A vibrant metropolis nestled in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, San Antonio is one of the best places in the state to visit. Rich with culture and history, there’s always plenty to see and do around town. From restaurants and shops to theme parks and historic landmarks, you’re bound to love this one-of-a-kind Texas city!
From the iconic Alamo and Spanish missions at Mission Historical Park to the Witte Museum, many of the city’s top attractions have deep roots in Texan and Mexican culture and history. There’s also a variety of outdoor activities to enjoy. From taking a scenic boat ride around the River Walk to strolling through the San Antonio Botanical Gardens, the options are endless.
Home to multiple theme parks and a zoo, San Antonio is one of the most family-friendly destinations in the state. Plus, San Antonio has top-notch hotels and accommodation options conveniently located near the city’s biggest attractions.
With so much to see and do in San Antonio, it can be hard to know where to begin. So we’ve put together this list of the very best things to do in San Antonio for you. Stick to these exciting and fun San Antonio bucket list recommendations, and you’re sure to have a great time exploring this fascinating part of the Lone Star State!
Don’t forget to check out our web story: The 15 Best Things To Do in San Antonio, Texas
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase or booking through one of our links we may earn a small commission (don’t worry, it’s at no extra cost to you).
15 cool and unique things to do in San Antonio
1. Shop, Eat, and Take a Boat Ride at the River Walk
Winding through the heart of the city is the San Antonio River and the 15-mile-long pedestrian promenade known as the River Walk. Home to various shops, restaurants, bars, and hotels, it’s a major hub for the city and one of the most popular spots in San Antonio.
Meander through the walkways on foot, follow the curves and bends of the river, cross over cobblestone bridges, and stroll through tunnels. Along the way, you can see unique architecture, shop for local crafts from vendor carts or at the Shops at Rivercenter mall, and don’t forget to stop by the open-air Arneson River Theater to take in a live show!
Dine al fresco at one of the many restaurants along the River Walk, then hop on a slow-moving riverboat to take a tour of the waterway. Sit back and enjoy a narrated tour from one of Go Rio’s guides as you sail past some of the most historic sites in the city. For a real treat, take a sunset dinner cruise!
Visit during the winter holiday season to see thousands of lights hung from the branches of massive cypress trees along the waterway. Taking a boat tour down the River Walk or simply walking through the area during that time of year is a truly magical experience.
2. Take in Stunning Views from the Tower of the Americas
Located in HemisFair park, the 750-foot Tower of the Americas structure overlooks the city and the rolling hills that surround it. Designed by San Antonio architect O’Neil Ford, the structure was built especially for the 1968 World’s Fair.
Take an elevator ride up to the Tower’s observation deck, where you’ll be greeted by breathtaking panoramic views. Hung around the observation floor are photos to help you identify landmarks around the city, as well as historic photographs with explanations about their significance.
Included in the price of your ticket to the observation deck is a 4D theater experience called The Skies Over Texas. During the film, you’ll take a tour of Texas and see everything from a shuttle launch to a Friday night football game.
Have dinner in the award-winning Chart House restaurant’s rotating dining room. Located right in the tower, the restaurant serves up fresh fish, lobster, steak, and more. The view from the restaurant is truly spectacular on a clear day, but the Hill Country sunset followed by the glow of city lights is a sight to behold from that high up in the evening!
3. Remember the Alamo
Arguably the most historic landmark in the Lone Star State, The Alamo is one of the best things to see in San Antonio. The iconic structure was the site of the 1836 Battle of the Alamo during the war for Texas’ independence from Mexico.
Though the battle that took place here is estimated to have lasted only about 20 minutes, the small force who barricaded themselves in before succumbing to 3,000 Mexican Army troops was made up of legendary figures like James Bowie and Davy Crockett. After the fall of the mission, the phrase “Remember the Alamo!” was a battle cry for soldiers fighting for Texas’ independence.
