In search of authentic family getaways? Look no further than San Antonio. This
18th-century metropolis is one of America’s favorite cities. Filled with historic sites, theme parks and museums, San Antonio creates the perfect backdrop for a memorable family experience.
Step back in time to the days of colonial Spain when you visit the 18th Century Missions that spread European culture and converted native people to Christianity—forever changing the face of America. Originally established as a mission in 1718, TheAlamo is most well known for its 1836 battle where 189 defenders of Texas freedom held the mission against more than 4,000 Mexican soldiers for 13 days during the Texas Revolution. The Alamo remains in the heart of San Antonio as a symbol of liberty. Its tranquil gardens and famous façade welcome more than two million patrons each year.
San Antonio is also home to four other Spanish colonial missions, which comprise the largest collection of Spanish colonial architecture in North America and are collectively designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the Alamo. They are connected by the San Antonio River and Mission Trail, an ideal place to hike and bike. Native Americans built the missions, which fostered a sense of community and trained them as artisans. The “Queen of the Missions,” Mission San José was established in 1720. Its grand stone walls, bastions, granary and magnificent church took 62 years to complete. Arguably the most beautiful mission, Mission Concepción looks much like it did almost three centuries ago with original frescos and stunning limestone details. Mission San Juan’s fertile farmlands allowed it to be self-sustainable, while its surplus helped supply the region with produce. Mission Espada contains the best-preserved segment of the acequia (irrigation system) that was used to bring water to the fields. Peruse them all, perhaps during a Sunday mariachi mass as these four missions are still active Catholic parishes.
San Antonio is also a top destination for theme park lovers. Enjoy animal interactions, water parks, award-winning shows and thrilling rides. At SeaWorld San Antonio (the world’s largest marine life park), not only can you meet Shamu and feed the dolphins, but you can also see beluga whales, penguins, sea lions and more. Take a thrilling ride on roller coasters like Journey to Atlantis or The Great White and cool down in the Texas-sized water park where wave pools, lazy rivers and water slides are just the beginning.
Just down the road, Six Flags Fiesta Texas is kickin’ up a good time with more fun than you can pack into one day. Catch an entire ensemble of award-winning shows. Ride Batman: The Ride, the world’s first 4D roller coaster that brings their coaster count up to nine, and take a dip in the Texas-shaped pool at the White Water Bay water park. If you stay into the evening, there is a spectacular fireworks display as well.
Designed specifically for individuals with special needs, Morgan’s Wonderland is the world’s first ultra-accessible family fun park. Morgan’s Wonderland is completely wheelchair-accessible, and features more than 25 elements and attractions including rides, playgrounds, gardens, an eight-acre fishing lake, 18,000-square-foot special-events center, 575-seat amphitheater, picnic area and rest areas throughout the park. Following recent renovations, Morgan’s Wonderland features the world’s first and only ultra-accessible water park for its visitors.
Just north of San Antonio, Schlitterbahn has been ranked the #1 water park in the world according to the Travel Channel. Located on the banks of the spring-fed Comal River, Schlitterbahn has tube chutes, water slides, uphill water coasters and more. Families can cool off at Splashtown, a water park with 20 acres of attractions. Here, they will loop around the Siesta Del Rio, rock their cares away in the wave pool or shoot through miles of tubing fun.
San Antonio’s unique blend of art villages, marketplaces, outlet malls and chic retail spreads invites visitors to explore a shopping destination as rich and diverse as the city itself. Shopping with a view of the River Walk is available at The Shops at Rivercenter; take shopping outdoors at The Shops at La Cantera; or explore more than 200 discounted retailers at the Prime and Tanger outlet malls located in nearby San Marcos just north of the city. Kids especially love the largest pair of cowboy boots in the world, found right outside North Star Mall. Towering 40 feet high and 20 feet long, these boots are sure to kick-start a great time for every family!
San Antonio also has many museums to fill the day, including ones that are totally kid-centric. Little ones can roam through a miniature model of a city and play with sound and light in the Sensations Studio at The DoSeum—an interactive learning center where kids play to learn and parents learn to play. The nearby Witte Museum features scientific and historic exhibits like mummies and a dinosaur gallery. The Smithsonian-affiliated museum underwent a recent transformation to expand on popular archaeological attractions, add outdoor features, and provide new facilities for learning opportunities for children and adults alike. Discover the Witte’s various new additions, including laboratories, galleries, and classrooms. Here, children can try out the hands-on exhibits and see how science is used in the “real world.”
