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35 Free Things to do in San Antonio (You Will Love)

Texas, known for “everything is bigger” and “don’t mess with,” can make some people assume that Texas isn’t the best place for tourism. 

That is not true at all, though. 

Texas is big on hospitality, a diverse landscape, and incredible cultural experiences, and San Antonio, TX, is no exception. 

San Antonio consistently makes the list of top cities to visit in Texas year after year.

With a blend of Tex-Mex culture and some amazing sights, San Antonio, TX, is one of the most visited cities in the Lone Star state, but that doesn’t mean that San Antonio has to break the bank. 

Honestly, there are so many great free things to do in San Antonio that you could stay busy for days!

Or better yet, you could live in San Antonio; it is truly that great city!

Take it from us: we are Texas natives and still call this great state home. 

You are in good hands, my friend.  It doesn’t matter if you have a weekend in San Antonio or a month in San Antonio; there is enough to keep you entertained. 

So sit back, relax, and let us show you all the amazing things to do in San Antonio.

*This post contains affiliate links.  By purchasing through these links, we get a small commission at no additional cost. That Texas Couple also participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.  As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.

Free Things to Do in San Antonio

San Antonio, TX River Walk

san antonio weekend and free things to do in san antonio-the riverwalk

The San Antonio River Walk boasts numerous restaurants, bars, hotels, and shops lining the San Antonio River in downtown San Antonio, TX. 

Here, you stroll the San Antonio River, taking in all of the great cultural activities around this area. 

There is great art installation lining the river, and often you will come across mariachi bands playing up and down the river.

There is also a stage where live performances can often be seen.

Many people don’t realize how long the river walk is. 

You can stroll San Antonio’s River Walk to Mission Espada if you choose! 

We especially love visiting the San Antonio Riverwalk at Christmas

The entire river is decorated with so many lights!  It’s truly magical. 

Honestly, the whole city gets in the holiday spirit, making San Antonio, TX, one of the great Texas Christmas towns.

The River Walk is one of San Antonio’s highlights and is always free to enjoy.

San Antonio Fire Museum

The San Antonio Fire Museum is a fun little museum free to the public on the first Tuesday of every month from 12-4 p.m. 

Here, visitors can enjoy looking at old fire engines, antique fire fighting equipment, and other fire-related artifacts that date back to the mid-1800s. 

Kids will enjoy playing with some apparatus and trying on the fire suites.

The Fire Museum is one of San Antonio’s unique attractions, and it’s free on the first Tuesday from 12-4.

You will find the museum at 801 Houston Street, San Antonio, TX.

Market Square (El Mercado)

colorful flags are decorations in San Antonio's market square-one of the free things to do in San Antonio

Also known as El Mercado, Market Square is an area of San Antonio, TX, that you must visit

Market Square is the largest Mexican market in San Antonio.

No, wait, Market Square is the largest Mexican market in the United States!

This fun yet compact marketplace houses over 100 local restaurants, shops, bars, and vendor stalls. 

Come to Market Square for the perfect San Antonio souvenir, and try some amazing Tex-Mex or a delicious Mexican pastry from Mi Tierra’s.

If you’re lucky, you might also be able to catch one of the many live performances that take place in the Farmer’s Market Food Court or on the stages often set up outside of the Farmer’s Market vendor areas.

This area is fun to explore and completely free!

Yanaguana Garden

Yanaguana Garden is a great place to visit in San Antonio, TX. 

Here visitors are treated to free access to numerous games such as chess, checkers, cornhole, and ping pong. 

The free park also has numerous art installations, great playgrounds, and a splash pad for the kids. 

Plan your visit just right, and you can also enjoy one of the many free events that are held here throughout the year.

Visit The Alamo

the alamo building is one of the free things to do in san antonio-Texas bucket list

Of course, everyone from Texas knows the phrase “Remember the Alamo,” made famous from the Battle of the Alamo and the Texas Revolution. 