Originally part of a Spanish mission station that was established in San Antonio in 1718, the site isn’t large. In fact, many visitors are surprised by how small the physical building is, as it’s such a well-known landmark.
Inside, explore a museum and library filled with lots of historical texts, artifacts from the war, and more. Tours are also available if you want to take a deeper look at what happened during the Battle of the Alamo.
4. Marvel at Marine Life at Sea World
Part theme park, part waterpark, and part oceanarium, Sea World is one of the most exciting places to visit in San Antonio. From thrilling rides to amazing animal encounters, there’s no shortage of things to see and do at the 250-acre park.
Experience sea turtles up-close-and-personal at Turtle Reef, watch sea lions perform tricks during a fun show, meet expert trainers and the animals they care for at Animal Connections, celebrate life under the sea with the popular One Ocean show, and definitely don’t miss the interactive orca presentation. Be sure to sit in the splash zones during the shows if you want to cool off!
If you’re looking for thrills, Sea World has plenty of exciting roller coasters like the 15-story Steel Eel hypercoaster and the Texas Stingray, the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in Texas. There are plenty of dining options for snacks and meals throughout the park, so you don’t have to leave if you get hungry.
If you’re visiting during the warmer months, head to Aquatica, Sea World’s on-site water park. Relax in a private cabana on a manmade white sand beach, slip and slide down towering waterslides, splash in a giant wave pool, or let your kids run amok through kid-friendly splash zones!
5. Shop for Artisan Goods at Market Square
To really get a feel for the city’s culture, head to Market Square. Also called El Mercado, this bustling outdoor marketplace is filled with vendors selling folksy jewelry, pottery, paintings, and more.
Here, you’ll find all sorts of artisan goods, including many styles of authentic Mexican clothing like ponchos and shoes. It’s one of the best places in San Antonio to shop for souvenirs and trinkets made by local craftsmen. Listen to local musicians and mariachi bands as they stroll through the area and entertain the crowds.
When you’ve shopped enough to work up an appetite, head to Mi Tierra Cafe and Bakery to enjoy authentic Mexican bakery items from their bakery counter. The festive restaurant is filled with decorative lights, flags, and statues and has some of the best margaritas in the city!
Also near Market Square is Schilo’s, the oldest restaurant in San Antonio. This is a great choice if you want to dine on Southern fare like fried chicken and peach cobbler.
6. Ride Thrilling Rides at Six Flags Fiesta Texas
Six Flags Fiesta Texas is the only place in the city where you can ride high-speed roller coasters, see Broadway-style shows, and enjoy stunning views of the Texas Hill Country. It’s no wonder the theme park is one of the top things to do in San Antonio for families!
The park is built on the grounds of an old rock quarry, and passing through the park’s gates will make you feel like you’re inside of a canyon with gorgeous rock walls surrounding the property. With so much to see and do, it’s easy to spend an entire day at Six Flags Fiesta Texas.
From thrill rides like the Superman Krypton Coaster to family-friendly group rides like Bugs’ White Water Rapids, there are plenty of exciting rides to choose from here. When you need a break from riding rides, sit back and relax as you enjoy exciting live shows in one of four outdoor theaters around the park. Or, cool off in the Texas-shaped wave pool at Hurricane Harbor, open seasonally.
Meet and greet characters from the Looney Tunes franchise, shop for DC superhero gear, and eat tasty carnival-style treats like funnel cake and nachos. Don’t miss the spectacular fireworks show that happens as the park closes each night.
7. See the Animals at the San Antonio Zoo
One of the most popular things to do in San Antonio is to spend a day at the San Antonio Zoo. Explore the 35 vast acres of the zoo, home to more than 3,500 animals, including hippos, kangaroos, and Komodo dragons.
The zoo is separated into various animal habitats, so it’s easy to plan your day according to which ones you’d like to see. Head to Big Cat Valley to see lion cubs, The Savanna to see zebras, or Amphibia to view frogs, toads, and salamanders.
