Skip to main content

25 Great Things to Do in San Antonio

This fast-growing cosmopolitan city encompasses a great number of natural, culinary, historical, and artistic attractions. Several can be explored along the River Walk or clustered in other areas of the city. Here are 25 favorites.

1. The Alamo. Begin with the shrine at the center of Texas history. San Antonio is celebrating the 175th anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo (read WOTBA's account) with events all year. Watch living history reenactors demonstrate how people lived, fought, and worked in the Texas of 1836.

2. The San Antonio River Walk. Stroll the historic walk along the San Antonio River and enjoy restaurants, shops, and music. Read about the major expansion of the historic downtown River Walk.

3. Tower of the Americas. This 750-foot-tall signature feature of the San Antonio skyline, built for HemisFair '68, is open for great views, dining, drinks, and even a 4-D theater show.

4. Menger Bar at the Menger Hotel is where Theodore Roosevelt recruited his Rough Riders. Hang out and drink in this hotel home of Texas elegance.

5. La Villita. Originally a settlement for Spanish soldiers assigned to the Mission San Antonio de Valero, and later for Santa Ana's troops, this little village now houses a thriving arts community.

dinner cruise,
San Antonio River
6. Arneson River Theater. Within La Villita, visit the premier River Walk venue for the performing arts.

7. Little Rhein Steak House. Also at La Villita, this fine restaurant offers romantic views of the River Walk. Even on a chilly night, it's still possible to enjoy dining outside on the patio - the staff will provide a warm wooly pancho.

8. San Fernando Cathedral. Founded in 1731 by families from the Canary Islands, the Catholic cathedral played an important role in the Battle of the Alamo. Santa Ana raised the "no quarter" flag from the original tower. Some say David Crockett is buried there.

9. Tower Life Building. Long known as the Transit Tower, this historic neo-Gothic tower, built in 1928, was designed by the local Ayers & Ayers firm, complete with gargoyles staring down at pedestrians and the barge crowd along the River Walk. The building is indicative of the wealth of commercial architecture from mid-20th century in the city, easily explored near the city center.

10. Aztec Theatre is one of the great 1920s dream movie palaces, decorated in the Meso-American style.

The Alamo (1)
11. Blue Star Contemporary Art Center (116 Blue Star). The contemporary arts scene in San Antonio rivals any large city, in large part due to this pioneering art space near the city's King William and South Town communities.

12. Guenther House. In the gracious home of the founder of the Pioneer Flour Mills, you'll find this exceedingly tasty and scenic spot for a great breakfast or lunch. The biscuits and delicate waffles are particularly wonderful. Stroll the nearby King William Historic District after.

13. Steves Homestead House Museum. Located at 509 King William Street, this three-story mansion serves as a fine example of the prosperity of San Antonio's German community in the 19th century.

14. Liberty Bar, housed in a former convent on Alamo Street, serves up fine but affordable dining that blends local ingredients and seasonings with haute cuisine. The Frolic and Detour Coffee Bar on the second floor would be a good way to start the day with a little breakfast and free wi-fi.

ceiling by Dale Chihuly,
 San Antonio Museum of Art (15)
15. San Antonio Museum of Art. The museum, housed in the converted former Lone Star Brewery and in an expanded new wing, possesses a solid collection of art from many periods, but the strong collections of folk art from the Americas set the museum apart from many others. The museum is now linked to downtown via the Museum Reach of the River Walk.

16. La Gloria Ice House. In Texas, you want to kick back and eat great Mexican food, preferably while enjoying a river setting. At the Pearl end of the River Walk, enjoy Chef Johnny Hernandez's creative takes on the street foods of Mexico.

17. Pearl Farmers Market. Also at the apex of the Museum Reach of the River Walk, find food producers from within a 150 mile radius of San Antonio, gathered on the grounds of the old Pearl Brewery. Browse the shops indoors, too.

18. Culinary Institute of America, Pearl Brewery complex. A sure sign that culinary achievement has reached a critical benchmark in San Antonio, the premier culinary college has opened up a campus to promote Latin American cooking. Stop by the CIA Bakery Café for a taste.

19. El Mercado, Market Square. Be sure to visit Market Square for several destinations, including El Mercado, the largest Mexican marketplace outside of Mexico. Items include jewelry, pottery, hats, folk art, and many other hand-made gifts.


at Mi Tierra (20)
20. Mi Tierra Cafe & Bakery. Visually an over-the-top extravaganza, Mi Tierra celebrates Tex-Mex in all its glories - enchiladas, marguerites, tacos, and other fare typical of the popular cuisine. The long cases of the bakery are filled with colorfully baked goods, and eager lines of customers are anxious to snap up their favorites.

San Antonio
Botanical Garden (22) 
21. The Museo Alameda, located in Market Square, is the nation's largest latino museum. An affiliate of the Smithsonian, the museum is currently showing an exhibit highlighting the evolution of art in Mexico from 1910 through 1968 and its parallels to cultural change in San Antonio.

