These are the places to visit on your first trip.
San Antonio has finally stepped out of Austin's shadow, thanks in part to a booming hotel scene and serious downtown transformation. And if you only know this Texan city as the home of The Alamo, you'll find this is just one of many compelling points of interest in San Antonio. From a 23-acre brewery-turned hip new neighborhood to underground caverns, these are the 9 things every first-time visitor should see in the Alamo City.
Natural Bridge Caverns
Located just outside the city, these caverns are the largest commercial caverns in the state. Visitors are greeted by an impressive natural limestone bridge that spans the cavern entrance. Public tours take adventurous travelers deep into the caverns to a depth of 180-feet below ground surface.
San Antonio Botanical Garden
This recently expanded botanical garden offers seasonal displays of various international plants. Visitors can stroll along an 11-acre trail through native Hill Country flora, like sassafras and Texas mountain laurel, or check out an authentic hand-crafted log cabin from East Texas, built in the 1850s.
The Pearl District
Once a 23-acre brewery complex, The Pearl is now a hip, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood filled with the city’s best restaurants and shopping areas. This 16-block district, located along the banks of the San Antonio River, rivals that of any of the popular neighborhoods of Austin. Make this area your base by booking a room at the Hotel Emma, a boutique property in a former 19th-century brewhouse.
This extension of the San Antonio Riverwalk takes visitors through the Pearl District, past the San Antonio Zoo, to the Japanese Tea Gardens, and to Brackenridge Park. While it's great for walking and cycling, visitors should also consider taking a famous river taxi ride.
Arguably the most popular Spanish mission and battle during the Texas Revolution, this site is currently maintained as a museum in the Alamo Plaza Historic District of San Antonio. Take a tour of the Spanish mission and Alamo Church, and experience the battlefield in person.
Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch
With over 500 exotic, native, and endangered breeds, the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is a great place to see ostrich, zebras, and ibex without leaving the country. Drive your own car through this African-style safari ranch, getting up-close views of the rare giraffes, buffalo, camels, lemurs, and other animals living on the 450-acres of protected land.
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
This national park is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that preserves four of the five Spanish Frontier Missions in San Antonio, established to spread Christianity starting in the 17th century. Check out the historic churches, and walk along part of the El Camino Real de los Tejas: a colonial road that stretches 2,500 miles from Mexico to Louisiana.
This 343-acre public urban park is located close to downtown San Antonio and includes the San Antonio Zoo, Japanese Tea Gardens, Sunken Garden Theater, and other popular attractions. Relax in one of the park's pavilions, or get a workout on a network of walking trails.
The Farmer's Markets
Shop for fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, flowers, pastries, and assorted snacks at one of San Antonio's many farmer's markets. On Saturdays, head over to the Pearl Farmer’s Market, while the Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market is perfect for Sunday shopping sprees.