San Antonio, Texas is an eclectic southern city known for its rich history, Hispanic culture, and fun atmosphere. It’s the perfect vacation destination for any budget due to its abundance of free activities. Its main attraction is the San Antonio River Walk, which entices more than 10 million visitors each year and is completely free to explore.
San Antonio features historic sites pertinent to Texas history, such as the Alamo and Fort Sam Houston, as well as tons of museums, parks, and art galleries — all with free admission.
Whether you’re looking for your next budget-friendly vacation, or simply an escape to The Lone Star State, you’re going to love our list. Here are 24 of the best free things to do in San Antonio!
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The Alamo in San Antonio is one of the most famous historic sites in the U.S. The Battle of the Alamo took place here in 1836 as a part of the Texas Revolution. At the end of the gruesome battle, Texas was able to win its independence from Mexico.
Admission to the Alamo is free and open to the public, making it one of the best free things to do in San Antonio.
SAN ANTONIO RIVER WALK
Taking a walk along the San Antonio River Walk is one of the most classic Texas experiences to have. This 2.5-mile-long section of river is the #1 tourist attraction in all of Texas.
The River Walk is full of shops, restaurants, museums, amusement parks, and more. It’s where most of the main attractions in San Antonio reside, including the San Antonio Zoo and the Pearl District. If you only have one day to spend in San Antonio, you should spend it here!
Take a walk along the river while popping in to see the various attractions and enjoy the best food and drink in Texas.
SAN ANTONIO MISSIONS NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
Beginning in 1718, five Spanish mission communities were formed along the San Antonio River in order to spread Christianity and Spanish farming practices to the Native people. These missions declined of their own accord after about 50 years, but their impact on the way of life in the area remains.
Today, four out of five of these missions are preserved as UNESCO World Heritage Sites that you can visit for free. Stop by to learn more about the local history and early ways of religion, education, and culture in these Spanish missions.
Headwaters at Incarnate Word is a 53-acre nature sanctuary located in the heart of San Antonio at the headwaters of the San Antonio River. It is an impressive haven of beauty and tranquility, open for free 365 days a year from dawn to dusk.
Visitors are invited to explore the walking trails and Blue Hole Spring, while learning about and reflecting on the local history. The Headwaters Sanctuary offers opportunities for hiking, wildlife watching, education, and volunteering.
SAN ANTONIO ART LEAGUE AND MUSEUM
The San Antonio Art League and Museum is the oldest arts organization in the city and serves as a place to showcase local and regional artists. The museum is located inside of an old house in the King William Historic District, and houses over 600 works of Texan art within its permanent collection alone.
Be sure to plan a visit during your trip to San Antonio to admire local art and learn more about why the artists found San Antonio to be such an inspirational place.
HOT WELLS AT BEXAR COUNTY PARK
Hot Wells in San Antonio has a long, unique history. Much of the area’s history has been defined by fire, and Hot Wells is no exception.
The building was originally a mental asylum and hospital in 1892, when workers drilled a hole revealing hot sulfur water. Thanks to the healing mineral waters, after the hospital burned, it was later turned into a lavish Victorian-style resort for the rich and famous.
The building would go through more sales and more fires through the 20th century, until a fire in 1997 left the area abandoned. The ruins were eventually preserved, and today, you can visit the park to learn more about the history of the hotel — all for free. It’s right next to the Missions, so be sure to stop by both historic sites when you’re in the area!
THE QUADRANGLE AND FORT SAM HOUSTON MUSEUM
Fort Sam Houston is an active military base and medical training facility. There are also a couple of popular destinations on site that I recommend visiting, including the Quadrangle and Fort Sam Houston Museum.
The Quadrangle was the first building at Fort Sam Houston, and is now home to the U.S. Army North. The building itself is an architectural masterpiece, with an impressive mosaic of stone walls surrounded by a tranquil yard space where peacocks and deer roam freely. Inside of the building is the Fort Sam Houston Museum, where you can learn more about the fort’s history and operations.
If you have kids, a visit to the Yanaguana Garden at Hemisfair Park in San Antonio is a must! This innovative 4-acre park is the perfect pairing of art and play. It features a climbing structure and splash pad, as well as public art installations, such as an oversized chess board created by local San Antonio artist, Oscar Alvarado.
The creation of the Yanaguana Garden is one of three renovations to restore the area, and it has certainly done its job. Plan to spend at least a couple of hours at Hemisfair Park during your visit to San Antonio!
The Pearl Brewery used to be the most thriving manufacturer of beer in San Antonio. When the brewery closed their doors in 2001, their legacy lived on. The brewery’s historic grounds were transformed into a cultural hub with restaurants, shops, hotels, and even a weekly farmer’s market.
Located at the north end of the San Antonio River Walk, the Pearl District is the perfect spot to grab a bite to eat, before making your way down the river.
Slab Cinema is a locally-owned and family-operated free outdoor movie theater located throughout the San Antonio area. It’s the perfect place to wind down after a jam-packed vacation and watch a movie with your loved ones.
Grab your coolers and camping chairs, and head out(side) for a night at the movies!
Artpace San Antonio is a nonprofit residency program in San Antonio that helps promote artistic expression on both a local and global level. You can stop by to view the artists’ exhibitions for free and support local artists.
I highly recommend checking the schedule to see what projects are being shown during your vacation in San Antonio.
Brackenridge Park is a 343-acre public park located on St. Mary’s Street, just north of downtown San Antonio. It is full of so many cool attractions, such as the Japanese Tea Garden, the San Antonio Zoo, Lambert Beach, the Sunken Garden Theater, and stretches of the San Antonio River.
