When you think of San Antonio, you may immediately remember the Alamo. But in addition to that legendary Texas landmark, there’s so much more that makes this authentic city memorable.
Awash in Old World charm and a melting pot of culture, San Antonio is a kaleidoscope of history, food, art, and more.
These eight highlights cover some of the not-to-be-missed experiences you should prioritize while in this immersive destination.
Explore the River Walk
Forgive us for stating the obvious, but the Paseo del Rio — the River Walk — lives up to its reputation as the No. 1 tourist attraction in all of Texas.
The world-renowned, 15-mile urban waterway has multiple personalities: quiet and park-like in some areas, while others are brimming with activity from European-style sidewalk cafes, boutiques, art galleries, nightclubs, and gleaming high-rises.
Explore the vibrant maze of walkways, bridges, and canals by foot or jump aboard a Go Rio! river barge for a guided tour or a dinner cruise.
See history come to life
The Mission Reach, an eight-mile stretch along the San Antonio River, has recreational trails, pedestrian bridges, pavilions, and portals to the beautiful, colonial San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes Concepción, San José, San Juan, and Espada.
You can also find Hot Wells along Mission Reach. It's a one-time bathhouse-turned-resort turned-entertainment complex that burned several times over, and the ruins are fascinating.
Downtown, the Spanish Governor's Palace is the only remaining example in Texas of an aristocratic, 18th-century, Spanish Colonial, in-town residence (and it's reportedly very haunted!).
The 1731 San Fernando Cathedral is the oldest standing church and continuously functioning religious community in Texas. Four nights a week, French artist Xavier de Richemont’s The Saga is projected on the façade of the cathedral and tells the history of San Antonio through music, sound, light and visual narration.
South Texas history, culture, and natural science are the focus at The Witte Museum, where you'll find dinosaur skeletons, cave drawings, wildlife dioramas, and several historic homes.
Head to historic art districts
Located on the south bank of the River Walk, the charming La Villita (which translates to “little village”) occupies one square block in the heart of downtown San Antonio.
It was one of the city’s original settlements, and now the tiny district’s cobblestone streets are lined with an eclectic array of adobe structures and early Victorian and Texas limestone buildings that house boutique-style shops with works and wares from artists and craftsmen.
Dating to 1840, Market Square (El Mercado) is a festive combo of Tex-Mex cuisine, music, entertainment, and shopping with more than 100 locally owned businesses.
Just past the hustle and bustle of downtown you’ll find Southtown the Arts District, a trendy, creative community populated by historic houses, converted warehouses, artist lofts, shops, galleries and restaurants.
It also includes the King William Historic District, which reflects San Antonio’s German heritage in a treasured residential area that was originally settled in the late 1800s. There are many mansions in the area, and you can tour the beautiful Villa Finale while there.
Discover even more art
With more than 20 museums, San Antonio has no shortage of artistic experiences, including street murals that dot the city.
With a Mediterranean-style mansion setting, The McNay art museum is beautiful on the outside and inside, with 22,000-plus collection of works, including post-impressionist and modern pieces, medieval offerings, Native American art, and more.
The San Antonio Museum of Art is housed in a castle-like structure that was formerly the Lone Star Brewery. It’s notable for its antiquities collections and a 30,000-square-foot Center or Latin American Art — the largest of its kind — as well as an Asian art wing that spans nearly 6,000 years of history.
Located in a historic building with a sculpture garden onsite, the Briscoe Western Art Museum is a hub for the art and culture of the Wild West.
For an immersive and interactive experience, Hopscotch is a unique, 20,000-square-foot art gallery with 14 distinctive, playful, and whimsical installations from more than 40 local, national, and international artists.
And San Antonio’s newest contemporary art center, Ruby City, is a crimson-hued building that displays paintings, sculptures, installations, and video works.
Find The Pearl
A vibrant micro-community all its own, The Pearl is a highly curated culinary and cultural destination with multiple dining options, shops, and a weekend farmers market, all centered around a historic German brewery that was founded in 1881.
Pearl’s Bottling Department Food Hall has also risen to the rank of a must-visit culinary hub thanks to resident gems like Caribbean street food-peddler Mi Roti and tasty ramen emporium Tenko Ramen.
Just outside the food hall is the Park at Pearl, an expansive lawn where you can catch a concert, fiesta, or dance party on any given evening.
Indulge in an epicurean experience
Known as the culinary capital of Texas, San Antonio is recognized as one of only two U.S. cities designated as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy (the other is Tucson) because of its unique blend of cuisine options. And it’s about more than just the crazy-good food, too; local restaurants serve up experiences, traditions, and culture.
But where to start the foodie tour? In 2022 alone, dining destinations across the city received seven nominations for the James Beard Awards, one of the highest honors in the culinary industry.
Put these nominees on your short list, including Clementine for chef John Russ’s seasonal eats inspired by global flavors.
Pitmaster Esaul Ramos’s 2M Smokehouse has impressive barbecue — and desserts, too — for the ultimate savory and sweet combo. And if you get nothing else at Cured, you must order chef Steve McHugh’s ultimate charcuterie plates.
Renowned Mexican restaurant Mixtli fuses old pre-Hispanic techniques with modern, avant-garde cuisine, and the menu rotates every 45 days. Pastry chef Sofia Tejeda’s delectable desserts there are not to be missed, either.
Speaking of baking, bakery-cafe La Panaderia specializes in making handmade bread and pan dulce inspired by Mexico’s Golden Era with influences from the famous bread-baking brothers José and David Cáceres.
Modern wine bar and bottle shop High Street Wine Co. has a distinctive selection of small-production wines, and their shareable snacks and small bites are equally impressive.
Put October 27-30, 2022 on your calendar for the Tasting Texas, Wine + Food Festival, which is being hosted in historic Travis Park downtown. It’s the first-ever statewide culinary festival to partner with the James Beard Foundation and will showcase both distinguished and up-and-coming chefs from all across Texas, as well as national all-stars and diverse talent.
Attend a show — or three
Prominently situated near San Antonio’s River Walk, the Tobin Center is a world-class venue that’s a central hub for performances as well as for local performing arts groups.
The opulent Majestic Theatre, built downtown in 1929, is a stunning setting for touring Broadway shows, concerts, and the San Antonio Symphony.
The neighboring Charline McCombs Empire Theatre reflects the beaux-arts grandeur of the 1920s and hosts touring musical acts and other entertainment headliners.
The 1926-built Aztec Theatre is a beautifully restored Meso-American-themed masterpiece for live concerts and other touring productions.
Get in touch with nature
Historic Brackenridge Park is a 343-acre refuge in the heart of the city, where you'll find more than just walking trails and picnic-perfect zones. Also onsite are the Japanese Tea Garden, Sunken Garden Theater, and the San Antonio Zoo, the third largest in the nation with a collection of more than 3,500 animals representing 750 different species from around the globe.
Not far from Brackenridge, the San Antonio Botanical Garden is teeming with beautiful, lush vegetation; there’s even a sensory garden, where emphasis is placed on the texture and scent of plants. Its monumental exhibition, Rooted, is from acclaimed contemporary artist Steve Tobin and features more than 20 towering, nature-inspired sculptures — it’s on view through October 30, 2022.
Discover more to look forward to during a San Antonio sojourn and start planning your trip here.