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A perfect only-in-Texas blend of historical and modern, with UNESCO landmarks alongside vibrant food, music, and arts scenes, there are countless reasons to visit San Antonio.
Explore remnants from the early 1700s, as Spanish influence came to Texas. San Antonio was the setting for many battles fought during the Texas Revolution and today, it’s still home to a significant Hispanic American population.
This cultural influence is woven throughout every aspect of life in San Antonio, from the well-preserved Missions to the lively year-round festivals and the city’s food and nightlife scenes. Seriously, San Antonio knows how to party (and eat!) and bonus: drinks are shockingly cheap! And a bonus on that bonus: there are plenty of delicious restaurants with playgrounds, which are the perfect way to enjoy a margarita and let your kid burn off some energy.
Getting here is super affordable, too, especially if you search Wanderu for your bus or train tickets to San Antonio.
The only word better than cheap? Free.
There are tons of awesome free things to do in San Antonio, so saddle up for a budget-friendly getaway to this top Texas destination!
Here are some of the best things to do in San Antonio for free or cheap. Start from the beginning and check out the city’s history, or skip ahead by clicking other categories below.
History & Museums
1. The Alamo
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: This battleground-turned-tourist-hub is a key landmark for learning about San Antonio’s fascinating and sometimes-bloody history. The Alamo’s location near the headwaters of the San Antonio River historically made it ultra-strategic from military and power standpoints, which meant this mission was the site of many decisive battles in Texas’ history.
Today, it’s totally free to visit the Alamo, but you’ll still need to make timed-entry reservations ahead of time. Seeing the Alamo is hands-down one of the best free things to do in San Antonio, and also one of the most iconic experiences in Texas.
The Alamo’s dedicated historians make the site come alive with daily demonstrations portraying what life was really like during the Texas Revolution. Well-preserved artifacts, such as a 2,000-pound cannon last fired in 1836, are also on display. Beyond exploring the iconic building itself via a guided or self-guided tour, don’t miss checking out The Long Barrack, which was built to house Spanish missionaries.
2. The DoSeum
|2800 Broadway St. San Antonio, TX 78209|
|10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Weds - Fri) 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Sat) 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. (Sun) Closed Tuesday|
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: Kids of all ages (yes, even grown-up “kids at heart”) will be enthralled with this 68,000-square-foot interactive museum. Packed with galleries and exhibits, the museum is a great introduction to STEM, the arts, and more.
The DoSeum utilizes cutting-edge technology to teach kids about 21st century concepts such as digital citizenship and robotics, while also incorporating tried-and-true, old-fashioned play to help them learn and explore social and emotional skills.
If you visit during one of The DoSeum’s free monthly family nights, this is one of the best free museums in San Antonio! For greater accessibility, the museum also offers sensory-friendly hours, featuring reduced crowds and modified exhibits.
3. Brackenridge Park San Antonio
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: Year-round, you can find something interesting to do on nearly every square inch of this 343-acre park. Explore one of Brackenridge Park San Antonio’s three walking trails, join a game of pick-up softball on the field, or catch a show at the Sunken Garden Theater. The park has all the modern-day trappings, but history still abounds, as there are several centuries-old structures and iconic art sculptures throughout.
Even the park’s landscaping routine is a sight to see, as hundreds of goats are ushered onto the property each year to clear away brush and unwanted plants in an environmentally-friendly, sustainable manner. Their reputation for eating everything in sight is true, but in this case, that’s a good thing!
4. San Antonio River Walk
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: The San Antonio River Walk is truly the crown jewel of the city — and it just so happens to also be one of the best free things to do in San Antonio! Development of this area began in the 1930s and every year since, the River Walk has expanded its reach and added even more fun to the downtown core.
It’s an all-encompassing attraction along the picturesque waterfront, home to numerous shops, restaurants, and recreational spots perfect for relaxing under the legendary Texas sun.
