PeaceJoyAustin

Cheap, free, and local-endorsed things to do in beautiful places

San Antonio

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  • Home to Texas’ most popular tourist destinations: The Riverwalk & The Alamo
  • Very affordable food and drinks (outside of tourist areas)
  • Centered around the tranquil San Antonio River

Metro population: 2.4 million (#25 in the U.S.)

When To Visit: Year-round

Climate: Mostly sunny, hot, and dry year round with more moderate temperatures in the winter.

San Antonio is one of the toughest cities in which to escape from tourist traps (partly because there’s so many great ones), which makes the local areas that much more authentic and devoid of fellow map-toting tourists. You’ll find plenty to do and see in this vibrant metropolis that has everything from UNESCO heritage sites to an island that’s known as a spot of good luck for newlyweds.

Photo: San Antonio Riverwalk

Where To Go in San Antonio

Downtown San Antonio

The Alamo: You can’t forget to stop by one of the country’s most iconic historic landmarks! It’s quite a cool spot to explore, but be prepared for the fact that it’s actually quite a bit smaller than you might expect. Free admission or $15 for a guided hour-long tour. 300 Alamo Plaza. (210) 225-1391

RiverWalk: A 15 mile riverside path that’s so unique and pretty that it’s Texas’ #1 visited tourist attraction. The center of the walk is dotted with cute bridges and riverside dining, shopping, and nightlife. It’s a must-see area through which to take a walk. Free. 849 East Commerce Street. (210) 227-4262

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San Antonio Riverwalk

Tower of The Americas: Built for the 1968 World’s Fair, this 750-foot tall building is taller than Seattle’s Space Needle! Once you reach the top, you can take a 360° walk around to see stunning views of greater San Antonio. Admission includes a hilariously cheesy yet quite pretty simulator ride through the state of Texas. $12 admission. 739 E César E. Chávez Boulevard. (210) 223-3101

King William Historic District: This neighborhood built by German immigrants in the late 1800s has architecturally stunning homes to admire, many of which have now become galleries, shops, and eateries. Free. 122 Madison Street. (210) 227-8786

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King William Historic District

Southtown: The cuisine in this popular arts district is nationally renowned and there’s a First Friday art event that attracts thousands of locals every month. Free.

Blue Star Arts Complex: In the heart of Southtown, this art colony hosts a contemporary art museum and tons of small galleries and artists’ studios, most of which you can enter and observe. Stop at the Blue Star Provisions store for some of San Antonio’s best kolache (a Czech pastry popular in the area). Free. 116 Blue Star. (210) 227-6960

San Antonio Museum of Art: Housed in a former brewery, this unique building constructed in 1881 houses over 30,000 objects dating back 5,000 years. $10 admission (free Tuesday evenings and Sunday mornings). 200 West Jones Avenue. (210) 978-8100

Greater San Antonio

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A home in Monte Vista

The Pearl District: Many locals’ favorite area, The Pearl is one of the most fun and hip neighborhoods in San Antonio, with many of the city’s most popular bars and restaurants. Free. 303 Pearl Parkway. (210) 212-7260

Monte Vista: This tranquil neighborhood dates back to the 1800s and has a mix of historic homes and great eats and drinks. Free. 148 East Huisache Avenue.

San Antonio Missions National Historic Park: If you have a car, take the Mission Trail driving tour which takes you by all four missions that encompass this park. If you only have time for one, check out Mission San José, one of the oldest and coolest buildings in the city and a great off-the-radar alternate to The Alamo. Free. 701 East Pyron Avenue, Harlandale. (210) 922-0543

McNay Art Museum: This gorgeous Spanish colonial estate turned art museum has elegantly manicured gardens to explore. Closed Mondays. Teens free, students $15, adults $20. 6000 North New Braunfels Avenue, Alamo Heights. (210) 824-5368

San Antonio Cheap Eats

San Antonio restaurants and fast casual eateries popular with locals where you can get a full meal for under $15 (often under $10). I always highlight some vegan or vegetarian options – cutting down on the amount of meat you eat is by far the #1 way you can reduce your environmental impact and contribute less to animal cruelty.

