10 Best Outdoor Activities in San Antonio

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The second largest city in Texas is known for its festive River Walk, historic Spanish-style missions, and delicious Tex-Mex food (especially breakfast tacos). And while home to 1.5 million friendly Texans, this South Texas urban destination offers plenty of parks, green spaces, and other outdoor activities to enjoy its mild climate year-round. These are some of my favorite things to do outdoors in San Antonio.

Sage Scott

1. Remember the Alamo

Visit San Antonio and don’t stop at the Alamo it’s like visiting Houston and not visiting the Space Center. Do not do it ! With millions of visitors per year, this battlefield-turned mission is one of the most visited sites in Lone Star State due to its pivotal role in securing Texas independence from screw from Mexico. Officially named Mission San Antonio de Valero, enter the limestone-walled compound and tour the shaded grounds to learn more about this historic site and the brave men who gave their lives for Texas independence during the Battle of Alamo.

Pro tip: If you’re visiting San Antonio on a road trip from Houston, be sure to check out these sites along the way.

Biking on the mission trail.

Sage Scott

2. Walk the mission path

While the Alamo is the most famous, there are four other Spanish missions in San Antonio. Under the flag of Spain, these communities united Catholic missionaries and Native Americans against other native tribes and French explorers who wanted to control this region. Stretching from Mission Espada to Alamo, the Mission Trail loosely follows the San Antonio River, connecting the five historic sites.

While it’s easy to tour all of San Antonio’s five missions by car, there are several fun alternatives. For just a few dollars, get a day pass to local bus 40 serving the five missions. Or walk or cycle the Mission Trail as you visit each site. You will find BCycle San Antonio Bike-sharing stations throughout San Antonio, including one a short walk from Mission Espada. Expect to pedal just under 10 miles if you hike the trail all the way to the Alamo, but you can get that extra boost biking the Mission Trail by renting an electric bike!

Pro tip: While a Texas nonprofit operates the Alamo, the other four San Antonio missions are part of the San Antonio Mission National Historic Park, a site of the National Park Service.

3. Explore the river promenade

Steps from the Alamo, located a few steps below street level, the San Antonio River Boardwalk borders both sides of the San Antonio River with lush green spaces, stylish hotels, charming boutiques, and delicious places to eat as you meander through the heart of downtown. If you think the River Walk has a Disney vibe, it’s for good reason. Key Disneyland designers helped shape the Walk on the San Antonio River in the early 1960s, and their influence is still felt today.

Pro tip: If you are looking for a bite to eat or a place to stay, these are the best restaurants and hotels in San Antonio’s River Walk.

A view of the River Walk.

Sage Scott

4. Board a flat-bottomed boat

While you don’t have to visit every store or eat at every restaurant along the River Walk, you’ll want to cruise the river to experience San Antonio to the fullest! A 35-minute narrated GO RIO cruise offers excellent insight into the region’s history, architecture, and culture with a touch of humor. Climb aboard one of ADA’s colorful, flat-bottomed electric barges, where every seat offers a fantastic view.

Pro tip: As part of your cruise, you’ll glide under the arched stone bridge outside the Omni La Mansion Del Rio, known as the “Bridge of Selena”. On this bridge, a young Jennifer Lopez shot scenes from Selena, a film about the life of the singing sensation Tejano Selena Quintanilla.

5. Watch for wildlife

About 10 miles north of downtown San Antonio, Phil Hardberger Park is a 300 acre wooded reserve with miles of trails open to walkers, runners and cyclists. But one of the must-see places in the park is the Robert LB Tobin Land Bridge. Designed to help South Texas outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife coexist with the fast-paced traffic along the Wurzbach Parkway, the nation’s largest wildlife bridge allows people and animals to move safely between the northern and southern sections of the park.

Pro tip: Whether you’re strolling along the River Walk, hiking the Mission Trail, or spotting wildlife, you’re sure to whet your appetite while exploring the town of Alamo, so don’t miss out on San Antonio’s best restaurants.

