A city as large, historic and diverse as San Antonio can feel overwhelming to first timers. Everyone’s heard of the Alamo and the Riverwalk but there’s so much more to discover. Check out our San Antonio travel guide for a deep dive on this eclectic city.
San Antonio Overview
Texas’ second largest city has grown rapidly in recent years as people realized it was a great and (increasingly less so) affordable place to live. Mexico is only 150 miles away and informs so much of the vibe here, from music and art to the extremely good food. Add in influences from Native, Spanish, African American and European cultures who have also made San Antonio home, and you get one of the most exciting cities in the US.
Things to do in San Antonio
All visitors need to head to The River Walk, a great place for strolling and watching the world go by. Artisan shops, restaurants and bars invite you in, and patios serving food and margaritas spill out by the water. There are often live music events where tourists and locals mix under colorful umbrellas.
You must get a pic in front of The Alamo, the most emblematic of all San Antonio sights. It’s free to enter and daily tours tell the story of the battle for Texan independence from Mexico in 1836. Although people are reconsidering the history of the Alamo as something to be celebrated, it is interesting to take in the side of the story the museum is presenting.
Don’t miss the chance to go to a Spurs game, even if you’re not a sports fan, and witness the insane passion of the local crowd. The players are revered so much, you can buy Mexican prayer candles with players' faces on them!
Where to stay in San Antonio
With the rapid expansion of San Antonio in recent years, the hotel scene has expanded and now offers everything from bougie modern places to old historic hotels with refurbished interiors. For first timers staying Downtown makes the most sense as the River Walk and Alamo will be within walking distance.
Food and dining in San Antonio
No San Antonio travel guide would be complete without a mention of the incredible food and drinks you can find here. The birthplace of Tex-Mex is hotly debated but we reckon San Antonio has a pretty big claim to the title. Mexican women known as chili queens would sell chili and tamales downtown and these evolved into family restaurants serving the best food in town. You must try the platters of the best SA-style Mexican food at Rosario’s and don’t miss Mi Tierra in the central market, open 24 hours and always full of people.
Nightlife and Entertainment in San Antonio
When in San Antonio you have to check out a Honky Tonk saloon. Sip on a cold beer, snack on tamales and dance to live country music for a real Texan experience. The Historic Pearl, an old brewery, has been transformed into a plaza with a pop-up market, bars and a buzzing atmosphere. The central market and River Walk are also places to head for some lively nightlife.
Shopping in San Antonio
The biggest Mexican market in the US takes place in the central plaza in San Antonio and it is a must for food lovers, people watchers and lovers of colorful Mexican culture. The area is lively day and night. Stop by for chips and salsa, sip on a michelada and dance to live music in the bars surrounding the mercado.
Transportation in San Antonio
San Antonio is pretty huge and not very walkable. It’s better to rent a car or use Uber if you want to visit anywhere outside the River Walk Downtown area. You can also hire electric scooters or get the Viva special tourist service which runs buses between downtown and all the major cultural spots.
Weather and Climate in San Antonio
Being so close to Mexico and the equator, San Antonio gets oppressively hot during the summer making it uncomfortable to walk long distances. Between April and mid-June, it is warm without being too hot for outdoor activities or sightseeing.
Tips for traveling to and around San Antonio
San Antonio’s main airport is 10 miles from downtown and has direct flights to over 35 destinations. It’s the most convenient way to get to the city. It will cost around $25 for a cab or lift share downtown. There is also an AMTRAK station connecting to more than 500 cities across the US.
Long story short…
We hope this San Antonio travel guide has given you a little taste of what the city has to offer. There is something for everyone here, from rolling hill country with vineyards, the wild honky tonk saloons, rich Mexican culture and an unbelievable food scene. You’ll quickly see why locals are so proud to say they are from San Antonio.
Written by Laura Sedlak