A Guide to Free Museum Hours in San Antonio

Did you know that most San Antonio Museums offer free hours and events? Below is a guide to free museum hours in San Antonio. We’ve included days and times you can visit a variety of local San Antonio attractions, as well as some special family events you might want to check out.

Jump in and explore the Alamo City, all free of charge. And if you like what you see, consider becoming a member or supporting these fantastic institutions another way. They’re all nonprofits that help make our community the fabulous spot we all love.

The Alamo

Did you know that one of Texas’s most visited landmarks never charges a fee? That’s right—entrance to the Alamo church and grounds is always free. Don’t let the idea of tourists scare you. Take your kids, roam the grounds, and soak in some history. Reserve your timed entry and check out the upgrade options for guided and audio tours.

Open daily (except Christmas day) 9:00 a.m.– 5:30 p.m. For special events, check out the Alamo’s event calendar.

The Alamo is more than just the shrine. The grounds are beautiful and hello—cannons!

Blue Star Contemporary

The first and longest-running nonprofit venue for contemporary art in San Antonio, Blue Star Contemporary showcases emerging and established artists through an array of exhibitions each year. And as part of the Blue Star Arts Complex, it’s nestled right along the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River, making it a great starting point for some River exploring as well. There are also some great galleries and more to explore at Blue Star, including restaurants you can enjoy.

Contemporary art is a definite conversation starter. I love seeing what these artists come up with, and it’s always a great talking point with my art-loving son. Note: Some of the exhibits may not always be kid-friendly. I once had to tell my son NOT to sit on the art. He had no idea the bench he was eyeing was actually an exhibit! Blue Star offers free admission, though you need to schedule your visit. Donations are requested in lieu of admission, so make a donation to keep Blue Star the gem that it is.

The Briscoe Western Art Museum

Really big horns at the Briscoe Western Art Museum

The Briscoe is a fun gem that gives your kids a peek into Western life, housed in a beautiful building that’s just down from the Arneson River Theater on the River Walk. Officially, the Briscoe “preserves and interprets the art, history, and culture of the American West through engaging exhibitions, educational programs, and public events reflective of the region’s rich traditions and shared heritage.” What does that mean for kids? They get to learn about cowboys! For a mom’s perspective on the Briscoe, check out Inga’s visit with her son.

Children under 12 are always free at the Briscoe, as are active-duty members of the military (family members receive discounted admission when the military member is present). The first Sunday of every month is also Locals Day, where all Bexar County residents and San Antonio residents receive free admission. The museum also regularly hosts free events, like a celebration of the National Day of the Cowboy and Yanaguana Indian Arts Festival. You can check out what’s ahead on the museum’s event calendar.

The DoSeum

The DoSeum is a local favorite, and many of us with children can spend hours exploring all there is to do. But did you know that you can visit for free once a month? Free Family Night is offered the first Monday of each month from 5:30–7:30 p.m. Note: Space is limited, and RSVPs/wristbands are required. A link for ticket reservations is posted at 8:00 a.m. the morning of Free Family Night. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis. For other DoSeum events, check out its calendar.

Fort Sam Houston Museum

When I first heard about this museum and space, all I heard about were the peacocks, but the rich history of “Military City USA” starts here.

Museum visitors without a DoD ID card must stop at the Visitor Center on Walters Street. All visitors 18 years or older must present a picture ID card. If you have any access questions, call the Visitor’s Center at 210-221-2651. Open Monday–Friday, 10:00 a.m.– 4:00 p.m., except for Federal holidays.

The Institute of Texan Cultures

Growing up in the Alamo City, I have fond memories of attending field trips to the Institute of Texan Cultures to reinforce my Texan indoctrination—cough, cough—history education. Visually, the Institute houses so many different tools and trades that helped build Texas, which really makes you feel immersed into history. I love the outdoor exhibits that allow you to “play house” in different centuries. Looking to reinforce Texas history from home, they offer a Digital Exhibit section on their website. Admission is donation-based, which is what includes them to this list.

The McNay

Not only is the McNay a great place to see art, but the grounds are also terrific for exploring.

The McNay is a San Antonio treasure. The grounds are gorgeous—and perfect for picnicking—and the art collection is fantastic. Many people have no idea that you can see Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso, and more, right here in San Antonio. Once a family home, the McNay is a great space to explore with your family. And yes, you can introduce your kids to art, and yes, they are welcome at the McNay! For another mom’s take on exposing kids to art, check out Inga’s post about the McNay, or my summer of art with my favorite junior art critic.

