Most people have heard the saying "Remember the Alamo," but what exactly is its significance? Founded in 1718 as the first mission in San Antonio, it originally served as a way station between east Texas and Mexico. In the 19th century, it became a symbol of liberty and independence during the Texas Revolution. For 13 days in 1836, some 200 Texas defenders held the Alamo from a siege of troops from Mexico. Today, the Alamo is a shrine to the heroic men (like Davy Crockett), who died defending it. The most surprising thing about the Alamo is its size; it is pretty small, considering its fame. Admission to the Alamo is free, but you need to make a reservation (online or at the kiosk in front) to enter the Alamo Church. Alternatively, book on the Young Texans Tour, which runs at the weekend especially for kids, and lasts 45 minutes. Your kids will be thrilled when it ends with a cannon drill demonstration.
A real gem for families and conveniently located just north of downtown, the Witte's focus is on science, natural history, and Texas heritage. There are lots of cool artifacts, including a colorful collection of frilly Texas ball gowns. Live animals, ranging from tarantulas to tortoises, can be found in the EcoLab. The H-E-B Body Adventure exhibit offers visitors four floors of fun, hands-on activities on themes relating to health and wellness to inspire a balanced lifestyle. Plan to spend an entire morning or afternoon here.
Perfect for little LEGO fans aged 3–10, this attraction combines the fun of playing with LEGO, admiring amazing LEGO creations, such as an entire replica of San Antonio, and the fun of rides and a climbing area play zone. There is also a 4D movie theater with wind, snow, and rain experiences!
Located near the San Antonio Zoo, the national-award-winning children's museum is the place to go to get out of the heat and enjoy hands-on fun. The facility opened in 2015 and is situated in a 5.5-acre park where you'll find exhibits like the spy academy, a musical staircase, an interactive puppet arcade, and an ADA-accessible treehouse. This gem also features more than 39,000-square-feet of outdoor play space, which is one of the largest areas of its kind in the nation. This is a must-see for kids from birth to age 10.
Visitors to this museum affiliated with the Smithsonian will learn the stories of immigrants who settled in Texas. Exhibits and programs examine the heritage, ethnicity, history, social issues, and popular culture that are woven into the unique tapestry of this state. There are permanent and rotating exhibits that explore various themes, from folklife to modern art. Not for the pre-school crowd, but older kids and teens should learn quite a bit while having fun. It is located very near the River Walk and Alamo, right next to the Tower of the Americas, and admission is by donation.
Explore this beautiful 38-acre botanical garden in the heart of San Antonio, including a culinary garden and outdoor kitchen, and the family adventure garden, the latter of which is a 2.5-acre play and learning space for families. There are frequent family-centered events, including the weekly Little Sprouts Hike for children 5 and under. When you need refreshments, there is also a lovely café.
If you thought hipsters were only in Brooklyn, head over to The Pearl. Though not quite in downtown, you can access it from River Walk. It's a gathering place where everyone is welcome to eat, shop, and play along the banks of the San Antonio River. Shopping options trend towards stores that are independently owned, like The Twig Book Shop, with its wonderful children's section. Foodie families will enjoy the giant Weekend Farmers' Market, selling local produce (Saturday) and artisan crafts (Sunday).
Just outside of downtown, this is a lovely small zoo. Our favorite exhibit was the Lory Landing, where you can purchase a little cup of nectar and tempt the lorikeets to get close to you as they sip. These colorful Australian birds are very playful, so don't be surprised if one lands on your head. Lions, giraffes, hippos, and rhinos are some of the many animals you can see, as well as visiting the aquarium and reptile house. The zoo and Witte Museum are in Brackenridge Park, which also has a miniature train to ride, a Japanese Garden, and many trails.
Related: Visit other Texas Zoos, Safaris, & More Places to See Animals.
The site of the 1968 World's Fair is now a park with waterfalls, fountains, and a playground. Many visitors head to HemisFair Park to visit the Tower of the Americas - a 750-foot tower similar to Seattle's Space Needle that offers grand 360 views.
Kiddie Park has been a San Antonio staple since it opened its gates in 1925. The park features an original 1918 carousel and various nostalgic rides. The park is said to be the oldest of its kind in the nation, and little kids should be in heaven. Live pony rides and carnival games add to the old-fashioned fun.
Things To Do With Kids Near San Antonio
Each of the following theme parks is a short drive from downtown San Antonio and set in the beauty of the San Antonio Hill Country:
The mega-aquarium and theme park is the largest marine life adventure park in the world. Observe dolphins, whales, penguins, tropical fish, and other sea life. There are dozens of non-aquatic rides here as well, including the Great White, the Southwest's first inverted roller coaster.