Families enjoy nationally acclaimed museums including Centro de Artes which proudly displays collections, exhibitions and educational programming dedicated to Latino culture. The Institute of Texan Cultures is another of the city’s Smithsonian affiliates. It tells the stories of the people and cultures that built Texas. Other notable museums include the McNay Art Museum, which has a grand collection of French Impressionist pieces and the San Antonio Museum of Art, which offers the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art—the largest repository of its kind.
More than 300 days of sunshine a year beckon families to enjoy the great outdoors. San Antonio sits on the cusp of the Texas Hill Country, a picturesque region that lures visitors with its beautiful terrain. Adventurers can tube or canoe down spring-fed rivers; fish, water-ski or sail at area lakes; and ride horseback across vast prairies and hike beneath the shade of stately live oaks.
For many, San Antonio is the Paseo del Rio, an urban masterpiece better known as the River Walk. These cobble- and flagstone paths border the San Antonio River, 20 feet below street level, as it winds through culture-rich downtown. The River Walk has multiple personalities, quiet and park-like in some stretches, while other areas are full of activity with European-style sidewalk cafes, specialty boutiques, art galleries, theaters, high-rise hotels and more. River cruises are available and accompanied by knowledgeable guides who share stories of surrounding sites. A total of 15 miles in length, the River Walk also offers artistic attractions which include the San Antonio Museum of Art, public art installations, and kayaking on the south end.
Animal lovers should make time for the San Antonio Zoo. It’s the third largest in the nation with more than 3,500 animals. Little discoverers can see rhinos and spider monkeys, visit the African Plains and Amazonia and peek under the sea at the aquarium. Nearby Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is the perfect place for a safari. Here, more than 500 animals from six of the seven continents roam free on a 400-acre preserve. The Giraffe Barn offers a chance to get close to the giraffes and their habitat. Nearby, families can explore the underground at Natural Bridge Caverns where they can tour and rappel undeveloped parts of the cave.
The city is full of park activities. Favorites include birding at Mitchell Lake Audubon Center and hiking along the shady trails at Brackenridge Park where a miniature train and picnicking along the San Antonio River attract locals.
Here are a few great stops for circumnavigating the world in the Alamo City. Make a stop at Market Square, the largest Mexican market north of the Rio Grande. Here, a rich mix of family owned cafes, artists and merchants fill fountain-laden plazas with the bright colors and warm hospitality of the Mexican culture. Nearby, the Historic King William District was settled in the early 19th century by German immigrants who built mansions along a slow bend in the San Antonio River. Their culture lives on in their beautiful houses which have been reincarnated into galleries, cafes and museums.
With more than 50 courses and practice greens, San Antonio is the perfect golf destination for families. They can take a shot at Hill Country resort courses; make a round along the San Antonio River at Brackenridge, Texas’ most historic course; or test their swings at one of many greens nestled in limestone rock quarries. And with theme parks and attractions close by, there’s something for every member of the family in San Antonio.
In San Antonio, visitors can catch a basketball game almost all year long. The four-time world champion San Antonio Spurs heat up the AT&T Center October through June, while the WNBA’s San AntonioSilver Stars take over from May through September. In the fall, University of Texas at San Antonio Roadrunner fans fill the Alamodome to see San Antonio’s first NCAA Football team. If you're in the mood for some peanuts and Cracker Jacks®, spend the evening with the San Antonio Missions. The Missions are the Double-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, so fans get to watch these future stars of the baseball diamond vie for a spot on a big-league roster. Prefer athletes on ice? When all the action gets too hot to handle, San Antonio Rampage ice hockey is definitely the coolest sport in town!
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Visit San Antonio
800-447-3372 About Visit San Antonio:
Visit San Antonio is a 501(c)6, and serves as the sales and marketing arm of San Antonio as a leading leisure and meetings destination. San Antonio welcomes 20.9 million overnight leisure visitors annually. Hospitality is one of the top five industries in the city, contributing $13.6 billion into the local economy and employing more than 130,000. More information about Visit San Antonio can be found at visitsanantonio.com.