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San Antonio is surely one of the world’s most underrated urban travel destinations. Visitors from around the world come here to visit historical monuments, including the famous Alamo, and are consistently delighted to discover that this massive city (the 7th-largest in the USA) has so much more to offer. There is a fabulous dining and a burgeoning local craft beer and wine scene, arts and culture galore, nightlife, shopping, outdoor activities, and easy access to three of Texas’s most interesting and diverse regions: Hill Country, the South Texas Plains, and the Prairie and Lakes Region.
The city itself is multicultural and strongly bilingual, and residents are extremely proud to offer a consistently warm welcome to visitors. All that being said, like many major metros, it can be hard to know exactly where to start in San Antonio. With a zillion restaurants, which ones are great? Beyond the Alamo, what is worth seeing? Where’s the best shopping, and which ticky-tacky souvenir places are a rip-off?
A great tour can help answer these questions and give you an in-depth look into San Antonio via all sorts of cool lenses: either neighborhood-specific, thematic (food, history, etc.), or simply by your preferred mode of transport (ever wanted to try a Segway?). Whatever your preference, San Antonio has a tour that will help you make sense of this wonderful city, so see below for the best of the best.
Best Small-Group Tour: The Real San Antonio Small Group Guided Tour
There are lots of advantages to a small-group tour, the most obvious being that you get plenty of direct attention from your guide, who can answer all of your questions and even cater the tour to your preferences a bit. Less obvious: because you don’t waste time rounding up big groups, you can cover a lot of ground in less time and see much more. This tour offers you expert guidance on short strolls through the grounds of Mission San Jose and the historic King William District and a comfortable ride around other parts of the city in an air-conditioned van, stocked with cold bottled water.
You’ll get a solid narration and have plenty of time to ask questions as you drive past the Alamo, the Pearl District, the Torch of Friendship, the Tower of the Americas, and so much more. Because it covers a lot of ground, it’s a particularly ideal way to get your bearings at the beginning of a trip or simply to see a lot if you only have a short time in the city. This tour is wheelchair accessible (please advise at booking) and child-friendly.
Best Hop-On/Hop-Off Tour: City Sightseeing San Antonio
Hop-on/hop-off tours are popular around the world for their convenience and their generally well-planned routing, and San Antonio’s network is no exception. Plan your own itinerary around the line’s 12 stops (more are added seasonally), or simply get comfy on the double-decker bus, put on the provided headset, and enjoy riding the full loop with recorded commentary in English.
With tickets available for one or two days and buses arriving every 20 minutes at each of the line’s stops, you can really use this service as sort of your personal transport through the city’s hotspots. Stops include the Alamo, Pearl Brewery, the San Antonio Museum of Art, San Fernando Cathedral, the Blue Star Complex, and the Tower of the Americas, among others.
The tour is wheelchair accessible and buses are heated and air-conditioned on the lower level.
Best Segway Tour: 1.5-Hour Segway Tour of San Antonio and the Alamo
Always wanted to take a ride on one of these fun little upright scooters? This is your chance to do it, while simultaneously learning a bit about the history and culture of Downtown San Antonio. The Segway itself — use of which is included in your fee — is as central to the tour as the city of San Antonio, and your guide will both teach you how to use it and give you plenty of time to play around on it before and during the tour.
Because Segways are relatively quick (and don’t tire you out like walking does), you can cover quite a lot of ground. You’ll scoot past the Alamo, the Tower of the Americas, HemisFair Park, the Alamodome, the San Fernando Cathedral, and more, with your guide offering helpful commentary along the way.
The 90-minute tour is offered for guests ages 14 and over only and is not recommended for people with major medical conditions.
Best Combo Tour: San Antonio SuperPass
This Viator exclusive combo tour offers a deep discount on access to four of San Antonio’s most popular attractions. The pass gives you 48-hour access to the hop-on/hop-off bus tour circuit of downtown San Antonio, which you can enjoy at your leisure, either looping through the full tour circuit and enjoying live and recorded commentary as you go, or hopping on and hopping off at your leisure when you want to spend some time exploring at any given stop.
