When people think about San Antonio, Texas, the top things that come to mind are the Alamo, the Riverwalk, or maybe the Fiesta festival. While all three of those things do help to define the city, it’s also much more than that. San Antonio is a blend of cultural, historical, natural, and culinary heritages that the area embraces proudly — there’s always something to do, see, or eat in Texas’s second largest city, starting with these memorable things to do in San Antonio.
Things to do in San Antonio
See downtown, the Alamo, and the River Walk
Despite being the second largest city in Texas and the seventh largest city in the US, San Antonio doesn’t feel like a big city. Much of this has to do with its “spoked wheel” layout, with the city’s downtore core at the center. Radiating out from the downtown River Walk area, there’s a wide variety of cultural and historic experiences for visitors to enjoy, as well as just plain fun.
The Alamo, a historic Spanish mission turned museum, lies at the heart of the River Walk. It’s not unusual to hear visitors comment that the building is much smaller than they imagined when they see it for the first time. But while the actual building is little, its history has shaped the course of Texas — the Battle of the Alamo in 1836 was an integral part of the Texas Revolution that led to the state’s independence from Mexico. Today, the former mission turned battle ground is a must-see for history buffs and ghost hunters alike.
The Alamo: 300 Alamo Plaza, San Antonio, TX 78205
Take a ghost tour
More than 1,000 people are believed to have been buried throughout downtown San Antonio, contributing to its reputation as one of the most haunted cities in the US. The bulk of the downtown area is said to be haunted, but ghost stories pervade the entire city. Walk the path of the notorious Walter Emerick, who’s said to have murdered a mysterious woman at The Sheraton Gunter hotel in 1965 and took his own life before police were able to capture him, and sample The Emerick signature cocktail at The St. Anthony’s Haunt bar along the way. Better yet, try a haunted pub crawl to see and drink all kinds of spirits in San Antonio.
Visit the Blue Star Arts Complex
Considered a mixed-use property, the Blue Star Arts Complex showcases San Antonio’s thriving local arts community. Located at the end of the historic King William’s District, the complex includes a variety of eateries, drinkieries such as the Blue Star Brewing Company, niche shopping, and curated local artists selling their wares. Swing by on the first Friday of the month for events including vintage sellers in Brick, the main art venue in the Blue Star Arts Complex.
Blue Star Arts Complex: 1414 S Alamo St, San Antonio, TX 78210
Book a food tour
San Antonio is a UNESCO-designated Creative City of Gastronomy, with a cultural background that includes people from all over the world who’ve brought endless culinary influences to the city’s food scene. The diversity of food options in San Antonio is almost overwhelming (more on that below). If you can’t make up your mind between the dizzying amounts of places to eat in the city, you might as well hire someone else to decide for you — book a food tour to experience one of the best ways to get to know San Antonio.
Partake in the nightlife on St. Mary’s Strip
Close to downtown San Antonio is St. Mary’s Strip, an area comprising a few short city blocks that includes a variety of live music venues, dance clubs, and restaurants. Clubs such as Jandro’s Garden Patio host weekly open poetry nights and burlesque shows. Music venues such as The Amp Room, Hi-Tones, and Brass Monkey feature live music as well as DJ nights. There’s even Goth Karaoke Nights at The Mix during the week. Regardless of your musical tastes, The Strip has something to get your groove on.
Where to eat and drink in San Antonio
Pete’s Tako House
For the best breakfast tacos San Antonio has to offer, Pete’s Tako House is a local favorite for a reason. This small restaurant is big on flavor, starting with its hand-pressed flour tortillas made fresh throughout the day. Try Pete’s old-school tacos, such as the wiener sausage, bean, and cheese taco. For a true local flavor, order Pete’s machacado and egg taco, which comes with shredded dry beef that’s scrambled with eggs. One of the best things about Pete’s Tako House is its prices — you can fill your belly without emptying your wallet.
