San Antonio Guide: Planning Your Trip

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Though you may solely associate San Antonio with the Alamo and the River Walk, the Alamo City is bursting at the seams with fabulous museums and art galleries, gorgeous parks and green spaces, and a rich cache of restaurants, boutiques, and bars. Of course, that’s not to say that the legendary symbol of Texas liberty and the city’s riverside promenade aren’t worth the hype—they are—it’s just that there’s much more to explore than meets the eye in Texas’ first civilian settlement. Boasting an enticing mix of ethnic cultures, global gastronomy, urban beauty, and old-school Texan charm, San Antonio is truly one of the most singular, exciting cities in America. 

Planning Your Trip

  • Best Time to Visit: From November through April, the weather is mild and hotel rates are lower—San Antonio gets hot (and crowded) in the summer. 
  • Language: English (and Spanish).
  • Currency: USD
  • Getting Around: San Antonio’s downtown is compact and easy to explore by taxi, bike, bus, or foot; in terms of public transit, VIA Metropolitan Transit operates several regular bus routes, offering visitors a convenient, affordable way to see the city. 
  • Travel Tip: Chances are if you’re going to San Antonio, you’re going to the River Walk. Download a map ahead of time, so you can scout out all the shops, restaurants, and attractions you want to see. 

Things to Do

San Antonio is a thriving cultural hub with an exceptional foodie scene, a slew of iconic monuments and historic sites, buzz-worthy museums, and several great shopping areas. Lovely Spanish architecture, urban greenery, and vibrant plazas abound, and there are several must-see attractions that every traveler should check out: 

  • The Alamo: The first Spanish mission in the city, the Alamo was established in 1718, later playing important role in the Texas Revolution.
  • The River Walk: This 15-mile waterway boats plenty of places to eat, drink, and shop. Later, head to the Pearl District for even more restaurants and bars.
  • San Antonio Missions National Historical Park: Recognized as the first UNESCO World Heritage site in Texas, the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park consists of five Spanish colonial mission along the San Antonio River basin.

Explore more attractions with our full-length articles on the top things to do in San Antonio, how to visit San Antonio on a budget, and the best things to do with kids.

What to Eat and Drink

San Antonio’s culinary scene is exceptionally diverse. Sampling as much delicious Tex-Mex cuisine as possible is a must-do, of course—there’s a wonderful selection of taquerias, food trucks, cantinas, and upscale restaurants here that churn out delectable street tacos, tortas, enchiladas, and other traditional fares. San Antonio is also a hub for down-home barbecue and Southern comfort food. Plus, the city is even home to a Culinary Institute of America campus, and several of the country’s hottest chefs have opened restaurants that feature innovative, cutting-edge menus. 

And, the drinks scene in San Antonio is just as excellent; the city is replete with just as many trendy mixology meccas as beloved old dive bars. Depending on your mood, you can sip margaritas on the River Walk, indulge in fancy cocktails at Hotel Emma, or drink whiskey at The Esquire Tavern, which is one of the oldest bars in Texas.

Explore our articles on the city's best restaurants, the best restaurants on the River Walk and the best romantic restaurants in the city.

Where to Stay

From quaint bed-and-breakfasts to modern luxury in the heart of downtown to boutique hotels strung along the River Walk, there are a plethora of lodging options and neighborhoods to choose from in San Antonio. Other than Downtown and the River Walk, some of the best areas to stay in include: Southtown and the King William Historic District (home to lively galleries, shops, and bars), Alamo Heights (one of the oldest parts of the city), and Monte Vista/Olmos Park (mostly residential, but still with plenty of restaurants and shops). Hotel Havana, Hotel Emma, Hotel Contessa, the Menger Hotel, the Mokara Hotel & Spa, and the Hotel Valencia Riverwalk are some of the most popular hotels in town.  

Explore the different historic hotels you can stay in, as well as our recommendations on the best overall hotels in San Antonio.

Getting There

The San Antonio International Airport (SAT) is the city’s main airport. Twelve domestic and international airlines provide regular commercial service here, making the airport a convenient choice for travelers in or near the San Antonio area.

Once you arrive, VIA Metropolitan Transit is the central public transport network in San Antonio, and VIVA, the system’s newest service line, connects all the popular landmarks and attractions in the heart of the city. Cars are, by far, the most popular means of transportation, and the city isn’t exactly built for bikers and pedestrians—although there are certainly some walkable areas, and downtown is relatively bike-friendly. 

Money Saving Tips

  • Take advantage of free museum days: The San Antonio Museum of Art offers free admission on Tuesdays (from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.) and Sundays (from 10 a.m. to noon), and the McNay Art Museum is free for adults on the first Sunday of every month and every Thursday evening from 4 pm to 9 pm (kids and teens always get in free).  
  • If you know you’ll be visiting several of the city’s major attractions, it might make sense to get an Explorer Pass—you can save up to 52 percent on ticket prices.
  • There are plenty of free activities and attractions to enjoy in San Antonio: the Alamo, the Japanese Tea Garden, the Missions, and Friedrich Wilderness Park are all free of charge.  

Learn more about the best ways to have fun on a budget in San Antonio.

Article Sources
TripSavvy uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Visit San Antonio. "History."

  2. Visit San Antonio. "The Alamo."

  3. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. "San Antonio Missions."

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