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The other day I posted that we’ve been in San Antonio for 8 months…and I had to count it out like 5 times, because HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?! That means we’re almost halfway through our time here. And I still feel like we just arrived.
That being said, I thought it was about time I finally shared some of my favorite things to do in San Antonio – so without further ado, here are 10 Free Things to do in San Antonio, Texas.
Let’s just start off with the obvious stuff here. You can’t go to San Antonio without visiting the Alamo. And why would you? Because it’s free…although you will have to pay to park in this area of downtown. But it’s actually pretty neat. The Alamo itself is fairly small, but after walking through the mission, there are several outbuildings, museums, and really pretty outdoor space with some reenactors and such. Our first visit to the Alamo happened to be on Davy Crockett’s birthday, so I can also attest to the fact that there is occasionally free cake. But don’t count o this.
If the Alamo isn’t enough historic mission visiting for your taste, there are four other Spanish missions in San Antonio that you can go see. They are considered a National Historical Park and a World Heritage Site. And they are free…plus free parking! Which is a hard deal to beat.
Japanese Tea Garden
The Japanese Tea Garden is beautiful! It’s not as large as a botanical garden would be (although I also love the San Antonio Botanical Garden!) But it’s definitely worth taking a stroll through the garden on a pretty day. Plus they have a little cafe where you can grab a bubble tea to sip on.
Side note: this place isn’t very stroller friendly, and since it’s not huge, I’d recommend using a baby carrier instead.
And while you’re at the Japanese Tea Garden, you might as well cross the street and visit Brackenridge Park. It’s like the Central Park of San Antonio. I’ve never been to Central Park, but that’s how I like to think of it. It’s super big, there are tons of picnic areas, lots of shade, and several walking trails. Also the river runs right through it, so it’s really pretty.
The Brackenridge area also contains several non-free things to do…like the Zoo, the Witte Museum (highly recommend), and the DoSeum. The Zoo train even has stops at all these places so you can just leave your car at the park and take a fun little train ride to any of these places (including the Japanese Tea Garden.) The Botanical Gardens is also a short drive away.
You will more than likely have to pay for parking here since it is downtown, but it’s such a neat park. It’s super shady and really close to a lot of the major attractions downtown. There is a nice splash pad and a shady sandpit for those of you with littles. The playground here is also super neat. And there’s also a Commonwealth Coffeehouse and a Paleteria right there, and what more could you need than iced coffee and popsicles on a hot day?
If you’ve ever googled San Antonio, you’ve probably seen pictures of Market Square. The colorful flags, food vendors, and street performers make it a pretty photographable place. There are tons of souvenir vendors in the market if you’re wanting to pick up some Mexican souvenirs while you’re in town. But it’s also worth a visit if you just want to snap a cute picture in the square. It’s also only a short walk from the Main Plaza and San Fernando Cathedral (which you can also visit for free, so consider that stop a bonus!)
The Pearl is the place to find all the hipsters. And all the moms with toddlers. Because it’s super nice, kind of enclosed, and there’s also a splash pad. There are a lot of neat shops and restaurants here, and a food hall, but it’s also just a nice area to hang out. Hotel Emma is a centerpiece in the area, and it’s gorgeous! So do yourself a favor and walk through the lobby and restaurant while you’re here. (Side note: this is a great place for a bathroom break…because it’s always a good idea to know where the nice public restrooms are.)
There’s also a Farmer’s Market on the weekend…don’t expect to see many actual Farmers, but do expect lots of food options and lots of people milling about.
Additionally, the Riverwalk does expand as far as the Pearl, and this has been my favorite stretch of the Riverwalk to actually walk along. It’s super stroller/wheelchair friendly, and not overly crowded. This piece of the Riverwalk is also very landscaped, and is just a really pretty place to go walking.
San Pedro Springs
We recently visited San Pedro Springs for the first time, and it definitely won’t be the last. This spring fed pool is so neat! It’s part of the second oldest park in the U.S. It’s free to the public, and there are lifeguards on duty, which makes it a great place to take your kids swimming in the hot Texas weather. We went in the evening and it wasn’t terribly crowded, and the water was the perfect temperature.
Southtown & King William
I’m all about fancy old houses, so you know I’m going to gravitate towards the King William Historic District. I love driving or walking through this gorgeous old neighborhood whenever I get the chance. I’ll usually park over by the Blue Star Complex (and maybe grab some coffee at Halcyon) and walk along the river for a bit (yep, there’s MORE Riverwalk!), then cross the street and walk back on the street level through the King William neighborhood. It’s just SO pretty y’all. There’s nothing I love more than a scenic walk and pretty houses, and in Southtown, I can enjoy both in one walk!
The Quadrangle and US Army Medical Museum
Since we are living in San Antonio for military purposes, I would be remiss not to mention these museums on Fort Sam Houston. (FYI, if you don’t have a military id, you will have to stop at the visitor’s center on your way in.) I always think it’s a cool experience for non-military people to visit a military base (or maybe I’m still just so new to this military wife thing that I still think it’s kinda cool?) and Fort Sam Houston affords a couple of different options for visitors to enjoy. The Quadrangle has a neat little museum, but the main attraction is really the animals. I’m still not sure why there are deer and peacocks that live here. But they do, and I’m not mad about it.
The Army Medical Museum is also really interesting…and that’s coming from a non-medical person here. It was much larger than I expected, and actually quite well done. Good job Army Medical people.
There are also lots of lovely free, and non-free, things to do, and hopefully I’ll be sharing some other San Antonio posts over the next few months. But for now, I think these 10 are a great place to start! All of them are super family-friendly, and worth your time to see.