The San Antonio River Walk is completely free for the public to explore, and convenient free parking is available nearby in surface lots and private parking garages. Locals recommend first-timers hop on a river boat cruise to see the entire area and learn some of the history, but it’s not essential to enjoy the area. There are also several events held throughout the year that ensure never-ending festivities, such as artisan markets and the annual holiday parade.
5. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park proudly stands as the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in all of Texas. The park consists of four distinct mission sites separated by only a few miles. Each one has an active Catholic Church and offers free tours of the meticulously-preserved architecture, some of which dates back over 300 years.
Rangers are stationed throughout the park to interact with visitors and provide information about the history of the park and surrounding areas. If you’re looking to get a taste of the city’s natural attractions in addition to the historical, check out the hiking and biking trail that guides you along the San Antonio River and stops at all four mission sites. With so much bang for zero bucks, this is one of the best things to do in San Antonio for free!
6. Comanche Lookout Park
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: This 96-acre City of San Antonio park is home to one of the highest points in all of Bexar County. The namesake lookout towers 1,340 feet above the area and once served as a strategic watch point for war and hunting. This giant structure is guarded by a fence, but you can still get up close to admire its design and architecture.
Another draw of Comanche Lookout Park is that it isn’t just old; it’s really old. Tons of artifacts and fossils suggest that people have lived in the area for thousands of years. Today, Comanche Lookout Park is one of the best free things to do in San Antonio because it also has a playground and picnic areas.
7. Japanese Tea Garden
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: The Japanese Tea Garden is part of the expansive Brackenridge Park San Antonio, but it’s such a cool attraction that it deserves its own spot on our list. It’s a meandering garden featuring shaded paths and cobblestone walkways to explore on your way to the Jingu House Café. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to stop and stare at the massive, 60-foot waterfall and clear blue koi pond!
The Japanese Tea Garden also has some of the city’s best photo-ops, which almost makes it one of the best free things to do in San Antonio in and of itself. Take some DIY shots or for special occasions, reserve a permit for professional pictures at the tea garden (also free!). The garden is also dog-friendly!
8. Yanaguana Garden at Hemisfair
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: Hemisfair as a whole is somewhat difficult to explain, but what we can tell you for sure is that it’s one of the best things to do in San Antonio for free. The community comprises homes, parks, and locally-owned businesses. We’re going to focus on one of the parks.
Since 2015, Yanaguana Garden at Hemisfair has been dazzling the public with its gigantic play structures, open-air courtyard, and thoughtfully designed layout that encourages visitors to socialize and make new connections. Yanaguana Garden was intentionally developed for maximum accessibility for visitors of all ages and ability levels. The play area is full of adaptive equipment, and wheelchair users can safely and easily navigate the paved paths.
Once you’ve wrangled the kids off the playground and finished your game of cornhole, be sure to check out the dozens of nearby restaurants.
McNay Art Museum
9. San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA)
|200 W. Jones Ave. San Antonio, TX 78215|
|10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Weds - Sun) 10:00 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Tues) Closed Monday|
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: The San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) packs over 5,000 years of history into its downtown locale on the San Antonio River Walk. The building itself is interesting, as it was once the home of Lone Star Brewing.
Although it’s a small museum, SAMA features some of the largest collections of multicultural art in the southern United States, with a central focus on Greek, Latin, Roman, and Asian work. Pieces at SAMA include ancient African headdresses, ceramic pottery, and photographs depicting past and contemporary San Antonio natives.
If you’re looking for free museums in San Antonio, SAMA is a great option. Bexar County residents are granted free admission twice a week and children under 12 enjoy free admission every day.
10. McNay Art Museum
|6000 N. New Braunfels Ave. San Antonio, TX 78209|
|10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Weds & Fri) 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Thurs) 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Sat) 2 p.m. to 5 p.m (Sun) Closed Monday & Tuesday|
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: In addition to being one of the best cheap things to do in San Antonio, the McNay Art Museum is also one of the most picture-perfect. Housed inside a repurposed 1920s-era mansion in a historic part of town, many believe the museum grounds are just as worthy of a visit as the exhibits. In particular, don’t miss the fountain outside!
