It is no secret that San Antonio is filled with some of the best attractions in the Lone Star State. River City is one of Texas’s largest cities (the seventh-largest in the whole country by population, in fact), and it is also one of the most visited alongside Austin, Dallas, and Houston.
You’ll discover that many of San Antonio’s sites highlight the city’s colonial, Mexican and western history, and do so in fun and fascinating ways that’ll engage both kids and adults alike. History aside, River City also has excellent parks and outdoor recreational areas, quirky contemporary exhibits, and a colorful dining scene (we suggest plucking items from our best restaurant and bar guides and slotting them between attractions). There’s just so much going on—we’ve narrowed down the top attractions to prioritize in San Antonio, so you can spend less time researching and more time exploring.
Best Attractions in San Antonio
The Alamo is by far San Antonio’s most famous attraction and is the most visited attraction in the state of Texas. This 18th-century Spanish mission was the site of the 1836 Battle of the Alamo, where famous Texans like James Bowie and Davy Crockett died fighting the Mexican General Santa Anna during the Texan fight for independence. Remember the Alamo today by watching live history demonstrations with actors in period dress during mock battles and firing demonstrations.
2. The River Walk
Whether you’re looking to take a stroll with lovely views or need a great place to go for a jog, the River Walk will cover all your needs. 15 miles long and bordered by hiking and biking paths, it’s popular among cyclists and runners, though many tourists use it as a walking path between attractions like the San Antonio missions, San Antonio Museum of Art, and various parks. Five miles of the River Walk run through the scenic downtown, home to restaurants, clubs, and shops. Book a boat ride down the River Walk to see all this attractive attraction has to offer.
3. El Mercado
If you’re dying for a good margarita, hit up El Mercado, the largest Mexican market in the United States. This three-block historic market boasts over 100 indoor and outdoor locally-owned shops that sell everything from Talavera pottery and handcrafted Mexican art to Mexican pastries that melt in your mouth. With live music in the square and the 24-hour Mi Tierra Restaurant, El Mercado keeps the Tejano and Mexican cultures alive every day and night.
4. San Antonio Zoo
The San Antonio Zoo can trace its history to 1914 when Colonel George W. Brackenridge deeded land full of monkeys, lions, bears, and buffalo over to the city. Today, families descend upon the San Antonio Zoo to see 750 species of animals on 56 acres. So, grab the kids and charge your phone—you’ll want to take photos of one of the largest bird collections in the world, hippos, and crocodiles underwater, lions frolicking in Big Cat Valley, and an up-close shot when you feed the giraffes.
5. San Antonio Missions National Historic Park
Texas has flown many a flag, but the legacy of the Spanish is perhaps best visible at the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. This national park is comprised of four missions— Mission Espada, Mission San Jose, Mission Concepcion, and Mission San Juan Capistrano—all built over 300 years ago, but which still function as churches with regular services. The historic structures and the grounds are fascinating to explore, but keep in mind that the missions are set far apart and must be reached via car or by a hiking and biking trail.
6. Tower of the Americas
The Tower of the Americas is not for the faint of heart. At 750 feet tall, it offers stunning views of Alamo City from the observation deck and the revolving fine-dining restaurant, Chart House. The restaurant spins, so if you become easily queasy, you may want to remain closer to the ground and take a ride on the Tower of The Americas’ 4D instead. Check the website for special events throughout the year.
7. Natural Bridge Caverns
You’ll feel a bit like Indiana Jones crossing the 60-foot limestone slab bridge at the entrance of the Natural Bridge Caverns. And that’s just a small taste of what this natural wonder has to offer. As the largest known commercial caverns in Texas, the Natural Bridge Caverns take visitors on epic tours through ancient formations 180-feet below the earth. While the most interesting part of Natural Bridge Caverns is found underground, they also offer surface attractions like an adventure ropes course and gem and fossil mining.
8. Six Flags Fiesta Texas
Scream yourself hoarse at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. This amusement park has been servicing the San Antonio area with rollercoasters, thrilling rides, splash zones, fair food, and live shows since 1992. While it’s a great amusement park for all ages, adults won’t want to miss a chance to ride the world’s first single-rail coaster, one of the tallest pendulum rides in the world, and a soon-to-be-added exhilarating ride that provides the sensation of weightlessness.
9. Trader's Village San Antonio
Flea markets in Texas are like the state itself, bigger and better than anywhere else. Trader’s Village San Antonio is a massive 250-acre outdoor flea market with 1,000 vendor stalls selling clothing, Mexican candy, leather goods, furniture, tires, plants, and more. When the kids get restless, let them loose in Trader Village’s 11-ride amusement park. Then wrangle in the whole family so they can snack on gigantic turkey legs, funnel cakes, and tacos from the on-site food stands.
10. Spanish Governor's Palace
The historic, adobe Spanish Governor’s Palace sends visitors back in time to when the Spanish ruled Texas. This 18th-century palace is a National Historic Landmark and was the home of Spanish captains of the Presidio San Antonio de Berar (a military garrison). Some things have changed over the years, but visitors are still provided a peek into Texas’ past on guided tours as they stroll among landscaped gardens and ten rooms filled with Spanish Colonial furniture.
11. Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch
Grab a hat and sunscreen and hit the plains of Texas for a safari experience. Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is a 450-acre, family-friendly ranch that sits on the outskirts of San Antonio and is home to ostriches, giraffes, and zebras. Visitors can get up-close-and-personal with 500 animals (including 40 exotic species) on walkabouts and drive-thru tours. Don’t miss a chance to take the kids to the petting barnyard so they can pose with the adorable African Pygmy goats.
12. Morgan's Wonderland
Morgan’s Wonderland is built on one idea; all kids and adults deserve to have fun. This 25-acre amusement park is ultra-accessible for special needs individuals and their families. There is a bevy of entertainment options, including a water park, playground, Sensory village, and music garden. Best of all, all guests with special needs are given free entrance to this accessible park.
13. Japanese Tea Garden
Set in Brackenridge Park in an old limestone quarry, the year-round garden welcomes all to get lost among the manicured gardens full of walkways and stone bridges accented by floral displays. You could spend a whole day marveling at the park’s 60-foot waterfall and ponds full of Koi before eating a meal at the Jingu House restaurant located within the garden.
14. Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Robert Ripley wandered the world collecting unusual, odd, and eccentric items, and they can all be admired at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in San Antonio. With three floors and 500 exhibits, the odditorium houses Ripley’s unusual finds and astounds all who enter. Also on-site is Louis Tussaud’s Wax Works Museum, where you can take selfies with your favorite celebrities and royalty. Finally, hit up Ripley’s Believe It Or Not 4D Moving Theater for a wild ride on a motion simulator.