by yourself, the rangers are knowledgeable about the history of the mission and are more than glad to answer any questions you have.
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If you’re interested, this church still holds mariachi mass on Sundays.
Mission San Juan
Along San Antonio’s Mission Trail, Mission San Juan Capistrano, or simply Mission San Juan, provides a quiet and calm glimpse into its early history. Although it was abandoned earlier than the other missions after repeated attacks from Apache tribes, the history of this site is still vivid.
Some of the structures at Mission San Juan have fallen, but their ruins are interesting to explore. You can even visit a residence dating back to the early 1800s on site. The unique white-walled church stands out against the dazzling blue San Antonio sky. The rest of the area is just as intriguing. It’s the only mission where you can investigate the remains of an irrigation system left behind.
Don’t forget to go to the back gate at Mission San Juan to find some nature trails and take refuge from the blazing Texas sun among the ancient trees.
Find your way to the tranquil grounds of Mission Concepción and its charming chapel. This mission is smaller than others within the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park but no less impressive.
Take your time ambling the grounds of Mission Concepción, also known as Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción de Acun. Take in the scenes of palm trees bordering the historic stucco and stone buildings. The original wall paintings have retained their color well, and you can still make out the scenes of crosses, vases, and other religious scenes.
Ask your guide or a ranger about the secrets of Mission Concepción, such as how the architects designed special windows that only let shadows appear on certain spots of the walls one day a year.
At the visitor’s center, you can learn about the rich history of the Spanish and Native Americans who lived at the mission.
SeaWorld San Antonio
Dive into a day of upbeat fun at SeaWorld San Antonio. You should save time on your itinerary for this park if you’re up for aquatic animal interactions and amusement park escapades.
One of the top points of interest in San Antonio for families, the amusement park is sure to get your adrenaline pumping. Zoom around the tracks of the Great White Coaster at breathtaking speeds. Strap into the Tidal Surge, the world’s tallest “screaming swing” for a mind-boggling experience. If you have a need for speed, SeaWorld San Antonio has the answer.
Head over to Discovery Cove, hop into a wet suit, and meet the dolphins. During this chance of a lifetime encounter, you’ll learn how the dolphins are trained, go for a swim together, and even give it a hug at the end.
If watching the dolphins, whales, and sea lions from afar is more up your alley, then you’ll love the shows at SeaWorld San Antonio. Throughout the day, they run performances centered around orcas and dolphins. You’ll be in awe of these majestic creatures as they splash and flip through the water.
History, nature, and local culture collide at Brackenridge Park. Located north of downtown San Antonio, this park is a haven for history buffs, golfers, foodies, musicians, fans of the outdoors, and more. All aboard! Hop onto the park’s mini-train for a ride to your first destination.
This lushly forested conservancy is perfect for outdoor fun. Gold on the 18-hole green, or cook up some burger on the public grills. The serene Japanese Tea Garden is one of the best places to go in Brackenridge Park. It makes for a unique dining experience. Indulge in Asian food, tea, and café baked goods.
After lunch, maybe you’d like to mosey through the park. Slip on your sneakers and hit your trail of choice: The Waterworks, the Wildlife Trail, or the Wilderness Trail.
If you think San Antonio’s 300 years of history is impressive, how about 21,000 years? Researchers have found evidence of human life from the Paleoindian era in Brackenridge Park. You can see fossils, cave drawings, and artifacts in the Witte Museum on-site.
San Antonio Botanical Garden
Escape from the concrete jungle downtown to San Antonio Botanical Garden for a breath of fresh air. Sculptures and colorful art installations are artfully organized among over 33 acres of sprawling gardens. This garden is an oasis within the city.
As you enter the rose garden at San Antonio Botanical Garden, you’ll feel as if you’re entering a fairy wonderland. Butterflies flit about the pinks, reds, and yellows of the flowers. The cactus greenhouse is just as extraordinary. It showcases cacti of all different colors and sizes, some with flowers and all with spikes.
Did you know San Antonio’s sister city is Kumamoto, Japan? To symbolize their bond, the Emperor’s gardener designed Kumamoto Garden for the San Antonio Botanical Garden in 1989. Now, you can experience an authentic Japanese garden, stone walkways, lanterns, and all.
Historic Market Square
Set aside an evening during your time in San Antonio for a vibrant and artful outing to Historic Market Square. Leisurely roam the lanes of this Mexican market. It’s one of the biggest in the nation, housing over 100 shops.
Papel picado (decorative rainbow flags) zig-zag from wall to wall above you. The Historic Market Square is notorious for its lively atmosphere, mariachi band music, and festive piñatas. Browse the shops for souvenirs like Mexican folk art, jewelry, and pottery.
Take your tastebuds south of the border with street-food tacos and horchata from the local vendors. If you’d prefer to dine at a sit-down restaurant, family-owned Mi Terra is a great choice for tasty Mexican cuisine and drinks. If there was ever an ideal place to enjoy tequila in San Antonio, this is it!
Traveling with little ones would be easier if more cities had The DoSeum. This San Antonio children’s museum is centered around immersive experiences for them to learn, build, and play.
The interactive exhibits at The DoSeum include a Spy Academy, where kids can learn how to be super sneaky sleuths, an array of robotics-geared experiments, and much more.
If your child is a little engineer, he or she will love the simple machine experiment that drops bouncy balls when you activate it. If your little buddy likes to get messy, the water-play station might be just what they’re looking for. Or, if you have an actor or actress, then he or she will have a blast with the roleplay area modeled after the “Whataburger” restaurant.
