If you’re on a limited budget but still want to enjoy the occasional day of fun, you’re in luck. Head on down to the vibrant city of San Antonio, Texas, and you’ll be greeted with a whole host of activities to keep you (and your family) entertained without having to spend so much as a dime. Don’t believe me? Then check out this list of 20 awesome free things to do in San Antonio… your wallet will thank you for it, I promise.
1. Gruene Hall
If you’re mad keen on antiques and history, you’ll find much to delight you in Gruene. This tiny community located just outside New Braunfels.is positively packed with antique stores selling every curiosity and vintage piece you can dream of. Whether you want a Victorian era armoire, a piece of 60’s pop culture, or a 400-year-old arrowhead, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for here. Even if you don’t intend to buy, you’ll have just as much fun with a visit to Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in the entire state. When it’s time to take a breather, don’t forget to visit at least one of the districts famous bars… if you’re lucky, you may even get the chance to see one of the many musicians who frequent the area in action.
2. Pearl Brewery
Once the home of Pabst beer, these days Pearl Brewery is a hub for dining, shopping, learning, working, and idling. Located in a prime position next to the Riverwalk expansion, the brewery is best visited on a weekend, when the site plays host to one of the most vibrant Farmer’s Markets in town. After you’ve had your fill of free samples from the various local vendors, take a guided tour around the site to learn more about its fascinating past.
3. Mcnay Art Museum
If you’re an arts fan, you’re sure to love the Mcnay Art Museum. The Spanish colonial style mansion has a huge collection of 19th and 20th century art from both American and European artists, including Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Georgia O'Keeffe, Diego Rivera, Mary Cassatt and Edward Hopper. Once you’ve had your fill of culture, don’t miss a visit to the Japanese garden and fishpond in the stunning grounds… it’s the perfect place to take a breather and cool your toes. For free entry, be sure to visit on Thursday between 4-9pm or the first Sunday of the month between noon and 5pm. For more info, take a look at their website.
Ranked by Travel + Leisure as the number 1 Riverwalk in America, no visit to San Antonio is complete without a stroll along its famous riverbank. Whether you’re rather spend the day relaxing at the side of its waterfall, floating downstream on a river boat, or taking in a live music event at one of the scores of popular venues to be found along the walk, you’ll never be short of entertainment.
5. Briscoe Western Art Museum
Like art? Love artifacts? Can’t get enough of history? Fancy a free day out where you can enjoy all three? If the answer to all questions is a resounding “yes”, then don’t miss a visit to San Antonio’s famous Briscoe Western Art Museum. The museum is home to a whole host of engaging exhibitions, educational programs, and interactive events that showcase the area’s rich cultural heritage. From Santa Anna's Sword to Pancho Villa's Saddle of leather and silver, you’ll never be short of interesting finds at this truly fascinating downtown institution. Take a look at the museum’s website for directions and opening hours.
6. Japanese Tea Garden
San Antonio’s restored Japanese Tea Garden is a true delight for the senses. With shaded walkways, stunning floral displays, numerous koi ponds, sweet little stone bridges, and an impressive 60-foot waterfall, there’s a treat to be found at every corner. Visit the garden yourself to discover why it’s considered one of San Antonio’s landmark destinations. To find out more about the garden, which offers free entry from sunrise to sunset 7 days a week, check out the San Antonio Park’s Foundation website.
7. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
If you’re looking for a family friendly day out where the kids can enjoy themselves while learning, you’ll find it hard to beat San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Steeped in over 300 years’ worth of rich history, the park consists of 4 distinct mansion sites (all of which contain active catholic parishes) that make for very interesting viewing indeed. Whether you take a tour around the site with a park ranger, or decide to go it alone, you won’t be short of things to do and see in the site’s extensive grounds. Take a look at the website for helpful advice on how best to plan your visit.
8. Brackenridge Park
Situated within walking distance of downtown, Brackenridge Park is the ideal spot to take a breather from the hustle and bustle of the city. With dozens of picnic tables and barbecue pits offering visitors the chance to dine al fresco under the shelter of the park’s vivid canopy of oak trees, not to mention the three pavilions, interactive playscape for kids, softball field, fish- filled pond, fun mini train, and every type of wildlife you could wish to encounter, the park makes a fabulous day out for all the family. For more details, don’t miss their website.
9. Market Square
For a unique day-out you’re unlikely to forget in a hurry, don’t miss the vibrant Market Square. It may be the ideal place to pick up some stunning handicrafts, local pottery, or papier-mache goods, but there’s plenty of fun on offer even if you don’t want to spend a dime. The festive event is packed to the brim with every sort of activity you can think of, as well as live music, plenty of fun events for kids, and lots of places to sit back and take in the sounds and sights of San Antonio’s colorful culture. For more details on the event, check out the Visit San Antonio website.