22. San Antonio Botanical Garden. Several worthy attractions in San Antonio are away from the city center, but if one excuse to visit San Antonio is the weather and the greenery, then a walk in the botanical garden is a must. Situated on the highest point in the city, the sprawling gardens encompass several themed areas and the renowned glass conservatories. Most fascinating is the set of trails that leads to areas representative of Texas's diverse garden zones.

courtyard, The McNay (23)
23. The McNay Art Museum. With deep holdings in modern art, this art museum on sprawling beautiful grounds builds on the founding collection of Marion McNay, the keen-eyed oil heiress who left her Spanish Colonial Revival house and 700 works for all to enjoy. The expanding collection includes the must-see items from the Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts and the Art of New Mexico.

24. Witte Museum. Located next to Brackenridge Park in San Antonio, the museum specializes in natural history, ethnography, and science. The family-friendly museum showcases a range of critters from dinosaurs to live tarantulas.

25. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park: Mission Concepcion. This mission, one of several on a southern trail, has recently undergone extensive renovation and serves as a great place to learn about Spanish Colonial architecture. The acoustics in the church make for a great sound during Sunday's noontime Mariachi Mass.


View 25 Great Things To Do in San Antonio in a larger map

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from March 3-6, 2011.

For more information, please see Visit San Antonio.

_______
During my stay, I was the guest of Visit San Antonio, and I thank them for their hospitality and for the chance to share the city with readers of Walking Off the Big Apple. Observations and opinions expressed in this series are my own. I am a fifth-generation Texan, on my mother's side, but my ancestors in East Texas stayed far away from the Alamo. I now live on the island of Manhattan.










Popular posts from this blog

Circling the Met: A Springtime Visit to Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art

For a double feature of art and nature, the Metropolitan Museum of Art happens to be conveniently situated in Central Park. The front of the museum faces Fifth Avenue, its monumental wings stretching the blocks between E. 80th and E. 84th. The sides and the back of the museum are within easy walking distance of several prominent landmarks within the park.  Cedar Hill in Central Park Before a visit to the Met, consider taking a walk around the museum beginning on the southern side. A walk in the park can serve as a good preparation for a museum visit, because looking at or noticing the shapes and colors of the built and natural environment can enhance the art experience. Cedar Hill in Central Park The path south of the 79 Street Transverse leads to a scene at Cedar Hill very much like a panorama, with a vast wide-angle expanse of green grass and hill. Take the first path that leads back over 79th Street to the southern side of the museum. This path brilliantly disguises the motor traffi

A New York Spring Calendar: Blooming Times and Seasonal Events

See the UPDATED 2018 CALENDAR HERE . Updated for 2017 . At this time of year, thoughts turn to spring. Let's spring forward to blooming times, the best locations for witnessing spring's beginnings, and springtime events in the big city. While the occasional snow could blow through the city, we're just weeks now from callery pears in bloom and opening day at the ballpark. In The Ramble, Central Park. mid-April Blooming Times •  Central Park Conservancy's website  lists blooming times within the park. During the month of March we begin to see crocus, daffodils, forsythia, snowdrops, witch-hazel, and hellebores. Species tulips will emerge in several places, but the Shakespeare Garden and Conservatory Garden are particularly good places to catch the beginning of Spring blooms. Central Park near E. 72nd St., saucer magnolia, typically end of March. •  Citywide Blooming Calendar from New York City Department of Parks & Recreation April is u

The Lonesome Metropolis: A Walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center

As New York City reopens, why do the attractions of the great metropolis still look mostly deserted on a summer morning? A morning walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center sought to address this question. As it turns out, there are several adequate explanations. But for what happens next, there are no right answers. Grand Central Terminal, 9:40 am. Wednesday, July 22, 2020. Many neighborhoods outside of tourist New York are still buzzing along. While some residents of wealthier neighborhoods have largely decamped to mountain cabins, beach houses, and other second homes, the less wealthy have nowhere to go and may still be working. Just visit Washington Heights or Corona or Flatbush, and you’ll see sidewalks full of shoppers and summer evening street partiers. Those who fled the city remain only a fraction of the total population.   Grand Central Terminal, 9:40 am. Wednesday, July 22, 2020. Other renowned parts of the city such as City Hall and Brooklyn Bridge have been fr

Visiting New York City Again on the First Day of Spring

  The first weekend of spring in New York City coincided with bright and pleasing weather. Blue skies and Blue Jays, Bald Eagles and brightened crowds greeted the new season, at least in my world. It may be a clichĂ© to say something like “Hope is in the air,” but contrast this spring of 2021 with the one a year ago, the new mood is palpable. Last year during early spring, the city shut down, in caution and crisis, but this season feels like a resurrection, albeit still cautious. The Met Steps on Fifth Avenue Last spring, when many of the city’s residents feared going outside, many are at least partially vaccinated now. The numbers rise every day. I have been fully vaccinated for a month now, so I used the occasion to revisit New York City. I have been out and about in my neighborhood, but in terms of the public New York City, the one celebrated in tourist books and on this website, I have not ventured there much at all.  A Bald Eagle grasps a fish in its talons outside the Met Cloister

