Riverwalk San Antonio
Photograph: Courtesy Visit San Antonio

The best things to do in San Antonio right now

All of San Antonio’s top things to do, including historic sites, museums, restaurants, parks and festivals

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San Antonio is one of Texas’ most-visited and celebrated cities—and with good reason. It’s storied with a rich history that dates back to 1718, when it was the first civilian settlement in the entire state. Today, those architectural and cultural elements remain, alongside modern attractions, a vibrant dining and nightlife scene, and splash after splash of color (come during fiesta and you’ll see!).

For tourists, stay downtown and don’t need to rent a car. Unlike most of the dusty Texan landscape, San An’s Riverwalk is completely walkable and bicycle-friendly. This is the city’s beating core, where all the big attractions reside and your needs for food, drink, shopping and playtime are met. For everywhere else, rideshares will get you around nicely. Ready to say Howdy to the River City? Here’s our ultimate checklist of the best things to do in San Antonio.

This guide was updated by San Antonio expert James Wong. At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines

RECOMMENDED:

🌮 The best restaurants in San Antonio
🏛️ The best museums in San Antonio
🍺 The best bars in San Antonio
🏨 The best hotels in San Antonio
👪 The best things to do with kids in San Antonio
🛏️ The best Airbnbs in San Antonio

Best things to do in San Antonio

1. The Alamo

Ask any local about The Alamo, and you’ll get a school textbook of snippets. Folks statewide have been reciting them since they were kiddos, and as a result, The Alamo is the most visited attraction in all of Texas (yes, even more than Six Flags!). Join them here at the 18th-century Battle of the Alamo site, where Texas won independence and became a self-governing republic, and remember its historical significance via live demonstrations, short films, and detailed exhibition halls.

2. The River Walk

You can’t visit San Antonio without a day, or even the whole weekend, on its bustling hangout. Morning, noon, and night, the River Walk (or Paseo del Rio), is lit up like a little cultural wonderland, full of restaurants, shops, museums, hotels, and more – all looking over the river itself. The river is 15 miles long and found 20 feet below street level, but this five-mile stretch is where it’s at. Here with that special someone? There’s nothing more romantic than a river taxi or a couple’s selfie on the bridge.

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3. Hopscotch

If you feel like doing something artsy that’s also a little bit boozy, head to Hopscotch. Since opening, the immersive art experience has drawn visitors who flock to get selfies with vibrant yet thoughtful displays from talented artists across a variety of mediums. Not to spoil the surprise, but expect plenty of mind-boggling optical illusions and ample neon lights. A full-service bar turns up the fun, and many of the exhibits (some on rotation) are themed to diversity and inclusion—proving that love is love in Texas, too.

4. Pearl District

One of the great things about San Antonio is its little pockets of food, culture, and crafts, where you can lose the day to great food, music, and general vibes. The Pearl District takes the crown for being the most charming cultural hotspot, with fabulous architecture to admire and dotted with great restaurants (hello, Mon Chou Chou). Whether or not you’re staying at the iconic Hotel Emma, you’re sure to spend a lot of time here. Flick through books at Twig Book Shop, pop into boutique stores, and end with a wine in Boiler House’s garden.

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5. San Antonio Museum of Art

The best bit about this museum? You can float past it on a river taxi—and this complex of historic buildings is truly something to behold. But don’t get caught up in its architecture because the art collections indoors have a lot to say for themselves, too. The San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) actually boasts one of the biggest Roman, Greek, and Egyptian art collections in the south, as well as an art collection spanning 5,000 years, from antique to contemporary.

6. McNay Art Museum

You’ll need to get out of downtown for this one, but it’s worth every extra mile (just five, to be exact). McNay Art Museum is set against a Spanish Colonial mansion backdrop and named after artist and art collector Marion Koogler McNay, who moved to San Antonio from Ohio in 1926. McNay began construction on a house in 1926 that would become the McNay Art Museum, the first modern art museum of Texas, in 1954. During her lifetime, McNay collected over 700 works of art by Diego Rivera, Van Gogh, Georgia O'Keeffe and Picasso. Still, today, the museum has expanded to include 22,000 pieces of art, mostly from the 19th- and 20th centuries.

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7. Natural Bridge Caverns

The Natural Bridge Caverns are the largest known commercial caverns in Texas. Four students from a San Antonio university in the 1960s discovered the caverns named after a 60-foot limestone slab bridge found at the entrance. The natural wonder attracts a daily dose of tourists and locals for tours 180 feet below ground that show ancient formations and large caves. With multiple tour options and surface attractions (like obstacle courses and gem and fossil mining), there's something for everyone at Natural Bridge Caverns.

8. San Antonio Botanical Garden

Covering 38 acres of land, the non-profit San Antonio Botanical Garden is a family-friendly site that delights all sorts of visitors. Each season brings new exotic plants, desert greenery, and even a rose garden that attracts a wide range of birds and insects. Though you came here specifically for the Texas native flora, of which there’s an abundance. Stick around after exploring and dine at their scenic garden restaurant, Jardin.

