Top 10+ Things to Do in San Antonio for First Time Visitors – Must See & Do Attractions

San Antonio features a unique culture; one that is a testament to its historical influences. From its early indigenous inhabitants to the Spanish colonization to its independence from Mexico in the Texan Revolution to the great German migration, San Antonio’s culture is unique in its diversity–and that in itself is something worth exploring.

We put together a list of the top things to do in San Antonio, including museums, theme parks, sampling some of the best food in the US, and more.

Save on Admission to Top Attractions

Many of these top attractions are available on the San Antonio Explorer Pass.

Choose as you go from many of the most popular San Antonio attractions and save up to 40% off combined admission vs. paying at the gate.

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SeaWorld® San Antonio

SeaWorld San Antonio is one of the best things to do in San Antonio

Part aquarium, part thrill-packed theme park, SeaWorld San Antonio lets visitors get closer than ever to tons of marine life, including dolphins, penguins, and polar bears, get splashed by killer whales, and then get an adrenaline rush reaching speeds of up to 50-miles per hour on sea-themed themed thrill rides.

Adrenaline-seekers will want to map their day at SeaWorld around the many thrill rides, like the fast-moving The Great White® ride featuring 360-degree flips and corkscrews, or The Steel Eel’s 15-story vertical drop and camelbacks that give you a feeling of weightlessness.

When the afternoon sun is at its hottest, cool off on the classic splash-drop coaster ride Journey to Atlantis® or the Rio Loco®–just be prepared to get soaked!

Younger ones will want to spend some time at the Sesame Street® Bay of Play®, where they can meet the cast of Sesame Street, take a spin on fun rides like the Shamu Express® mini roller coaster, or sit back and watch an entertaining, family-friendly show.

Insider tip: plan your day around the show schedules and in between shows, you can visit the animal exhibits and go on all the rides.

Getting in: SeaWorld San Antonio tickets are an included option on the San Antonio Explorer Pass.

Six Flags Fiesta Texas

Batman the Ride at Six Flags Fiesta TexasFrom classic theme park rides like Ferris wheels, bumper cars, water slides, and wave pools, to some of the most cutting-edge thrill ride experiences, like the new 4D Free Fly Coaster BATMAN™: The Ride, Six Flags Fiesta Texas has fun and entertainment for everyone.

The park features seven distinct, themed areas within the park, with lots of rides and varying thrill levels and a water park with slides, rides, and pools.

In addition to all the thrill and water rides, Six Flags Fiesta also has lots of shows and entertainment scheduled throughout the day, plus, several dining and shopping spots. Check the schedule to plan your day around the entertainment you want to see.

Getting in: Six Flags Fiesta Texas tickets are an included option on the San Antonio Explorer Pass.

Texas Hill Country & LBJ Ranch Tour

Texas Hill Country and Lyndon B. Johnson Home Tour

Get the full Texas Hill Country experience on this fully narrated, one-day excursion from San Antonio.

You’ll get a tour of Lyndon B. Johnson’s boyhood home and the LBJ Ranch, also known as the “Texas White House,” and learn all about the legacies of both Lyndon B. Johnson, America’s 36th president, and his wife, Claudia “Lady Bird” Taylor.

Next, you’ll break for lunch and free time in picturesque and historic town of Fredericksburg, a classic German town where you’ll see the influence of the great German migration of the 1840s and 1850s.

After Fredericksburg, you’ll head to Luckenbach, home of lots of musical legends, including WIllie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Hondo Crouch, and many more.

The last stop on the tour will be to a an award-winning winery where you’ll learn about the Texas wine industry first hand (for adults 21+, of course).

Getting in: Texas Hill Country & LBJ Ranch Tour tickets are an included option on the San Antonio Explorer Pass.

CitySightseeing San Antonio Hop-On Hop-Off Tour

CitySightseeing San Antonio Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour is a great way to get around San Antonio to all the major attractions

One of the most popular things to do in San Antonio is this guided, hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city and all the major sights.

You’ll get to see all the best of San Antonio, from the Riverwalk to Southtown–it’s the best way to get acquainted with the city and take notes of all the places you want think are worth a visit.