If you are looking for thrilling amusement rides, Six Flags is your Mecca. New for Summer 2022 is Dr. Diabolical's Cliffhanger, which is the world's steepest dive roller coaster. Six Flags has many roller coasters for the daredevils in your bunch, and for the smaller and meeker, there are many gentle rides too.
Billed as the "First Theme Park Where EVERYONE Can Play," this ultra-accessible theme park is fun for all the family and was named on the 2018 "World's Greatest Places" list by TIME magazine. Offering 25 accessible attractions across 25 acres, the theme park is next door to Morgan's Inspiration Island, an accessible splash park that has features all children will love to cool off in.
Families from all over Texas and beyond come to Schlitterbahn for the 4 miles of water attractions embedded into the natural beauty of the Hill Country and the Comal and Guadalupe rivers, including tube chutes, uphill water coasters, children's water playgrounds, beaches, hot tubs, spring-fed pools, and the world's first surf ride, are all here. This is the place to cool off in the Texas heat and the best water park in Texas (in our humble opinion), so expect lines on weekends.
Related: Check out other Amusement Parks, Theme Parks, & Water Parks within driving distance of Houston
Explore limestone caverns, challenge yourself on the treetop canopy course, fly over four zip lines, find your way out of a maze and stick around for the nightly bat flight (May through October). If typical cave tours bore you, you can also try the adventure tour at Natural Bridge Caverns, where a guide will lead you through an undeveloped section of the cave system with no guard rails or concrete pathways.
Related: See More Mommy Poppins City Guides
Best Restaurants in San Antonio for Kids
Mi Tierra is a family-run eatery located in bustling Market Square or El Mercado. It is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and is perpetually festooned with Christmas lights. Great Tex-Mex food, live music, an in-house bakery, and a jovial atmosphere help to explain the long lines of hungry tourists and locals. Breakfast is served all day and night. You cannot go wrong with ordering any of the enchiladas. There's a reasonably priced menu para niños that offers kid favorites like chicken tenders and burgers along with more flavorful fare like tacos.
Schilo's is a German deli, dubbed the oldest restaurant in San Antonio. Housed in a converted mercantile exchange building dating back to the 1800s, this place screams old world, with reasonable prices and kid-friendly options. Their specialties are split pea soup, homemade root beer, and a gigantic Rueben sandwich. Fun, cheap, delicious, and located in downtown only a block from the River Walk.
Tasty Mexican food served along the River Walk is what you can expect at Casa Rio. Fajitas, nachos, tamales, and more are dished up in hearty portions, so consider sharing.
When it's time to sit down and eat at The Pearl, Cured is a popular and delicious dining hot spot. Set in a meticulously restored 1904 building, the vibe is 100 percent trendy as well as family-friendly. Crowds come for the handcrafted cured foods, from charcuterie to pickles, unbeatable burgers, and lush sandwiches. The decadent desserts, like warm bread pudding and soft-serve ice cream, are irresistible.
It wouldn't be a trip to Texas without some slow-cooked barbecue. At the award-winning Two Bros. BBQ Market, kids will be kept busy on the outdoor playground while parents linger at shaded picnic tables enjoying award-winning classic Texas pit BBQ brisket, ribs, and more.
Family-Friendly Hotels in San Antonio
One of the "kid preferred" Holiday Inns, the recently updated San Antonio-Riverwalk has a kids' stay-and-eat-free package that allows up to 2 kids aged 11 and under, per adult, to stay and eat for free at their onsite Mexican restaurant. Kids will also love the outdoor pool.
Located on the banks of River Walk, the Mokara Hotel & Spa is a luxurious property that feels like an oasis from the moment you walk through the door. The vibe is sophisticated, but they welcome children with open arms. The staff treats kids (and their parents) like royalty. Check into your spacious room brimming with creature comforts. The kids may never want to get out of the giant Jacuzzi tub. The rooftop pool offers a view of the city and a refreshing way to cool off from the Texas heat.
Sparkling clean rooms, a River Walk location, a free buffet breakfast, and a nightly drinks reception add up to an excellent value for families at Embassy Suites Riverwalk. All rooms are suites equipped with a fridge and microwave. There is an outdoor pool to splash around in after a busy day of sightseeing.
At the quieter end of the Riverwalk, not far from the Pearl District, and half a mile from the Alamo, The Westin Riverwalk is a luxurious but kid-friendly hotel with an outdoor pool. Kids get a cool amenity bag at check-in, and the restaurant has kid-friendly menus. Room service can provide diapers, bottle warmers, booster seats, and other items to make staying with younger children that little bit easier.
Originally published May 25, 2014