Early Voting in Washington Heights, and A Walk

Early voting for the 2020 federal election in New York began on Saturday, October 24 and continues through Sunday, November 1. The weekend was overcast and autumnal, with the bright yellows of fall on display. In New York City, thousands of New Yorkers turned out at the 88 early voting locations and waited in long lines, many stretching around the block.  A line to vote in Washington Heights. The line stretched around the block multiple times. Madison Square Garden in Manhattan and the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn were two of the well-known sites, but most voting places were typical neighborhood places such as schools, churches, and hospitals.   The scene outside the entrance to the Russ Berrie Medical Science Pavilion, one of the early voting locations in Washington Heights. In Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, two early voting locations were within a short walk of one another, causing some confusion for voters emerging from the 168th Street subway station. The Columbia Universit

North Towards Autumn: A Day Trip on the Metro-North Hudson Line

The peak of autumn colors in New York City tends to fall sometime in the days following Halloween, but those anxiously waiting leaf change can simply travel north.  Near Beacon, a view of autumn colors from the Metro-North Hudson line One way to speed the fall season is to take the Hudson line of Metro-North north of the city and watch the greens fade to oranges and yellows and the occasional burst of red.  Autumn light in Hastings-on-Hudson Weekends during the month of October are ideal times to make the trip. The air tends to be crisp with bright blue skies, and the Hudson River glimmers like a mirror in the light of autumn. As the Hudson line hugs the river for much of the distance north, the train ride alone provides plenty of opportunities for sightseeing. Try to grab a window seat on the river side of the train car for views of the Palisades and the bends of the Hudson Highlands later in the trip.   Autumn leaves on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail in Hastings Still, October is a gr

Traversing Manhattan: An Afternoon Trip to the Battery and Back Again

  Wherein the vaccinated sightseer from Northern Manhattan travels to the southern end of the island by means of the express bus, the MTA subway, and the NYC ferry, with a little sauntering on foot In Battery Park, during the first blushes of spring in New York. View of One World Trade Center Residents of the far north and far south of Manhattan are the ones most keenly aware that they live on an island. The north end of the borough tapers to a relatively small area of land, bounded by the confluence of the Harlem and Hudson Rivers and the waters of Spuyten Duyvil. The land is hilly and green, with an old growth forest. The Battery sits on the southern end, a land where the geography is defined by the meeting of the East River, the Hudson River, and the vast New York Harbor. Manhattan stretches a little over 13 miles on the long side and just 2.3, more or less, at its width. On 42nd Street, approaching Grand Central Terminal. A resident of the hilly northern terrain may sometimes long

Walking on Snow

❄ ❄ ❄ ❄ For the better part of this new year, snow has been either on the ground or in the forecast. In the city landscape, the streets look enchanting for a day or so and then devolve into a dirty mess. This sort of snow is unappealing for an invigorating walk. A snowy path in Inwood Hill Park The forest, on the other hand, has managed to stay enchanting throughout each bout of winter weather. The presence of owls and hawks, bright red cardinals and sweet chickadees, and brown squirrels and black squirrels transform the woodlands into a fairy tale. An Eastern Screech-Owl at home in the winter forest I've spent much of the whole pandemic year, going back to March 2020, in the woods of Inwood Hill Park in Northern Manhattan. While I have been accustomed to walking through the park in spring, summer, and autumn, I've never managed to engage with the deepest parts of the forest when a lot of snow was on the ground. Last winter there wasn't much snow anyway. Eastern Screech-Owl

The Most Beautiful Bridge in the World

Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier (1887 - 1965), the leading proponent of the International Style of modern architecture, visited NYC on several occasions in the 1930s and 1940s, and he made much to say about the skyscraper city. He didn’t think much of the faux tops of the tall buildings nor did he care about the haphazard city planning, but he did fall madly in love with one particular bridge:  "The George Washington Bridge over the Hudson is the most beautiful bridge in the world. Made of cables and steel beams, it gleams in the sky like a reversed arch. It is blessed. It is the only seat of grace in the disordered city. It is painted an aluminum color and, between water and sky, you see nothing but the bent cord supported by two steel towers. When your car moves up the ramp the two towers rise so high that it brings you happiness; their structure is so pure, so resolute, so regular that here, finally, steel architecture seems to laugh. The car reaches an unexpectedly wide apr

NYC Re-openings and Travel Advice

What will open, and how will you get there? This list will be updated following official announcements. UPDATED October 10, 2020.  Many favorite local destinations have now reopened.  Hand sanitizer dispenser at the Marble Hill station of Metro-North's Hudson line Openings  - General Information and Popular Destinations    • Restaurants: Consult this NYC Department of Transportation map  (updated link) for restaurants currently open in NYC. Starting September 30, NYC allowed indoor dining at 25% capacity. • As of September 25, outdoor dining in NYC has been extended FOREVER. • The  9/11 Memorial  reopened on Saturday, July 4. Visitors must wear masks and keep social distancing practices. • (update) Libraries: NYPL. T he library will allow a grab-and-go service at 50 locations.   • Governors Island reopened July 15 with advance reserved tickets.  • The High Line  reopened on July 16, with several rules and limitations in place, including timed entry passes - available July 9. Entra