Along the way, professional guides provide informative and entertaining narration about the city’s most significant landmarks, neighborhoods, and popular spots.

Enjoy the freedom to hop-on and off at any of the stops to explore some of the popular attractions as you go.

Getting in: City Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour tickets are an included option on the San Antonio Explorer Pass.

The Alamo

1024px-The_Alamo_front_view

By Bigroger27509 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


No visit to San Antonio is complete without a stop at the most visited historic landmark in all of Texas, The Alamo.

Located in the heart of San Antonio, this former Spanish church-turned-fortress serves as testament to those who sacrificed their life in the Battle of the Alamo following a 13-day siege in 1836, a pivotal moment in the Texas Revolution that helped inspire many Texians to join the fight against the much larger Mexican Army and the exact location where Texian troops achieved independence to the shouts of “Remember the Alamo!” after months of fighting.

Insider tip: get familiar with the legends and myths of the famous battle by watching the 1950s Disney miniseries Davy Crockett and John Wayne’s 1960 film The Alamo.

Getting in: Entrance to the Alamo Church and grounds is free and open to the public (just be sure to check hours of operation when planning your visit).

Alamo Plaza Attractions

Tomb Rider 3-D is a fun kid-friendly attraction right near Alamo Plaza in San Antonio

After visiting the site of the Alamo, take some time to explore the area built up around it and visit some of the attractions right in the surrounding Alamo Plaza.

Guinness World Records: learn all about record-setting history at Guinness World Records. Home to many impressive (and sometimes bizarre) exhibits, this experience brings the contents of the famously fascinating books to life. You’ll even get a chance to break some records yourself in the brand new Attempt Arena.

Ripley’s Haunted Adventure: featuring live actors, creepy artifacts and props, and realer-than-real special effects, this haunted house experience is not for the faint of heart.

Tomb Rider 3-D: part laser tag, part spooky thrill ride, this exciting adventure takes passengers to a world of monsters and mayhem to the ancient tomb of the Egyptian God, Anubis, on an interactive experience where you’ll have to shoot at moving target.

Getting in: Guinness World Records, Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, and Tomb Rider 3-D tickets are included options on the San Antonio Explorer Pass.

San Antonio Zoo

The San Antonio Zoo is one of the best things to do in San Antonio with Kids

Home to 750 different species of animals from around the globe, the San Antonio Zoo is dedicated to inspiring curiosity and educating the public about animals, their habitats, threats to their species, and conservation efforts around the world.

The San Antonio Zoo is a great resource for educational entertainment that kids and adults alike will enjoy.

From alligators to zebras, you’ll see tons of animals you otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to see.

Insider tip: download the San Antonio Zoo app and learn about the animals you can expect to see during your visit.

Getting in: San Antonio Zoo tickets are an included option on the San Antonio Explorer Pass.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! San Antonio

Celebrating all things bizarre and unusual, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is the strangest place in San Antonio.

Visitors can browse through 18 themed galleries with over 500 exhibits in this “Odditorium” and learn about the fascinating life of Mr. Ripley himself; from semi-pro baseball player and cartoonist to collector and curator of the world-famous museums.

Getting in: Ripley’s Believe It or Not! tickets are available for purchase upon arrival. Please note: This attraction is NOT available on the San Antonio Explorer Pass.

Rio San Antonio Cruise Ticket

san-antonio-river-cruise

Cruise along San Antonio’s fun and festive river scene on a fully guided Rio San Antonio Cruises River Tour, a quintessential experience and one of the best things to do in San Antonio.

Your boat will pass under picturesque bridges and your guide will point out tons of fascinating sights on this 30-minute ride while providing some history and context to all that you’ll see.

This cruise is a great way to get acquainted with the River Walk area and scope out points of interest you want to re-visit and spend more time exploring.

Getting in: Go Rio San Antonio River Cruise tickets are an included option on the San Antonio Explorer Pass.

