Since having lived here for 2 years, and having a few different visitors, we have learned some do’s and don’ts when it comes to sharing SATX with friends and family. So lets jump right in for our (lengthy) list of best things to do, see and eat!
Click on the name of each suggestion to be taken to websites for each place for address and more info!
First off, honestly, unless you are willing to be in the water 99% of your visit, don’t bother coming in the summer months. It is too dang hot! But the beautiful rivers and lakes of Texas make it bearable. Once the Texas heat hits, pretty much the only way we can survive outside is in the water. Here are our favorite places to swim;
$10 weekdays, $15 weekends $20 holidays (per car)
We have managed to get in free a few times when we have gone on a weekday in the late afternoon (Monday-Wednesday after 4:30)
This one is my personal favorite. Out in the beautiful Texas hill country, there is often a light breeze and the weather is usually cooler (thank heavens!) When you enter the park you will come to an intersection. Go right, and you are taken to a man-made “beach” with sand. A great area for young kids as the water gets deeper gradually. But, there are very few trees, not much shade unless you bring a tent or large umbrella. Take a left and you will be taken to an area with lots of trees but a somewhat rocky shore, and fairly deep dropoffs in the water. We prefer the rocky side as it tends to be less crowded, we love to dive deep, and hang our hammocks in the trees! The lake is great for swimming as no motorized boats are allowed. They rent out paddleboards, and I think also kayaks.
Dave’s favorite place to swim! Can’t complain with a free and beautiful place. Rio Vista Dam is part of the San Marcos river. Plenty of free parking and the water is easy to get to, right next to a large park with lots of big beautiful trees. Upstream the water is moderately shallow, you can pretty clearly see the bottom. There is a rock bridge across to a small island with trees. I have heard that people have occasionally seen snakes in this area, but we have been many times and I personally haven’t seen any snakes. Dave likes to spend most of his time playing in the slide in the middle of the dam. I am not the strongest swimmer and have had a couple moments where I have struggled to get out of the “rapids”. But even in the rapids, it’s pretty shallow and you can stand up fairly easily if you can get your footing. The key is not to panic! We have always gone on a weekday, so I can’t speak for how busy it can get on a weekend… There are companies that will rent out tubes and drop you off further upstream, and this is the final stop, but we haven’t looked into that.
Free – $20 (per person/per car)
This is a new discovery to us, we went for our first time in May when Daves youngest brother came for a visit. We did very little research beforehand and I booked tubes from the first company I came across. $20 per person with tube rental and shuttle service. Not bad, but there are cheaper ways to go about it. You can park at Prince Solms Park (there are a few parks along the river, but at the moment, this is the only one I am familiar with) for $20 per car, which is just a little over half a mile walk back from the last exit point for tubes down river. We also found free street parking along E San Antonio street, and I think it should only be about a 15-minute walk back to your car, but we haven’t tried that yet. We went on a weekday in the morning, and the crowds weren’t too bad. We wrapped up around 12:30 and it was quite a bit busier than when we had arrived. The weekend crowds are INSANE. A line of tubes waiting to go down the chute will build up. If you are wanting to go on a weekend, I would recommend arriving no later than 10 or 10:30. Despite the potentially steep prices, the chutes, the lush trees, and the clear beautiful water made it well worth it!
$7 per person, children 12 and under are free
Not my absolute favorite place to swim, but it’s incredibly scenic. The water, from what we have found, is quite shallow which makes it a popular area for swimming with kids. The cypress trees are huge and beautiful, perfect for hammock hanging. From the parking area, it is a bit of a downhill hike, not much more than 5 minutes, down to the water.
$8 per adult, $5 per child ages 4-11, free children under 4
A privately owned springs, west of Austin. Spring-fed manmade pool, and natural waterfall and pool. Absolutely gorgeous swimming area, but can get very crowded. We first camped there in mid-March, and swam as soon as we woke up, essentially having the pool to ourselves, but it was still pretty cold. We returned on a weekday in May, in the early afternoon, and the two small pools were extremely crowded. I think I would only return again if I could get there very early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Wrap up the adventure with some yummy BBQ from the Salt Lick!
$10 per car
We have only been down to the beach twice, so we don’t have that much experience with all the beach options, but between Mustang Island and PINS, we really liked PINS. At both parks, you are able to drive directly along the beach, which for me is a plus as I hate trekking with all our gear from a parking lot through the sand. The downside is you do have a decent amount of cars driving back and forth along the beach, so you really need to treat it like a road and look both ways. Luckily, people are usually driving pretty slow and cautiously, but something to be mindful about with young kids. I hear the beaches at South Padre Island are supposedly incredible, but it’s about a 4 hour drive, we haven’t been yet. The beaches at and near PINS are fun, but not quite as nice if you are dreaming of Florida beaches.
We have only been once, but it was so fun and really pretty! It can get quite busy since it is free, but it’s a really beautiful pool. Apparently, it is one of the oldest parks in the US! Click here for a list of other free pools in San Antonio.
