Texas, known for “everything is bigger” and “don’t mess with”, that can make some people assume that Texas isn’t the best place for tourism.
That is not true at all though. Texas is big on hospitality, a diverse landscape, and incredible cultural experiences, and San Antonio, TX is no exception. San Antonio consistently makes the list of top cities to visit in Texas year after year.
With a blend of Tex-Mex culture and some amazing sights, San Antonio, TX is one of the most visited cities in the Lone Star state, but that doesn’t mean that San Antonio has to break the bank.
Honestly, there are so many great free things to do in San Antonio that you could stay busy for days!
Take it from us, we are Texas natives and still call this great state home.
You are in good hands, my friend. It doesn’t matter if you have a weekend in San Antonio, or a month in San Antonio, there is definitely enough to keep you entertained. So sit back, relax, and let us show you all of the amazing things to do in San Antonio.
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Free Things to do in San Antonio
San Antonio River Walk
The San Antonio River Walk boasts numerous restaurants, bars, hotels, and shops lining the San Antonio River in downtown San Antonio, TX. Here you stroll the river taking in all of the great cultural activities around this area.
There is great art installation lining the river and often you will come across mariachi bands playing up and down the river. There is also a stage where live performances can often be seen.
Many people don’t realize how long the river walk actually is. You can stroll San Antonio’s River Walk all the way to Mission Espada if you choose to do so!
We especially love visiting the San Antonio Riverwalk at Christmas. The entire river is decorated with so many lights! It’s truly magical.
The River Walk is one of San Antonio’s highlights.
San Antonio Fire Museum
The San Antonio Fire Museum is a fun little museum that is free to the public on the first Tuesday of every month from 12-4 pm. Here visitors can enjoy looking at old fire engines, antique fire fighting equipment, and other fire-related artifacts that date back to the mid-1800s.
Kids will enjoy playing with some of the apparatus and trying on the fire suites.
The Fire Museum is one of San Antonio’s unique attractions.
Market Square (El Mercado)
Also known as El Mercado, Market Square is an area of San Antonio, TX that you must visit. Market Square is the largest Mexican market in San Antonio. No, wait, Market Square is the largest Mexican market in the United States!
This fun, yet compact marketplace houses over 100 local restaurants, shops, bars, and vendor stalls. Come to Market Square to find the perfect San Antonio souvenir, try some amazing Tex-Mex, or a delicious Mexican pastry from Mi Tierra’s.
If you’re lucky you might also be able to catch one of the many live performances that take place in the Farmer’s Market Food Court or on the stages often set up outside of the vendor areas.
Yanaguana Garden is a great place to visit in San Antonio. Here visitors are treated to free access to numerous games such as chess, checkers, cornhole, and ping pong. The park also has numerous art installations, great playgrounds, and a splash pad for the kids.
Plan your visit just right and you can also enjoy one of the many free events that are held here throughout the year.
Relive History at The Alamo
Of course, everyone from Texas knows the phrase, “Remember the Alamo” made famous from the Battle of the Alamo and the Texas Revolution.
Honestly, a trip to San Antonio, TX would not be complete without including this historical site, and a visit to the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. Not only that, but it offers free admission. Head to 300 Alamo Plaza San Antonio to find this jewel.
One of the many missions on the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, the Alamo was once called the Mision San Antonio de Valero. This historic mission was converted to a fortress in the 18th century and was later home to one of the most famous battles of the Lone Star State.
While many of the original structures were destroyed in this battle, visitors today can still enjoy the Alamo by touring the preserved structures. These structures include the chapel, some of the barracks, and the courtyard.
There is also a display of weaponry and artifacts for visitors to enjoy. The Alamo offers guided tours and self-guided tours.
Located north of downtown San Antonio, TX, Brackenridge Park is fabulous.
Brackenridge Park is a 343-acre park and is home to the San Antonio Zoo (fee for entrance), the Japanese Tea Garden, the Botanical Gardens (fee for entrance), several museums, baseball fields, and numerous trails and pavilions.
You can pack a picnic and find the perfect place to enjoy the day in the sunshine here at Brackenridge Park.
Even though the San Antonio Zoo charges a fee, your should definitely consider visiting as the San Antonio zoo is a really great zoo!
The city of San Antonio really prides itself on its parks, so be sure and visit one!
One of the museums in Brackenridge Park, the Witte Museum houses permanent collections featuring historic photographs, paintings, dinosaur remains, cave drawings, and more.