Bears and hyenas can be found at The Grottos, an array of fresh and saltwater marine life is housed in Friedrich Aquarium, and Big Lake is home to whooping cranes, pelicans, and ducks.
In the afternoon, don’t miss the giraffe feeding time where you can hand-feed lettuce leaves to the towering animals. Purchase a cup of nectar at Lory Landing and watch lorikeets hover near you as they sip!
Take a behind-the-scenes tour to learn all about how the zoo staff cares for the animals. Once you’ve seen all the animals, hop on the carousel and go for a ride or board the San Antonio Zoo train to explore the park by rail.
8. Catch a Spurs Game at AT&T Center
Head to AT&T Center, home of the San Antonio Spurs, to catch a rousing game of basketball. One of the premier entertainment venues in Texas, the arena also hosts concerts, wrestling matches, comedy shows, and the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo.
Each Spurs game is an action-packed event, perfect for basketball fans who want to cheer on the home team. Watch talented entertainers in the Spurs Hype Squad interact with the crowd during on-court contests, put on incredible dance performances, and spread energy throughout the stadium. Head to The Fan Shop located on the Plaza Level of the arena, where you can buy officially licensed Spurs gear and memorabilia like jerseys and hats.
While any of the venue’s 18,581 seats will give you a great view of the action, premium seating in luxurious private boxes and suites offers an upscale sports-going experience. Root for the home team from a spectacular terrace suite or ledge box where you can enjoy all-inclusive beverage service and top-tier cuisine from the Terrace Restaurant.
Not a basketball fan? Head to the Alamodome to watch the University of Texas at San Antonio’s football team play or cheer on the San Antonio FC professional soccer team at Toyota Field.
9. Explore the San Antonio Botanical Gardens
The San Antonio Botanical Gardens is one of the most tranquil places in San Antonio. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a serene stroll through winding trails on the northeast side of the city.
Colorful plants and flowers fill the 38-acre space, so it’s a beautiful outdoor area to explore and connect with nature. Enjoy the Mays Family Display Garden, home to a variety of native plants, then head to the 2.5-acre Family Adventure Garden. Families will love rolling down Tumble Hill, making their way through Muhly Maze, and exploring No Name Creek!
Enter the Lucille Halsell Conservatory, and you’ll be transported to a tropical paradise within the walls of the humid greenhouse-style buildings. Inside of the 90,000-square foot complex, you’ll find plants from across the globe.
There are various events held at the gardens throughout the year, so be sure to check their calendar before you go to see what’s going on during your visit. Pack a picnic and enjoy the scenic outdoor park for a few hours or the whole day!
10. See the San Fernando Cathedral Light Show
To experience where stunning architecture meets rich history in San Antonio, head to the San Fernando Cathedral. Built in 1873, it’s one of the oldest cathedrals in the United States!
Located on Main Plaza, the Roman Catholic church is the burial site for several of the fallen soldiers of The Alamo. It’s a wonderful place to visit if you want to immerse yourself in the city’s culture.
There’s a free light show that happens outside of the San Fernando Cathedral every night from Tuesday through Sunday. The show features a 24-minute video art installation featuring narration and music set to lights. Explore the interior of the cathedral, and then head outside to catch a show at 9 pm, 9:30 pm, or 10 pm.
Located just a short walk from The Alamo and the River Walk, this is a great place to end a day exploring San Antonio.
11. Immerse Yourself in History at the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
While The Alamo is the most well-known historical site in the city, the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is one of the top places to visit in San Antonio. Here, you can explore Mission San Juan, Mission Espada, Mission San Jose, and Mission Concepción.
When you arrive, be sure to stop by the visitor center to plan your route through the park. Then, take a self-guided tour and listen to audio stories as you explore the sites. A National Park Service site and the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas, there are also Ranger-led programs offered daily.
All four of the missions here still hold regular church services within the buildings and are open to park visitors who wish to attend. Not only is the park home to four historic Spanish missions, but there’s also plenty of wildlife, plants, and natural beauty to take in as you wind through the trails between each mission.
