San Antonio, Texas’ first established civil community and oldest municipality is named after St. Anthony of Padua, who was a Portuguese priest.
Due to its notable River Walk, farmers’ market, mission trails, historic monuments, Native American and Hispanic culture, and beautiful landscape, San Antonio draws approximately 32 million people each year.
There are numerous exciting, fun, and free things to explore in San Antonio. Here’s a free guide to transport you all over San Antonio for a journey loaded with stunning views and perspectives into the olden days without having to pay a single admission fee.
Free Things to Do in San Antonio
1. San Antonio River Walk
Since 1535, the ancient San Antonio River, known as Paso del Río, has seen many wars and waves of population. San Antonio’s River Walk is the city’s most famous spot for celebrations, dining, shopping, and sightseeing. Festivals such as Fiesta de Las Luminarias, Fiesta Noche del Río, and others bring a flurry of color and lights to the River Walk.
2. Witte Museum
The Witte Museum takes you back in time to showcase the prehistoric civilization and terrain of pre-colonial San Antonio, as well as the current culture that has emerged.
3. The McNay Art Museum
This is Texas’ only and first modern art museum. The first opening was in 1954 to the public as a result of Marion Koogler McNay’s art collection donations. McNay’s previous Spanish Colonial Revival palace, which rests on more than 23 acres of magnificent botanical gardens and landscaped grounds, houses the museum’s displays.
4. San Antonio Museum of Art
SAMA is South Texas’ only encyclopedic museum for fine art, and if you’re a fan of the arts, you should really not miss out on their activities.
5. San Antonio Zoo
The zoo boasts 56 acres in size as well as being home to 750 distinct species, despite the fact that it may not appear so from the main entrance. Signs are placed throughout the zoo to assist regular and new visitors in navigating the facility. The zoo’s ramps are also accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.
6. Pearl Brewery
The Pearl is a municipal hub in San Antonio’s downtown area, a site where people reside, work, and gather. As early as the 1880s, the Pearl Brewery was located here.
7. The DoSeum
Through its interactive programs and exhibitions, the DoSeum aims to pique children’s interest in STEM subjects, reading, and the arts. Bring your children here to explore, play, and broaden their horizons.
8. The San Antonio Fire Museum
This Fire Museum is a history museum in the conserved Central Fire Headquarters building, which was built by the Works Progress Administration in 1938, close to the Alamo Spanish Mission.
9. Quadrangle and Fort Sam Houston Museum
Since 1845, Fort Sam Houston has kept the history of conquest and battle within its walls. The quadrangle, from the other end, was built in 1876 and established as the Headquarters and Quartermaster Depot.
10. Alamo Plaza SA (Plaza de Armas)
The Alamo Plaza is a business district built around the historic Alamo. The Alamo complex and chapel, as well as the open public access space and commercial resources surrounding the plaza, are all free.
11. Blue Star Arts Complex
San Antonio’s Blue Star Arts Complex is the city’s longest-running contemporary art center. This Southtown hotspot also has on-site eateries and bars.
12. Institute of Texan Cultures
Individuals from all across the world live in Texas, adding to the state’s multicultural identity by bringing and celebrating their own traditions.
13. San Antonio Art League and Museum
This C19th carriage house, which focuses on Texas artists, has a permanent collection of nearly 600 pieces in various mediums.
14. The Briscoe Western Art Museum
The museum’s collections of art, cinematic memorabilia, and historical artifacts from the American West will appeal to Western fans.
15. The San Antonio Public Library
All of the library’s stores, including the 240,000-sq-ft central library facility in downtown San Diego, which opened to the public officially in 1995, are open to the public for free.
Free Excursions in San Antonio
1. The Alamo
This excursion is free to the general public. The Alamo Mission was formerly a converted fortification that was destroyed at the Battle of the Alamo in 1836 in the course of the Texas Revolution. There are no charges or fees for the 30-minute self-guided tours.
The artist-led organization managing the SA Street Art Initiative has produced nearly 50 murals and provided support to over 30 creators. The relevance of art galleries has been recognized by the youth as a result of social media. For the most murals, start at the intersection of St. Mary’s Strip and the South PanAm Expressway.
While the aforementioned art institutions focus on Texan culture and art, Artpace helps artists from all across the world to create new art in a variety of mediums, including murals, films, music, paintings, and more.
4. King William Historic District
The King William Historic Core is a 25-block stretch of land in the city’s central district that features well-preserved 19th-century buildings and shops along the southern riverbank of the San Antonio River. The district has a lengthy history, dating back to the late 18th century. It’s situated on territory that was once part of the town’s Alamo Spanish mission.
5. St Mary’s Street (St Mary’s Strip)
St. Mary’s Street, also referred to as the “North St. Mary’s Strip,” is a fantastic location with plenty of nightlife, shops, and amazing restaurants. Its location is north of SA’s downtown area.
6. Headwaters Sanctuary
The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word take care of this 53-acre natural sanctuary on the grounds of the University of the Incarnate Word. With academic activities for adults and children, the sanctuary strives to rebuild native wildlife and give refuge in an urban context.
7. Lakeshore Learning
Lakeshore Learning began as a toy business in 1954 but quickly expanded to meet the needs of teachers. It was founded by Ethelyn Kaplan, who was a single mother. Lakeshore Learning has a wonderful family-friendly experience in store for you.