Honestly, a trip to San Antonio, TX, would not be complete without including this historical site and a visit to the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.

Especially since the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park offers free admission. 

One of the many missions on the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, the Alamo, was once called the Mision San Antonio de Valero. 

This historic mission was converted to a fortress in the 18th century and was later home to one of the most famous battles of the Lone Star State during the Texas Revolution.

While many original structures were destroyed in this battle, visitors today can still enjoy the Alamo by touring the preserved structures. 

These structures include the chapel, some of the barracks, and the courtyard. 

There is also a display of weaponry and artifacts for visitors to enjoy.

The Alamo offers guided tours and self-guided tours.

To find this Texas Revolution historical site, head to 300 Alamo Plaza Street, San Antonio, TX to find this jewel.

The address is 300 Alamo Plaza San Antonio, TX, and entry is free.

Brackenridge Park

bear at the San Antonio zoo

Located north of downtown San Antonio, TX, Brackenridge Park is fabulous and free! 

Brackenridge Park is a 343-acre park home to the San Antonio Zoo (entrance fee), the Japanese Tea Garden, the Botanical Gardens (entrance fee), museums, baseball fields, and numerous trails and pavilions. 

You can pack a picnic and find the perfect place to enjoy the day in the sunshine here at Brackenridge Park.

Even though the San Antonio Zoo charges a fee, you should consider visiting, as the San Antonio Zoo is great!

The city of San Antonio prides itself on its parks, so be sure to visit one of the best free attractions in the city!

Witte Museum

One of the museums in Brackenridge Park, the Witte Museum, houses permanent collections featuring historic photographs, paintings, dinosaur remains, cave drawings, and more. 

The Naylor Family Dinosaur Gallery is a family-friendly area that allows you to explore animals that lived in this area more than 110 million years ago! 

The Ethan Walsh Ocean Exhibit allows you to discover what the state was like when it was covered by the ocean over 90 million years ago. 

In addition, there are numerous hands-on activities to keep adults and kids entertained for hours during their visit to the Witte Museum. 

Combine these permanent exhibits with the roaming exhibits, and you have the makings for a great outing at the Witte Museum.

It is important to note that the Witte Museum only offers free admission on Tuesdays from 3 pm until 8 pm, so plan accordingly.

This is one of the best free museum deals!

Cibolo Nature Center

bridge and greenery at Cibolo Nature Center

Located a short drive outside of San Antonio, TX, toward Boerne, The Cibolo Nature Center has 3 miles of walking trails for visitors to enjoy.

Millions of years ago, the Cibolo Nature Center was home to dinosaurs that roamed this area. 

Evidence of that can still be found in the tracks inside the public park. 

There is also a boardwalk, picnic areas, a Pavillion, and an auditorium on the site.

During the hot summer months, bring a swimsuit to cool off in Cibolo Creek. 

This beautiful creek is lined with Cypress trees, providing the perfect respite from the summer heat.

Phil Hardberger Park

Phil Hardberger Park is a 311-acre park home to an outdoor classroom, dog park, play area, and loads of hiking and biking trails for visitors to enjoy.

Phil Hardberger Park is a natural area dedicated to preserving 75% of the park and keeping it in its natural state.

Bijou Cinema Bistro

Located in the Wonderland of the Americas Mall, the Bijou Cinema Bistro offers moviegoers a fun movie experience. 

Not only that, but every Thursday night at 7 pm, you can catch a free movie. 

Be sure to get there early, though, as tickets are gone fast.

Holocaust Museum of San Antonio

The Holocaust Museum of San Antonio aims to educate the public on the horrible atrocities associated with World War II. 

Visitors can participate in self-guided or guided tours of the museum free of charge.

San Antonio has some great museums, so don’t overlook them during your visit.

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

visit the mission on your weekend in San Antonio as one of the free things to do in san antonio

While the Alamo is the most famous of the San Antonio Missions, visitors should not miss the other missions in San Antonio, TX

They are so important historically that they are the ONLY UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas! 

The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park houses and preserves four Spanish Colonial missions and their grounds. 

These missions include Mission San Jose, Mission Concepcion, Mission Espada, and Mission San Juan.

*Note-one of our favorite restaurants in San Antonio is across from Mission San Jose, Nichas. You have to eat there while exploring Mission San Jose!

What exactly is a mission? 

The missions of San Antonio were walled compounds that included a church and buildings where priests and Native American Indians lived. 

This area along the San Antonio River represents the largest concentration of Spanish missions in the United States.

Today, you can visit San Antonio Missions National Park, which encompasses an 8-mile stretch, easily by taking one of the free mission busses that leave from the front of the Alamo. 

All missions in the San Antonio Missions National Park are free to enter and explore.

Mission San Juan is really interesting as it is close to the Yanaguana Trail, a trail that many refer to as ‘an oasis in the city.’

Adding Mission San Juan to your list is a must!

The Missions National Historic Park in San Antonio has to be on your list!

The Japanese Tea Gardens

San Antonio’s Japanese Tea Garden is peaceful and serene, a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. 

Located inside of Brackenridge Park, this garden will make you feel like you have been transported to a faraway land. 

Complete with a Japanese pagoda, koi ponds, a waterfall, and stone paths, the Japanese Tea Garden is such a treat. 

Best of all, the Japanese Tea Gardens is open to the public and offers free admission.

The address is 3835 N. St. Mary’s Street, San Antonio, TX.

St Mary’s Street (St Mary’s Strip)

Head to St. Mary’s Street, lovingly known as North St. Mary’s Strip, to enjoy a great area full of nightlife, stores, and great restaurants.

It is located north of downtown San Antonio.

During the 1980s, the crowds would rival Austin’s 6th Street crowds.

Unfortunately, the area experienced some downtrodden years but has since been revitalized and is now a fun place to hang out in Austin, TX.

Be sure to check this interesting street Street San Antonio, TX.

Pearl Brewery

The historic Pearl Brewery once pushed out the iconic TX beer, Pabst Blue Ribbon. 

The Pearl Brewery operated as a brewery from 1883 until 2001.

Now, this historic brewery is located north of downtown and is one of the trendiest places in San Antonio, TX. 

This mixed-use facility now houses cool bars and restaurants, fun outdoor spaces, and numerous retail shops. 

Not only that, but this area is home to numerous free events throughout the year, including a Farmer’s Market, dance parties, and live music. 

Be sure to check their schedule, as the live music changes nightly.

The Third Culinary Institute of America now calls this area home and welcomes patrons!

McNay Art Museum

McNay Art Museum is one of the free things to do in San Antonio

The McNay Art Museum not only houses a wonderful selection of art, but the building itself is a work of art! 

The structure, which is a 24-room Spanish colonial revival mansion, has been welcoming visitors for years.

Famous artist Marion Koogler McNay donated the mansion.

The museum houses 19th and 20th-century American and European art. 

Boasting artwork from renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keefe, and Paul Cezanne, this is not a museum to miss. 

There is also a beautiful outdoor area for you to explore while visiting that contains a Japanese garden and fish pond.

Please note that the McNay Art Museum only offers free admission on Thursday nights from 4 to 9 p.m. 

San Pedro Creek Culture Park

San Pedro Creek Culture Park is not your typical public park.

This free park combines public art, architecture, and local craft with the beauty of nature to create an awesome community park.

If you need to cool off from the hot summer sun, you can put your feet in the creek at San Pedro Park, but swimming is not allowed.

Enjoy the beautiful public art display, see the historic wall, and enjoy nature here.

San Antonio Museum of Art

The San Antonio Museum of Art is located right next to the San Antonio River and houses a large art installation of Asian art and some valuable Mediterranean artifacts. 

The San Antonio Museum of Art is also well known for its contemporary art displays.

While there is usually an entry fee, you can still add this to your list of the best free things to do.

