San Antonio is a major city located in south-central Texas. It has many historically interesting landmarks and diverse cultures, so it attracts lots of visitors. In addition to the attractions relating to the history and the culture of the city, there are plenty more things to do that will suit all preferences. If you are visiting San Antonio for the first time, it is important to plan your trip properly to make sure you get the most out of this fascinating city. Here are the 20 best things to do in San Antonio for first-time visitors.
20. Six Flags Fiesta Texas
For a fun-filled day out, Vacation Idea recommends a day out to Six Flags Fiesta Texas. This show park is one of the most popular of its kind in the United States. The site of the park covers 200 acres, and it is filled with a vast array of rides and shows for people of all interests and ages. There are small children’s rides for younger visitors and thrilling rollercoasters for adrenaline junkies. If you are there all day, you can stay for the daily firework display that takes place in the evening.
19. Liberty Bar
The Liberty Bar is famous in San Antonio as it is one of the city’s longest-standing bar and eatery institutions. Located in the King William historic district, Liberty Bar is located in a Benedictine convent that has been renovated. Open for both lunch and dinner, the eatery serves Southern-inspired and Mexican dishes. There is an expensive drinks list that includes creative cocktails, wines, beers, and a range of alcohol-free iced teas and Mexican sodas.
18. Brackenridge Park
When you are visiting a new area, you do not always want to visit busy places and or go to all the urban attractions. It is sometimes nice just to spend a day admiring the beauty of an outdoor space in a tranquil environment. One of the best places to enjoy this type of day in San Antonio is Brackenridge Park. Set on the banks of the San Antonio River, this park spans 343 acres. Included within the park are the Japanese Tea Garden, the Sunken Garden Theater, several pavilions, ball fields, a senior center, and the San Antonio Zoo. There is also a playground for children, the oldest golf course in Texas, and 2.8 miles of cycling and jogging trails.
17. Institute of Texan Cultures
Texas is very much a multicultural society, and this means that it is a diverse place to live with a rich and interesting social history. The Institute of Texan Cultures is a great place for visitors to learn more about many aspects of life in Texas, the different cultures living alongside each other, and social issues. A particularly interesting aspect of the venue is the museum that celebrates the stories of immigrants who have made Texas their home. In total, there are 65,000 square feet of exhibits and interactive displays at this museum, which was established in 1965. It is also used as a venue for many festivals and special events throughout the year.
16. Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch
A great day out for a family of animal lovers is a safari trip around Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, says The Crazy Tourist. This ranch spreads over 400 acres of tree-covered sloping hills. It is home to 500 animals of 40 different species, all of which are roaming freely over this private property. To see the animals, you will drive through three separate pastures. Some of the animals include emu, ostrich, wildebeest, and zebra. Once you have paid your entrance fee, you are given a free bag of animal feed and you can drive around as many times as you like.
15. Majestic Theater
Not only is the Majestic Theater the top performance venue in the city, but it is also considered one of San Antonio’s most famous landmarks. Located in downtown San Antonio, this Spanish-style building was designed by John Eberson and built in 1929. There is a jam-packed program of shows and events held at this venue throughout the year. Before embarking on your trip to San Antonio, it is worth checking out what is on at the Majestic Theater. If there is something on that appeals to you, make sure you book your tickets in advance.
14. Briscoe Western Art Museum
Located on the banks of San Antonio River is the Briscoe Western Art Museum. The museum is housed inside a magnificent art deco building from the 1930s. The exhibitions focus on the traditions and heritage of the American West and include nine galleries that range from permanent displays to temporary exhibitions.
13. Morgan’s Wonderland
Although there are several theme parks in San Antonio, Morgan’s Wonderland is particularly notable as it is an accessible theme park that everyone can visit. It was designed to accommodate the special needs of people with both physical and learning disabilities. The 25-acre park is smaller than some other theme parks, but it is packed full of things to do for all the family. There are playgrounds, accessible rides, sensory experiences, a fishing lake, picnic areas, and beautiful gardens. This venue also hosts various shows and displays every day. In the evenings, the park’s Starlight Amphitheater hosts music concerts and various other events throughout the year.
12. King William Historic District
Just south of San Antonio’s downtown district is the King William Historic District. Originally, this district was farmland that belonged to the Mission San Antonio de Valero. However, the land was divided into sections that were then sold to Indian families. The German settlement in the 1840s is an important part of this district’s history, as is the revival of the area that took place in the 1950s. In 1968, the district became the first in San Antonio to become a designated historic district, and it is also listed as a National Register Historic District. The architecture and heritage are interesting to explore, and there are some excellent restaurants in this area.
