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Top 5 Things to Do in San Antonio, Texas with Kids

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San Antonio is big on charm, good food, and friendly vibes. To make the most of your Texas family vacation, be sure to do these five things to do in San Antonio with kids.

San Antonio's River Walk stairs
My son, Leo, climbing the stairs up to La Villita from San Antonio’s River Walk

1. Explore River Walk with kids.

River Walk is the star attraction in San Antonio. After wandering along the picturesque paths lined with shops and restaurants aplenty, it’s easy to see why this is such a popular choice. Be forewarned that River Walk is not especially stroller or wheelchair accessible. (This meant a lot of stroller-lugging for my husband!)

It’s also fun to experience River Walk on the water itself, My family took a Rio San Antonio Cruise through the main waters of River Walk. The boat tour was a fun little adventure for the kids. Meanwhile, my husband and I enjoyed the entertaining commentary about San Antonio by the boat’s captain. I was impressed by how San Antonio has taken such strides to preserve its history and culture over the years, rather than bulldozing over its past like so many other American cities.

One of the many San Antonio River Walk bridges
One of the many San Antonio River Walk bridges

2. Try a paleta.

While exploring River Walk, we asked a couple munching on frozen treats for directions. This incited my daughter to beg for ice cream. Our new friends explained that their snacks were not ice cream but paletas, a Mexican frozen fruit dessert on a stick. The duo pointed us up the hill to a little cafe in La Villita where we could purchase some bars of our own. When locals tell me I need to taste something, I listen! These yummy all-fruit treats (in flavors like coconut, lime, strawberry, or mango) were worth the climb. You will find them being sold throughout San Antonio, but The Paleta Bar is a good place to start.

After your snack, mosey through La Villita, San Antonio’s old town. It is a charming cluster of galleries and shops.

Strawberry Paleta in San Antonio, Texas with kids
My daughter gobbling up a strawberry paleta

3. Visit the Alamo.

You can’t leave San Antonio without a visit to The Alamo. While it may not be as graceful as the Eiffel Tower or as awe-inspiring as the Egyptian Pyramids, there is something about visiting a place you’ve heard of your whole life. I got that sense of, “So this is the Alamo!” The Alamo was built originally as a mission and was fortified and used for military purposes over the years. I was surprised to find it smack-dab in the middle of downtown, just a couple of blocks from River Walk. I had pictured it as a lone building in the middle of the desert somewhere.

Walk the Alamo’s lovely grounds, toss pennies for luck into a fountain, wander through the compound’s three buildings, and read about why we should “Remember the Alamo!” Bonus: you can do all of this for free!

Kids at the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas
Me with the kiddos at the Alamo

4. Enjoy Tex-Mex cuisine.

Every other restaurant in San Antonio seemed to specialize in Mexican cuisine. There were numerous selections along the River Walk to choose from. Recommended to me by a friend, The Alamo Café is big on atmosphere. It features mini rivers running throughout its interior and giant American and Texas flags draped across one wall. The highlight for my 5-year-old daughter was watching the ladies in traditional Mexican dresses rolling out handmade flour tortillas. They even tossed her some dough to play with!

Child watching tortilla making at the Alamo Cafe
Karissa intently watching the tortillas being made at the Alamo Cafe

5. Eat a big ol’ Texas steak.

I don’t eat much red meat but I figured when in Texas, I should eat like a Texan! I ordered a porterhouse at the upscale, yet rustic 18 Oaks at JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa. The restaurant overlooks the resort’s gorgeous golf course and smells of wood burning in the hearth. They serve all local, organic grass and oat-fed beef. They may have converted me to a meat-eater. I keep daydreaming about that dang steak.

If you’re looking to splurge on a delicious steak dinner slathered in parsley garlic butter, then head here! You can choose from six sauces. I sampled the blue cheese and the peppercorn. They were both so heavenly, I can’t decide which was better!

18 Oaks steak knives at the JW Marriott San Antonio
I was presented with a variety of steak knives to choose from at 18 Oaks. Hey…a great steak deserves the right knife!

Explore more of the American Southwest.

For a Texas beach vacation, read about what to do in South Padre Island, Texas.

I bet your family loves this list of enchanting things to do in Albuquerque, New Mexico with kids.

Take a look at the West’s most Western town, with these tips for visiting Scottsdale, Arizona with kids.

Sample some of the best of the Southwest of the U.S., take a look at this road trip from Phoenix, featuring the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Las Vegas and more.

Would you like to visit San Antonio with kids? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from the Travel Mama: My family was hosted by the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa for this story about San Antonio with kids. All opinions are mine, as always.

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. Looks like you had a fun trip! I haven’t been yet, but I had the exact same expectation you did about the Alamo being some lone building out in the middle of the desert. So funny! The River Walk and boat tour sounds like a sure kid pleaser.

  2. I grew up in S.A.–love the River Walk!

    When we went back for visits when our kids were small, we also enjoyed Sea World and Six Flags (then called Fiesta Texas). A few more $$$, but worth it for the kiddos.

  3. Be fore-warned, the boat ride takes a while so be prepared to entertain the little ones with short attention spans! A bag of M&M’s and a game of find-the-candy-in-the-closed-fist kept us going for the last 20 minutes or so. 🙂

  4. A further comment on the RiverWalk – there are no handrails and the edges of the sidewalk can be slippery. Hold hands of wandering toddlers to avoid an unexpected swim!

  5. I loved San Antonio- even though I was 8 months pregnant and it was August! Loved Sea World, The Alamo, the river walk and most def the tex mex!!!! Read about my expiriences here: http://www.dottingthemap.com/2009/08/28/highlights-of-san-antonio/

  6. We’ve been to San Antonio a few times for my husband’s military reserve duty. We love the McKenna Childrens Museum. It’s a little out of town but so worth the drive. It’s not as busy or as expensive as the San Antonio version.

  7. I remember hearing about San Antonio people designing the Riverwalk years ago and I always wanted to see it. This new Marriott sounds like just what I needed to make some plans.

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