More Outdoor Activites:
It’s no secret I am a big fan of the Pearl, I talk about it constantly, and we go almost once a week! Read all about my love for the Farmers Market here! It doesn’t matter how many times I go, I love it every time, I often find something new to love about it! I’m not a huge fan of the main River Walk area, but the Pearl is actually also part of the River Walk, but in my opinion, is a far more scenic area! Plus all the parking at the Pearl is totally free! There is also a small splash pad for kids to enjoy!
These are both right near the Zoo, and you can easily enjoy both areas in one trip. The San Antonio River runs through Brackenridge, making it a very lush, beautiful park. Many people are surprised to find such a lush park in the heart of downtown! Very stroller friendly. The Tea Gardens have lots of stone stairs, but I think there are stroller friendly routes around the gardens. I will say the gardens struggle through the summer, and are far more pretty in September/October (aka Texas spring..) or March/April.
Close to the medical center, another beautiful park in an unexpected location. Lots of pretty trees, with a small pond and walking trails.
We only went to Gruene for the first time this past spring. I think it is just the most charming little town. So many cute shops to explore, the historic Gruene Dance Hall (still working on talking Dave into taking me dancing…. hahahaha) the oh so yummy Gristmill Restaurant (more on that below) all along yet another beautiful Texas river, the Guadalupe River.
I would not recommend visiting here in the summer. The falls are huge and so beautiful. Pictures do not do the place justice. But, you are not able to swim at the falls. If the water is low enough, it’s really fun to hike around on the falls, but can be so tempting to jump in for a swim (and risk a huge fine!) when baking in the unrelenting summer heat! You can swim downriver, but from what we found the water was not very deep. But we will certainly come to hike here again in the fall.
$6 per person, children 12 and under free
As you may be able to guess from the name of this place, this is really the closest place to San Antonio to see proper falls leaves. Lots of beautiful trails to explore. Keep an eye on their website for updates, but usually, fall doesn’t really peak till mid-November.
In addition to the Alamo, there are 4 other missions to visit around San Antonio. I believe we have been to all of them. Our personal favorite to explore is Mission San José. It is very easy to get to, free to visit and plenty of free parking and the grounds are beautiful, with the coolest architecture. “San José y San Miguel de Aguayo, the “Queen of the Missions,” is the largest mission in San Antonio, established in 1720 and completed in 1782. Spanish designers, directing workers from the local Coahuiltecan tribe, built the mission using Texas limestone and brightly colored stucco.”
Adults $13 Children ages 4-12 $10 Children 3 and under free
A fun view of San Antonio, but a bit overpriced… Always fun, but not my favorite. We usually hit this when we are running out of ideas or are already in the area. There is a fun park with a splash pad nearby called Hemisfair Park! Street parking in this area on the weekdays is free after 6pm!
A fun place to visit for free every Tuesday after 3pm! I don’t think I would pay to get in, personally, since it hasn’t been too busy when we have gone on Tuesdays, but it’s a really fun place to explore. Very kid friendly. Walk right across the street for dinner at The Smoke Shack (more on that below!).
Adults $20 Children 12 and under free
I haven’t actually visited yet, but it’s high on my wish list! I hear they have a really cool new exhibit called Immersed I am really interested in checking out. The grounds of the museum alone looks really beautiful.
$15 per person
I haven’t actually visited this one either, but I am really curious about it. From what I understand, it’s just five different rooms with wall to wall flowers! Worth the $15 per person entrance fee? I’m not sure. But honestly, I’m so sad I forgot about it when my mom came to visit. I think she would have loved it! Come back mom! If anyone wants to do a girls trip to check it out, let me know!
$14 per person Children under 1 free
This place is heaven for kids! I was so impressed with all the fun things they had for kids to do. Plenty to do inside, as well as a large playground, small splash pad, and small man-made creek the kids can enjoy. Definitely, a must visit for families with kids on the go!
We are big movie buffs and Texas movie theaters are quite life changing. The Alamo Drafthouse, a dine-in movie experience. Arrive at least 15-20 minutes early to peruse the menu and place your order with your waiter before the movie. I don’t think you can really go wrong, but we love all of the following; crispy buffalo cauliflower, loaded fries, Colorado Steak Salad (you can get any salad as a wrap!), Omnivore pizza (drop the kalamata olives. You can also get any pizza a calzone, and they are incredible!), Philly Cheesesteak, Grilled Jerk Chicken Sandwich, Chicken Tenders (ask for extra gravy!), THE BEST Fish and Chips (ask for extra tartar sauce!), and the Chocolate Chip Cookie Shake. Also check out their custom menus they occasionally create for new movies. Some of the best items we have tried have been off the custom menus! Bonus secret tip, at the Park North location, the very front row of seats recline! Just make sure it’s not in the theater with two front rows (I think it’s screen 8), those front seats are way too close, but all the rest are fine!