Plan a visit to escape into the tranquil gardens, relax on the beach, or have a fun educational experience with the whole family!
KING WILLIAM HISTORIC DISTRICT
The King WIlliam Historic District is a Victorian-inspired neighborhood in San Antonio, located just south of downtown, featuring Victorian-style homes as well as plenty of delicious restaurants and micro-distilleries located along the river.
It’s a great area to walk around and admire local art, try local foods, and enjoy some peace and quiet.
Market Square is a Mexican neighborhood in San Antonio, boasting the largest Mexican market outside of the country itself. Come explore this eclectic outdoor plaza while tasting authentic Mexican food and drink from over 100 locally owned shops, markets, and restaurants.
It is one of the most exciting and delicious areas of San Antonio that you’ll want to come back to over and over again!
HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM OF SAN ANTONIO
The Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio promotes education, understanding, and remembrance of those who lost their lives in the Holocaust. The museum teaches about the dangers of hatred, prejudice, and apathy, and promotes standing up for your beliefs.
Be sure to plan a visit during your trip to San Antonio — you don’t want to miss it.
SAN FERNANDO CATHEDRAL
The San Fernando Cathedral is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the oldest church in Texas, and one of the oldest active cathedrals in the United States.
The cathedral is open to the public and it is free to enter, just be sure to check the schedule for mass before planning your visit. If you can, I recommend visiting at night to see the famous light show that projects onto the church. It’s an experience you don’t want to miss!
SAN PEDRO CREEK CULTURE PARK
San Pedro Creek Culture Park is a must-visit during your trip to San Antonio. This linear park, found along the banks of San Pedro Creek, takes you through the heart of San Antonio. The banks have attracted people for 12,000 years, so you’ll be walking right through history.
Walk along the paved path, see the amazing artwork around each corner, and enjoy nature. Running, walking, jogging, and biking is popular along the paved path. At the Plaza de Fundación, visitors may cool their feet in the waters of San Pedro Creek. The walkable art “museum” features art from both local and national artists, and is quite amazing to see.
You’ll also find amazing special events here throughout the year, such as Illume: Making Spirits Bright during the holiday season.
While you’re in San Antonio, you may also love these fun activities! While not free, they are amazing, and definitely worth a visit.
- Explore the San Antonio River Walk at night. Experience an electric night out in the city during this scenic San Antonio night tour and River Walk cruise, including admission to the Tower of the Americas.
- Find ghosts in San Antonio. Discover San Antonio’s dark side with a professionally narrated, GPS-navigated audio-guided experience. See the most famous haunted sites, from the Alamo to San Fernando Cathedral.
- Take a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. Discover all the highlights of the most popular city in Texas with a bus sightseeing tour. Hop-on, hop-off service allows you to explore this vibrant city at your own leisure.
The DoSeum is a massive interactive museum for kids to learn, play, and grow all at the same time. The 5.5-acre campus houses a 3-level museum, with 26,000 square feet of exhibit space indoors, as well as 39,000 square feet of outdoor play exhibits. It’s a space where kids learn by doing, creating, and sparking interest.
The DoSeum has many different specials, including free admission for families on the first Monday of each month. Be sure to check it out when walking along the San Antonio River Walk!
The Witte Museum features a collection of permanent exhibits and unique rotating collections that teach its visitors about art and natural history as it pertains to Texas. It’s a really cool and unique learning experience for the entire family, as it features a science treehouse, dinosaur gallery, and so much more.
Admission is free every Tuesday from 3-6pm, and the campus is located right near the river. The Witte Museum is a unique experience that you don’t want to miss during your trip to San Antonio!
THE INSTITUTE OF TEXAN CULTURES
The Institute of Texan Cultures is a museum located within the University of Texas San Antonio that preserves the stories of Texas history and celebrates the people who have made an impact or helped make Texas what it is today. The University is located near many other tourist attractions, like Hemisfair Park, so it’s an easy stop along your route to learn more about the state you are visiting.
Admission to the museum is free on the second Sunday of each month from Noon to 5pm.
MCNAY ART MUSEUM
The McNay Art Museum features more than 22,000 works of medieval and Renaissance art from America and Europe between the 19th and 21st century. It is located within a 1920s mansion, and offers a unique art experience to its visitors.
Admission is free to the public every Thursday from 4-9pm, and on the first Sunday of each month from Noon to 5pm.
SAN ANTONIO MUSEUM OF ART
The San Antonio Museum of Art has the most comprehensive collection of ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian art in southern America, spanning more than 5,000 years of world history. It’s located right in downtown San Antonio and is a must-see attraction during your visit.
The museum offers free admission for children under 12.
THE SAN ANTONIO FIRE MUSEUM
If you have kids, a visit to the San Antonio Fire Museum is a must! This museum is located just a quick walk away from the Alamo, and is a great place for kids to climb on fire trucks and take pictures.
Admission is only a few dollars regularly, but is free on the first Tuesday of each month.
BRISCOE WESTERN ART MUSEUM
The Briscoe Western Art Museum focuses on the preservation of art, history, and culture of the American West. They feature rotating exhibits, art classes, and various events that entice visitors throughout the year.
Admission to the museum is free on the first Sunday of every month!
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO TEXAS
- YOUR TEXAS VACATION
- SAN ANTONIO WITH KIDS: 16 Awesome Things To Do In San Antonio With Kids
- AUSTIN: 36 Best Things To Do In Austin, Texas You’ll Love
- TX WATER PARKS: Make A Splash At These 34 Water Parks In Texas
- TX WATERFALLS: 24 Spectacular Waterfalls In Texas You Can’t Miss
WHERE TO STAY IN SAN ANTONIO
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