The Naylor Family Dinosaur Gallery is a family-friendly area that allows you to explore animals that lived in this area more than 110 million years ago! The Ethan Walsh Ocean Exhibit allows you to discover what the state was like when it was covered in by the ocean over 90 million years ago.
In addition, there are numerous hands-on activities to keep adults and kids entertained for hours. Combine these permanent exhibits with the roaming exhibits, and you have the makings for a great outing at the Witte Museum.
It is important to note that the Witte Museum only offers free admission on Tuesday from 3 pm until 8 pm, so plan accordingly.
This is one of the best free museum deals!
Cibolo Nature Center
Located a short drive outside of San Antonio, TX toward the city of Boerne, The Cibolo Nature Center has 3 miles of walking trails for visitors to enjoy. Millions of years ago, the Cibolo Nature Center was home to dinosaurs that roamed this area.
Evidence of that can still be found in the tracks that are located inside the public park. There is also a boardwalk, picnic areas, a Pavillion, and an auditorium on the site.
During the hot summer months, be sure and bring a swimsuit so that you can cool off in the Cibolo Creek. This beautiful creek is lined with Cypress trees providing the perfect respite from the summer heat.
Phil Hardberger Park
Phil Hardberger Park is a 311-acre park that is home to an outdoor classroom, dog park, play area and loads of hiking and biking trails for visitors to enjoy.
Phil Hardberger Park is a natural area that is dedicated to preserving 75% of the park and keeping it in its natural state.
Bijou Cinema Bistro
Located in the Wonderland of the Americas Mall, the Bijou Cinema Bistro offers moviegoers a fun movie experience. Not only that, but every Thursday night at 7 pm, you can catch a free movie. Be sure to get there early though, as tickets are gone fast.
Holocaust Museum of San Antonio
The Holocaust Museum of San Antonio aims to educate the public on the horrible atrocities associated with World War II. Visitors can participate in self-guided or guided tours of the museum free of charge.
The city of San Antonio has some great museums so don’t overlook them during your visit.
San Antonio Missions National Park
While the Alamo is the most famous of the San Antonio Missions, visitors should not miss the other missions in San Antonio, TX. Matter of fact, they are so important historically that they are the ONLY UNESCO World Heritage Site in the state of Texas!
The San Antonio Missions National Park houses and preserves four of the Spanish Colonial missions and their grounds. These missions include Mission San Jose, Mission Concepcion, Mission Espada, and Mission San Juan.
*Note-one of our favorite restaurants in San Antonio is across from Mission San Jose, Nichas. You have to eat there while exploring Mission San Jose!
What exactly is a mission? The missions of San Antonio are walled compounds that included a church and buildings where priests and Native American Indians lived. This area along the San Antonio River represents the largest concentration of Spanish missions in the United States.
Today, you can visit San Antonio Missions National Park, which encompasses an 8-mile stretch easily by taking one of the free mission busses that leave from the front of the Alamo. All missions in the San Antonio Missions National Park are free to enter and explore.
Mission San Juan is really interesting as it is close to the Yanaguana Trail, a trail that many refer to as ‘an oasis in the city.’
The Missions National Historic Park in San Antonio has to be on your list!
The Japanese Tea Gardens
San Antonio’s Japanese Tea Garden is peaceful and serene, a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Located inside of Brackenridge Park, this garden will make you feel like you have been transported to a faraway land. Complete with a Japanese pagoda, koi ponds, a waterfall, and stone paths, the Japanese Tea Garden is such a treat.
Best of all, the Japanese Tea Gardens is open to the public and offers free admission.
St Mary’s Street (St Mary’s Strip)
Head to St. Mary’s Street lovingly known as North St. Mary’s Strip to enjoy a great area that is full of nightlife, stores, and great restaurants. It is located north of downtown Austin.
During the 1980s, thecrowds would rival Austin’s 6th Street crowds. Unfortunately, the area experienced some downtrodden years, but has since been revitalized and is now a fun place to hang out in Austin, TX.
The historic Pearl Brewery once pushed out the iconic TX beer, Pabst Blue Ribbon. The Pearl Brewery operated as a brewery from 1883 until 2001.
Now, this historic brewery is one of the trendiest places in San Antonio, TX. This mixed-use facility now houses cool bars and restaurants, fun outdoor spaces, and numerous retail shops.