10. San Pedro Creek Culture Park
If a city invests $125 million dollars into a site, you’d expect the results to be pretty impressive. In the case of San Pedro Creek Culture Park, you’d be exactly right. Just west of downtown, the park is a joyful celebration of San Antonio’s unique culture and history. It’s stunning Plaza de Fundacion showcases the inspiring Rain from the Heavens public art installation, while the various murals, sculptures and art pieces scattered around the park’s extensive grounds are nothing short of awe-inspiring, To find out why so many visitors come back to the park again and again, take a look at their website.
11. Eisenhower Park
Eisenhower Park is a stunning spot to get a free workout in beautiful natural surrounds. With an incline for hikers to test their fitness, plenty of green spaces for a jog or a game of Frisbee, plenty of natural trails to explore and an observation tower to take in some stunning views of the city, there’s enough to do to keep you entertained all day long. The best part? It’s completely free. Take a look at the San Antonio Parks and Recreation site for park opening times and directions.
12. Artpace Downtown
If prefer art to parks, don’t worry- San Antonio has more than enough to keep you entertained. The Artpace Downtown is a great spot to soak up some culture – featuring some of the best art in the city, the site celebrates 9 different artists each year… three of whom will be Texan, three from another region of the US, and three from anywhere on earth. Check out details of their current exhibition, along with opening times and directions, at the site’s dedicated website.
13. Public Art San Antonio Studio
Enjoy some of the best art in San Antonio, participate in an inspiring workshop, or take in an interactive educational event at the Public Art San Antonio Studio. The studio is open to the public between 12-5pm Tuesday to Friday, with extended opening hours on Thursdays.
14. Ranger Creek
If you want some refreshments with your local history, don’t miss a stop at Ranger Creek. The award-winning brewery offers some of the finest handcrafted beers and whiskey in Texas… and some of the most interesting tours in San Antonio. The site offers a tasting room where you can sample the goods for free before deciding if you’re willing to splash the cash on some of the gift shop’s extensive offerings.
15. Yanaguana Garden
San Antonio’s Yanaguana Garden is one of the city’s most beloved treasures. Full of exotic art displays in a stunningly landscaped park, the park offers plenty to keep the whole family entertained. From interactive streams for the kids to splash around in to winding promenades that positively invite you to stroll along, you’ll not be short of things to do. If you can, visit during the evening when the park is lit up like a jewel.
16. Phil Hardberger Park
Full to bursting with gorgeous scenery and cultural points of interest, Phil Hardberger Park is one of San Antonio’s best kept secrets. With enough activities to keep even the most hard-core fitness fanatic happy, interactive programs to get the kids learning while having fun, plenty of events to delight all ages and mile upon mile of natural trails to explore, you could spend an entire week at the park and still want more. For more information or to find directions, don’t forget to visit their website.
17. Witte Museum
Visit the Witte Museum on a Tuesday between 3-8pm to secure free entry. Once you’re inside, you’ll find more than enough from the worlds of science, culture and nature to keep you intrigued. Travel back in time to take in some prehistoric culture in the Kittie West Nelson Ferguson People of the Pecos Gallery, check out the jaw-drawing beasts on display at Naylor Family Dinosaur Gallery, and whatever you do, don’t miss the dioramas in the McLean Family Texas Wild Gallery. A full list of current exhibits can be found on the website.
18. The Alamo
No visit to San Antonio is complete without a stop-off at the Alamo. One of the most famous sites in the entire state of Texas, the Alamo (for those who’ve forgotten their history) is the fort that 189 Texan’s bravely defended for 13 days and nights before finally succumbing to the advances of Santa Anna’s Mexican Army in 1836. Today, the site is home to a museum that hosts hundreds of items of cultural and historical interest… as well as free daily tours. Take a look at their website for more details.
19. Howard W.Peak Greenway Trails Systems
Fancy a long, pleasant stroll along San Antonio’s many creeks, including the Salado, Leon, Huebner, Olmos, Huesta, Culebra, Alazan, Apache, Martinez, San Pedro and the Medina River, to name just a few? If you do, start planning your trip to Howard W. Peak Greenway Trails Systems now. The system offers a growing network of multi-use, accessible trails through some of San Antonio’s most beautiful natural landscapes. If you don’t fancy hiking, you’ll be pleased to know the trails are bike friendly. Connecting dozens of local parks and comprising of around 1450 acres of natural space, you’d be hard pushed to find a better place to enjoy the natural world.
20. San Pedro Springs Pool Park
If you fancy cooling off with a refreshing splash around the pool, head on over to San Pedro Springs Pool. The park opens throughout summer from May 2nd onward, offering hot and bothered city-slickers the chance to cool off in one of San Antonio’s most stunning natural environments. Located just 2 miles from Downtown, the pool is easy to reach by either bus, car, bike or foot. With plenty of shaded areas to relax in, numerous barbecue pits to cook up a storm on and free access throughout the season, it’s not one to miss.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker