What to see and do in the Alamo City
San Antonio is no dusty Texas town, though it is home to the annual San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. Almost 1.5 million people live in the city, the second-largest in the state. The Alamo is among the city’s biggest draws, but adventurous visitors have much more to discover.
Q: What is there to do for free in San Antonio?
A: While the way is lined with restaurants, hotels and shops, it costs nothing to stroll the San Antonio River Walk. Picturesque bridges, winding stairways and broad sidewalks complement the mission-style architecture along the San Antonio River.
Day use areas with picnic tables, sports courts and fishing holes are free at Brackenridge Recreation Complex on Lake Texana. Miles of hiking and biking trails wind through the park.
Slab Cinema shows free outdoor movies around town, and exploring the sculpture garden at the McNay art museum is always free of charge. On Thursday afternoons, the admission fee for the galleries at the museum is waived.
Q: What is there to eat in San Antonio?
A: Locals will tell you San Antonio has the best Mexican food in the U.S. The doyenne of Mexican cooking in the city is Mi Tierra Café y Panderia, a restaurant that turned 75 in 2016. Just blocks from the River Walk and the Alamo, the restaurant serves classics like carne asada, chalupas and fajitas.
Look for food trucks serving everything from Cajun to Asian to crepes around downtown San Antonio. If you’re in San Antonio in the spring, check out the annual food truck event and wine garden presented by H-E-B.
You might be eating food created by the next celebrity chef when you dine at Nao, the restaurant affiliated with the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio branch. The restaurant serving upscale Latin cuisine has an open kitchen and curated drink list.
Q: What is there to do in San Antonio with kids?
A: Kids who love theme parks find plenty of entertainment in San Antonio. If water parks are their thing, the city is home to Splashtown, a park with more than 50 rides and attractions. Six Flags and SeaWorld, both major theme parks, have sections for water play. Like SeaWorld and Six Flags, Morgan’s Wonderland has a water park.
Older kids with an interest in history will enjoy the Alamo, site of a famous battle during the Texas Revolution, and the Presidio San Antonio de Bexar, site of a Native American village and a reproduction of an 18th century building known as the Governor’s Palace.
Natural Bridge Caverns, about 30 miles northeast of downtown San Antonio, is an attraction with cave tours, gem mining and a zip line canopy tour. Nearby, the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch has a drive-through tour of a 450-acre wildlife park.
Q: Where is the haunted railroad track in San Antonio?
A: Believers in the paranormal claim that the railroad crossing at the corner of Shane and Villamain south of Interstate 410 is haunted. Legend has it that in the 1940s, a bus full of schoolchildren stalled on the tracks. A speeding train killed everyone on board. Now, true believers say the ghosts of the children push stalled cars over the tracks to keep the occupants safe from harm. The spot is a favorite destination at Halloween, when people stop their cars short of the tracks and hope the ghostly children will push them across.
Q: When is Fiesta in San Antonio?
A: A parade honoring the heroes of the Battle of San Jacinto and the Alamo in 1891 has evolved into Fiesta San Antonio, a 10-day celebration of the city’s diverse culture. Held in April, the fiesta begins with a gathering in the Alamo Plaza with celebrants shouting “Viva Fiesta!” A carnival, beauty pageants, parties and parades, including one on the San Antonio River (where the floats actually float) are only a few of the events. Celebrations around the city include a soccer tournament and an oyster bake.
Expect hotel prices to spike during Fiesta, especially downtown. Uber is the official ride of the festival.
Q: How long is the drive from San Antonio to Austin?
A: The drive from downtown San Antonio to downtown Austin, about 80 miles northeast, takes about an hour and 20 minutes on Interstate 35, a route that takes you through New Braunfels and San Marcos in Texas Hill Country. If you have the time to get off the beaten path, drive your car or take a shuttle ride on the Hill Country Craft Beer Trail or take in a movie at the Stars and Stripes Drive-In or a music show at the Cheatham Street Warehouse.
Q: How to get from Houston to San Antonio?
A: San Antonio is almost due west of Houston on Interstate 10. The drive is about 200 miles long, and takes around two hours and 45 minutes, nonstop.
Nonstop flights between San Antonio and Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport take a little under an hour. There are other flight options with layovers in cities like Dallas and Atlanta.
Greyhound offers multiple bus trips from very early in the morning until late evening for the three hour and 15 minute ride from Houston to San Antonio.
Amtrak’s Sunset Limited line originates in New Orleans and ends in Los Angeles. The leg between Houston and San Antonio takes five hours to complete.