Not only that, but this area is home to numerous free events throughout the year including a Farmer’s Market, dance parties, and live music. Be sure and check their schedule as the live music changes nightly.
The third Culinary Institute of America now calls this area home and welcomes patrons!
McNay Art Museum
The McNay not only houses a wonderful selection of art, but the building itself is a work of art! The structure, which is a 24-room Spanish colonial revival mansion has been welcoming visitors for years. The mansion was donated by famous artist Marion Koogler McNay.
The museum houses 19th and 20th century American and European art. Boasting artwork from renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keefe, and Paul Cezanne, this is definitely not a museum to miss.
There is also a beautiful outdoor area for you to explore while visiting that contains a Japanese garden and fish pond.
Please note that the museum only offers free admission on Thursday night from 4 to 9 pm.
San Pedro Creek Culture Park
San Pedro Creek Culture Park is not your typical public park. This park combines public art, architecture, and local craft with the beauty of nature to create an awesome community park.
If you need to cool off from the hot summer sun, you can put your feet in the creek at San Pedro Park, but swimming is not allowed.
Enjoy the beautiful display of public art, see the historic wall, and enjoy nature while here.
San Antonio Museum of Art
The San Antonio Museum of Art is located right next to the San Antonio River and houses a large art installation of Asian art and some valuable Meditterean artifacts. The Museum of Art is also well known for its contemporary art displays.
While there is usually an entry fee, you can still add this to your list of the best free things to do. The museum is free on Tuesday evenings from 4-9 pm, or on Sundays from 10 am-noon.
The museum also hosts several free classes and workshops like their Saturday morning meditation classes that take place from 10:15-11 am.
San Antonio Art League and Museum
The San Antonio Art League and Museum (SAALM) is located in the King William Historic District. This museum is unique as it focuses on Texas artists.
The 19th-century carriage house is home to over 600 works of art and is completely free to visit.
San Pedro Creek Cultural Park
This recently transformed drainage area in San Antonio, TX is now an amazing public park. Phase one of the park was completed in 2018 and opened to the public. Located on the western edge of town, this area includes native landscapes, numerous art installations.
One of the most noteworthy art installations is the “Rain from the Heavens”. This custom tile work adorns a dozen generational benches.
The other artwork commissioned here depicts the history and culture of the San Pedro Creek area.
Located right in the center of town, McAllister Park is a great way to escape to nature. The park boasts gorgeous vistas, beautiful vegetation, and many walking and biking trails.
McAllister Park is also home to several sporting fields including baseball, soccer, and rugby. Children love the children’s play area while adults can enjoy the fitness stations and numerous picnic areas.
Light Show on the San Fernando Cathedral
Yes, you read that correctly. San Antonio has a light show that appears on the side of a cathedral. The San Fernando Cathedral showcases the light show, The Saga that outlines years of San Antonio’s history.
You can catch the show on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights at the San Fernando Cathedral at 9 pm, 9:30 pm, and 10 pm.
This show is one of the best free activities in San Antonio.
Hemisfair Park is an urban park oasis located in the heart of San Antonio, TX. Park amenities include a splash pad, climbing structures, picnic tables, chess and checkers tables, corn hole, and more!
Alamo Plaza San Antonio
You will find the plaza located in the heart of downtown San Antonio adjacent to Hemisfair Park.
Alamo Plaza is the commercial center that formed up around the historic Alamo. The area includes the Alamo Chapel and complex, the open public use space, and the commercial resources around the plaza.
Institute of Texas Cultures
The Institute of Texas Cultures is a fabulous place to put on your list of things to do in San Antonio.
Here you can enjoy exhibits, educational programs, and cultural events. They open their doors the second Sunday of each month (except June) for people to come and enjoy. The Sundays are themed and are centered around games, performances, guest speakers, and more.
King William Historic District
This designate Cultural Arts District in San Antonio is located just off of the San Antonio Riverwalk.
Named after King Wilhelm I of Prussia by the German immigrants that settled here. The King William Historic District is home to gorgeous Victorian homes, ice houses, and art galleries.
Be sure to check out the San Antonio Art League and Museum and the Guenther House while visiting the King William Historic District.
The DoSeum is unlike any other museum you have visited. Here, children are encouraged to touch, explore, and learn.
The theory is to spark a kid’s interest in STEM subjects, literacy, and the arts by allowing them to participate and interact with the displays. Free admission is offered the first Tuesday of every month from 6:30-8:30.