11. The DoSeum- San Antonio Museum for Kids
If you are visiting San Antonio with children, then you should include a visit to The DoSeum on your itinerary. This attraction is considered one of the most innovative children’s museums in the United States. Some of the highlights of a trip include the musical staircase, the spy and robot academy, and the three large water play areas. There are so many things to keep younger travelers entrained that you could spend a full day at this attraction. Although the attraction is aimed at children, there is plenty to keep adults entertained, too.
10. San Antonio Botanical Gardens
One of the most stunning outdoor spaces in this city is San Antonio Botanical Gardens. The gardens cover 38 acres of land that include sprawling lawns, landscaped gardens, a rose garden, and exotic plants. The sights and smells will stimulate your senses, and this is a fantastic place to get away from the bustling city streets to enjoy a more tranquil experience. Take a walk around the gardens to admire the flowers, relax on the lawns, or enjoy a peaceful picnic.
9. San Antonio Zoo
Established in 1914, San Antonio Zoo became one of the first cageless zoos in the United States. Open 365 days a year, the zoo is set in an old stone quarry and covers 56 acres. It is home to more than 9,000 animals of 779 species. The zoo has a unique breeding program for which it has won several awards. This breeding program included reintroducing the endangered white rhinoceros in North America. San Antonio Zoo is also home to one of the largest bird collections in North America. A trip to the zoo is a great day out for all the family, and the activities are both fun and educational.
8. SeaWorld San Antonio
SeaWorld San Antonio is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the area, and it is a great day out for all the family. The main aspect of a visit to this attraction is seeing the animals that live in this marine park and oceanarium. Opened in 1988 and located in Westover Hills, SeaWorld San Antonio is the largest marine theme park in the world. The park is home to tropical fish, eels, stingrays, alligators, flamingos, sea lions, otters, dolphins, penguins, sharks, seals, and whales. There are demonstrations, feeding sessions, and shows to keep you entertained. The park also has roller coasters, rides, tours, shows, and educational exhibitions.
7. McNay Art Museum
Time Out recommends a trip to the McNay Art Museum for first-time visitors to San Antonio. The museum is set against a Spanish Colonial mansion, and it became a museum in 1926. It is named after Marion Koogler McNay, who is an artist who moved to San Antonio. Throughout the 1920s, this artist built a personal art collection that includes pieces by famous artists including O’Keeffe, Picasso, and Van Gogh.
6. Natural Bridge Caverns
Discovered by a group of local university students in the 1960s, these caves are the largest commercial caverns in Texas. The caves are named after the 60-foot natural limestone slab bridge that leads to the caverns’ entrance. The natural beauty of the caves attracts thousands of visitors each year. One of the most popular caves to visit is Bracken Cave, which is home to the largest bat colony in the world. It is important to note that some of the caves are only open to the public during the summer months for safety reasons.
5. The Alamo
More than 2.5 million people visit this attraction each year. It is located in Alamo Plaza in downtown San Antonio. The Alamo is the site of many historically significant events in this city that are important to the history of Texas. These include the first Spanish colonization and the independence of Mexico. Therefore, it is a great place to visit if you are interested in history. As admission to The Alamo is free, this is also a good activity to include in your itinerary if you have a limited budget.
4. Main Plaza
The central and historic heart of San Antonio is Main Plaza. Historically, it was a gathering place for the community and a central spot for entertainment. This still stands to this day as the trees, water features, picnic benches, and well-maintained sidewalks make this an innovative public space that encourages people to gather. The Main Plaza is home to several landmarks, including San Fernando Cathedral. It also hosts many events throughout the year and is where the farmer’s market is held.
3. San Antonio Missions
A National Historic Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site, San Antonio Missions is a site that preserves four Spanish frontier missions. These are Mission Conception, Mission San Juan, Mission Espada, and Mission San Jose. Each of the missions is still an active Catholic parish where regular services are held. The site encourages visitors to take a step back in time to learn more about San Antonio’s history.
2. San Antonio Art Museum
For art lovers, the best attraction in this city is the San Antonio Art Museum. The displays include more than 30,000 artifacts that cover a history of more than 5,000 years. The impressive art collection includes paintings from the pre-Columbian and Spanish colonial periods and also includes contemporary pieces.
1. The Riverwalk
According to The Crazy Tourist, the best way to explore the city is to take the Riverwalk. Alongside the San Antonio River is a network of walkways that run below pretty bridges and along the riverfront shops, bars, restaurants, and landmarks. You can use the Riverwalk to get between the city’s various activities and attractions and admire the architecture and pretty river scenery along the way.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn