San Antonio attracts over 32 million visitors each year due to its famed River Walk, mission trails, Hispanic and Native American culture, and lush surroundings. San Antonio, surprisingly, is not only for the wealthy! Travelers on a budget can find a treasure mine of exciting free things to do in San Antonio, Texas. Here’s a tour that will take you all around San Antonio with free things to do in San Antonio and beyond for free, giving you memorable insights into the past without having to pay a single entry price.
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Since 1535, the historic area has witnessed several waves of settlements and conflicts. It is now a lovely five-mile tourist destination.
San Antonio River Walk is the city’s most popular spot for sightseeing, shopping, dining, and celebrations. The San Antonio RiverWalk, also known as Paseo del Rio, is surrounded with trees, shops, restaurants, hotels, and museums and connects many of San Antonio’s attractions.
Festivals like Fiesta Noche del Río, Fiesta de Las Luminarias, and others bring a flurry of lights and color to the River Walk. To see one, look at their calendar. This weekend, there could be something planned.
The Alamo is the location of a conflict between Texians and Mexicans that took place in 1836. When the mission was founded in 1718, it was known as the Misión San Antonio de Valero.
Looking for things to do for free in San Antonio? The 30-minute self-guided tours of the Alamo are free of charge.
The Alamo was essential in the founding of San Antonio, and it underwent an unusual transformation from a Spanish mission chapel to a military stronghold that served five armies. The Alamo is the place to go if you’re wondering why San Antonio is known as Military City USA.
Make a reservation to see the historic church for free. There are exhibitions, a Phil Collins collection, a courtyard, and a plaza at the Alamo that depict glimpses of the Texas Revolution to give you a sense of what lies ahead.
Open hours: 9AM – 5.30AM, daily.
Brackenridge Park, established in 1899, now has 343 acres of beautiful public space.
Brackenridge Park was designed as a pleasant retreat for San Antonio residents, and it should be enjoyed by tourists as well.
Brackenridge Park, which has playgrounds, pavilions, walking routes, and baseball fields, is one of San Antonio’s most popular free attractions.
If you enjoy watching bards, walk along Avenue A in the park’s southeast corner to witness a variety of kinds soaring freely among the trees. History aficionados will appreciate the park’s historical architecture as well as its prehistoric importance.
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
What is happening today San Antonio was founded in 1718 as a result of the foundation of missions. Franciscans erected five mission complexes along the San Antonio River over the period of 13 years, four of which are now part of the historical site (the fifth being the standalone Alamo).
Retracing the steps of the Spaniards and Franciscans in the 1700s is a must while visiting this historical site. The region includes a nine-mile length along the river, with all four ancient missions still standing. San José, San Juan, Espada, and Concepción are the missions.
Mission Concepción is three miles south of downtown, while Mission San José is two and a half miles farther. Mission San Juan is three miles away. Mission Espada is the farthest south. The audio guides have access to Wi-Fi in each mission.
At each mission, there are also picnic tables and parking spots. Most importantly, this entire experience is one of the best free things to do in the city! This is the place to go if you’re looking for educational opportunities on a budget.
Open hours: 9AM – 5PM, daily.
Phone: 210 932-1001
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San Antonio Museum of Art
The San Antonio Museum of Art is situated in the former Lone Star Brewery, which dates back to 1886.
SAMA is South Texas’ only encyclopedic museum of great art, so if you’re a fan of the arts, you shouldn’t leave this out. On Tuesdays from 4pm to 7pm and Sundays from 10am to 12pm, if you’re an art lover and a Bexar County citizen, you may see this jewel for free!
The 30,000-item collection encompasses more than 5,000 years of culture and history from throughout the world, from the Bronze Age to the present day.
With the showing of a military ID, active duty military members (including National Guard and Reserve) and their families receive free entry from Memorial Day through Labor Day (good for up to five people).
Open hours: Closed on Monday, 10AM – 7PM Tuesday and Friday, 10AM – 5PM the remaining days
King William Historic District
In the 1840s, a slew of affluent German businessmen landed on Mission San Antonio de Valero’s irrigated fields (now known as the Alamo).
With the entrance of these Germans, a posh neighborhood was born, complete with opulent residences in the styles of Greek Revival, Victorian, and Italianate architecture. If you enjoy historical fiction, you’ll find yourself wishing to live in one of these stunning homes.
Take photographs at every mansion you come across. It is completely free! Cafes and art galleries line the streets, some of which hold vibrant, family-friendly events.
San Antonio Art League and Museum
The San Antonio Art League and Museum, which is located in the King William Historic District, is one that you should see, especially because entry is free!
SAALM is San Antonio’s oldest arts group, and it now resides in an 1800s carriage house. SAALM is well worth a visit, with a vast collection of free to view Texan art from all fields.
See what’s happening at their galleries by looking at their web calendar. There might be live performances and presentations of artists’ creations. All of these are still free!
Open hours: 10AM – 3PM, from Tuesday to Saturday.
Phone: (210) 223-1140
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Japanese Tea Garden
In 1918, an abandoned limestone rock quarry provided by the San Antonio Water Works Company’s president in 1899 was turned into a lovely Oriental garden.
In 1919, the city welcomed a Japanese-American artist and his family to the garden. During their stay, the family opened the Bamboo Room, which is today known as the Jingu House Cafe, where you may sample Japanese cuisine.
Tourists, particularly couples, flock to the tea garden because of its picturesque setting. The Japanese Tea Garden is one of the best things to do in San Antonio for free with your significant other whether you’re wanting to get married or renew your vows.
The garden also has a moving story to tell, so take your time and learn about the family who created it.
Open hours: 7AM – 5PM, daily.
The location where the Historic Market Square is located was given as a gift to the first Spanish immigrants of San Antonio in 1730 by the King of Spain. Locals have been selling food and products here since the beginning, creating a vibrant, colorful bazaar.
Like a dance number in a musical, this market welcomes you with a rainbow of buntings, walls, souvenirs, and performers. The ancient Market Square is a live, breathing tradition that everyone should experience, according to the residents.
If you’re looking for a unique, cultural keepsake to take home from your trip, the Historic Market Square ranks first among all the free attractions to see in San Antonio.
On the correct times, the historic Market Square hosts some of San Antonio’s most intriguing free events, where you may buy souvenirs while remembering colorful dancers and singing mariachis.
Open hours: 10AM – 6PM, daily.
The DoSeum was founded in 2015 with the objective of making learning accessible to low-income San Antonio families through exhibitions, events, and summer camps.
In child-scaled worlds of make-believe, children can be artists, storytellers, engineers, scientists, or entrepreneurs at DoSeum. As your kid avidly explores each interactive exhibit loaded with technology, art, and science via curiosity and play, you will love it as well.
Take the kids to DoSeum when it’s rainy or freezing outside and watch them enjoy all of the amazing free stuff they have to offer. When the weather is nice, though, there is plenty of enjoyment to be had outside.
Open hours: 10AM – 5PM, Wed, Thu, Fri.
9AM – 5PM, Sat.
12AM – 5PM, Sun.
The grand Hotel Emma, which was once the namesake brewery complex from 1883, looms in the background north of downtown San Antonio.
Apart from the fact that it was built as a beer area, which means there are plenty of bars and vineyards, the Pearl is also a historic marvel and cultural center. Restaurants, offices, and tourist shops have been converted from buildings dating back to the 1800s.
You may now stay at the charming Hotel Emma and receive a complimentary margarita upon arrival. Industrial equipment from previous ages has been repurposed as vintage-chic décor or utilitarian items.
From the Bottling Department to the Pearl Stable, this is a recurring theme not just in the hotel but across the area. This weekend, explore the district’s Victorian industrial charm by visiting the shops, restaurants, pubs, and farmers market.
Open hours: 8AM – 10PM, daily
Institute of Texan Cultures
The Institute of Texan Cultures is the state’s primary educational resource for the state’s many cultures.
People from all over the world live in Texas, adding to the state’s global identity. The ITC, which opened in 1968, provides visitors with exhibits, activities, and events that educate them about Texas residents.
Come here for free educational activities on the second Sunday of the month. Crafts, games, and cultural performances are part of these Sunday programs.
Open hours: 10AM – 4PM, Thursday to Sunday.
Phil Hardberger Park
13203 Blanco Rd (East Entrance)
8400 N.W. Military (West Entrance and Urban Ecology Center)
Have you brought your full outdoor-loving family? Bring them to Phil Hardberger Park in San Antonio for some free entertainment, especially in a gorgeous natural setting.
If getting out into the great outdoors is a must everywhere you go, Phil Hardberger is the place to be. Everyone is welcome to enjoy the walking and bicycling trails, play spaces, programs, fitness classes, dog parks, and wildlife encounters at Phil Hardberger!
Because there are no restaurants or drinking fountains nearby, bring your own food and drink and enjoy picnics in specific spots. There are also no garbage cans, so bring your trash in and out. This aids in the preservation of the park’s natural heritage.
Yanaguana Garden has been bringing art, nature, and outdoor entertainment to families since 2015.
Yanaguana is a 4.1-acre community park in the Hemisfair District with art exhibits, play spaces, an all-ages splash pad, outdoor activities, bright lighting, and outdoor cafes. Yanaguana attracts visitors of all ages looking for a free break from the city’s bustle.
Over 500 free events, such as fitness classes and storytelling activities, are held at Yanaguana Park. You can find one on their calendar. Who can say? One might happen this weekend.
Open hours: 5AM – 12PM, daily.
San Pedro Creek Culture Park
In 2015, Bexar County, the San Antonio River Authority, and the City of San Antonio joined together to establish a world-class linear park for the protection of San Pedro Creek.
San Pedro Creek Culture Park, on the western outskirts of downtown San Antonio, is a lovely respite from the Texas heat, with interactive art, architecture, nature, and local history.
Begin your journey at the park’s westernmost section to go back in time to the city’s early days, thousands of years before European arrival. As you go east, learn about the birth and rebirth of civilizations.
Open hours: 7AM – 11PM, daily.
In the 1920s, Ellen Schultz, a botanist and high school teacher, founded the Witte Museum.
Enough with the Spanish conquest. What was life like in San Antonio before the arrival of Europeans? The Witte Museum takes you back in time to show you the ancient terrain and civilization of precolonial San Antonio, as well as the current culture that has resulted.
This experience is enhanced through programs, activities, and demonstrations. Cooking camps, art workshops, cocktail-themed events, and more surprises may be found at the Witte Museum.
Open hours: 10AM – 6PM, Tuesday. 10AM – 5PM, Wednesday to Monday.
Briscoe Western Art Museum
The Briscoe Western Art Museum is located along the banks of the historic San Antonio RiverWalk, and its exhibitions, educational activities, and public events highlight the region’s Old West legacy.
You’re probably aware of how Hispanic and Native American culture and history shaped San Antonio. But don’t forget about the once-famous Wild West culture, which was the product of the blending of the two civilizations.
Briscoe recreates the atmosphere of a bygone age with its exhibited artworks and relics.
Open hours: 10AM – 5PM, Thursday to Monday
San Antonio’s massive outdoor gallery opened in 2018 and is now trying to become the largest of its kind in Texas.
The millennials have given art significant attention through social media. The biggest outdoor gallery in the Northwest, this multi-artist open-air gallery is a great backdrop for OOTDs to boost anyone’s Instagram game.
The artist-led group behind it, the San Antonio Street Art Initiative, has produced almost 50 murals and funded over 30 local artists.
