San Antonio is one of our favorite cities in Texas. The river, the history, and the culture meld together seamlessly providing a vibe we just haven’t experienced elsewhere. We spent a week exploring the town amid a terrible winter storm. While this likely changed our perspective a tad, it wasn’t enough to mask the authenticity or allure of this historic gem. Below, we list the places you should see (& skip) in San Antonio.
This almost goes without saying, but Riverwalk is a definite MUST SEE in San Antonio. The country’s longest linear park at 14 miles (yes miles, I didn’t realize that either), this famous walk is every bit as beautiful as the movies show.
The City of San Antonio is very particular about the kinds of businesses it permits along Riverwalk, ensuring the park is not over-commercialized. And while you will see a few chains (Rainforest Cafe, Hard Rock, etc.) it still feels authentic – a deliberate move by the city.
For just $12 per adult, you can purchase a ride on the city’s new all-electric boats which cruise the river. The history of the city and the construction of the Riverwalk is told on a 45-minute journey offered through GO RIO.
If you’re looking for a nice afternoon stroll or a romantic evening, Riverwalk is your destination.
Learn more here.
SKIP: Eating at a chain along Riverwalk
While the city has done a remarkable job keeping Riverwalk authentic, there are several chains along the main strip of the river. Skip those and instead, opt for a quaint and local experience at one of the smaller restaurants.
You can have Hard Rock anywhere, but authentic Tex-Mex isn’t always available.
SEE: The Missions NHP
The Missions just outside of San Antonio are an incredible example of early American religion and architecture. Four missions dot the landscape in a linear path toward the city. The furthest south is only 4 miles so it’s an easy bus, Uber or car ride. If you have bikes with you, there is also a bike trail you can take that follows the pilgrims’ path and passes each mission.
As part of the National Parks System, the missions have a small entry fee that gets you into all four. Take time to explore and learn about the experiences of those who lived in these missions in the 1800s.
When we visited, there were hardly any others present, and we felt as though we had each to ourselves. It’s much easier to feel the history when you aren’t elbowing someone next to you for space.
Learn more here.
I know, it’s almost sacreligious. Go to San Antonio and NOT visit the Alamo?! While the Alamo is indeed historic and a beautiful architectural structure, the lines and the crowds are horrendous. Even in the rain, we were surprised at how many people were waiting to purchase tickets.
You get a great glimpse of the structure’s exterior from the street, especially if you go at night when no one’s around.
If standing in the Alamo is something you just have to do, by all means, go for it. But we don’t feel as though it’s something you must see (the inside) in San Antonio.
This small yet happening neighborhood is where every local recommends if you’re looking for something a little different. The area used to house Pearl Brewery, but when that closed down more than a decade ago, the area fell into disrepair. Billionaire Christopher Goldsbury (of Pace Picante Sauce fame) is the founder of this now-trendy neighborhood which houses the city’s best shopping and some of the best eateries as well. The city’s easy-to-use bike sharing program has a station here and following the San Antonio River is a nice leisurely ride back into town.
Follow the thirty-somethings in town to get here (or just look for the brick smokestack in the night sky). Pearl is worth the detour.
Learn more here.
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SKIP: El Mercado
Touted as the largest Mexican market in the United States, El Mercado is a three-block outdoor plaza housing locally-owned shops selling junk to tourists. In addition to the outdoor space, there are two indoor malls as well. Each shop inside hawks similar wares as well as cheap T-shirts.
If there is a festival going on, this area might be worth a stop. But on a typical day, it’s not worth your time.
SEE: San Antonio, The Saga
This art installation is a laser-light show projected upon the facade of the San Fernando Cathedral (which also happens to house the remains of the Alamo’s heroes). This 24-minute show tells the story of the city’s founding from the beginning through today.
The installation, created by French artist Xavier De Richemont, set to music, captivates from the first frame. If you can stay up late enough, this show is a one-of-a-kind experience you’ll talk about for years to come. It plays through 2020 so you still have time to catch it.
Shows run rain or shine Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights at 9:00, 9:30 and 10:00 pm.
Learn more here.
What to see (& skip) in San Antonio
No matter what you choose to do in this historic city, you are in for a treat. Check out this video of our top three stops in town.
Did we miss your favorite stop? Let us know in the comments below.