San Antonio is one of those rare cities that combines food, scenery, culture and true beauty. The architecture and history make it a unique destination. The best part of the Alamo City? There are loads of free things to do in San Antonio with kids!
San Antonio is located in the heart of Texas Hill Country and is filled with popular attractions. I’ve had the opportunity to live in San Antonio twice and I never grow tired of visiting. It has my favorite two things in a city — great food and free things to do. If you’re headed to San Antonio, plan a trip that includes these free things to do with kids. (Also don’t forget to allow time to discover the local cuisine!)
TravelingMom Tip: Opening times and days are subject to change without notice. Always check the attraction website before you go!
Remember the Alamo!
Most folks heading to San Antonio have the Alamo on their to do list. The Alamo, originally known as the Mission San Antonio de Valero, was one of six Spanish Catholic missions founded on the San Antonio River. It was later used as a fort during the Mexican battles for independence from Spain. In 1835, during the Texas Revolution, a group of Texans occupied the Alamo. They maintained position until March 1836 when 187 died during a battle with the Mexican army. Today, it is a National Historic Landmark and museum. Admission is free, although donations are accepted.
Hours Monday- Sunday 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Open until 7 p.m. in the summer. 300 Alamo Plaza San Antonio, TX
Visit the Only UNESCO Site in Texas
Many visitors go to the Alamo Plaza and never visit any of the other missions in the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. These four missions (Mission San Juan Capistrano, Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose, and Espada) are a UNESCO World Heritage site and missing them would be a shame. Not only are the buildings historic and photogenic, but the grounds are beautiful. Here’s more about the different missions and how to visit with kids.
Hours Monday- Sunday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. 6701 San Jose Drive San Antonio, TX
Explore Architecture, History and Culture at a Former Brewery
Ever had a Pabst Blue Ribbon? Well, the historic Pearl Brewery, where it was brewed, is now a mixed use campus of housing, retail, and public space. Weekly Farmers’ Markets take place on the grounds. Have little kiddos? The Twig Bookstore at the Pearl has a weekly storytime at 10:30 a.m. on Fridays. Love to boogie? During the summer, the Pearl hosts a weekly dance series every Wednesday at the Pearl Stable. Doors open at 5:30 and music starts at 6 p.m. There also are First Thursday night markets year-round with live music and a special theme every month.
Hours Monday-Sunday 8 a.m.-10 p.m. 303 Pearl Parkway San Antonio, TX
Stroll Along the San Antonio River on the Riverwalk.
The San Antonio Riverwalk, also know as the Paseo del Rio, is considered a public park. It is well known for its shops and restaurants in the center of downtown. However, many visitors don’t realize the sheer length of the Riverwalk. You can actually get all the way to Mission Espada along the extended Riverwalk. Take the time to wander along the Riverwalk and up into La Villita. With overhanging trees that are lit up during the holiday season and beautiful stone bridges, you’ll cherish the images you take of your family here. There are boat rides, too. Although they aren’t free, they are one of the fun things to do in San Antonio with kids.
Explore Japanese Tea Gardens in the Heart of San Antonio
Brackenridge Park is a 343-acre park in San Antonio. Within the park are attractions like the San Antonio Zoo (which charges admission), multiple playgrounds, and the Japanese Tea Gardens which should be on every visitor’s list. Beautiful Japanese architecture draws the eye and you can stroll along paths next to koi ponds.
Go to a Playground Both Adults and Kids Will Love
Hemisfair Park added Yanaguana Garden in October of 2015. This playground area has something for the whole family with a Pre-K play area, climbing structures for bigger kids, a games plaza, a sand area and a splash pad. Grownups will enjoy the restaurants and local beers. A fun new addition? The park has its own chickens. Be sure to visit the raised garden bed coop. Hemisfair Park, the location of the Tower of the Americas, also hosts free Friday concerts from 7-11 p.m.