For most murals, they start near the intersection of the South PanAm Expressway and St. Mary’s Strip. After that, drive north to St. Mary’s for more.
Checking out the murals created by the San Antonio Street Art Initiative is one of our favorite cheap things to participate in, whether you’re here for the art or the Instagram.
Lakeshore Learning began as a toy business in 1954, but quickly expanded to meet the requirements of instructors. It was founded by Ethelyn Kaplan, a single mother. Lakeshore Learning now provides activities and events in addition to selling high-quality educational products for kids.
If you’re looking for free stuff in San Antonio, TX, Lakeshore Learning has a wonderful family-friendly experience in store for you. On Saturdays, there are free crafts and educational programs!
You may be in San Antonio for free, but don’t forget that Lakeshore Learning provides a variety of exciting educational products that you can buy to continue the learning at home with your kids.
Open hours: 10AM – 8PM, Monday to Saturday. 11AM – 5PM, Sunday.
McNay Art Museum
The McNay Art Museum was established in 1954 and was the first contemporary art museum in the state of Texas.
Modern and contemporary art aren’t for everyone, but the McNay Art Museum has one of the best collections of modern art in the Southwest, with over 22,000 pieces!
Inside McNay, the beauty continues. The museum is set on 23 acres of beautiful grounds with colonial architecture, fountains, lawns, and a Japanese-inspired garden and fishpond. Free access to beauty both indoors and out!
- Sunday Noon – 5 PM
- Monday Closed
- Tuesday Closed
- Wednesday 10 AM – 6 PM
- Thursday 10 AM – 9 PM
- Friday 10 AM – 6 PM
- Saturday 10 AM – 5 PM
Quadrangle and Fort Sam Houston Museum
Since 1845, Fort Sam Houston has kept the history of battle and conquest within its walls. The quadrangle, on the other hand, was built in 1876 as the Quartermaster Depot and Headquarters.
Learn more about the origins of San Antonio’s moniker, Military City USA. The quadrangle of Fort Sam Houston houses antiques, photos, and tales about San Antonio’s military past, while deer and other animals graze freely on the land.
This historical treasure is absolutely free to see, however proper photo ID is required for access.
Open hours: 10AM – 4PM, Monday to Friday.
In 1995, Linda Pace opened Artpace in what used to be a Hudson car dealership.
While the aforementioned art institutions focus on Texan art and culture, Artpace helps artists from all over the world create new work in a variety of mediums, including paintings, music, films, murals, and more!
You may see Chalk It Up for yourself if you come in October. It’s an annual citywide event when artists sketch on Houston Street in downtown Houston!
Open hours: 10AM – 5PM Monday to Friday, closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. 12AM – 5PM, Saturday and Sunday.
Within the University of the Incarnate Word, the Headwaters Sanctuary covers 53 acres.
The Blue Hole, also known as the San Antonio Spring, is located within Headwater Sanctuary and is the source of the famous San Antonio River. Water is a spiritual life-giving element of the soil, and this spring is meaningful to both indigenous peoples and Christians.
Explore the sanctuary’s pathways and learn about San Antonio’s native flora and animals via exploration and explanatory signs along the route to enjoy nature in its purest form.
Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio
The Jewish Federation of San Antonio advocated for this memorial museum, which opened in 2000 after years of planning.
The San Antonio Holocaust Memorial Museum is an important landmark that helps to remind us of the tragedies of war and bigotry. Docents give free tours of the museum to thousands of visitors each year because of the importance of Holocaust education and awareness.
It’s essential to prepare yourself if you’re easily triggered by distressing events. The free visits include a film, an activity, and the testimony of a Holocaust survivor.
Open hours: Monday – Friday, 9AM – 3PM, and Sunday 1PM – 4PM (the first Sunday of every month beginning in November)
The Main Plaza of San Antonio, originally known as Plaza de las Islas in the 1730 design for San Fernando de Bexar, is the city’s cultural and historical center.
