San Antonio is Texas’ star attraction. This beautiful colonial city (founded in 1691) is small enough to feel friendly and welcoming, has a walkable downtown core, and plenty of attractions for visitors to enjoy.
It’s the kind of destination where it’s easy to blend history, culture, and sporting spectacles in a single day of sight-seeing.
History fans can relive the siege of the Alamo by visiting the historic fort, or tour elegant Spanish missions. Art lovers can spend a day wandering around the San Antonio Museum of Art, and basketball fans can enjoy the San Antonio Spurs.
There’s constant sunshine, family attractions like the Zoo and Sea World, and some of the best Mexican restaurants this side of the Rio Grande. Dine on tacos and fajitas at Mama Margie's, discover street food vendors like La Gloria, or hit the bars along the beautiful River Walk.
It all adds up to a little gem of a city, a unique fusion of cultures where gourmet food, art, sports, and history combine to create something truly special.
San Antonio has a sun-drenched Texan climate, with very few months of the year when rain is likely. Summer temperatures can be too hot for some, but in spring and fall, the city is a fantastic place to be for the climate alone.
San Antonio’s history stretches back to 1691, and it only became an American city in the 1840s. This long colonial history has left a beautiful architectural legacy, with buildings like the Alamo and the Catholic outposts in the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park.
San Antonio mixes great Mexican (or Tex-Mex) food with cuisine from all across the world. If you love tacos or fajitas, there’s no better city to visit. Try the beef fajitas at Mama Margie's, the fish tacos at the Cove, or head to Chris Madrid’s for an authentic, meat-filled burger.
Watch the Spurs play in the NBA or sample other sporting attractions in San Antonio including the Rampage (in the American Hockey League), or the UTSA Roadrunners in NCAA college football. There are also some excellent golf resorts like La Cantera and Hyatt Hill within a few miles of the city center.
San Antonio is a cultural center as much as a sporting hub, and there’s a vast array of museums and galleries available. Highlights include the Museo Alameda, which showcases Latino history in the U.S.A. and SAMA, the San Antonio Museum of Art, which features collections from the Mediterranean, Asia, Latin America, and leading contemporary artists.
The San Antonio Spurs are one of the NBA’s biggest teams, having won 5 national championships since 1999. Head to the AT&T Center to catch a game during the NBA season (October to April).
Everyone who visits San Antonio has to tour the Alamo. This small colonial fort became a symbol of American freedom when it was defended against the Mexican army by a band of Texans which included Davy Crockett. Nowadays, you can storm the fort for free.
The River Walk has become San Antonio’s civic heart, and it’s a beautiful route, with attractive lighting, buzzing cafes, bars, markets, and much more. You can also take river tours run by Rio San Antonio Cruises.
San Antonio hosts one of America’s most colorful, exciting fiestas (festivals) every year in late April. Book a trip then to attend the Oysterbake at St. Mary’s University, a food and music filled weekend event. Or just enjoy the vibrant processions in Downtown. It’s a magical time to visit.
San Antonio may not be associated with the sea, but it does have an exceptional aquarium in the form of Sea World San Antonio, where you can see sharks, dolphins, and killer whales putting on a spectacular show.
Generally, the best times to visit San Antonio are spring and fall, when the weather is warm (but not scorching hot) and the city’s entertainment schedule is in full swing. Try an April break for the best weather and the chance to attend the city’s Fiesta or visit in October to avoid the occasional spring downpours. Summer is great if you can stand the heat (and there are plenty of water parks in town if you need to cool off).
San Antonio International Airport is about 13 miles northeast of the downtown district, and it’s well connected to central hotels. The cheapest way to get into the city is via VIA Metropolitan Transit buses, which take about 30 minutes and cost just $1.30. There are also shuttle buses to major hotels. Tickets must be purchased in the baggage reclaim area and cost $19.
San Antonio is at the intersection of three major interstate highways: I-35 from Dallas, I-10 from Houston, and I-37 to Corpus Christi. This makes the city easily accessible from the north, south, east and west.
Greyhound is the major intercity bus operator in San Antonio, and their buses stop at 500 N St Mary’s in the Downtown area. Megabus also run services into the city, with connections to other Texan cities, while Shofur offers a luxury bus service, also from Texan destinations.
The best place to stay in San Antonio is probably right at the heart of the city. Downtown hotels worth checking out include the Drury Plaza Hotel, which is right next to the scenic River Walk, the Hampton Inn, and the Wyndham, which features a gorgeous rooftop pool terrace. If golf is your passion, the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa is a great place to stay, while budget travelers can book cheap dorm beds at the San Antonio International Hostel.
Downtown – The most touristy part of town, Downtown includes the beautiful River Walk – a pedestrian path along the San Antonio River that is lined with bars, cafes, hotels, and stores. It’s also where you’ll find the Alamo as well as other attractions like the Tower of the Americas, which provides the best views of the city.
Alamo Heights – An up-market district just to the north of Downtown, Alamo Heights has a cluster of family attractions like the City Zoo, the Japanese Tea Gardens, and the McNay Art Museum. It’s also the greenest part of the city, thanks to Mahncke Park and the city’s botanical gardens, which help to create a pleasant, safe atmosphere.
Uptown Loop – The city’s major shopping district, Uptown Loop features the North Star Mall and San Pedro Town Center. North Star Mall, in particular, is a must-see for shoppers. That’s not just because of the 200 stores, including Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Cheesecake Factory. The massive pair of cowboy boots outside is also a unique San Antonio tourist attraction.
VIA Metropolitan Transit runs an efficient trolleybus network in the center of town that serves most tourist attractions. Single journeys cost between $1 and $2.50, but it makes more sense to purchase a $4 day pass. The #7 Sightseer Special is a particularly useful bus, as it links together a group of attractions, including the Alamo and the zoo.
Taxis in San Antonio have a basic fare of $2.50 for the first sixth of a mile. After that, it costs $0.49 for every fifth of a mile, with a minimum fare of $5 in Downtown areas. Uber usually works out much cheaper, with a base fare of $1 and then $0.9 per mile (for their cheapest vehicles).
If you want to get out of San Antonio’s city center, having a car makes sense. You can rent a car at the airport or outlets in the city, and car rental agencies active in San Antonio include Avis, Budget and, of course, Alamo. If you do intend to rent, check with your hotel if they offer free parking, as on-street and garage parking in the center can be costly.
San Antonio has plenty of conventional malls like the North Star Mall in San Pedro, where you’ll find major names like Sak’s and Macy’s, and for high-end luxury Lacoste and Hugo Boss. Then there are the 80 smaller antique and craft stores at El Mercado (W Commerce St), a great place to buy souvenirs for folks back home.
San Antonio tends to be significantly cheaper than other major U.S. cities like Chicago or New York. Expect to pay around $2.40 for 12 eggs and $15 for a good bottle of wine. You can save even more money by shopping at the city’s supermarkets. La Fiesta has a number of outlets and sells fresh, organic produce, while you can also find a local Safeway, CostCo, and Trader Joe’s.
San Antonio has a richly diverse food culture, with influences from Mexican, German, Traditional American, and Eastern European cuisines. So there should be a restaurant to suit everyone’s tastes. Casa Rio is an affordable place to dine on satisfying Tex-Mex dishes like grilled steak fajitas, while the Cove is the place to go for delicious fish tacos. Joe's Crab Shack mixes great seafood and live music, while Chris Madrid’s is the best place to go for a filling burger and fries combination. Italian food is represented in force as well, thanks to pizza restaurants like Dough Pizzeria Napoletana.