Embrace Nature, Art and History at San Pedro Creek Culture Park
New on the scene and a super exciting addition is San Pedro Creek Culture Park. This area had gone to ruin, which was a shame due to its historic role in San Antonio’s founding. It has been transformed into a linear park. Segment one is open with more segments in progress extending down the river. Native landscaping, art installations, handicapped accessibility and historical tie ins are all being utilized. It’s located on the western edge of downtown San Antonio close to Market Square and hospitals.
TravelingMom Tip: Designated parking doesn’t exist yet, so your best bet is to park at Market Square or the library and walk a few blocks.
Walk Through Four Ecosystems at the Cibolo Nature Center
The Cibolo Nature Center is technically located next to San Antonio in Boerne, but it would be a travesty to leave this gem off the list of free things to do. Just a short drive from San Antonio, this center has 3 miles of walking trails through 4 ecosystems and even has preserved dinosaur foot prints!
View a Lights Show Projected onto the Side of a Cathedral.
For a unique San Antonio experience, visit the San Fernando Cathedral to view The Saga. If you have older kids who stay up late, try this art installation by Xavier de Richmont, which is projected onto the side of the Cathedral on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 9, 9:30 and 10 p.m. The multimedia show covers centuries of San Antonio history. Located at 115 N. Main Avenue, San Antonio Texas.
TravelingMom Tip: Check the Main Plaza’s calendar before your visit, especially if it falls during April and Fiesta. Some showings of Saga are cancelled due to Fiesta events.
Take a Hike in an Urban Sanctuary
Located on the campus of the University of the Incarnate Word, the 53-acre Headwaters Sanctuary is part of the ministry of the Sisters of Charity of Incarnate Word. Their aim is to preserve and restore the headwaters of the San Antonio River. With the Blue Hole Spring at the center, you can hike the trails, participate in organized bird watching and more. To see a schedule of events and learn how to get a parking pass during the school year, visit the website.
Hours: Open daily dawn to dusk. 4305 Broadway San Antonio, TX
Become a Bookworm at the Library
When you’re visiting a city, chances are you never give the library a second thought. But if you are heading to San Antonio with young children, the library system offers loads of kid-friendly activities with regular story times and music at multiple branches weekly.
Stroll through King William Historic District
Located off of the Riverwalk near Downtown San Antonio, this historic district was named in honor of King Wilhelm I of Prussia by German immigrants. King William is a designated Cultural Arts District. Victorian houses, art galleries, boutiques, coffeehouses and ice houses abound in this area that meets up with Southtown. A personal favorite of mine – Rosario’s – is located here. If you feel like a beer, the Friendly Spot is a great kid-friendly ice house that the whole family can enjoy.
Southtown is also home to San Antonio’s Blue Star Arts Complex. This mixed use area includes everything from brewpubs to a contemporary art museum. Nearby, you can head to Guenther House Restaurant for the most amazing pancakes and breakfast choices. There is a museum onsite dedicated to the history of the property and the Guenther family who founded Pioneer Flour Mills.
Visit the United States’ Largest Mexican Market
Historic Market Square is an outdoor plaza covering a three-block area downtown. Filled with shops and restaurants, it also makes a fantastic spot for photos with its vibrant colors as a back drop. You’ll feel like you were transported to Mexico. During San Antonio’s famous Fiesta in April, Market Square hosts its own Fiesta de los Reyes with daily performances and family-friendly fun.
TravelingMom Tip: Plan to eat at Mi Tierra Cafe y Panaderia. It’s not free, but you’ll be glad you did. If you don’t have time for a full meal, you can grab a concha from the pastry to-go counter. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a little bit of live music from the mariachi band while you’re waiting.
Take Instagram-Worthy Pictures of the Street Art
The San Antonio Street Art Initiatives goal is to create the largest outdoor art gallery in Texas. The first phase was a partnership with 16 artists resulting in Murals at Midtown. Phase two launched 20 new murals in late March 2019. It goes across 13 city blocks down North St. Mary’s Street. The St. Mary’s Strip is free to visit and a must-see photo spot in San Antonio. A map of murals is located on the SASAI’s website.
