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Historic Market Square Mexican Shopping Center tourist destination in San Antonio Texas..
Photograph: Christian Hinkle/Shutterstock

The 20 best things to do in San Antonio right now

River walks, great food and a lot of art: Here are San Antonio's unmissable spots.

James Wong
Written by
Krista Diamond
James Wong

Fancy taking a boat trip to an art gallery, getting lost in fossil caverns, and strolling over a moonlit bridge? You’ve come to the right place. Once a day trip spot, San Antonio has since made a pretty big name for itself as a prime destination – a cultural hotspot with an innovative food scene, and more. 

Whether you were drawn to the city for its fantastic annual Fiesta, Dia de los Muertos or even its Book Festival, there’s plenty to discover to extend your trip. San Antonio is home to districts full of character, street food and live music, and its cultural explosion many years ago made room for a buzzing arts and culture scene, with the San Antonio Museum of Art, McNay Art Museum and the DoSeum well worth checking out.

It’s also known for its many parks and green spaces, boasting everything from botanical gardens to a Japanese Tea Garden, but it hasn’t lost its Tejano culture and Texan charm along the way. So whether you’re hopping over from Austin or here for the week, check out our full guide to the city. Enjoy, folks.


🌮 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

Best things to do in San Antonio

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. And the Pearl District takes the crown for the most charming cultural hotspot, with fabulous architecture to admire, 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 snack and a drink at Bottling Dept Food Hall

The River Walk
Photograph: f11photo/Shutterstock

2. The River Walk

You can’t visit San Antonio without checking out this gem. 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 couples’ selfie on the bridge. 


The best bit about this museum? You can float past it on a river taxi – and it 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 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. 

If you fancy an artsy activity that’s 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 mindboggling optical illusions and ample neon lights. A full-service bar turns up the fun, and many of the exhibits are themed to diversity and inclusion—proving that love is love in Texas, too.


The Natural Bridge Caverns are the largest known commercial caverns in Texas. Discovered by four students from a San Antonio university in the 1960s, the caverns are 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.

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. Stick around after exploring and dine at their gorgeous garden restaurant, Jardin.


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 at Mi Tierra Restaurant & Bakery, and enjoy live bands and other entertainment in the plaza on the weekends.

If whiskey and beer are your go-to drinks, a tour of Ranger Creek Brewing and Distillery is in order. Since opening in 2010, Ranger Creek has been a beloved “brewstillery” of San Antonio and offers $10 tours that include three tastings. Beware: tours fill up quickly, so make sure to purchase a ticket in advance.


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, there’s always a line (especially at weekends) and the colorful creations have quickly become social media sensations.

Set against the backdrop of a Spanish Colonial mansion, the McNay Art Museum is a sight to behold. The museum is 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, but today, the museum has expanded to include 22,000 pieces of art, mostly from the 19th- and 20th-centuries.  


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) 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)


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 that hold 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 Mission Bike Tours for a guided Bluetooth experience on bike path. 


The Quadrangle, which was built in 1876, once held the famous Apache leader Geronimo. Today, it’s an urban military post and tourist attraction that largely draws visitors hoping to meet the resident peacocks, rabbits, deer, and turkeys that roam around the ground freely in search of food. The Fort Sam Houston museum can also be found on-site and features over 8,200 artifacts about the fort’s history.


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. 



For the best Asian-American cuisine, head to the pink bungalow. Best Quality Daughter has been one of San Antonio’s most popular restaurants since it opened in 2020. Most of the mains are served family-style, such as the Hakka Stuffed Tofu and the ginormous Char Siu Roast Pork Shoulder that comes with heavenly little baos, but you’re welcome to go individual and have your own plate of Miso Ginger Noodles and Impossible Potstickers if you wish. A separate bar with Thai-tea cocktails and happy hour is worth coming in early for.

Remember: everything is bigger in Texas, including religious iconography. The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center has the largest Virgin Mary mosaic in the world. At 40-feet tall, the mosaic was constructed in the shape of a prayer candle in 2004 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.



If taxidermy, Texas history, 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 ton accept horns, pelts, and other objects as forms of payment. His gamble paid off: the saloon is now also a museum, displaying eclectic oddities that 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.

Founded in 1718, San Antonio is one of the oldest cities in the U.S. Given all that history, it’s only natural for residents to expect a ghost or two. Alamo City Ghost Tours immerses you in the city’s paranormal activity scene while recounting grisly tales of public executions, death, and murder that occurred along the streets and alleys of downtown San Antonio.

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