12. Tour the Fascinating Witte Museum
With a focus on Texas heritage, natural history, and science, the Witte Museum is a great museum to explore in San Antonio. The range of artifacts featured within the walls of the Witte makes it a must-see destination!
Here, you can see a colorful collection of Texas ball gowns, experience contemporary art installations, and learn all about the beginnings of the Texas livestock industry. Head to the EcoLab to see live animals like turtles and tarantulas up close. Get hands-on in the H-E-B Body Adventure exhibit, where you’ll find four floors of activities related to health and wellness.
The Naylor Family Dinosaur Gallery is home to the first permanent dinosaur gallery in San Antonio. Travel back in time when you discover the People of the Pecos gallery and learn all about historic hunter-gatherers and life on the Texas landscape.
The museum is located in Brackenridge Park, which has plenty of trails to explore, a miniature train to ride, and a Japanese Garden where you can enjoy a picnic lunch after you tour the museum.
13. Shop and Dine at The Pearl District
Known around town as simply The Pearl, this is one of the trendiest spots to visit in San Antonio. Here, you’ll find some of the most popular restaurants, bars, and shops in the city, all locally-owned and operated.
Located adjacent to downtown, you can access The Pearl District from the River Walk. It’s a great spot to explore independently-owned shops like Twig Book Shop and Adelante Boutique. Take a stroll through vendor tables set up on a pedestrian-only street where local craftsmen sell handmade trinkets, jewelry, and more.
Visit on a Saturday to enjoy an open-air farmer’s market with locally sourced produce, artisan goods, and more. Then, grab a French macaron from Bakery Lorraine and have a handcrafted cocktail at Blue Box Bar.
One of three Culinary Institute of America campuses is located at The Pearl, so it’s no wonder the area is known for its tasty dining spots! All about ambiance and experience, Boiler House is a Texas grill and wine garden serving up artfully prepared local fare.
14. Marvel at Natural Bridge Caverns’ Rock Structures
Located just outside the city is one of the largest caves in Texas, Natural Bridge Caverns. Exploring the underground cavern is easily one of the most unique things to do in San Antonio.
A basic walking tour takes a little over an hour to complete. Along the way, you’ll listen to guides narrate all of the incredible rock formations found within the cave. There are several more adventurous tours to choose from, including one lit by lantern light and one that crawls through hidden passages.
After your cave tour, take to the skies and try your hand at the Canopy Challenge, where you’ll be challenged to tackle a platform and ladders ropes course suspended 60 feet above the ground and zip across a zip line!
If you’re traveling with young kids, they can explore a smaller course designed just for them. At the cavern’s general store area, you can mine for gems and fossils or pan for fool’s gold.
When you’ve had your fill of cave-dwelling, head next door to the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch drive-through safari to gaze at over 50 types of animals from around the world as they roam freely across the plains.
15. Attend Fiesta San Antonio
The 10-day annual event known as Fiesta San Antonio is a citywide celebration that takes place each spring. The festival commemorates the Battle of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto, during which Texas gained its independence from Mexico in April 1836.
The city’s signature event has been held each year since 1891, with a yearly attendance of more than 3 million people in more than 100 different events across the city.
The event boasts Mardi Gras-style parades and spectacles, including the infamous Battle of Flowers parade, inspired by the inaugural festivities where local women decorated carriages and bicycles with live flowers and tossed them about. For some of the best views of the festivities, head to the River Walk to watch decorative floats cruise up and down the waterway.
Listen to live performances from Tejano musicians, mariachi bands, jazz troupes, and more in the downtown area. Attend sporting events that take place during the celebrations, exchange souvenir pins with other festivalgoers, and see the festival queen be crowned Miss Fiesta San Antonio!
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in San Antonio. What’s your favorite thing to do in Alamo City?
Planning a trip to Texas? Check out our favorite books and travel guides!