1. A Big City without the Big City Feel
San Antonio is the seventh largest city in America, but it’s still a far cry from what we think of as a big city like New York or Los Angeles. Being the nation’s seventh largest city doesn’t even make it the largest city in the Lone Star State—that would be Houston—and this historical Texas city manages to feel busy without feeling crowded.
2. Start the Day off Right with Local Coffee
By local I don’t just mean you should find the nearest coffee shop—not unless that happens to be San Antonio original Local Coffee. It’s a great place to get your morning caffeine fix—and check Twitter on your smartphone while you wait for the caffeine to kick in—or pick up coffee to DIY your morning cup at home.
3. Who Could Forget the Alamo?
San Antonio is home to the well-known Alamo, where Republic of Texas soldiers had a last stand against Mexican troops. The soldiers defending the Alamo lost their lives in the effort, but the rallying cry of “Remember the Alamo!” eventually led Texas to victory. In the present day, the Alamo is Texas’ top tourist attraction and located in the heart of downtown San Antonio—but it isn’t wasn’t the only Spanish mission in the area. If you want more history, four more missions are nearby in the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.
4. Don’t Forget The Other Alamo, Either
Texans continue to remember the Alamo at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. It has a lot less history, but a lot more entertainment, with movies, food, drinks, and a no-talking policy that make it a fan-favorite of local cinephiles.
5. Pray, Light a Candle, or Just Enjoy Visiting San Fernando Cathedral
The San Fernando Cathedral is the oldest church in the state of Texas and the oldest cathedral in the United States—and it’s still active today, with thousands attending weekly Mass. Located in downtown San Antonio within walking distance of the Alamo, this Roman Catholic cathedral is the mother church of the Archdiocese of San Antonio but it’s open to visitors of all denominations.
6. Who Needs Mardi Gras When There’s Fiesta San Antonio?
Held every spring, Fiesta began in 1891 as a single parade honoring the heroes of the Alamo and San Jacinto. But today, it’s a citywide celebration featuring over a hundred events and three parades, one of which floats down the River Walk.
7. Take a Stroll on the River Walk
San Antonio’s River Walk—or Paseo del Rio—is a pedestrian-only street along the San Antonio River lined with restaurants, hotels, and plenty of other distractions for an afternoon stroll. And while it’s definitely a tourist destination, there’s no reason not to enjoy the river—and the many events that happen there during the year. To lure in locals, there’s free downtown parking—and lots of deals from local businesses—on Tuesdays.
8. Borrow (and Ride) a Bike
Bike sharing, where you rent a bicycle for short trips, isn’t big in the United States. But enthusiasts will find that San Antonio is on the front lines of this trend, with rentable B-cycle bikes throughout the city. The city’s aiming to get more commuters on bikes, so bike safety is a priority—but if you cycle just for fun, San Antonio has plenty of bike trails to enjoy, too.
9. Get a Bird’s-Eye View at Tower of the Americas
HemisFair Park—site of the 1968 World’s Fair—is a worthwhile visit on its own, with 15 landscaped acres featuring waterfalls, historic buildings, playgrounds, and the 750-foot Tower of the Americas. Taller than the Seattle Space Needle, this is the tallest building in San Antonio and heading up to the observation deck gives you a great view of the city and the surrounding hill country.
10. Catch a Game with the San Antonio Spurs
You won’t be able to avoid the excitement about San Antonio’s hometown NBA team, the Spurs. So why not get caught up in the excitement and catch a game at the AT&T Center?
11. See Some Gorgeous Wildflowers
The Texas Hill Country goes wildflower crazy in the spring—and the beauty is easy to see along roadsides or in San Antonio’s many parks.
12. Check Out the Local Wildlife at SeaWorld
Inland San Antonio might not be your first thought when it comes to viewing acquatic wildlife, but the 250-acre SeaWorld San Antonio park is sure to please kids and adults alike. More than just a zoo, SeaWorld has rides, shows, and—at their Aquatica water park—you can even dive into swim with stingrays.
13. Head Underground at Natural Bridge Caverns
Just outside San Antonio are the Natural Bridge Caverns, the largest network of caves in Texas. It’s well worth the trip to explore a slice of nature that’s usually hidden—and the fact that the caves are 70 degrees no matter how hot it gets in the summer isn’t a bad bonus, either.
14. Get Some Shopping in at Market Square
Market Square, or El Mercado, is an outdoor shopping mall with a San Antonio twist. This Mexican-style marketplace is home to shops, restaurants, festivals, and plenty of local color.
15. Get Tacos for Lunch or Dinner
If you’re already in Market Square, why not stop at Mi Tierra for some of the city’s best Mexican food? Mi Tierra opened in 1941 with only three tables—today it’s still run by the same family, but it has a bit more seating and is open 24 hours a day. There’s no better way to get your late-night munchies on!
