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 San Antonio? There are loads of free things to do!
Free Things to Do in San Antonio
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 but still very fun things to do.
Free Historical Attractions in San Antonio
Remember the Alamo! Most folks heading to San Antonio have the Alamo on their to do list. The Alamo, originally known as the Mision San Antonio de Valero, was the site of a battle in 1836. today, it’s a museum. Admission is free, although donations are accepted.
Many visitors go to the Alamo and never visit any of the other missions in the San Antonio Missions National Park . These missions are a UNESCO World Heritage site, the only UNESCO site in Texas, and missing them would be a shame. Not only are the buildings historical and photogenic but the grounds are beautiful. National Parks TravelingMom Catherine has written extensively on the different missions and how to visit with kids.
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 Farmer’s Markets take place on the grounds. Have little kiddos? The Twig Bookstore at the Pearl has a weekly storytime at 10:30am 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 6pm.
Free Parks to Visit in San Antonio
The 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.
Brackenridge Park is a 343-acre park in San Antonio. Within the park are attractions like the 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.
Hemisfair Park added on Yanaguana Garden in October of 2015. This playground area has something for all ages with a Pre-K play area, climbing structures for bigger kids, a games plaza, a sand area and a splash pad. Hemisfair Park, the location of the Tower of the Americas, also hosts free Friday concerts from 7-11pm.
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. Located a short drive from San Antonio this center has 3 miles of walking trails through 4 ecosystems and even has preserved dinosaur foot prints!
Unique Free Things to Do in San Antonio
For a truly unique San Antonio experience, visit the San Fernando Cathedral to view The Saga. This multimedia show covers years of San Antonio history as it is projected onto the cathedral. If you have older kids who stay up late this art installation by Xavier de Richmont projects onto the side of the Cathedral on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 9pm, 9:30pm, and 10pm covers centuries of San Antonio history.
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. One of the fun things to do is the Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre. There are also story times and music.
Summer Movies for Free in San Antonio
Need a break from the heat? Take your kiddos to one of many free movies going on around the city.
Every Tuesday evening in July, Travis Park offers a free Movie by Moonlight. Pre-show entertainment starts at 7:30pm and the movie starts at 8:30pm.
Free Kids Movies at Santikos Cinema- Tuesdays and Wednesdays thru July 16th at 10am.
Mission Marquee: Enjoy a free outdoor movie at this former drive in. There are 3 dates in July. Movies start at dusk.
It’s not a movie- but help your kids get their craft on with free Saturday craft projects at Lakeshore Learning.
Museum Hours for Free in San Antonio
San Antonio Fire Museum: Steps away from the Alamo, this free 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.
Institute of Texan Cultures: Kids 5 and under always free. Free for everyone the second Sunday of the month.
Witte Museum: Kids 3 and under are always free. Admission for all is free on Tuesdays from 3pm-8pm. Great exhibits for kids include the H-E-B Body Adventures.
The DoSeum: This fairly new children’s museum in San Antonio is full of hands on experiences for your littles. STEM is a big focus here and every first and third Tuesday H-E-B sponsors free admission from 6:30-8:30 pm for the first 1500 folks.
San Antonio Museum of Art: Tuesdays 4-9pm and Sundays 10am-noon.
McNay Museum: Free Thursday nights sponsored by H-E-B from 4-9pm. Teens 19 and under are free daily thanks to the John L. Santikos Charitable Foundation Fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation. 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.
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 4-9pm. During the summer, head there on Tuesday evenings for a free western movie (including free beer and popcorn!).