The spacious showrooms are dotted with works of art from all over the world, representing some of the most-acclaimed pieces from former and current artists. While the McNay is open five days a week, if you’re specifically interested in free museums in San Antonio, you’ll want to visit on Thursday nights. From 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., the museum offers free admission. The first Sunday of each month is also free!
11. Artpace San Antonio
|445 N. Main Ave. San Antonio, TX 78205|
|10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Mon to Fri) 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. (Sat & Sun)|
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: No other art gallery in San Antonio displays such an extensive collection of homegrown artwork. Artpace San Antonio’s unique lineup of local artists makes it a great place to interact with some of the region’s most impressive creators. It’s just a bonus that it’s one of the best free things to do in San Antonio!
Located minutes from the San Antonio bus station, Artpace has a renowned artist-in-residence program and comprises five distinct galleries. The Hudson Showroom, once an automobile showroom, displays the work of emerging artists. The space also hosts a wide variety of events to celebrate the arts, from chalk festivals to book talks.
12. Outdoor Family Film Series at Mission Marquee Plaza
|3100 Roosevelt Ave. San Antonio, TX 78214|
|Movies start 15 minutes after dusk May - November|
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: Why watch a movie at home when you can enjoy your favorite flick (and snacks!) under the stars at Mission Marquee Plaza? From May through November every year, the former drive-in movie theater lights up the jumbo screen and visitors pile in to see a movie just after dusk.
It’s part of the Outdoor Family Film Series, one of the best free things to do in San Antonio on summer and fall weekends. Attendees are even encouraged to bring their own snacks (along with blankets and lawn chairs), although food trucks are onsite selling their goodies as well.
13. Bandera Market
|11851 Bandera Rd. Helotes, TX 78023|
|10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Sat) 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Sun) Closed Weekdays|
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: Local is the name of the game at the Bandera Market farmer’s market, and between the hand-made goods and locally-sourced foods, it delivers in a big way. This minority-owned market offers small San Antonio businesses a chance to promote themselves every weekend of the year just a few miles from downtown.
Best of all, as a state-certified farmer’s market, at least 75% of produce sold at Bandera Market is locally sourced. It’s totally free to enter and it’s dog-friendly, so bring your pup, grab a drink or a treat, stroll around people-watching, and enjoy one of the best cheap things to do in San Antonio! Bandera also holds special events throughout the year, including dog shows and dress-up contests.
14. Central Library
|600 Soledad St. San Antonio, TX 78205|
|12 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Mon & Tues) 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Weds - Sat) Closed Sunday|
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: The Central Library is one of the best free things to do in San Antonio indoors. Whether it’s raining or too hot to be outside, or you’re just looking for a quiet place to camp out for the day without spending any money, Central Library won’t disappoint.
Part of the San Antonio Public Library system, Central Library has thousands of books spanning nearly every imaginable genre. Beyond books, Central Library also provides Wi-fi and hosts dozens of extracurriculars, including book talks and early childhood services.
15. Historic Market Square
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: A uniquely San Antonio experience, Historic Market Square is among the liveliest areas in the entire city. It’s the largest Mexican market in the United States, and the abundance of authentic cuisine and music means there’s a fiesta around every corner.
It doesn’t cost a dime to experience all the sights, sounds, and smells of the market first-hand. As you navigate through the various stalls and vendors, the vibrant festival atmosphere is further enhanced by the Historic Market Square stage, which welcomes dozens of performers on weekends throughout the year.
With all these cheap and free things to do in San Antonio (psst…we didn’t even list all of them!), it’s clear that it’s one of the most happening cities in the country.
Now that you know visiting San Antonio is within your budget, keep your travel costs low by booking on Wanderu or the free Wanderu app. It’s the best way to compare cheap bus and train tickets in just one easy search.