AAA Travel Tips / Free Things to Do in San Antonio

Free Things to Do in San Antonio

AAA/Laurie Sterbens
By AAA Travel Editor Laurie Sterbens
May 10, 2019
The best things in life are free, as the saying goes, and this can also be true for your San Antonio vacation. This destination is filled with excellent attractions including art museums, gardens and historical sites, and many of them are free, while others offer regular free admission days. Here are some of the best free things to do in San Antonio.
The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas
AAA/Laurie Sterbens
The Alamo
300 Alamo Plaza
(210) 225-1391
The Mission San Antonio de Valero, founded in 1718, was the first of the Spanish missions established along the San Antonio River. Later abandoned, it became a fortress and the site of the 1836 Battle of the Alamo. Now commonly known as the Alamo, it’s much more than just a memorial to the soldiers who died there. Admission is free to walk through the mission-era church and Long Barracks Museum; view the Calvary Courtyard, gardens and a living-history encampment; watch a documentary; and listen to scheduled history talks. For a fee, you can take a guided tour or rent a self-guiding audio tour.
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Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio
AAA/Laurie Sterbens
Japanese Tea Garden
3853 N. St. Mary's St.
(210) 212-4814
The San Antonio Japanese Tea Garden, also known as the Sunken Garden, is a jewel of an attraction in Brackenridge Park, near the San Antonio Zoo. Created on the site of an abandoned limestone quarry, the park is an oasis where shaded walkways lead through colorful floral displays, over clear, blue koi ponds and past a 60-foot waterfall. A café near the entrance offers a variety of teas and light lunch fare including salads, sandwiches and sushi.
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AAA/Laurie Sterbens
The McNay Art Museum
6000 N. New Braunfels Ave.
(210) 824-5368
A 24-room Spanish Colonial Revival home forms the core of the McNay Art Museum, the first modern art museum in Texas. Opened in 1954, it has grown from Marion McNay's original collection of more than 700 works to an expanded facility housing more than 22,000 works, including Medieval and Renaissance art, European and American works of the 19th through 20th centuries, a theater arts collection, art glass and Southwestern art. The beautifully landscaped grounds feature a Japanese-inspired garden and a collection of outdoor sculpture. The museum is always free for kids and teens, and there is free admission for adults from 4 to 9 p.m. every Thursday, as well as the first Sunday of each month.
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Tour boat along San Antonio River Walk.
AAA/Laurie Sterbens
River Walk
E. Commerce St.
(210) 227-4262
As one of San Antonio's most famous attractions, the River Walk is a don't-miss activity during your trip. The good news is that it's also free. While you will, of course, have to pay if you choose to dine in one of the many tempting restaurants or take a boat tour, there's no charge to simply stroll along the shady stone paths, soaking up the scenery and watching the boats drift by. With its lush landscaping, sculptures and stone bridges, the River Walk offers some of the city's best photo ops, day or night.
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Mission Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion de Acuna (Mission Concepcion) in San Antonio Missions National Historic Park
AAA/Laurie Sterbens
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
6701 San Jose Dr.
(210) 932-1001
The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park includes four of the five historic Spanish missions along the San Antonio River. Stop at the visitor center next to Mission San Jose, where you can watch an orientation video before setting out to explore the mission sites. If you're looking for fun things to do with kids, you can also pick up a Junior Ranger activity book here. You can drive to each of the mission sites or walk all or part of the scenic River Trail, which connects the four missions.
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San Antonio Museum of Art
200 W. Jones Ave.
(210) 978-8100
The San Antonio Museum of Art is a must for any art lover's trip to this city, and if your vacation includes a Tuesday evening (4 to 9) or Sunday morning (10 to noon), you can take advantage of free admission to this treasure trove of artworks from around the world. The 1884 building, formerly the Lone Star Brewing Company, now houses four floors of galleries displaying collections ranging from Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities to modern and contemporary works. The riverfront complex also includes a 2.5-acre sculpture garden.
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The Witte Museum focuses on science and the natural and cultural history of Texas.
AAA/Laurie Sterbens
Witte Museum
3801 Broadway St.
(210) 357-1900
Science and the natural and cultural history of Texas are the focus of the Witte Museum, which offers free admission from 3 to 8 p.m. every Tuesday. The story of Texas is told through fascinating exhibits ranging from the Dinosaur Gallery, where you'll encounter the creatures that roamed Texas 110 million years ago, to the Texas Wild Gallery, which displays the flora and fauna of the state's various ecosystems. Have fun learning about health in the H-E-B Body Adventure, which has four floors of activities the whole family will enjoy.
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