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9. El Mercado

El Mercado (or the Market Square) covers three blocks of an outdoor plaza lined with over 100 locally-owned restaurants and shops. As the largest Mexican market in the United States, El Mercado is a central staple of the cultural experience of San Antonio. Visitors to El Mercado can explore indoor and outdoor shops full of authentic Mexican crafts, snack on delicious Mexican pastries and Tex-Mex at Mi Tierra Restaurant & Bakery, and enjoy live bands and other entertainment in the plaza on the weekends.

10. Esquire Tavern

The Esquire Tavern opened in 1933 to celebrate the end of Prohibition, and aside from a lil’ 2006-2011 hiatus, San Antonians have been oiled up ever since. It’s officially the oldest bar in town, and a good chance to get acquainted with what the locals love doing most: drinking and watching ball. Pull up a chair at the 100-foot mahogany bar, the longest bar top in Texas, and mingle while the game blares, or downstairs get a seat overlooking the romantic river walk and toast to the orange sunset. Live music strums most nights of the week.

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11. La Panaderia

Get your sugar and camera roll fix at the city’s most famous bakery. La Panaderia specializes in handmade bread and pan dulce inspired by Mexico’s Golden Era, using a special 48-hour fermentation process that harbors results like no other. Despite several locations all over town and a decade in business, there’s always a line (especially at weekends) and the colorful creations are forever social media sensations.

12. Japanese Tea Garden

This former rock quarry, first conceived in the early 20th century, has been transformed into one of the most tranquil places in the city. Wander around the open space filled with gorgeous floral displays and let your feet lead you to the 60-foot tall waterfalls surrounded by koi ponds. The Japanese Tea Garden is also free to enter, so anyone can enjoy it. Hungry? Grab a snack at the Jingu House Cafe on-site.

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13. Fiesta

The annual Fiesta festival originated in 1891 as a way to memorialize heroes from the Battle of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. Tradition is upheld today as the city throws a huge extravaganza each year (dates vary, but plan on it being in April), including over 50 events around town. Make sure to check out the Texas Cavaliers River Parade, held in the San Antonio River, and the Fiesta de Los Reyes at Market Square (where flower crowns are widely worn and available)

14. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park preserves four Spanish frontier missions and entices visitors to learn more about San Antonio’s history. Step back 300 years and experience Spanish colonial history while visiting Mission Concepcion, Mission Espada, Mission San Juan, and Mission San Jose. All four missions are still home to active Catholic parishes with regular services. Keep in mind that the missions are spread far apart but are connected by the San Antonio River Walk Hike and y'all can join various Mission Bike Tours to navigate between them either self-guided or with an expert. Tip: go the electric route unless you’re a pro cyclist.

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15. Six Flags Fiesta Texas

In case you didn’t know, Six Flags is to Texas what Disney World is to Florida, albeit on a much smaller scale. But Fiesta still packs a mighty punch when it comes to fun, and the theme park can be enjoyed by both big kids and little ones alike. There are over 40 rides to get a thrill out of, including Goliath, an adrenaline rocket that’s not for the faint-hearted. Of course, because this is Texas (read: hot), a water park is on hand to cool patrons down.

16. San Pedro Springs Park

San Pedro Springs Park, the second oldest park in the U.S., is home to what's arguably one of the nation's best swimming spots. The pool is surrounded by BBQ pits, picnic locations, and tennis courts, and in summer, it's quite the hotspot. That’s despite alcohol being prohibited—the revelers here are living it up on fresh H20. 46 acres of outdoor heaven provide ample space to frolic under the sun.

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17. The DoSeum

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This is one of the country’s most innovative children’s museums. The rotating exhibition includes an impressive spy academy, an outdoor park, spaces designed to inspire creativity, and hands-on exhibits that teach kids about science, art, sound, and more. With over 68,000 square feet of interactive space, this is a must for families even during the busy holiday season.

18. Best Quality Daughter

You may think of San Francisco when it comes to Asian cuisine in America, but Best Quality Daughter helps Antonio steer your minds south. It’s perched within a charming pink bungalow right off the Pearl. Most of the main dishes are served family-style, such as the Hakka stuffed tofu and the orange chicken, and a separate bar with Thai tea cocktails is worth coming in early or staying late for.

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19. Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center

Remember: everything is bigger in Texas, including religious iconography. Founded in 1980, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center has the largest Virgin Mary mosaic in America. At 40 feet tall, the mosaic was constructed in the shape of a prayer candle by artist Jesse Trevino, whose work can be found all over town. After admiring the mosaic, venture inside to learn more about the center which preserves Latino arts and culture through workshops, art shows, and dance, music, and theater programs.

20. Buckhorn Saloon and Museum

If taxidermy, Texas history, and burgers and beer are your things then the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum is for you. A local bellhop, Albert Friedrich, opened the saloon in 1881; at the time, if customers didn’t have enough cash to pay for drinks, Friedrich was known to accept horns, pelts, and other objects as forms of payment. His gamble paid off: the saloon is now also a museum, displaying eclectic oddities the owner collected over the years (think rattlesnakes in jars, antlers, and much more). Today, the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum has expanded to include a Texas Ranger Museum with quirky rotating exhibits, a cafe, and the original bar where Pancho Villa is said to have planned the Mexican Revolution and Teddy Roosevelt recruited the Rough Riders.

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