The Main Plaza, as San Antonio’s cultural center, provides free family-friendly activities, festivals, and musical performances. Food trucks selling local refreshments are also available every day to round out your cultural experience.
Looking for some cheap thrills in San Antonio tonight? This typical Spanish plaza is bordered by the old San Fernando de Bexar Cathedral.
On Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays since 2014, this church has hosted a legendary jaw-dropping lights spectacular! The free 24-minute performance showcases San Antonio’s colorful past.
The 976-acre McAllister Park, located in the heart of the city, feels like an oasis. Walter W. McAllister, a previous mayor of San Antonio, was honored with the park’s name.
McAllister Park is a beautiful getaway from the city hubbub, offering the best free paths for bicycling and strolling, as well as animals roaming freely.
The park also contains sports fields, a playground, exercise stations, and almost 200 picnic tables in addition to the 15 miles of hard and soft pathways that wind through a diverse range of lush flora.
If you’re bringing your four-legged family members, McAllister Park features a 1.5-acre dog park near the Starcrest entrance.
Open hours: 5AM – 11PM, daily.
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In its heyday, this spa house and hotel was frequented by celebrities. Hot Wells still stands proudly today, but as historical ruins, thanks to the same catastrophe that has befallen it time and time again.
If you think San Antonio’s historical ruins end with the Missions, think again. The Hot Wells bath house converted hotel turned school will give you another perspective of the city’s past, albeit from a more recent age. Fires, interestingly, were responsible for every alteration in the building’s purpose.
Since 2019, the ruins have been open to the public for free viewing, although only the grounds are accessible, and the remnants are fenced off. However, there are reader boards in the form of plaques located throughout the area that recount the tale of the building’s tragedies.
Open hours: 9AM – 6PM, daily.
Slab Cinema has been showing free outdoor movies in San Antonio since 2004.
Slab Cinema appears many times a month at renowned locations across San Antonio, including the San Antonio Museum of Art, Hemisfair Park, the Pearl District, and even the Alamo. Check out their monthly calendars to see what films they have coming up and to obtain complimentary tickets.
Though the venue may provide seats, you should bring your own, whether it’s a folding chair, blanket, or tiny inflatable bean bag. Some locations also include food trucks and restaurants, however bringing your own snacks is also acceptable if you’re on a tight budget.
San Antonio Fire Museum
The old San Antonio Central Fire Headquarters, which houses a museum honoring the valor of San Antonian firemen since the 1850s, is only three minutes away from the Alamo.
Learn about the history of firefighting in San Antonio, which began in 1854 with a group of 20 young local volunteers. Early fire vehicles, antique firefighting equipment, vintage photographs, uniforms, and interactive apparatus for children are all on display at this museum.
On the first Tuesday of each month, entrance is free. Children under the age of three, on the other hand, are always welcome.
Open hours: 10AM – 3.30PM, Tuesday to Saturday.
Cibolo Nature Center
If you’re leaving San Antonio, you might be wondering what to do. Cibolo Nature Center, located just north of San Antonio, is a refuge for nature lovers, history fans, and paleontology enthusiasts looking for interesting free things to do in San Antonio.
Cibolo has been welcoming visitors since Earth Day in 1990, allowing them to see four Texan ecosystems, dinosaur footprints, a gorgeous creek, boardwalk views, animals, and other surprises all in one visit.
If you come here on a Saturday, there is a weekly farmer’s market at a neighboring farm. Enjoy garden vistas, music, yoga, and community programs or seminars while bringing home fresh vegetables.
If you’re visiting and searching for free things to do in San Antonio, this list should give you a decent indication of what the city has to offer. San Antonio provides something for everyone, no matter what their interests are!
History aficionados will enjoy the town’s history, while nature lovers will like the abundance of parks and natural places in the region.
You can’t go wrong with San Antonio as your next vacation destination!
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