Texas is big, and there’s a lot to see, but if you need to narrow down your must-see cities, I’d put San Antonio at the top of your list. Downtown San Antonio is not only rich in history and culture, it offers numerous activities and attractions for both the young and young at heart. With kids ages 10, 9 and 7 in tow, we made sure to explore as much as we could, from downtown to the outer edges of the city. Here’s our Top 10 List of not-so-typical but very touristy things to do in San Antonio that we felt were worth a visit (or just gave us a good laugh.)
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium & Ripley’s 4D Moving Theater
Marvel at Robert Ripley’s bizarre collection of facts and artifacts from around the world. Not only is this place quirky and entertaining, it had us on our toes in some parts.
I’ll admit, some areas I just walked on by, too much for me! The kids had a great time and it generated a lot of “ooohs” and “ahhhs”.
As for the 4D theater, I think the host was just as entertaining as the two short mini films we watched. Not exactly high-tech, but we all laughed our way through, enjoying the experience. You’ll be sprayed with water, tickled on your feet, bounced around in moving seats and feel the cold snow falling all around. A little treat for all the senses.
DoSeum, Children’s Museum (just opened in June 2015)
We cannot say enough great things about this children’s museum, the best we’ve ever visited. I kid you not when I say my family stayed at the museum from opening till closing, when we were nudged out. There is so much to do and see, and the museum is clever in the ways it gets kids involved.
My kids’ favorite thing? Training to be a spy, or master spy, in the Spy Academy. They were sent on missions where they needed to use logic, math and spatial skills. The museum goes outdoors too, with 39,000 sq ft, allowing them to use gross motor skills while exploring. There are so many things we love about this museum and we encourage everyone to visit…for a day, or two!
Guinness World Records Museum & Tomb Rider 3D
Visiting a Guinness museum is always exciting and educational for any age. My kids dropped their jaws at some of the facts they read along the tour. We all had our fair share of laughter and fun at the new Attempt Arena, where you can compete to break some of the records.
As for the Tomb Rider 3D laser experience, picture using the laser fun of Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters at Disneyland, but with fear-inducing zombies, spiders and mummies. Yes, your little ones will scream and hide their eyes, most likely.
Buckhorn Saloon & Museum
Let me start off by saying: If you have a problem with taxidermy and mounted animals from floor to ceiling, do not come here. My youngest, the avid animal lover and future vet, did not enjoy any part of this experience. That being said, this is a quirky experience that I think everyone has to go through at least once. You will begin your tour in the Buckhorn Wildlife Museum featuring animals from all over the world, and end with the Texas Ranger Museum. Begin or end your tour of the museum with lunch in the main welcoming area…the food was great! The gift shop is fun too.
Louis Tussaud’s Wax Works
This is not Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, so do not go in with high expectations. Louis was the great-grandson of Marie Tussaud, creator of the Madame Tussauds wax museums. He split with the family in the late 1800s after his brother was appointed to be the boss. According to Wikipedia, the now-closed Louis Taussand’s in Great Yarmouth, England had been described as the world’s worst wax museum because the likenesses were so poor.
While we as adults might have noticed the lack of similarities and details in the wax figures, the kids delighted in finding Harry Potter, Beyonce
and various fairy tale characters. It’s always fun to take your picture with a celebrity look alike, even if it’s not too much “alike.”
Another well-known and gorgeous area in San Antonio, the River Walk, is a must do…several times.
Take one of the many stairways from the street level down to the river level, and you feel as if you’ve disappeared from the city and escaped into another place and time. The beauty and serenity of the River Walk is like no other. You’ll find shopping, dining, and gorgeous luxury hotels, along with places for relaxation and picture taking, such as Marriage Island, where many weddings take place yearly, on the naturally root-formed heart shaped island.
Natural Bridge Caverns and Natural Bridge Wildlife Park
Just a short drive north of San Antonio, the Natural Bridge Caverns takes you deep into the earth, through some very small spaces (not for the claustrophobic), to take in the beauty of naturall formations from single drops of water over time. You might even see a bat or two.
The kids loved every minute of the tour and learned a lot along the way. Afterwards, they hopped back in the car and we made our way over to the Natural Bridge Wildlife Park which features more than 500 animals. What’s unique about this? It’s a drive-thru tour. See animals lazing in the sun, or walking right up to your window!
Learn a little more about the history of the Alamo in this IMAX film, The Price of Freedom. Remember the Alamo as you watch the story of the Texans who defended the Alamo over a 13-day period. We weren’t sure this movie could hold our kids’ attention, but it did, the entire way through.
San Antonio River Cruise (Rio San Antonio River Cruise)
Give your feet a break and hop on the 45-minute River Cruise. The guides are very engaging and you’ll learn a lot about the history of San Antonio, including architectural features, facts about different hotels and places of business as well as get a feel for the layout of the River Walk area. They’ll jam a lot on one boat, so be prepared to get hot and sweaty with the person sitting next to or across from you! But I promise, once the tour starts, you’ll forget about it.
The other big claim to fame, the Alamo, is FREE.
The well-known site of the 13-day battle in 1836, during which Texans fought against the Mexican army is explained in the IMAX movie, “The Price of Freedom” (which is NOT free). The Alamo is easy to find as it’s in the center of all the attractions, across the street from Ripley’s and Guinness.
Of course there is so much more to see in San Antonio, from the Missions and churches to visiting museums and absorbing the art and culture the city has to offer. There’s also the better known SeaWorld, Aquatica Park and the San Antonio Zoo, but we didn’t have time to dedicate full days to those attractions on this trip.
We hope you enjoy these 10 family friendly fun things to do in San Antonio with your family. Make sure you check out the San Antonio & Beyond Tour Passes, which can save you a plenty at some of these high-priced attractions.