FTF’s favorite family spots in San Antonio include historic sites and armadillos, Mexican cafes and a lively riverfront, all in this southern Texas city. And as a destination, it has much more to offer than a temperate climate to account for its year-round popularity. For more information on the many attractions in the area, contact the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau (800/447-3372); for information on the top family-welcoming hotels, see our review. If you can plan your vacation for August, the city welcomes families with its annual Kidcation Week. You’ll find special offers on hotels, restaurants and attractions, as well as special summertime events designed just for kids and their families.For Family Travel Forum’s picks of what’s appropriate for each age group, read on.
Great Fun for the Kids
(Toddler to Age 8)
San Antonio Zoo
3903 North St. Mary’s Street
San Antonio, TX 78212
This zoo, housed in a stone quarry, offers a Monkey Island, an Animal Nursery with cute newborns, and elephant rides. Brackenridge Park itself, just northeast of downtown, provides plenty of activities for the whole family, including the Brackenridge Eagle, a small train that makes a twenty-minute run around the grounds; a Skyride offers a higher view of the park and the city’s skyline.
Sea World of Texas
10500 SeaWorld Drive
San Antonio, TX 78251
800/700-7786 or 210/523-3608
The well-known mega-aquarium and theme park is very popular with children. Observe dolphins, whales and other sea life or enroll your kids in the Adventure Camp. Be sure to plan enough time to take in the Shamu show; quite a splash. New for 2014 is a 13,500 square foot aviary that contains about 300 birds representing more than 50 species.
San Antonio Children’s Museum
305 East Houston St.
San Antonio, TX 78205
This small but well-designed children’s museum promises visitors a good time that’s out of the harsh San Antonio sun.
5223 David Edwards Dr
San Antonio, TX 78233
This 25-acre park in northeast San Antonio opposite Heroes Stadium was built by philanthropist Gordon Hartman, who is dedicated to helping people with special needs enjoy themselves. Swings, train rides, and play areas are fully accessible to those in wheelchairs, and play objects are designed to engage visitors with a variety of physical or developmental challenges. According to their website, “It is the World’s First Ultra Accessible Family Fun Park designed specifically for children and adults with special needs, their family members, caregivers, friends and the entire community.” Reservations are requested by phone or online; admission fees are free to those with special needs, $5 for their caregivers, $15 for general visitors, free for ages 3 and under.
Fun for Older Children
(Up to Age 18)
217 Alamo Plaza
San Antonio, TX 78299
Without a doubt, the attraction that places San Antonio’s name on the map. Alamo actually means cottonwood, the native poplar. The city’s first Spanish mission, today its ruins serve more as a shrine to the brave defenders who fell in battle in March of 1836 during the struggle for independence from Mexico. Make an effort to see one of the other San Antonio Missions as well.
Six Flags Fiesta Texas
17000 IH-10 West
San Antonio, TX 78257
This is a widely popular musical theme park with several international locations and the world’s biggest wooden roller coaster, as well as other water rides; perfect for active kids in the warmer months. Brand new for summer 2014 is a tropically themed area with several new attractions and guest amenities, including the extreme thrill slide complex, Bahama Blaster. The ride will use a unique launching capsule to drop riders down an astounding six stories, where they’ll free-fall and twist through loops and coils at 40 miles per hour. Thrill-seekers only need apply!
The Institute of Texan Cultures
801 South Bowie Street
San Antonio, TX 78205
This Museum offers exhibits dedicated to the diverse history, art and cultures of the surrounding Texan region.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
301 Alamo Plaza
San Antonio, TX 78205
A rather eccentric branch of the old vaudeville show (turned comic strip, turned TV show, turned “odditorium” full of wild objects) with such exhibits as the world’s biggest ball of barbed wire. Fun! It’s centrally located across from the Alamo along with the Plaza Wax Museum.
Fun for the Family
The River Walk (el Paseo del Rio)
Accessible on both sides of the below-street-level San Antonio River, this extensive pedestrian walkway — recently expanded to accommodate bicycles and joggers in the less congested stretches — is the city’s most important attraction. With steps leading down from bridges, the river’s banks offer a fun refuge with sidewalk shops, galleries, cafes, and bars and music. If you’re visiting in winter, do not miss the annual Christmas Boat Parade, when locals deck out their motorboats with every type of lighting design imaginable.
River Boat Tour
Kids will enjoy a river boat tour with Rio San Antonio Cruises has barges leaving from below the Commerce Street Bridge near the Hilton Hotel every 10 or 15 minutes from about 9am-10:30pm in the summer and every half hour during the winter. The tour takes about three-quarters of an hour, two and a half miles up the river. Dinner cruises are offered and evenings are usually a cooler time to tour.
The Witte Museum
San Antonio, TX 78209
This fun museum houses a large and unusual collection that focuses on South Texas history and science. School age kids get plenty of hands-on action here, especially when they enter the four-story H-E-B Science Treehouse, which features interactive experiments and activities. Dinosaurs: Vanished Texans, allows you get up close and personal with a Tyrannosaurus Rex. If you are lucky enough to be visiting San Antonio during its annual Fiesta celebration in April, the Witte gets into the party spirit by exhibiting a dozen fiesta ball gowns from its collection of over 230. If you are traveling with a princess in training, the frills, ruffles and lace of these eye-catching extravaganzas are sure to be a hit. In spring 2014, the Witte Museum will introduce a state-of-the-art interactive adventure that focuses on getting the body up and moving and inspiring a balanced and healthy lifestyle. The H-E-B Body Adventure exhibit offers visitors four floors of fun activities that will feature themes relating to health, IQ empowerment and wellness.
The San Antonio Museum of Art
200 West Jones Avenue and Broadway
San Antonio, Texas 78215
Kids under age 3 are admitted free to San Antonio’s art museum, housed in the historic Lone Star Brewery which dates back to 1884.
Downtown, adjacent to the Convention Center and the Alamo Dome
The ninety-two acre site of the 1968 World’s Fair which celebrated the city’s 250th anniversary. Brick walks link some historic old homes, museums, restaurants, art galleries, and the 600-foot Tower of the Americas, which offers a view of the city that’s particularly stunning at sunset.
The San Antonio Botanical Center
555 Funston at North New Braunfels Avenue
San Antonio, TX 78209
Thirty-three acres of beautiful flora, landscaped to look like a natural rural area. Walking trails are laced throughout the grounds, which include a rainforest area, conservatory, children’s garden, and a handsome gazebo high on a hill with a grand view of the city.
The McNay Art Institute
6000 North New Braunfels and Austin Highway
San Antonio, TX 78209
For art-loving families, a local mansion with an excellent collection of modern art. Wonderful respite during the often hot summer days.
303 Pearl Parkway
San Antonio, TX 78215
Pearl is a new culinary and cultural destination in San Antonio. It’s a hipster gathering place where everyone is welcome to eat, shop and play along the banks of the San Antonio River. Shopping options include The Twig Book Shop, independently owned and operated. The Pearl is the place for foodie families. The Culinary Institute of America is here, offering hands-on cooking classes. The Saturday Farmers’ Market provides glorious local produce sourced from within a 150-mile radius. Cured is a popular dining spot. Set in a meticulously restored 1904 building, the vibe is nevertheless contemporary. Crowds come for the handcrafted cured foods, from charcuterie to pickles, unbeatable burgers and deliciously decadent desserts, like bread pudding made with homemade donuts. Everything we sampled was fresh and delectable.
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