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16. And Tacos for Breakfast, Too
Transplants to Texas may be confused by the idea of a breakfast taco, but if you’re one of that lot you’d best get used to the idea. For the best breakfast tacos, you need to visit the aptly named Taco Taco. Your stomach will thank you.
17. See Some Modern Art at the McNay
The first museum of modern art in Texas, the McNay Art Museum mcnayart.org is housed in the former home of collector Marion McNay. The grounds are well worth picnicking on, but it’s the 20,000 pieces of art in the collection—including works by Monet, Picasso, Degas, and O’Keeffe—that will catch your eye.
18. See Some Less Modern Art at the San Antonio Museum of Art
If modern isn’t your thing—or even if it is—the San Antonio Museum of Art, located right on the Riverwalk, has a large and varied collection. The museum includes art ranging from ancient to contemporary and has the largest collection of Asian arts in the south.
19. Take an Up Close Look at History at the Witte Museum
If your interests are more in history and science than art, the Witte Museum aims to make learning—for kids and adults—fun with interactive exhibits. Where else can you go to check out dinosaurs—or “vanished Texans,” as the museum calls them—and dig into the real tech behind “CSI” with the interactive CSI: The Experience? We’re pretty sure that’s a range of activities only available at the Witte.
20. Explore the Quadrangle at Fort Sam Houston
San Antonio is sometimes called Military City USA because of the city’s many military bases, and while you might not think it, some of these historic bases are great places to visit. Fort Sam Houston was built in 1876 and the historic quadrangle is populated by an interesting assortment of animals, including peacocks, deer, geese, chicken, and rabbits. If you go, be sure to bring some food for the animals!
21. Skip the Trip to Napa and Visit Hill Country Wineries Instead
Texas may not be a place you think to go for wines, but the Hill Country has 35 wineries, many within easy driving distance of San Antonio—and all a lot closer than Napa Valley. For a nice day trip, head north for a visit to Dry Comal Creek Vineyards, Sister Creek Vineyards, Bending Branch Winery, Singing Water Vineyards, Kerrville Hills Winery, and Santa Maria Cellars. Yes, it’s a trip you can make in a day—just be sure you have a designated driver before you go.
22. Have a Drink at the Menger Bar
If you’re feeling thirsty after trekking around the Alamo, the Menger Hotel Bar mengerhotel.com may be your next stop. San Antonio’s oldest continuously operated pub, the Menger has been serving up drinks since 1859—and was where Theodore Roosevelt recruited for the Rough Rider cavalry unit. But don’t let the age fool you: this is still a great place to get a drink while soaking up some Texas history.
23. Visit the Pearl Brewery
Despite the name, the actual brewery is long since gone—but the 22-acres along the San Antonio River that Pearl Brewery used to call home is now a marketplace featuring shops, restaurants, and plenty of events. No matter what the season, it’s a great place to kill a day or just an afternoon.
24. Catch a Show at the Majestic Theatre
The historic Majestic Theatre in downtown San Antonio is a great place to catch a show—and there’s something for you whether you’re interested in music performances, comedy, ballet, dance, or musicals.
25. Put on Your Cowboy Hat and See a Rodeo
There’s nothing that says “Texas” more than a rodeo, and the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo is one of the largest in the country. Taking place over three weeks every February, this rodeo is a good opportunity to dust off your boots and get a taste of some real Texas culture.
26. Stroll Under the Stars at the San Antonio Botanical Garden
The 33-acre San Antonio Botanical Garden is beautiful in any season and offers plenty of nature to explore—though it’s only open after dark on special occasions. If flowers aren’t your thing the garden also plays hosts to plenty of events, including outdoor movies and music.
27. Explore the Japanese Tea Gardens
The Japanese Tea Gardens were a 1918 addition to the city’s Brackenridge Park, built with a minimum of budget. The garden has clear Japanese influences, but the plants, materials, and the setting in general have a distinctly Texan flare. It’s a great—and uniquely San Antonio—place to visit.
28. Visit Brackenridge Park
San Antonio’s largest public park, Brackenridge Park, has served the city for over a hundred years and now spans nearly 350 acres that are packed with outdoor activities. The park features trails for walking and biking, a golf course, fishing at the San Antonio River, a miniature train to ride, playgrounds, picnic areas, and the San Antonio Zoo. Whatever kind of activity you’re looking for, Brackenridge is probably the place to find it.
29. Ride a Coaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas
If you’re looking for thrill rides — or just some family fun—Six Flags Fiesta Texas has you covered with dozens of attractions. Those who feel the need for speed will enjoy the Iron Rattler, Goliath, and Superman: Krypton Coaster.
30. Enjoy Some Barbecue at the Barbecue Station
You didn’t think we’d get to the end of this list without mentioning Texas-favorite barbecue, did you? The Barbecue Station isn’t fancy, but it has just what you want from a barbecue restaurant: good eats.
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