It also gives you a voucher for the River Walk Boat Cruise, a lively guided tour down the San Antonio through the heart of the city on a colorful open-air boat, redeemable at a time of your choosing (tours run until 10 p.m. and evening tours, gliding past the bustling nightlife of the River Walk district, are highly recommended). Further, the combo pass includes tickets to the Buckhorn Saloon’s two museums, the Buckhorn Museum and the Texas Ranger Museum, and a pass to ride the elevator to the Tower of the Americas’ observation deck, 750 feet in the air above the city. The observation deck tour also includes a 4D theatre “ride,” a multi-sensory film called Skies Over Texas, which chronicles the state’s history in a fun and fresh way.
Best Food Tour: Downtown Delicacy - San Antonio Walking Food Tour
Everyone from first-time visitors to locals who’d like some “backstage” access to Downtown San Antonio’s best restaurants will enjoy this tour, so long as they love food. Your three-hour tour includes tastings at five different restaurants, visits with chefs and restaurant owners at several, and a fun, illuminating stroll through this historic district.
The restaurants you’ll visit will give you a glimpse into exactly how multicultural this city is: you’ll enjoy things like Cuban sliders, traditional Creole fare, artisanal charcuterie and, of course, Tex-Mex. Book this tour early in your visit so you can get some ideas for where to eat as your stay goes on, as you’ll definitely want to be back to sample the full menu at some of the stops.
Best Haunted Tour: San Antonio Ghost Tour
San Antonio has been home to many violent, scary, and just plain weird events across the ages, and this haunted tour introduces you to many of the players in these scenarios… some of whom may have never left. Your costumed tour guides will meet you in front of the Alamo to begin your 90-minute lantern-lit walk through the history-drenched streets of Old Town, where you’ll learn the city’s history from its darkest angles. Perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse of the souls who still think they’re fighting at the Alamo itself, murder victims who prowl the hotel rooms where they met their end, or criminals doomed to walk to the gallows for eternity.
The tour is a bit grisly (though not excessively) and is not recommended for children under the age of six. The overall walking distance is about 1.5 miles and covers quite a lot of uneven surfaces, so it is not wheelchair accessible. Wear comfy walking shoes and bring a camera — who knows who you might meet?
Best History Tour: Small-Group World Heritage San Antonio Missions Tour With Guide
The San Antonio Missions National Historic Park is comprised of four separate missions that were built near San Antonio beginning in the late 1600s as part of the colonization and takeover of the region from its indigenous people. This three-hour tour takes you through each, explaining how they factor into the history of the region and, ultimately, the entire continent, what life in a mission was like, what life would have been like for indigenous people in the region as they were being targeted for conversion, and other historical complexities (and atrocities) that are poorly covered in most guidebooks, as well as deep looks at the standing architectural and artistic features of each.
The tour is not only informative but convenient since you’re picked up at a meetup point in downtown San Antonio in a Mercedes Sprinter van and then transported through these four historic missions: Mission Espada, Mission San Juan Capistrano, Mission Concepción, and Mission San Jose, exploring each along the way with your guide and your small group. At the end of the tour, you’ll be returned back to the pick-up location in downtown San Antonio.
Best Hill Country Tour: Texas Hill Country and LBJ Tour from San Antonio
San Antonio is a great jumping-off point for Texas Hill Country, and if you’re looking to see a bit of rural Texas while you’re visiting deeply urbane San Antonio, this tour offers you an easy and fun way to do it. Your day begins with a hotel pickup at your downtown San Antonio hotel (or a meeting at a meet-up point) and then zips you out to the gorgeous Texas Hill Country via back roads, with an informed, enthusiastic guide narrating your trip.
You’ll visit the boyhood home of President Lyndon B. Johnson as well as the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site, the location of LBJ’s beautiful ranch and the “Texas White House.” You’ll learn about the German and Czech heritage of this region and how it influenced the music, food, and culture of Texas (and beyond) while you head to historic Fredericksburg for shopping, eating, and exploring on your own.
Also on the docket: Luckenbach, one of the state’s great country music towns, made famous by Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and a whole slate of other country greats. The drive back to San Antonio will be via Sisterdale and its Sister Creek Winery, part of a burgeoning winemaking industry in the region, and the charming German town of Boerne. It’s a packed day, but a fun one, and really gives you a look into a slice of Texas that provides a striking contrast to San Antonio, and yet explains so much about some of the cultures that led to San Antonio’s development.