San Antonio River Walk

Also known as el Paseo del Rio, the San Antonio River Walk area is an area of town defined by the San Antonio River lined with shops, restaurants, picturesque urban gardens, and many points of interest.

The pedestrian walkway is removed from the busy downtown streets allowing the area to feel like a remote sanctuary. The River Walk connects major attractions such as Hemisfair Park, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and the Rio San Antonio Cruise itself.

Head to the Bier Garten and grab a drink to go (open containers are allowed in the River Walk area, only).

Getting in: San Antonio River Walk is free to explore.

Buckhorn Saloon and Museum and Texas Ranger Museum

Buckhorn Saloon and Museum and Texas Ranger Museum

These two museums are located in the same building and serve as the perfect complement to one another jointly providing a holistic portrayal of Texan history and culture.

The Buckhorn Museum features wildlife from every continent of the world and boasts collections of natural artifacts collected from travelers passing through the area such as, bones, antlers, over 500 distinct species of wildlife, including a 10,000 year-old prehistoric elk.

The Texas Ranger Museum features hundreds of Texas Ranger artifacts, including revolvers, automatic handguns, sawed off shotguns, photographs, and more in exploration of frontier America with an homage to early Texan history. Visitors can take a walk through Ranger Town, a recreation of the town of San Antonio at the turn of the century complete with a replica of the Buckhorn Saloon, a jail cell, blacksmith shop, and more. A must-see for any fans of Texan heritage and the days of the wild frontiers.

Getting in: Buckhorn Saloon and Museum and Texas Ranger Museum tickets are an included option on the San Antonio Explorer Pass.

Witte Museum

H-E-B Body Adventure exhibit at the Witte Museum in San Antonio is designed to educate kids about healthy living

Exploring a variety of topics, from history, science, and South Texas heritage, the Witte Museum provides visitors with fascinating immersive experiences.

Permanent exhibits feature historic artifacts, Texas art, wildlife collections, and the H-E-B Body Adventure designed to educate about healthy living in a unique, interactive way that empowers visitors to learn about how the body works on a journey to sustained health and wellness.

Visitors can test their energy score, check their stride and height to see how long it would take to walk (or run!) the 13-mile river walk path connecting the Witte to San Antonio’s historic missions, receive a personalized take-home POWERprofile, dig deeper into health topics on a life-size touchscreen anatomy table, and lots more.

In the Robert J. and Helen C. Kleberg South Texas Heritage Center, another popular exhibit at the Witte Museum, visitors can travel back to the days when vaqueros, chili queens, and cattle kings roamed the wild and vivid land of the state of Texas. Here, you can see Davy Crockett’s fiddle and hear the stories of the cowboys who helped shape and build Texas.

Getting in: Witte Museum tickets are an included option on the San Antonio Explorer Pass.

San Antonio Museum of Art

San Antonio Museum of Art

Home to an extensive collection of art from around the globe, this former 19th-century brewery turned museum, boasts more than 30,000 artifacts spanning over 5,000 years of history.

Exhibits at the San Antonio Museum of Art feature a variety of art, including Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiquities, Latin American artwork, contemporary art, and Asian art. It even has an entire gallery dedicated exclusively to Texas art, making it one of the best things to do in San Antonio.

Getting in: San Antonio Museum of Art tickets are an included option on the San Antonio Explorer Pass.

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

Mission Concepcion San Antonio 1

By Liveon001 ©Travis Witt [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], from Wikimedia Commons

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and a National Historical Park, the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is home to four of San Antonio’s five missions: Mission San Jose, Mission Concepcion, Mission San Juan, and Mission Espada (the fifth one located at The Alamo which is not part of the park) that served as part of the Spanish colonization of Texas and efforts to spread Christianity nearly 300 years ago.

All four of the missions are still active Catholic churches today, so be sure to check the schedule in advance to plan your visit and keep in mind they may be closed to the public for special services, such as weddings and funerals.

Getting in: San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is free and open to the public. Daily tours and park programs are free – check with staff on grounds for the next available guided tour.

DoSeum


Looking for things to do in San Antonio with kids? Inspire their imagination and curiosity at this highly interactive children’s museum that explores how imagination and creativity can advance the fields of science and technology in very tangible ways.

