things to do in san antonio with kids
You’re on a boat, gliding down a winding river. In the distance, a mariachi band plays and you find yourself swaying gently to the music. You catch a whiff of handmade tortillas. As you follow the scent, you see the bright lights of a Mexican star lantern, twinkling through the dark sky. Is this a dream, or is there just something special about San Antonio?
Since the early days of the Spanish settlers, San Antonio has become one of the most beloved cities in Texas. From strolling down the River Walk to savoring sweet pan dulce, this spectacular city has something to offer everyone.
The Story of San Antonio
Before Spanish explorers declared San Antonio a city in the early 1700s, Native Americans called this area of Texas home. Years passed and San Antonio’s culture grew into a unique Tex-Mex blend. Today, visitors can pick from a bevy of historical wonders as they seek to uncover the city’s past.
Remembering the Alamo
One of San Antonio’s most iconic landmarks, the Alamo richly symbolizes Texan history. The Alamo Church was originally built by Spanish settlers. In 1836 the Battle of the Alamo was fought on its holy grounds during the Texas Revolution.
things to do in san antonio with kids
While Texas was only an independent country for a brief time, this spirit has lived on in its people who strive to “remember the Alamo.” Today, you can visit the Alamo to learn about the role it played in shaping Texan history. The whole family will enjoy the Young Texans Tour—experience the Alamo in its heyday, complete with cannon drills. Meet Bella the Alamo cat as you wander through the gardens. Then head to the colonial missions.
Stunning Spanish Settlements
Today a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is a favorite among history buffs. Each colonial mission was built in a style all its own. For families we recommend the Alamo Trolley Tour. During your visit try to spot the acequias. These irrigation channels supplied the mission’s farms and residents with fresh water from the San Antonio River.
Texas Time Travel
Founded by a schoolteacher, the Witte Museum is the perfect place for visitors to travel through time. Begin your journey in prehistoric Texas by meeting the dinosaurs that once roamed this hilly land. Then learn how to weave with the Native Americans who once lived in the Pecos region.
Older kids will love spotting Native American paintings during a hike through the Lower Pecos region on the Rock Art Tour. Nature lovers can experience the state’s diverse ecosystems, coming face to face with the many creatures who call Texas home in the Witte Museum’s Wild Gallery.
Fans of the wild frontier can even meet cattle-driving cowboys on a guided tour of the South Texas Heritage Center. Experience San Antonio’s main plaza as it was in 1849, search for black gold (oil) deep in the desert, or imagine yourself dancing at an old-fashioned fandango dance hall.
An Outdoor Odyssey
Visitors to San Antonio are encouraged to take in the many outdoor wonders of the city, beginning at the heart of it all.
After a long day, enjoy a picnic in the Main Plaza. This community space acts as a gathering place for residents and tourists alike. Stop by HEB Marketplace for some handmade tortillas, where you can actually watch them being made! When it’s dark, the San Fernando Cathedral becomes the backdrop for San Antonio | The Saga, a 24-minute journey highlighting the city’s history through lights, color and visual narration.
During your visit, don’t overlook the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. Here you can hike the Texas Native Trail and traverse three ecological regions of Texas. Along the way, be on the lookout for native cacti and hummingbirds flitting through the trees, as well as historic homes. From log cabins to adobe houses, this is a glimpse at Texas life in the 1800s.
Along the Riverbanks
For a more urban outdoor experience, Book a room at the historic Omni La Mansión del Rio on the world-famous San Antonio River Walk. It was built in 1968 for tourists attending the HemisFair World’s Fair. After touring this landmark hotel, hop aboard a River Walk boat and cruise down the San Antonio River.
Budding engineers will delight in discovering how 1920s architect Robert H.H. Hugman proposed the River Walk to deal with flooding issues and make the city more livable. As you stroll past colorful umbrellas, greet the resident ducks, and admire colorful mosaics, you’ll wonder how you can ever leave this magical place.
The best time of year to visit the River Walk is during the April Fiesta celebration, held every year since 1891 to honor the heroes of the Alamo and Battle of San Jacinto. Between the Battle of the Flowers Parade and the Fiesta carnival, it is a true celebration of Texan culture AND funds raised provide vital services to San Antonio citizens all year long.
No matter what time of year you visit, the spirit of Fiesta is alive and well at the Historic Market Square, just a short distance from River Walk. Get lost in this maze of vendors and browse jewelry, ceramics, and alebrije animal statues—handmade in Mexico. Kids can practice their Spanish with the friendly shop owners and your family can finish the day with a delicious Tex-Mex meal at Mi Tierra Cafe and Bakery. Don’t forget a slice of tres leches cake for dessert!
With old west adventure lurking around every corner, it’s easy to fall in love with this colorful city. So be warned, the next time you hear a mariachi band, you may just find yourself packing your bags for San Antonio.