The museum is free for Bexar County Residents on Tuesday evenings from 4-9 p.m., or on Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon. 

The museum also hosts several free classes and workshops for you to try your hand at creating contemporary art.

Please check their website for current pricing and events.

San Antonio Art League and Museum

The San Antonio Art League and Museum (SAALM) is in the King William Historic District. 

his free museum is unique as it focuses on Texas artists. 

The 19th-century carriage house is home to over 600 works of art and is completely free to visit.

San Pedro Creek Cultural Park

This recently transformed drainage area in San Antonio, TX, is now an amazing free public park dubbed the San Pedro Creek Culture Park. 

Phase one of the park was completed in 2018 and opened to the public. 

Located on the western edge of town, this area includes native landscapes and numerous art installations. 

One of the most noteworthy art installations is “Rain from the Heavens.”  This custom tile work adorns a dozen generational benches. 

The other artwork commissioned here depicts the history and culture of the San Pedro Creek area.

McAllister Park

Located right in the center of town, McAllister Park is a great way to escape to nature. 

The free park boasts gorgeous vistas, beautiful vegetation, and many walking and biking trails.   

McAllister Park also has several sporting fields, including baseball, soccer, and rugby. 

Children love the children’s play area, while adults can enjoy the fitness stations and numerous picnic areas.

Light Show on the San Fernando Cathedral

San Fernando Cathedral is one of the free things to do in San Antonio

Yes, you read that correctly.  San Antonio has a light show on the side of a cathedral. 

The San Fernando Cathedral showcases the light show, The Saga, which outlines years of San Antonio’s history. 

You can catch the free show on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights at the San Fernando Cathedral at 9 p.m., 9:30 p.m., and 10 p.m. 

This show is one of the best free activities in San Antonio.

Hemisfair Park

Hemisfair Park is an urban park oasis located in the heart of San Antonio, TX.

Park amenities include a free splash pad, climbing structures, picnic tables, chess and checkers tables, corn hole, and more!

Alamo Plaza San Antonio (Plaza de Armas)

You will find the Plaza de Armas located in the heart of downtown San Antonio adjacent to Hemisfair Park.

Alamo Plaza is the commercial center that formed around the historic Alamo.

The free area includes the Alamo Chapel and complex, the open public use space, and the commercial resources around the plaza.

Institute of Texas Cultures

The Institute of Texas Cultures is a fabulous place to put on your list of things to do in San Antonio. 

Here, you can enjoy exhibits, educational programs, and cultural events. 

They open their doors on the second Sunday of each month (except June) for people to come and enjoy for free. 

The Sundays are themed and are centered around games, performances, live music, guest speakers, and more.

King William Historic District

historic home in San Antonio's King William Historic District

This designated Cultural Arts District in San Antonio is just off the San Antonio Riverwalk. 

Named after King Wilhelm I of Prussia by the German immigrants who settled here.

The King William Historic District has gorgeous Victorian homes, ice houses, and art galleries. 

Check out the San Antonio Art League and Museum and the Guenther House while visiting the King William Historic District.

The DoSeum

The DoSeum is unlike any other museum you have visited.  Here, children are encouraged to touch, explore, and learn. 

The theory is to spark a kid’s interest in STEM subjects, literacy, and the arts by allowing them to participate and interact with the displays. 

Free admission is offered on the first Tuesday of every month from 6:30-8:30. 

Tickets start being given out at 4 p.m. at the museum’s entrance.

Historic San Antonio Shoe Factory

Located on the south side of San Antonio, the San Antonio Shoe Factory has been in business since 1976. 

The factory is open to the public and offers free tours to see the shoemaking process from start to finish. 

You can also visit the General Store and purchase some of the products. 

There is also an ice cream parlor, candy shop, classic car display, and a gifts department. 

Another fun thing about SAS is that they offer a variety of concessions (popcorn, soda, roasted nuts) at super cheap prices.