8. Hot Wells
The Hot Wells of Bexar County is a local favorite in San Antonio, Texas. The Hot Wells was once the town’s hottest location. When Hot Wells was a spa and hotel, movie stars and celebrities gathered here to soak in the therapeutic waters. Unfortunately, it caught fire, but that certainly didn’t stop the public from sneaking in and relaxing in the hot springs.
9. Historic La Villita
La Villita is a historical art colony in downtown SA, just off the River Walk. Due to its unique architecture, the La Villita neighborhood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
10. Holocaust Memorial Museum
The Holocaust Memorial Museum’s mission is to educate visitors about the Holocaust’s profound historical significance and generational trauma.
Parks in San Antonio
1. Brackenridge Park
Brackenridge Park, with its renowned San Antonio attractions, playgrounds, baseball fields, walking trails, and pavilions, provides a lot of free entertainment in San Antonio.
2. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
Retracing the steps of the Franciscans and Spaniards in the 1700s is essential when visiting this historical park. The area encompasses a 9-mile stretch along the river, having all four historical missions intact. All visitors are welcome to visit Mission Concepción, Mission Espada, Mission San Juan, and Mission San José, which are all free.
3. The Japanese Tea Garden
This beautiful, calm garden is open to the public daily and offers free admission. The Japanese Tea Garden was previously a rock quarry, but in 1919 it was turned into a magical setting.
Guests can also enjoy Asian cuisine and a choice of sandwiches, salads, and teas, at Jingu House Cafe.
4. San Pedro Creek Culture Park
The very first stage of the San Pedro Creek Culture Park, which incorporates interactive art exhibits to highlight the creek’s history and culture, is complete, despite the park’s expansion.
5. Phil Hardberger Park
Phil Hardberger Park, one of the city’s many natural landscapes, offers a variety of outdoor activities for families. A nature center, 7.5 miles of hiking, walkways, and biking routes, as well as outdoor classrooms and play areas, are all part of this 330-acre park.
Monuments in San Antonio
1. Mission San José
This enormous mission, which was founded in 1720, boasts outstanding architectural features such as intricately carved doors, statues, a granary, as well as the famed Rose Window.
2. Tower of the Americas
This 229-meter (750-foot) tower provides spectacular views of the great city and beyond. A revolving restaurant, glass elevators, and an observation deck are among the free tourist attractions.
3. Spanish Governor’s Palace
This gorgeous 18th-century structure with a beautiful courtyard featuring a stone fountain, period furnishings, and 10 rooms is a must-see.
4. Vietnam War Memorial
This massive bronze monument stands 10 feet tall (3 meters) and weighs well over 10 tons. The Vietnam War Memorial in San Antonio is dedicated to every veteran and portrays a wounded soldier who’s being consoled by a radio operator looking for an evacuation chopper in the sky.
5. Tower Life Building
This building contains several distinctive characteristics, such as weird faces and gargoyles, which were intended to ward off evil spirits.
Walks in San Antonio
1. Market Square
Market Square, also known as El Mercado, is America’s largest Mexican marketplace in downtown San Antonio, with over 100 restaurants, vendor stalls, and shops. Walking around the space and taking in authentic Tejano and Mexican culture is completely free. The location of the Historic Market Square was given as a gift to the very first Spanish immigrants in SA in 1730 by the King of Spain.
2. Yanaguana Garden at Hemisfair Park
Yanaguana Garden is a fantastic area to just let loose alongside your family, with various unique artworks, a splash pad, art installations, playgrounds, and more than 500 events annually.
3. McAllister Park Blue Loop Trail
Learn about this 10.1-kilometer circular trail in San Antonio. It takes an average of two hours and one minute to finish this moderately difficult route.
4. Main Loop to Restoration Way Trail
Friedrich Wilderness Park has about ten miles of hiking routes of varying levels of difficulty. Rare birds, deep valleys, terrestrial orchids, and rugged hills all call it home.
5. Oakwell Trail
This is a nice, well-kept route with a thriving wildlife population and overhanging oak trees. This is a simple track with little elevation change.
Free Events in San Antonio
1. The Saga
The Saga, located in San Antonio’s Main Plaza, is one of the city’s newest and most interesting attractions. You’ll enjoy a unique video artwork projected as a visual journey through the city’s evolution and history onto the façade of San Fernando Cathedral—North America’s oldest active sanctuary.
2. Slab Cinema
Since 2004, San Antonio’s Slab Cinema has endeavored to screen outdoor movies for free.
3. Contemporary art at Ruby City
Ruby City, which focuses solely on contemporary art, gives San Antonio’s creative population a place to see work by both international and local artists.
4. Light Show on the San Fernando Cathedral
A light show appears on the façade of a cathedral in San Antonio. The Saga, a light show in the San Fernando Cathedral, depicts decades of San Antonio’s heritage. The free event takes place at the San Fernando Cathedral on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights at 9 pm, 9:30 pm, and 10 pm.
5. Live Music
Due to its cultural roots, mariachi music is likely to be the official soundtrack of SA. The city’s live music culture is nothing short of fabulously diverse. Enjoy a burger and relish the live music at Sam’s Burger Joint. Grab a ticket and appreciate your favorite artist because every night is different. Other places to indulge in SA’s music scene include the Aztec Theater, the Tobin Center — Performing Arts, and the 502 Bar.
When it comes to free activities to explore in SA, the above list will give you a clearer picture of what this incredible city has in store for you. This great city has something to offer for everyone, regardless of their preferences.
History lovers will appreciate the town’s history of colonialism, whereas nature enthusiasts will definitely like the region’s plethora of natural sites and parks.
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