Tickets start being given out at 4 pm at the museum’s entrance.
Historic San Antonio Shoe Factory
Located on the southside of San Antonio, the San Antonio Shoe Factory has been in business since 1976.
The factory is open to the public and offers free tours of the factory and see the shoemaking process from start to finish. You can also visit the General Store and purchase some of the products. There is also an ice cream parlor, candy shop, classic car display, and a gifts department.
Another fun thing about SAS is that they offer a variety of concessions (popcorn, soda, roasted nuts) at super cheap prices.
The free factory tours depart from the General Store Monday-Thursday at 9:15 am, 12:30, and 2:05 pm. The tour is a walking tour and takes about 45 minutes. Anyone over the age of six is welcome to attend.
See San Antonio’s Awesome Street Art
Street art is becoming more and more prevalent throughout cities and San Antonio is no exception. The goal of the San Antonio Street Art Initiative is to create the largest outdoor art installation in the state.
Now, that’s no small feat!
Throughout the city, you will see these vibrant murals that help to showcase the cultural significance of street art. There are permanent public art spots under the highway on St. Mary’s Street and Quincy and on Essex Street.
Hot Wells of Bexar County
The Hot Wells of Bexar County is a San Antonio, TX icon, much beloved by the locals. The Hot Wells, now only ruins, were literally once the hot spot in town.
Celebrities and movie stars flocked here to take in the healing waters of Hot Wells when it was a hotel and spa. Unfortunately, it burned down, but that didn’t stop people from continuing to sneak in and relax in the hot spring water.
Recently, the Hot Well was restored by the county and has since been reopened for people to enjoy. You can find Hot Well along the southern stretch of the River Walk.
The Quadrangle and Fort Sam Houston
The Quadrangle at Fort Sam Houston is one of the best things to do in San Antonio. Fort Sam Houston is the second oldest military installation in the state.
Visitors are greeted by deer and peacocks that roam freely throughout the grounds. You can also view a display of uniforms and old weapons before watching a movie that tells you more about the history of the fort.
Be sure and bring some crackers to feed the animals, or buy some of the pet food on site.
Briscoe Western Art Museum
If you are visiting for the “cowboy culture” then you will definitely want to check out the Briscoe Western Art Museum.
This museum houses art, historical artifacts, film memorabilia, paintings, and other artwork that depicts the great American West.
Visitors will enjoy learning about the Native Americans that called this area home as well as the first settlers that moved into Texas.
The museum is free Tuesday evenings from 4-9 pm or anytime for the military and their families.
Historic La Villita
La Villita is a historic art community located right off of the River Walk in downtown San Antonio. The La Villita area is on the National Registry of Historic Places due to its unique architecture.
Here you will find historic structures ranging from adobe to Victorian.
This cute little village welcomes visitors to come and browse the many shops and galleries located in this historic area of San Antonio. Visitors will find nearly 30 shops and galleries offering unique handcrafted creations.
Who doesn’t love an outdoor movie? Well, thanks to Slab Cinema, you can enjoy a free outdoor movie while visiting San Antonio. Slab Cinema pops up at some of the coolest spots throughout San Antonio offering visitors the opportunity to enjoy a free movie.
The movies are usually family-friendly films, but they do vary sometimes. You can check their website to see what is coming up and where they will be.
Grab a picnic, a blanket, and some friends, and have a great night out for free!
Headwaters Sanctuary at the University of the Incarnate Word
Located on the campus of the University of the Incarnate Word, the Headwaters Sanctuary is a great addition to your things to do in San Antonio if you are a nature lover.
This area is great for bird watching, hiking, or just spending a lazy day outside.
Final Thoughts on San Antonio’s Free Attractions
San Antonio is truly an amazing city and one of our personal favorites in Texas.
As you can see, there are so many free activities in San Antonio that you could stay busy for a week and never spend a dime. Well, except for food. LOL!
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About the Author
Michelle Snell is a travel writer, history buff, wine lover, and enthusiast of different cultures. While she is a professional educator by day, her passion for travel has her jet-setting all over the world during her free time.
Michelle enjoys bringing places to life through her informative writing style on her blog, That Texas Couple. Her practical tips and suggestions help make travel dreams a reality while immersing her readers in the history, culture, and food of a region. She is happiest sipping wine in Italy or chilling on a beach with her husband, Marty.