There are lots of cool places to Antique shop in Texas, I think from what I have found, New Braunfels has the most to offer and is luckily not too far away. Comfort and Gruene are also both so quaint and charming!
Where to Eat:
Alright, I will get through these quick, I will just list our favorite items at each location. Hit the name for each place to see Yelp for pictures and reviews! We have often found our favorite places to eat thanks to Yelp!
Brisket Grilled Cheese, Mac & Cheese, Spicy Cream Corn
Get the Rancher to try a little bit of everything! Take a blackberry cobbler to-go!
The Wapo Taco with steak, Baja C-Food Taco with shrimp or fish, Suizas Enchiladas
Our favorite breakfast tacos, bacon and egg, sausage and egg, steak and egg, fajitas, tacos al pastor, charro beans
Can’t really go wrong, some can pack some heat. Check out their special of the month and ask about their secret menu. Brushfire, Crossroads, Trailer Park (get it trashy!)
Honestly, anything, but be sure to try the cheese fries!
Original Fat Boy Burger, Guaco Burger, Grilled Chicken Burger
Avocado Bacon Burger (add jalapenos), Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit
Cafes and Bakeries:
Avocado Bowl, La Clásica, Chicken Milanesa, any of their baked goods!
Lemon Pound Cake, Oatmeal with brown sugar maple syrup, Granola Parfait, Traditional Turkey, Tarragon Chicken Salad, California Turkey, any baked goods! Especially their cupcakes!
Any danishes! Our favorites are the honey butter danish, blueberry danish, and chocolate croissant. Also, try the focaccia pizza!
Despite the name, they have the best cheesecakes and cinnamon rolls. Be sure to try their seasonal cheesecake flavors. My favorites have been their horchata, and blackberry lemon cheesecakes. Also yummy salads and sandwiches. A bit out of the way but well worth the drive!
Our favorite breakfast place. Sausage or bacon and egg breakfast sandwiches, or their bagel and lox with the works. Family owned and operated. Can be busy, but always fast and friendly service!
Fire Roasted Chicken, Top Sirloin, Chopped Con, Chocolate Sheet Cake
(seasonal menu) Crab mac and cheese, jalapeno cheddar grits, pass on their steak, good but small, go with a local fish! I LOVED the red snapper. Very cool architecture.
HUGE onion rings, Texas Torpedoes, Pasta Poblano Salad, Gruene ‘Country Club’ Sandwich, Pepper Filet, Guadalupe Chopped Steak, Chicken Acapulco, Chicken Fried Chicken.
Have only been for lunch, really enjoyed the burgers, should have got their grilled cheese! Looked amazing when a waiter walked by with it. Dying to try their brunch or dinner! Great service and beautiful restaurant.
Technically Tex Mex, but really yummy. Great massive burritos, get the fajita steak, or really any of their enchiladas. Ask for a side of the creamy jalapeno with the chips! Best tres leches around!
Famous for their lobster enchiladas. Enchiladas Soluna were my faves.
Not the most high-quality food, but cheap prices for huge portions. Great for late night cravings as they have a drive through and are open 24/7. Try the steak or brisket quesadilla or nachos. Ask for extra pico!
Sushi in a bowl or burrito form
100% custom, all toppings included in one price, quick-fire pizza. Or can’t go wrong with the menu options. Our faves include the Dillon James and the Caspian. Always ask for a side of ranch.
One of our first love affairs in Texas. Even more dangerous that they opened their second location less than 10 minutes away from home. Try the Mango Habanero and Honey BBQ wings, Pizza Rolls (ask for extra marinara and side of ranch!), Enchilada Pizza.
Incredible Peruvian food. Try the Lomo Saltado or Pollo Saltado. Ask for extra mayonesa.
I am not the biggest fan of hotdogs. I never crave them. Well, until now really. This place has pretty amazing gourmet hot dogs. Try their dog of the week. It is usually a little outrageous, but we are often surprised by how yummy it is! Our faves have been their Gauc Dog, and a weekly dog that they only have sometimes the Caprese Dog. They have the best cane sugar cola too!
View this post on Instagram
Hey 👋!! This whether demands a Churro 📸 by @flavortown_sa ・・・ I got churroed and I’m not mad about it. Definitely check them out, best churros in San Antonio! #churro #churros #churroed #igotchurroed #honchos #honchoshouseofchurros #house #cinnamon #sugar #sweet #chocolate #caramel #cajeta #watch #yummy #sweettooth #sanantonio #alamo #texas #satx #food #foodie #foodies #safood #safoodie #flavortown #foodpics #foodpic #foodpix #foodblog
Amazing food truck with the best churros, plus your choice of filling! I love the Honchos sauce!
Amazing rolled ice cream.Try their seasonal flavors. Wait can be long on a Friday or Saturday night. Yummy fresh cafe-style sandwiches as well.
Well high five if you survived through till the end of this post! I hope this gave you some great ideas to take visitors, or for a fun date night! I want to hear where you end up trying and what you think! What are your favorite places in San Antonio? Happy adventures and eats!