The free factory tours depart from the General Store Monday-Thursday at 9:15 a.m., 12:30, and 2:05 p.m. 

The tour is a walking tour and takes about 45 minutes.  Anyone over the age of six is welcome to attend.

See San Antonio’s Awesome Street Art

street art is one of the free things to do in san antonio

Street art is becoming increasingly prevalent throughout cities, and San Antonio is no exception. 

The goal of the San Antonio Street Art Initiative is to create the largest outdoor art installation in the state. 

Now, that’s no small feat!  And it’s free to enjoy!

Throughout the city, you will see these vibrant murals that help to showcase the cultural significance of street art. 

There are permanent public art spots under the highway on St. Mary’s Street and Quincy and on Essex Street.

We love checking out the free public art in the cities we visit. What about you?

Hot Wells of Bexar County

The Hot Wells of Bexar County is a San Antonio, TX icon, much beloved by the locals. 

he Hot Wells, now only ruins, was once the hot spot in town.

Celebrities and movie stars flocked here to take in the healing waters of Hot Wells when it was a hotel and spa. 

Unfortunately, it burned down, but that didn’t stop people from continuing to sneak in and relax in the hot spring water.

Recently, the Hot Well was restored by the county and has since been reopened for people to enjoy. 

You can find Hot Well along the southern stretch of the River Walk.

The best part is that they are free to visit!

The Quadrangle and Fort Sam Houston

The Quadrangle at Fort Sam Houston is one of the best things to do in San Antonio. 

Fort Sam Houston is the second oldest military installation in the state. 

Visitors are greeted by deer and peacocks that roam freely throughout the grounds. 

You can also view a display of uniforms and old weapons before watching a movie that tells you more about the fort’s history, all for free!! 

Bring some crackers to feed the animals or buy pet food on-site.

Briscoe Western Art Museum

If you visit for the “cowboy culture,” you will want to check out the Briscoe Western Art Museum. 

This museum houses art, historical artifacts, film memorabilia, paintings, and other artwork that depicts the great American West. 

Visitors will enjoy learning about the Native Americans who called this area home and the first settlers who moved into Texas. 

The museum is free Tuesday evenings from 4-9 p.m. or anytime for the military and their families.

Historic La Villita

Historic La Villita sign in San Antonio

La Villita is a historic art community located right off of the River Walk in downtown San Antonio.

The La Villita area is on the National Registry of Historic Places due to its unique architecture. 

Here, you will find historic structures ranging from adobe to Victorian.

This cute little village welcomes visitors to come and browse the many shops and galleries in this historic area of San Antonio for free! 

Visitors will find nearly 30 shops and galleries offering unique handcrafted creations.

Slab Cinema

Who doesn’t love an outdoor movie? 

Well, thanks to Slab Cinema, you can enjoy a free outdoor movie while visiting San Antonio. 

Slab Cinema pops up at some of the coolest spots throughout San Antonio, offering visitors the opportunity to enjoy a free movie. 

The movies are usually family-friendly films, but they do vary sometimes. 

You can check their website to see what is coming up and where they will be. 

Grab a picnic, a blanket, and some friends, and have a  great night out for free!

Headwaters Sanctuary at the University of the Incarnate Word

Located on the campus of the University of the Incarnate Word, the Headwaters Sanctuary is a great addition to your things to do in San Antonio if you are a nature lover, and it’s free. 

This area is great for bird watching, hiking, or just spending a lazy day outside.

Final Thoughts on San Antonio’s Free Attractions

San Antonio is truly an amazing city and one of our favorites in Texas. 

As you can see, there are so many free activities in San Antonio that you could stay busy for a week and never spend a dime.  Well, except for food.  LOL!

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Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight:

We love using CheapOAir, Kayak, and Kiwi to search for the best flight prices. We love using these search engines because they search the web for airlines worldwide to ensure you get the best deal! In addition to flights, you can also find great hotel prices on Kayak and Kiwi.