Pete’s Tako House: 502 Brooklyn Ave, San Antonio, TX 78215
Ray’s Drive Inn
Home to amazing Tex-Mex, breakfast tacos, and the city’s signature puffy tacos, San Antonio is a veritable taco paradise. Debates rage as to the origin of the puffy taco, but Ray’s Drive Inn claims to be the home of the original puffy taco, and the small local venue holds the trademark to prove it. Serving more than 500 puffy tacos daily, Ray’s also indulges your taste buds with its iconic two for $5 crispy dogs. The decadent treat is made from American cheese-stuffed wieners wrapped in a corn-tortilla and then deep fried. Ray’s is one of the few places in town that still offers this local favorite.
Ray’s Drive Inn: 822 SW 19th St, San Antonio, TX 78207
Pearl, located in a remodeled 1883 brewery, houses not only several award-winning eateries and inspired bars but also a thriving weekend farmer’s market. Try Cured at Pearl, housed in the Pearl’s original administration building; Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery, featuring 15 original brews; or Best Quality Daughter, a woman-owned restaurant that specializes in Asian-American cuisine. If you’re in the mood for something casual, Pearl also has its own food hall, the Bottling Department. Grab a seasonal beverage and some Texas beers at the food hall’s Park Bar.
Pearl: 303 Pearl Pkwy, San Antonio, TX 78215
In the basement of San Antonio’s Pearl Brewery Food Fall, there’s a speakeasy-style nightclub called Jazz, TX, that features fabulous live jazz, as well as great food and drinks. It’s perfect for a night out with friends, a date night, and an evening to yourself.
Jazz, TX: 312 Pearl Pkwy Building 6, Suite 6001, San Antonio, TX 78215
Where to stay in San Antonio
San Antonio’s downtown has a wide range of hotels for conferences, visitors with tickets to a Spurs game, or just a short weekend visit. For access to historically significant parts of the city, downtown accommodations best fit the bill. Be warned, though: several of the hotels closest to the Alamo are known to host uninvited guests of the ghostly variety.
We hope you love these San Antonio hotels! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.
Crockett Tavern and Hotel
Immediately behind the Alamo is the Crockett Hotel and Tavern, named after the famous Alamo defender, Davy Crockett. Built in 1909, the site underwent renovations in 2007 to restore and uncover much of the original brickwork and other structures. The 138-room hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Structures. Davy Crockett himself is said to haunt the place, appearing as a blue-coated soldier who will occasionally throw beer bottles, and the sound of disembodied footsteps are part of this hotel’s appeal.
Crockett Tavern and Hotel: 320 Bonham, San Antonio, TX 78205
The Emily Morgan Hotel
Originally built in 1836 on the Alamo’s Long Barracks’ grounds as a 50-bed hospital, the Emily Morgan casts an ominous Gothic presence over the Alamo. San Antonio’s first skyscraper, the site was initially a full-service medical center housing 100 medical professionals, as well as a psychiatric ward and full surgical suites on the 12th and 14th floors. Due to superstition, the 13th floor is called the 14th floor. These two floors are also thought to be major contributors to Emily Morgan’s status as the third most haunted hotel in the world. Take a walk around the exterior and look for the gargoyles depicting various alignments.
Emily Morgan Hotel: 705 E Houston St, San Antonio, TX 78205
The St. Anthony
Located on the edge of San Antonio’s theater district, this AAA four-star hotel isn’t just about easy access but also luxury accommodations. The hotel has a popular bar called Haunt that serves drinks named after several of the hotel’s local spirit residents. The 277-room hotel features eight elaborate chandeliers original to the site, costing $19,000 a piece down the center of its “Peacock Alley.” The hotel is an upscale blend of traditional and modern.
The St. Anthony: 300 E Travis St, San Antonio, TX 78205
How to get around San Antonio
San Antonio is built on a wheel-spoke highway system, with the downtown area serving as the hub. There’s a local bus system, but the routes are limited, and the bus can be time consuming if you’re crossing town. The best way to travel the city is either to rent your own car or use ride share apps. However, downtown San Antonio is easily walkable.