There are so many things to do in San Antonio with kids—from teaching them about American history and Mexican culture to exploring the urban waterway and dozens of children’s activities. And despite being Texas’s second largest city, there’s a friendly small-town vibe, which is ideal for families.
Here are 10 things not to miss:
1. The Alamo
Known as The Alamo City, San Antonio is pretty famous for, well, The Alamo, the 18th century Roman Catholic mission and site of the legendary battle in the Texas Revolution and the fight for independence from Mexico. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is open and free to the public, so you can tour the remains of the church and fortress compound, visit the museum and even watch “living historians” reenact what life was like for soldiers at the Alamo 300 years ago. (You’re also likely to see lots of IRL military here. Also dubbed Military City USA, San Antonio has one of the highest numbers of bases in the country.)
2. River Walk
Like the Alamo, you can’t go to San Antonio and not do the River Walk—it’s a thing and it’s definitely worth checking out. Hop on a riverboat for a narrated and highly entertaining half-hour cruise. (We’re pretty sure the GO RIO guides moonlight as comedians.) The canals, lined with shops, restaurants and plenty of people-watching also provide the best view of some of the city’s historic Spanish, German, Mexican and southwestern architecture.
3. San Antonio Botanical Garden
This 38-acre San Antonio Botanical Garden is a museum of plant life with too much to do in one visit alone. The stunning Children’s Vegetable Garden and state-of-the art outdoor teaching kitchen shows kids how vegetables—including radishes, eggplants and dozens of types of basil and flowers—are grown. You’ll also want to save lots of time for messing around at the Family Adventure Garden, splashing in the man-made creek and exploring the futuristic glass pavilions designed by Argentine architect Emilio Ambasz with plants from around the world.
4. The Witte Museum
The Witte is San Antonio’s science and natural history museum, and tells stories from South Texas from prehistory to the present day. Don’t miss the Pecos exhibit, which showcases the Indiginous hunter-gatherers of Texas in incredible and lifelike detail, and of course, the wildlife and dinosaur galleries for your animal lovers. Special exhibits, like the most recent “Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids,” will also make your kids ponder their imaginary obsessions.
5. The DoSeum
The DoSeum, San Antonio’s museum for children, is a non-profit organization devoted to joyful learning and discovery. From the crowd-pleasing “Little Town” and grocery store to spy games, STEM activities, kid-friendly power-tools and a phenomenal outdoor exhibit, you can easily get your kid to burn off a few hours here while actually picking up some new skills. It’s a must-visit.
6. Pearl Farmers Market
Everyone goes to The Pearl on Saturdays, so get there early to snag a parking spot. Besides the big Weekend Farmers Market, the space has something for everyone: retail, dining, beautiful open green spaces and live music, a riverside amphitheatre and a campus of The Culinary Institute of America. The main Pearl building was originally a brewery that operated from 1883 to 2001, and now it’s home to Southerleigh Fine Food and Brewery, which offers a modern take on Texas cuisine and coastal classics. Best of all, the kids menu comes with a “make your own pretzel” activity. They shape the dough, then it gets baked to eat minutes later.
7. Market Square
This three-block outdoor plaza is the largest Mexican market in the United States, with more than 100 locally owned shops and stalls in festive indoor malls. Shops sell things like Talavera pottery, colourful textiles, collectible curios and other handcrafted works of art. This is also where you’ll find authentic Mexican fare and iconic San Antonio restaurants, such as Mi Tierra Cafe y Panaderia. The sprawling restaurant has its own bakery and butcher and while the Tex-Mex fare here is great (what kid doesn’t love tacos?), what makes it truly memorable are the mariachis and indoor murals depicting Latin American pop culture.
8. Tex Mex, “Tex Next” and BBQ
San Antonio is only the second U.S. city to be designated a Creative City of Gastronomy by UNESCO, in recognition of its vibrant Mexican, Spanish, French, German and other international culinary influences dubbed “Tex Next.” The food scene is way more diverse than you might think—from celeb chef Johnny Hernadnez’s Burgerteca, which mixes Mexican ingredients with American comfort foods, to La Panaderia, a Mexican bakery that draws influences from France and Italy. And of course, a trip to San Antonio isn’t complete without trying a big ol’ Texas BBQ, smoked to perfection. At the Alamo BBQ Co., kids can feast on a combo of chopped beef and mac ’n cheese, while escaping to the outdoor playground in between bites.
9. Morgan’s Wonderland
San Antonio is home to a seriously surprising number of kids attractions (the San Antonio Zoo, Fire Museum, SeaWorld, Six Flags Fiesta Texas and Ripley’s Believe It or Not, to name a few). But, Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first “ultra-accessible” theme park and water park, Morgan’s Inspiration Island are standouts. Open to anyone, regardless of ability, families with and without special needs get an opportunity to connect and understand one another better. What better way to teach a kid about acceptance?
10. A rustic retreat
A trip to San Antonio can be super busy. Not to mention hot, which is why you might just want to escape from the city at a family resort like the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa. There are tons of included amenities, like golf, outdoor pools, a lazy river, surf machine and bicycles. But the family programming is a game-changer: think wildlife feedings, nature walks, yoga, crafts, water balloon tosses and outdoor family movies with free popcorn and s’mores. And while the resort offers a wide variety of restaurants, Antler’s Lodge is all about catering to children, offering mini versions of classic dishes, like Texas steak with smoked cheddar mashed potatoes and green beans, on the kid’s menu.