They say everything is bigger in Texas. In southern Texas, that includes a BIG list of things to do for a fun-packed San Antonio weekend getaway.
With a population of 1.5 million, San Antonio remains one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. A vivacious fusion of American and Mexican culture, colorful San Antonio is perfect for couples or families. Depending on the pace you like, you may not get to all of these, but here are the highlights of things to do in San Antonio.
Renting a car is the best way to get around San Antonio.
1. Stroll on the River Walk
Following the San Antonio River (also known as Paseo del Rio), the San Antonio River Walk is a festive pedestrian promenade lined on both sides with cafés and shops. Opened in 1941, the River Walk has been a model for other cities eager to recreate the success of this popular tourist hub. Expanded in 2013 from three to fifteen miles, the path circles around the city center, winds below bridges, and connects to the five historic Spanish missions. Visitors can watch the boats cruising.
2. Cruise on the Riverwalk
Better yet, for the perfect San Antonio weekend getaway, hop aboard a boat and enjoy the views as you wind through a series of canals that crisscross the river. The boat tours are narrated, so it’s a fun way to learn about the history of San Antonio. During the evening there’s an option to do it as a dinner cruise.
During the yearly springtime Fiesta San Antonio, the boats are elaborately decorated, adding to the vibrant vibe of the Riverwalk.
3. Get Your Instagram Shot
San Antonio is filled with street art for those amazing photographs. Here are just a few highlights to look for:
- Bombshell with Colorful Striped Patterns by Shek Vega and Nik Soupe for Los Otros Murals (81n No. St. Mary’s Street)
- Let’s Fiesta Mural by Nik Soupe for Los Otros Murals and Gravel Mouth Gallery (2715 North Saint Mary’s Street)
- Pop Art Profile of a Woman Mural by Phoebe Joynt (51 Essex Street)
4. Remember the Alamo
Undoubtedly the most famous attraction in San Antonia is the Alamo. The site is a small 18th-century Spanish mission that is now a museum dedicated to the infamous 13-day battle for Texan independence from Mexico in 1836.
Famous American patriot Davy Crockett was part of a small band of Texans who lost their lives defending the mission against overwhelming opponents. Their courageous fight became legendary, and the phrase “Remember the Alamo!” was coined as a symbol for Texas freedom.
The museum is free but asks for a small donation.
5. Shop at Historic Market Square
This plaza is the largest Mexican market in the United States. Historic Market Square is located on a plaza that was gifted to the original settlers “for their use and entertainment” by the King of Spain in 1730. The plaza encompasses three blocks of shops displaying the ethnic influences of the Southwest and Mexico.
The “El Mercado” section hosts 32 specialty shops where you can find lots of fun Mexican art, brightly painted pottery, jewelry, sarongs and souvenirs; the “Farmer’s Market Plaza” section has 80 stalls.
6. Have a Margarita
Where else? At the iconic La Margarita Mexican Restaurant & Oyster Bar in Market Square. Try the Mango Margarita, one of their specialties. Tex Mex is delicious here, probably because this is where the original sizzling fajitas were invented.
7. Eat Some BBQ
Texas barbeque is legendary. It is a traditional style of preparing meat unique to the cuisine of Lone Star state, divided into four general styles: East Texas, Central Texas, South Texas, and West. In South Texas, they use thick, molasses-like sauces that keep meats such as brisket, steak, and ribs very moist.
Here’s a guide to the best BBQ on the San Antonio Riverwalk.
8. Tower of the Americas
When I visit a new city I always like to find the highest point for the views. In San Antonia, it’s the viewing deck on the 750-ft. Tower of the Americas overlooking the city. Located in HemisFair Park, the tower was built for the 1968 World’s Fair. It was the highest observation tower in the United States until 1996.
9. Tour a Mission
San Antonio is rich with 300 years of history. The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Along with the Alamo, the site preserves the five Spanish frontier missions in San Antonio. The missions were established by Catholic religious orders to spread Christianity to the locals. Protected by the park are the city’s four southernmost Spanish colonial missions – Concepción, San José, San Juan, and Espada.
The highlight of the park is the beautiful Mission San Jose, the largest of the missions, known as the “Queen of Missions” and was considered to be a cultural center.
10. Explore the Caverns
Discovered in 1960 by a team of four college students who climbed and crawled through two miles of vast cavern passage, the Natural Bridge Caverns are the largest commercial caverns in Texas. Named after the 60-foot natural limestone slab bridge that hovers over the cavern’s entrance. The bridge was created when a sinkhole collapsed below it. 180-feet below the surface, the tunnels pass through different geological materials, layers of limestone and sedimentary rock. There are a variety of tours you can take through the network of passages, including the Adventure tour, the Hidden Passages tour, and the Lantern tour.
Where to Stay
Many of San Antonio’s most attractions are in or close to the River Walk. So for a great San Antonio weekend getaway, I recommend that’s where you stay.
- Hotel Valencia Riverwalk
- Drury Plaza Hotel San Antonio Riverwalk
- The Westin Riverwalk San Antonio
- River Walk Inn and Suites
- Wyndham San Antonio River Walk
Note: If you prefer camping, here’s a guide to the BEST camping sites in Texas!
If you love San Antonio, here are 15 small towns in Texas that you might like to visit!
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About the Author
Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning blog Luggage and Lipstick. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials.” Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. Patti has traveled six continents looking for fabulous places and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer (and Gen X!) tribe.