Family Vacations to San Antonio, Texas

River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
River Walk (courtesy, SACVB-Craig Stafford)

San Antonio Highlights

  • "Remember the Alamo" on your trip to the site and IMAX.
  • Stroll the shops along the River Walk.
  • Shop for piñatas and other Mexican souvenirs at El Mercado.
  • Ogle dinosaur skeletons and climb the H-E-B Science Treehouse at the Witte Museum.
  • Enjoy a spectacular city view from the top of the Tower of the Americas.
  • Get in a tank with beluga whales at SeaWorld San Antonio.

San Antonio's southwestern flair comes from its mix of Hispanic heritage, Native American culture, and Texan history. Smack in the heart of the city is the best known tourist attraction in the state—the Alamo. At this mission, 189 patriots—Davey Crockett among them—fought for Texas' independence, holding the site for 13 days until being defeated by Mexican General Santa Anna and his 4,000 men. Before visiting, get kids excited about the history by watching Alamo...the Price of Freedom at the IMAX Theatre Rivercenter. With such perspective on the site, it'll be easier to look past San Antonio's modern buildings encroaching on the Alamo from all sides.

Paseo Del Rio, the River Walk, is San Antonio's heartbeat. Tree-lined cobblestone walkways lined with restaurants and shops stretch for two-and-a-half miles along a narrow slice of the San Antonio River. It's a great place for strolling or taking a boat ride on the river, especially at night when the lively walk twinkles with lights and music fills the air.

The river also winds through 343-acre Brackenridge Park, a city oasis that's home to the San Antonio Zoo and the Witte Museum. At the zoo's African Plains exhibit, see giraffes, cranes, zebras, and ostriches; at Lory Landing, feed rainbow-colored lorikeets nectar; and at the Tiny Tot Nature Spot, preschoolers can plant seeds, uncover worms, and dig for carrots to feed to the guinea pigs. The Witte Museum is dedicated to Texas history, natural science, and anthropology. Highlights include dinosaur skeletons, cave drawings, and the H-E-B Science Treehouse, four levels of gizmos and hands-on activities that explain aspects of sound, electricity, and weather.

At the San Antonio Children's Museum, targeted to ages two through ten, kids can get the feel of piloting and landing an airplane while communicating with the control tower, and then put on a hard hat to drive equipment at a construction site. The San Antonio Museum of Art showcases a wide range of exhibits: Browse through ancient Greek vases and sculptures, tribal masks and carvings from Pacific cultures, and intriguing contemporary canvases in the Latin American Art Center.

For a big dose of authentic local color, head to Market Square, where buyers and sellers have bargained for centuries. Flow in and out of the street-front shops and cafes, and visit El Mercado, an indoor Mexican market where kids can spend their allowance on piñatas and parents can find colorful pottery and unique turquoise jewelry. In La Villita, San Antonio's first neighborhood settled by Spanish soldiers, nearly 30 art galleries, craft shops, and cafes line the streets.

Another San Antonio landmark is the 750-foot-tall Tower of the Americas, located in HemisFair Park, site of the 1968 World's Fair. Don't miss the spectacular city view from the observation deck.

San Antonio's two theme parks are sure to keep the little ones happy. At SeaWorld Adventure Park, watch as sharks, penguins, and dolphins swim by, or join the fun and get wet on the Texas Splashdown flume ride. Book ahead to get in the tank with a beluga whale; SeaWorld's one of the few places in the world where you can get close to these 3,000-pound mammals. Six Flags Fiesta Texas has a water park, family rides, kids' attractions, plus thrill rides, including the Superman Krypton Coaster that hurls you through corkscrews and twists at nearly 70 mph.

Tip: Magik Theatre hosts plays aimed at kids and families. The company stages "The Secret Garden" from July 22 to August 6.

Side Trips: Austin, Houston, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 8 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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