This indoor/outdoor museum features 39,000 square feet of exhibits including Sensations Studio, Explore, Little Town, Innovation Station, Spy Academy, and Imagine it! where kids learn about scientific concepts in a way that feels like play–where it’s all about doing.

Getting in: Doseum tickets are available for purchase upon arrival. Please note: This attraction is NOT available on the San Antonio Explorer Pass.

Explore The Pearl

The Pearl, an up-and-coming neighborhood located just a few miles up the San Antonio River from downtown, is packed with local favorites and home to some of the trendiest restaurants and shops in the city.

The area has a unique culture of its own focused on supporting local artists, celebrating individuality, and inspiring originality. Head here with the family for lots of good dining options, cute boutique shopping, and to get a feel for the local culture of San Antonio.

Insider tip: check the Farmer’s Market schedule for some authentic local eats!

Gettin in: The Pearl is free and open to the public.

HemisFair Park

What was once the sight of the 1968 World’s Fair now plays an integral role in the urban revitalization of San Antonio, serving as a public space unifying downtown San Antonio to surrounding areas. Pack a picnic or pick up some snacks and refreshments at one of surrounding shops or food carts in the park and spend some time soaking up the San Antonio sun and getting a feel for the vibrant community that calls San Antonio “home.”

Getting in: HemisFair Park is free and open to the public.

Tower of the Americas

More than just an observation tower, the iconic Tower of the Americas features great views of the city, fascinating historic exhibits, and a 4D theater ride with Texas-specific experiences. Head up to the Flags Over Texas: Observation Deck for 360-degree views of San Antonio.

You’ll get info about the many landmarks you’ll see from the top so you’ll be able to identify your surroundings and associate some history with the most significant sights. Fly over Texas, experience what a Friday night football game is like, and get up close to a NASA space shuttle when you take a turn on the Skies Over Texas: 4D Theater Ride.

Getting in: Flags Over Texas: Observation Deck and Skies Over Texas: 4D Theater Ride tickets are available for purchase upon arrival. Please note: This attraction is NOT available on the San Antonio Explorer Pass.

Kiddie Park

 


If you’re traveling with kids between the ages of 1-12, head to America’s oldest children’s amusement park for some good old-fashioned fun.

Featuring classic, theme park attractions, rides, arcade games, carnival games, face painting stations, and more, Kiddie Park is nostalgic fun for the whole family.

Getting in: Kiddie Park is open to everyone; tickets to attractions and activities within the park are separately ticketed. Please note: This attraction is NOT available on the San Antonio Explorer Pass.

Brackenridge Park

With 343 acres of well-planned land, Brackenridge Park is a hub of outdoor activities in San Antonio for natives and visitors alike. Home to the lush Japanese Tea Gardens, the Brackenridge Golf Course, playgrounds, swimming pools, picnic areas, fishing, trails, the Witte Museum, San Antonio Zoo, and more, there’s lots to be found within the park’s boundaries.

Getting in: Brackenridge Park is free and open to the public. Special events and activities within the park may be separately ticketed.

Japanese Tea Garden

Get in some zen during your trip and head to the Japanese Tea Garden, one of the most loved educational and cultural spots in San Antonio. Located in Brackenridge Park, take a walk on the beautifully landscaped and well shaded walkways, get an up close look at the variety of plant life, walk over stone bridges, see ponds filled with large Koi, take a break at the covered pavilion, and visit the 60-foot waterfall within in the park.

Getting in: Japanese Tea Garden is free and open to the public.

World’s Largest Cowboy Boots

 


Worth a visit just to get the perfect cover to your San Antonio photo album, the World’s Largest Cowboy Boots are located outside the North Star Mall, just north of San Antonio.

Getting in: viewing the World’s Largest Cowboy Boots is free!

Attend an Outdoor Movie Screening

San Antonio might have the widest selection of outdoor movie screening options than any other city. Attend an outdoor evening flick, a favorite activity of San Antonio residents when the weather is nice.