San Antonio Zoo.
Photo credit: San Antonio Zoo

6. Observe the animals

For guaranteed animal sightings, head to the San Antonio Zoo. One of the many attractions of San Antonio’s 343 acres Brackenridge Park, the zoo is home to animals from almost every corner of the world. Go on an African safari watching lions and giraffes or stroll through the South American rainforest in the Hixon Bird House. The San Antonio Zoo offers many memorable experiences for guests to get up close to the creatures. I never pass up an opportunity to feed a giraffe, and you can also mingle with flamingos, spot an okapi, and more. You can also enjoy one of the zoo’s “bestial” breakfasts that offer a unique dining experience with mimosas and animal encounters.

Japanese tea garden in San Antonio.

Photo by Rose Ouest / Shutterstock

7. Stroll through beautiful gardens

Surround yourself in beauty as you bask in the sun, breathe in the scent of beautiful flowers and listen to the characteristics of the soothing water at the San Antonio Botanical Garden and Japanese tea garden, also located in Brackenridge Park. Discover a tropical rainforest inside the conservatory, and see a wide range of native plants and birds along the Texas Native Trail in the Botanical Gardens. Or find a moment of Zen in the old quarry that made it easy to build arch bridges when it was converted into a peaceful Japanese tea garden.

Pro tip: While the San Antonio Botanical Garden charges admission, there is no charge to visit the Japanese Tea Garden.

8. Take part in an interactive treasure hunt

One of my favorite ways to explore a new city is to go on an interactive scavenger hunt, so if there’s a Let’s browse treasure hunt available is one of the first things I do. Because you can go there at almost any time, an interactive scavenger hunt is easy to incorporate into any itinerary and provides a great overview of the sights to see. Let’s Roam currently offers two interactive scavenger hunts in the town of Alamo. Learn about the art, culture and history of San Antonio with this hunt of 1.7 thousand which includes stops at the Majestic Theater, the Alamo and the Main Square. Or explore the spooky side of San Antonio with this ghost tour which passes the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, the Alamo, the Briscoe Museum and the Menger Hotel.

Pro tip: If you want to explore more on foot after your scavenger hunt, check out this self-guided guide San Antonio downtown walking tour.

9. Appreciate public art

Texans regularly remind residents of 49 other states that everything is bigger in Texas, and street performers in San Antonio are working hard to build the the largest outdoor gallery in Texas. Over the past two years, they have completed nearly 50 murals stretching north of the Pan Am Freeway to East Woodlawn Avenue along North St. Mary’s Street.

If you’d rather search for sculptures, head to Pittman-Sullivan Park on the east side of San Antonio, where you’ll discover a long orange hand soaring skyward. Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr’s non-violent approach to social change, artist Douglas Kornfeld named his sculpture “Open Hand, Open Mind, Open Heart”.

Pro tip: Discover all the amazing art that San Antonio has to offer with this map of public works.

Guac at the table and a cocktail.

Sage Scott

10. Dine al fresco

In a South Texas city with 220 days of sunshine, you’ll find plenty of options for dining al fresco. Stop at weekend market in Pearl and the bakery of Cafe Mi Tierra for fresh ingredients and baked goods to prepare a picnic to enjoy in one of the many local parks.

Or leave the cooking to someone else! While almost all of the restaurants along the San Antonio River Walk offer outdoor seating, my number one recommendation is Boudro. Treat yourself to an afternoon of fresh guacamole prepared at your table with a cone of crispy tortilla chips (made even more delicious with a prickly pear margarita), or stay for a full meal.

Pro tip: Looking for more to do and see in San Antonio? Here are eight more ideas to help you fill your Texas travel bucket list.

From the historic Alamo to the festive River Walk and beautiful parks and gardens to delicious restaurants, these are the best outdoor activities in San Antonio, Texas.


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