One of the best things to do in San Antonio for families, the DoSeum guarantees hands-on fun for hours on end.
Natural Bridge Caverns
Are you an adventurer at heart? If so, you’ll be intrigued by the Natural Bridge Caverns, one of San Antonio’s major points of interest.
Venture 180 feet below the Earth’s surface into the otherworldly realm of massive geological rock formations. The Natural Bridge Caverns provide a range of daily activities above and below land.
The ancient dripping towers and piles of limestone hanging from walls are spectacular. As you go deeper into the caves, you’ll discover some of Texas’s largest stalagmite collections and formations.
On a tour, you’ll learn that the names of these natural creations match their descriptions, from “soda straws” for the skinny ones and “chandeliers” for the ceiling danglers.
Once you’ve resurfaced, you can test your limits on ropes courses and zip lines. Cave exploring deep within the Earth and flying above the trees all in one day: a uniquely San Antonio experience!
La Villita Historic Village
Time for a shopping break, San Antonio-style. La Villita Historic Village is one of San Antonio’s first neighborhoods. It’s still thriving today. Devoted to art and culture, this old mission is full of history, charm, and handmade treasures to browse or buy.
Local artisans have their goods on display in the many boutiques around La Villita Historic Village. From stain-glass to paintings, quilts, hand-made soaps, and much more, these shop owners are proud to showcase their masterpieces.
Stop for lunch at Guadalajara Grill for a delicious Mexican lunch. Or, grab an afternoon coffee pick-me-up at La Villita Café.
Roam the historical streets and soak in the bright colors of the shops and buildings. Each historically significant building has a plaque with a brief description (the history lessons never stop in San Antonio). Discover the small art galleries scattered throughout this neighborhood.
A look around La Villita Historic Village is a glimpse into San Antonio culture.
McNay Art Museum
San Antonio is a nirvana for art lovers. Perhaps the hub of San Antonio’s art scene is McNay Art Museum. Located north of the city enter, this Spanish colonial mansion houses classic and modern artwork and is one of the top San Antonio tourist attractions for art enthusiasts.
As Texas’s first modern art museum, the McNay Art Museum managed to curate world-famous pieces from artists like Vincent van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, and Jackson Pollock. Enjoy the incredible works of art in the relaxing atmosphere of the historic museum.
Take a walk outside to find beauty on the property around the McNay Art Museum. Statues line the property, bringing the art outdoor. Admire the landscaped gardens overflowing with bright flowers. Fountains with clear turquoise-blue water are stunning against the green spaces.
Your San Antonio trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to this artistic paradise.
Briscoe Western Art Museum
When in the Southwest, do as the Southwesterners do. Or at least see what the early Southwesterners did. One of the hidden gems along the San Antonio River Walk is Briscoe Western Art Museum. Here, you’ll learn about cowboys, Native Americans, and their ways of life hundreds of years ago.
Briscoe Western Art Museum has an impressive number of artifacts from the 1700s and 1800s. Upon entering, you’ll see the restored classic Wells Fargo covered wagon. Could you imagine yourself traveling by stagecoach?
Their vast collections of genuine cowboy spurs and horse saddles are eye-catching. They’ll give you a peek into the Old West style.
Buckhorn Saloon and Texas Ranger Museum
If you can’t get enough of the wild west aesthetic, Buckhorn Saloon and Texas Ranger Museum should be your next stop on your San Antonio trip itinerary. This site is a double-whammy of delicious food and Texas history.
The Texas Ranger Museum sheds light on the history of, you guessed it, the Texas Rangers. Take a look at their expansive gun and ammunition collection to understand the tools they were working with. Learn about the likes of Bonnie and Clyde, the Rough Riders, and other iconic cowboys through engaging exhibits.
Climb up to the third floor to find some stuffed oddities. Taxidermy animals from around the globe are posed in lifelike stances. You might feel like they’re about to pounce!
When you’re ready for a bite to eat, head back down to the Buckhorn Saloon. This saloon is a slice of Southwestern history. It’s rumored that the Rough Riders and Pancho Villa were patrons of this bar and eatery!
Where to stay in San Antonio for sightseeing
For most travelers, the top choices for where to stay in San Antonio lie around the River Walk and Downtown San Antonio. The city center is home to many of San Antonio’s top hotels and will put you close to many of the city’s top points of interest, including The Alamo.
Dig into the Southwest-chic vibe at the lovely Canopy By Hilton Riverwalk. Rooms dish out soothing earthy tones topped with bright colors that add a dash of Mexico to the mix. Finish off the day with a craft cocktail at Otro, sipping the night away to the lights of the beautiful River Walk.
Fusing Art Deco and South Texas flair, the Drury Plaza is one of the city’s top choices for accommodations. After a day of checking out all the top tourist attractions, escape the Texas heat with a dip in the outdoor pool or indoor pool, or relax your muscles in the whirlpool. Splurge on the King Terrace room to enjoy dramatic city views from your own corner balcony.
For the ultimate in San Antonio luxury, book yourself in at The Thompson Riverwalk. Snag a private cabana on the pool terrace to sip cocktails to panoramic city vistas or chill out after a day of sightseeing at the on-site spa. When its time to retire for the night, slip into your sleek and stylish room, fitted with rich wood floors, reclaimed wood tables, and colorful wall accents.