North St. Mary’s Street at Elmira St and Ashby San Antonio, TX
Watch a Free Movie
Every summer, Travis Park offers a free Movie by Moonlight. Films start at dusk. Find Free Downtown Tuesday Parking here.
Mission Marquee: Enjoy a free outdoor movie at this former drive in. Find the full free movie list here.
Create a Free Craft
Your kids get their craft on with free Saturday craft projects at Lakeshore Learning from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.. Ages 3 and up.
327 N.W. Loop 410 San Antonio, TX
Visit Museums During Special Free Days and Hours
San Antonio Fire Museum: Steps away from the Alamo, this museum has fire apparatus that your kids can climb on and turnout gear for them to try on. A great way to get the wiggles out after a more solemn Alamo visit. The Museum is free the first Tuesday of every month from noon-4 p.m. Kids under 3 are always free.
Open Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 801 E. Houston Street San Antonio, TX
Institute of Texan Cultures: Kids 5 and under always free. Free for everyone the second Sunday of the month.
Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday – Saturday and 12 p.m.-5 p.m. on Sundays. 801 E. Caesar Chavez Blvd. San Antonio, TX
Witte Museum: Kids 3 and under are always free. Admission for all is free on Tuesdays from 3-8 p.m. Great exhibits for kids include the H-E-B Body Adventures. Be aware that some of the “active” exhibits require closed toed shoes.
Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday and Wednesday-Saturday, Tuesday 10 a.m.-8 p.m., and Sunday 12 p.m.-5 p.m.
3801 Broadway San Antonio, TX
The DoSeum: This children’s museum is full of hands-on experiences for your littles. STEM is a big focus here and the First Tuesday of each month H-E-B and Community First Health Plans sponsor free admission. There are a limited number of free wristbands. They are handed out starting at 4 p.m at the entrance. All members of your party MUST be present to receive a wristband. Free family hours will be from 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. so we recommend grabbing your wristbands and then eating an early dinner nearby before visiting.
TravelingMom Tip: Get the scoop on how to Do The DoSeum.
Hours Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday 12 p.m.-5 p.m. 2800 Broadway San Antonio, TX
The San Antonio Museum of Art: Free general admission on Tuesdays from 4 p.m.-9 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Kids 12 and under are always free. There is a free parking lot across from the museum.
Hours Tuesday 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Wednesday- Thursday and Saturday-Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Friday 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
200 West Jones Avenue San Antonio, TX
McNay Art Museum: Free Thursday nights sponsored by H-E-B from 4-9 p.m., cover general admission (special exhibit access is $10). The First Sunday of each month has free general admission from 12 p.m.-5 p.m. thanks to the Dickson Allen Foundation. Teens 19 and under are free daily. Present your Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card and picture ID on the first full weekend of every month for one free general admission. Free on-site parking is available.
Hours are Wednesday and Friday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m.-9 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
6000 North New Braunfels Avenue San Antonio, TX
The Briscoe Western Art Museum: Free admission for children 12 and under. Active military and their family (up to 4 people) admitted free daily. Free admission Tuesday 4-9 p.m.. The museum will also be free (and have special events) on July 27th for the National Day of the Cowboy. Present your Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card and picture ID on the first full weekend of every month for one free general admission.
Hours are Monday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Wednesday – Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
210 West Market Street San Antonio, TX
Find more fun things to do in San Antonio with kids, including paid attractions such as Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Sea World and Aquatica, the San Antonio Zoo, the San Antonio Botanical Gardens and more.
Visiting San Antonio During the Spring? Here’s Where to F find Texas Bluebonnets
Although bluebonnets, the state flower of Texas, bloom everywhere across the state, one of the best places to find them is the Texas Hill Country, which is just a short drive from San Antonio. You will probably also see them along the side of the highway coming in and out of town. There are a lot of clusters along the side of 281 going from San Antonio to Fredericksburg and along I-10 toward Houston. Follow these safety tips for bluebonnets if you plan to stop on the side of a busy road.
Bluebonnets bloom from late March to early April (varies depending on how cold the winter was.). If you’re visiting San Antonio during spring, why not add a stop and check out the beautiful wildflowers. More on where to find bluebonnets here.