San Antonio is famous for the Alamo, but there’s lots more to love about the city, especially if you love going outside.
Nicknamed the Alamo City and home of the Spurs, San Antonio is one of the biggest cities in Texas, but just because it’s a bustling metropolis doesn’t mean that visiting it requires spending all of your time hopping from one indoor space to another.
Yeah, that cool blast of air conditioning can feel heaven-sent if it’s a particularly hot summer day, but you know what else is nice? Experiencing all of the amazing outdoor activities the city has to offer amid its high rises and sprawling neighborhoods.
Here are some of San Antonio’s top outdoor activities, and you’ll see that many of them rank as the best things to do in the city in general. Put on your shades, pack some water, and get to exploring.
Related Read: 10 Best Weekend Road Trips from San Antonio, Texas
1. Hike or Bike the Mission Trail
Designated as a National Historical Park as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (the only one in the state), the San Antonio Missions, which were established in the 18th century, are really the gems of the city. There are four in the park: Mission Concepción, Mission San José, Mission San Juan, and Mission Espada, and you can see all of them by traveling along the paved hike and bike trail, which is about 15 miles long and runs along the river.
There are about 2.5 miles between each mission, and you’ll find bike rental stations along the way. Note that while the famous Alamo, or Misión San Antonio de Valero, is technically not included in this historical park, you can still get to it by heading north on the trail from Mission Concepción.
Pro tip: The trail isn’t a loop so plan ahead when/how you want to make your return trip.
2. Stroll or Cruise Along the River Walk
Speaking of the river…you can’t visit San Antonio without experiencing the River Walk at least once. Believe it or not, it’s said to be the most visited tourist attraction in all of Texas with literally millions of visitors coming to see it every year!
This 15-mile pedestrian walkway follows the San Antonio River, and along the way you’ll pass a colorful array of restaurants, bars, and shops. If you’re having trouble choosing where to stop for a bite with so many options available, consider a meal at Boudro’s, Supper, Ocho, or Biga on the Banks.
You can do your own self-guided River Walk tour by checking out the over 50 historic Hugman plaques along the trail (Robert H. H. Hugman was the architect behind the River Walk). Don’t feel like walking? Hop on a river cruise instead!
Pro tip: While individual business hours vary, the River Walk itself is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and there’s no admission fee.
3. Visit the Zoo
If you’re traveling with kids, visiting the local zoo is always a safe bet for all-age entertainment, and the San Antonio Zoo is a great one. Run by a non-profit organization, the zoo spans over 50 acres and you can find more than 750 species inside, including big and small cats, hippos, giraffes, and monkeys.
Bird lovers will also be excited to know that the bird collection here is one of the largest in the world. For closer encounters, the zoo offers a variety of animal experiences like giraffe feeding and behind the scenes with the rhinos. Standard admission starts at $21.73 for adults and $17.16 for children (ages 3 to 11).
Related Read: 5 Must-Do Scenic Train Rides in Texas
4. Check out the Botanical Garden
Located just across the way from the zoo, the San Antonio Botanical Garden offers a tranquil space to stroll among a variety of landscapes. Across the 38 acres, you’ll find an authentic Japanese garden (gifted by San Antonio’s sister city, Kumamoto), a family adventure garden, a conservatory with exotic plants, a trail showcasing more than 250 plant species native to Texas, and more.
Admission during the week costs $16 for adults and $13 for children (ages 3 to 13), and a couple of bucks more on the weekends. For more to do, check out one of the educational events the botanical garden puts on like culinary classes for adults, family night hikes, and children’s storytime.
Related Read: 7 Epic Places to Go Glamping Near San Antonio, Texas
5. Chill at Brackenridge Park
There are lots of parks across San Antonio, but Brackenridge Park is the favorite of many locals. Established in 1899 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it covers a whopping 343 acres, and technically the zoo is part of its attractions. And boy, are there a lot of attractions.
You can go for a miniature train ride, check out a show at the open-air amphitheater, play golf on an 18-hole course, walk along one of three trails, explore the Japanese Tea Garden…and so much more. You could easily spend a whole day here, and lucky for you, the park is open to visitors from 5 am to 11 pm every day.
Pro tip: There’s free parking available at the park, but if that’s full you can also park for free at the parking garage on Avenue B or the parking garage on Tuleta Drive.
6. Get Your Thrills at Six Flags Fiesta Texas
When’s the last time you let loose and let out some screams at a theme park? Six Flags Fiesta Texas is the place to go if you just can’t get enough of rollercoasters.
Face your fear of heights on Dr. Diabolical’s Cliffhanger, the world’s steepest dive roller coaster. Feel like you’re flying on the Dare Devil Dive Flying Machines. Satisfy your need for speed on Superman: Krypton Coaster, which reaches a max of 70 miles per hour.
Of course, there are plenty of chiller rides and entertainment too when you need a little break from that heart-pounding excitement.
Pro tip: AAA members should bring their cards to the ticket booth to get a $5 discount on general admission.
Related Read: 9 Best & Most Unique Airbnbs in San Antonio, Texas
7. Relax at Woodlawn Lake Park
Of the many green spaces you can relax in in San Antonio, the 62-acre Woodlawn Lake Park is particularly popular because of its lake. There’s just something different about looking out onto a body of water that makes it feel like you’ve truly escaped the bustling city for a bit.
Here, you can cast a line from one of the docks, paddle a bit in a canoe or kayak, or walk the trail that goes around the water. Other activities include swimming at the public pool, shooting some hoops at the gym, and playing tennis at the outdoor courts.
Related Read: 13 Awesome Things to Do in Lubbock, Texas
8. Shop at the Pearl Farmers Market
From its beginnings way back in 1883 as a brewery, The Pearl has become one of the hottest districts to hang out in thanks to its numerous hip restaurants and boutique retailers — not to mention its spacious green areas and unique, historic architecture. While its fun to visit any day of the week, it’s especially nice on Saturday and Sunday mornings when you can find the farmers market here.
Whether it’s sunny skies or raining, you’ll find local farmers, ranchers, and artisans selling their goods. In 2021, it even made USA Today’s top 10 list of best farmers markets in the country.
Pro tip: Go on Saturday if you’re interested more in produce and meat, and stop by on Sunday for more handmade goods and packaged/prepared culinary products.
Related Read: The 7 Best State Parks Near San Antonio, Texas
9. Swim at San Pedro Springs Park
Did you know that San Antonio is home to the oldest park in the state, which also happens to be one of the oldest city parks in the country? That would be San Pedro Springs Park, which King Philip V of Spain declared as public land for the settlers back in the early 18th century. Humans have been present in this area long before that, however, with archaeological evidence dating back 12,000 years.
The highlight of this park is its swimming pool, which makes for a refreshing place to cool off during those sweltering hot summer days. Even better: It’ll cost you nothing to visit.
Pro tip: The pool can get crowded on the weekends, so if you can, try to come during off hours during the week.
10. See the Animals at Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch
It’s not every day that a buffalo sticks their nose in your car window, but at Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch that’s the norm! At this popular safari park, you can drive your own car through the property as various exotic animals like buffalo, ostriches, antelope, and impala come up to you to get some snacks (you’ll get a bag of animal food with your ticket).
It normally takes about one to 1.5 hours to make your way through the six-mile safari trek, but you can lengthen your visit with a trip on foot to the giraffe barn and the lemur habitat.
Pro tip: There’s no need to stop at just one trip through the park. You can keep going through as many times as you like with your admission as long you don’t exit the premises and return later in the day.
Get epic travel ideas delivered to your inbox with Weekend Wanderer, our newsletter inspiring more than 10,000 readers every week.