Check the schedule of events online and see if there are any fun films airing during your visit.

Getting in: Outdoor Movie Screenings are free and open to the public.

San Pedro Springs Park

Cool off in the free public pool in San Antonio’s oldest park and the second oldest public American park, San Pedro Springs Park. This beautifully landscaped public park is designed around the natural springs and creek.

A top destination for active San Antonio residents, this park features walking trails, a tennis court, swimming pool, skate park, playgrounds, paved bike trail, picnic tables, and more.

Getting in: San Pedro Springs Park is free and open to the public. Events and activities may be separately ticketed.

El Mercado

Visit El Mercado, the largest Mexican market outside of Mexico, home to over 100 locally owned shops and stores.

Getting in: El Mercado is free and open to the public (the shopping, however, is not).

Schlitterbahn Waterpark & Resort

Located right outside of San Antonio, Schlitterbahn Waterpark & Resort in New Braunfels, Texas features tons of water park thrills and fun. From exhilaratingly complex water slides and thrill rides to relaxing lazy rivers and pool-side lounges, there’s water fun for everyone.

For a day of ultimate adventure and relaxation, consider reserving one of the many cabanas for some guaranteed shade and comfy quarters.

Getting in: Schlitterbahn Waterpark & Resort tickets are available for purchase upon arrival.

Places to Eat

San Antonio is a foodie’s version of heaven.

Big Lou's 42" Pizza in San Antonio

Photo credit: Big Lou’s Pizza Official Facebook Page

Big Lou’s Pizza: where else are you able to order a whopping, 42-inch pizza for your table? Order the toppings of your choice and fill up with one of their famous award-winning pizzas. It’s worth a visit just to see one their massive masterpieces.

Mi Tierra is a local favorite restaurant in San Antonio

Photo credit: Mi Tierra Cafe & Bakery’s Official Facebook Page

Mi Tierra Cafe & Bakery: a favorite of visitors and locals alike, this San Antonio staple is open 24-hours a day serving up authentic Mexican fare in a fun and festive atmosphere filled with Christmas decor year-round.

Get authentic Texas eats at The Block food truck park

Photo credit: The Block SA’s Official Facebook Page

Food Truck Parks: take your pick of the many food truck parks around San Antonio to get a taste of the continually booming and always innovative San Antonio food culture. Food trucks can frequently be found at The Block featuring a lively outdoor patio with a sports bar atmosphere, The Point where lots of food trucks park and local events are hosted, or the famous Alamo Street Eat Bar featuring beers on tap and a changing rotation of trucks.

Guenther House Top Place to Eat in San Antonio

Photo credit: The Guenther House’s Official Facebook Page

The Guenther House: housed in an idyllic setting inside the home of Pioneer’s Flour Mill founders’ family home, head to the Guenther House for a memorable brunch experience and some of the best chicken and waffles around.

The Quarry Hofbrau & Beer Garden: for innovative Texas fusion fare and a lively outdoor patio scene, this spot tops many San Antonio foodies’ lists of favorite local spots.


The Friendly Spot: with over 75 beers on draft and over 250 bottled brews to choose from, the Friendly Spot is open everyday until midnight and often features fun events. Pets and kids are welcome!

Esquire Tavern: end your day or grab a mid-day bite at the Esquire Tavern, the oldest bar along the River Walk.

Get a giant cinnamon bun at Lulu's Bakery & Cafe in San Antonio

Photo credit: Lulu’s Bakery & Cafe’s Official Facebook Page

Lulu’s Bakery and Cafe: for instagram-worthy pastries, head to Lulu’s Bakery and Cafe, where you can get a warm, gooey cinnamon bun bigger than your head.

Let’s Recap

There you have it – our picks for some of the most fun things to do in San Antonio.

Plan to add a few of the attractions above to your vacation itinerary to make the most of your trip to San Antonio.

Remember, you can save on admission to a number of these popular attractions and more with a San Antonio Explorer Pass.

The information contained in this post, to the best of the author's knowledge, was accurate at time of publishing. We do our best to ensure and maintain the accuracy of this information.

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