Book Your Vacation Package:

If you want to book an entire vacation package, we suggest using Expedia. We love how easy Expedia is to use, and we always find good deals on entire vacation packages on their site.

Another great site for vacation packages is BookVIP. BookVIP offers super cheap vacation packages to incredible destinations. You are sure to save money using their site!

For full guided vacations, including hotels, some meals, transportation, and guides, then we book with Trafalgar. Trafalgar is a trusted tour company that will meet all your needs while ensuring a great experience.

Trip.com allows you to book flights, hotels, train tickets, rental cars, airport transfers, tours, and more all on one site. Owned by the parent company that also owns Skyscanner, this is a trusted resource for travel booking and a great “one-stop shop.”

Book Your Accommodations:

We always begin our search by checking out honest reviews on TripAdvisor hotels. This allows us to narrow our search for specific properties once we are ready to book. Of course, you can also book directly on the TripAdvisor site!

There are several accommodation sites that we like to use. One of our favorites is Booking.com because it offers a wide variety of hotels and guesthouses at a good price.

Another “go-to” hotel booking site for us is Hotels.com. We love their loyalty program that allows you to earn free nights, and their “secret prices” for members are fabulous deals!

HotelsCombined is another cool site. They allow you to compare all the top travel sites with one search to ensure you find the best deal out there. Kayak works in this way as well.

If you want a luxurious all-inclusive vacation, consider checking out the Sandals/Beaches properties. Sandals properties are for couples only and Beaches are for families. We have visited Sandals in the past and absolutely love the attention to detail and the service they provide.

Tour Companies We Trust:

We love taking guided tours when visiting new places. Our go-to tour companies are Viator.com and Get Your Guide. Both of these companies have been in business for years and provide excellent customer service. You can trust booking tours from their sites for sure!

For a guided city tour, check out City Sightseeing and BigBus Tours. These bus tours are so much fun and easy to hop on and hop off at top attractions in cities around the world.

CityPass is a great way to save money when visiting large cities. CityPass allows you to get free admission to major attractions once you buy their pass. The savings add up quickly with this pass, often saving 50% with combined admissions.

Another great pass to save money in larger cities is the Sightseeing Pass. This pass allows you to save valuable time and money by combining admissions to major attractions. They also have a handy app that keeps everything you need at your fingertips.

Looking to Save Time and Money?

Check out our resource page for all of our favorite vendors. These companies help us to save time and money on our travels!

Let’s Connect on Social Media!

Michelle Snell-Founder That Texas Couple

About the Author

Michelle Snell is a travel writer, history buff, wine lover, and enthusiast of different cultures. Michelle enjoys bringing places to life through creative content creation and her informative writing style on her blogs, That Texas Couple and Totally Texas Travel and accompanying social media accounts.  She is happiest sipping wine in Italy or chilling on a beach with her husband, Marty.

Rudy @ Backpack & Snorkel

Wednesday 7th of October 2020

Very interesting. I have been to 4 or 5 of the attractions you describe. It seems I need to come again, as I missed a lot.

Renata Green

Tuesday 6th of October 2020

What a great place! I've never been to this part of the US but would certainly love to explore since somehow, it's the epitome of the US. What I find especially interesting in Texas is the Mexican heritage - it's called San Antonio for a reason ;-)

Carol Colborn

Tuesday 6th of October 2020

So many other things to see in San Antonio. It would be nice to go back!

Farrah

Friday 3rd of July 2020

I haven't had a chance to visit San Antonio yet but I'm all for budget travel and finding free things to do! :] I'd love to check out the museums and the sanctuary!

thattexascouple

Friday 3rd of July 2020

You should visit San Antonio when you get a chance. It is a beautiful city!

Kelly

Monday 29th of June 2020

I have only been to Houston before, but San Antonio looks like a great place to explore too now that I know what there is to do there. Thanks for all the suggestions :)

thattexascouple

Tuesday 30th of June 2020

San Antonio is a pretty town. It is a large city but has a small town feel :)