Battalion: A shockingly affordable hip Italian restaurant, this recently opened eatery has classy decor and an array of top-notch pasta dishes.  604 South Alamo Street, Southtown. (210) 816-0088

The Esquire Tavern: If you want to eat on the RiverWalk (as you should!), this lounge which opened way back in the day at the end of Prohibition is one of your best bets. Their happy hour food menu is on point and the main menu has a great mix of Southwestern, Mexican, and American dishes. 155 East Commerce Street, RiverWalk. (210) 222-2521

Mary Lou’s Cafe: A casual spot with excellent renditions of many popular Mexican dishes. Many entrées are under $10! 4405 McCullough Road, Olmos Park. (210) 396-7909

Green Vegetarian Cuisine: This 100% vegetarian restaurant is great for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! The vegified versions of popular meat dishes are amazingly good. 200 East Grayson Street, Suite 120, The Pearl. (210) 320-5865

Rosario’s: Solid, affordable TexMex right by the RiverWalk. Come during happy hour Monday-Thursday 3-6pm for $3.50 margaritas! 910 South Alamo Street, King William. (210) 223-1806

Taco Taco: The breakfast tacos at this casual joint are to die for! They also serve some Tex Mex favorites and their signature norteño tacos. 145 East Hildebrand Avenue, Monte Vista. (210) 822-9533

El Sol: This very simple, down-home restaurant has some of the best Mexican food in the city; they’re especially known for their enchiladas. 1815 Pleasanton Road, Harlandale. (210) 923-5553

San Antonio Nightlife

San Antonio bars, lounges, and clubs that are popular with locals and meet one or more of these criteria: A) Unique, unlike anyplace you’ll find in another city B) Fun and lively, sure to be a good time C) Beautiful decor or view

Joey’s: A colorful two-level pub with an array of games, a great food menu, and delicious specialty cocktails and ciders. 2417 North St. Mary’s Street, Tobin Hill. (210) 733-9573

Paramour: This posh rooftop bar has excellent views of the city and plenty of room to spread out. It’s a great spot to watch the sunset. 102 9th Street, Suite 400, Downtown. (210) 340-9880

The Friendly Spot: A huge patio with seating and games is the main draw to this casual spot with a variety of beers on tap, multiple rooms, and even a playground for kids. 943 South Alamo Street, Southtown. (210) 224-2337

Blue Box: A modern bar with craft cocktails in an industrial setting, Blue Box’s excellent happy hour goes until 8pm. 312 Pearl Parkway, The Pearl. (210) 227-2583

1919: You’ll find an old-school speakeasy vibe at this quiet, classy lounge that specializes in craft cocktails. 1420 South Alamo Street, Southtown. (210) 227-1420

Bonham Exchange: A popular three-level gay club with four dancefloors each playing different music, there’s something for everyone at this club located in a historic building. Drinks are cheap! 411 Bonham Street, Downtown. (210) 224-9219

The House Boozy Ice Cream & Brews: This unique spot serves delicious alcohol-infused ice cream in addition to floats and dessert cocktails. 732 South Alamo Street, Southtown. (210) 919-3553

Nearby Side Trips from San Antonio

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Hamilton Pool

Enchanted Rock: If you have the time for the 1.5 hour drive to this gigantic pink granite dome, do it! It’s an incredible sight to see looming above the plains. $7 per person admission

Hamilton Pool: One of Texas’ most beautiful natural wonders, this green swimming hole below a huge dome is a tranquil escape from the city only 1.5 hours away. $15 admission.

Austin: “Keep Austin Weird” is this liberal haven’s unofficial motto. The city one hour to the north has some of the country’s best live music and tons of natural beauty to explore. Read more.

Houston: One of the country’s largest cities 3 hours east, Houston’s growth has been accelerated by its position as a hub of the country’s oil industry, but its diverse population is shaping it into a more cosmopolitan city. Read more.

Dallas: 4 hours north of San Antonio, Dallas’ metropolitan area is the 4th largest in the country and its immense size offers a variety of opportunities for sightseeing in this very urban city that’s managed to retain a lot of its cowboy character. Read more.

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