The McNay offers a variety of opportunities to enjoy the museum at no charge. Free H-E-B Thursday Nights (4:00–9:00 p.m. every Thursday) include free general admission. First Sundays of the month are also free admission (noon–5:00 p.m.). (Special exhibition access costs $10 during these times.) For military members, veterans, and their families, admission is currently free, courtesy of USAA. Anyone 12 and under gets in free ALL THE TIME, so you can enjoy the museum with your family whenever you like and not have to pay for the little ones.

The McNay is a great spot for outdoor art exploring, visiting their pond, and enjoying a picnic. During Daylight Savings Time, the Museum’s sculpture grounds are open every day from 7:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m. During Standard Time, the sculpture grounds are open every day from 7:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. Plan your visit today.

The San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum

The newest addition to La Villita and a fantastic addition to the San Antonio landscape is the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum (SAAACAM). Located on S. Presa on the outer edge of La Villita, the museum is always free and open during the same hours as La Villita.

The museum’s mission is to collect, preserve, and share the cultural heritage of African Americans in the San Antonio area. They host a monthly Black History River Cruise (ticketed event) and feature a wonderful array of online content on their website, so you can also learn this essential piece of San Antonio history right from home.

San Antonio Fire Museum

I hear the Paw Patrol theme song echoing in the background as I work my way through the information about the San Antonio Fire Museum. Located in the historic Central Fire Headquarters off Houston Street, this museum has easily become one of the most well-known fire museums in the country. The museum boasts an inventory of antique trucks and equipment, as well as replica gear to try on.

Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m., with no guests admitted after 3:30 p.m. Free admission for all ages is offered on the first Tuesday of the month from 12:00–4:00 p.m. Learn more: https://www.sanantoniofiremuseum.org/

San Antonio Missions

Texas history is weaved along the San Antonio River and it’s an amazing adventure to take. My family spent most of 2020 parking at one of the missions and walking to another one. Each of the missions boasts FREE admission and amazing FREE programming throughout the year.

Mission Concepción: 807 Mission Rd., San Antonio, TX 78210
Mission San José: 6701 San Jose Dr., San Antonio, TX 78124
Mission San Juan: 9101 Graf Rd., San Antonio, TX 78214
Mission Espada: 10040 Espada Rd., San Antonio, TX 78214

One of our favorite pieces in San Antonio: a glass ceiling designed by American artist Dale Chihuly.

San Antonio Museum of Art

On the banks of the River’s Museum Reach, San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) takes you around the world with collections of Latin American, Asian, and Ancient Mediterranean art. There’s also a terrific contemporary collection, and like the McNay, the museum’s buildings and grounds are also fun to check out.

General admission to SAMA is free for Bexar County residents on Tuesday nights (4:00–7:00 p.m.) and on Sunday mornings (10:00 a.m.–noon). FYI, children 12 and under always receive free general admission to SAMA. Still wondering if kids really are welcome? SAMA even offers guides to help you engage your children while you enjoy the collection, so quit worrying and go explore.

San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology

One of the newest museums in the area is heavy on experiences for all ages. Area 21 is their FREE self-guided experience. Kids will want to go for the robots and 3D printing but will want to stay when they see all of the gadgets and gizmos. Learn more: https://www.samsat.org/area21

Dinosaur fun at the Witte

The Witte Museum

Oh Witte, how I adore thee! My son’s love of dinosaurs knows no bounds, and you, dear Witte, help keep him entertained and educated in such a cool way that he has no idea all that he’s learning. If the Witte were a fellow mom, she’d be the cool mom the rest of us admire. And I’d buy her coffee. Seriously. If you haven’t been to the Witte, GO!

So how can the Witte be more terrific? Free admission every Tuesday, 3:00–6:00 p.m., and littles three years and younger are always free! Note: There is a charge for admission to special exhibits during this time, but the special exhibits are usually so terrific that they’re worth it.

So put your wallet away and get to exploring!

Listing updated in partnership with contributor Dawn!

Born and raised South Texan who has explored living in other states but there is no place like home. She loves being in the "room where it happens" and carries many different titles: mama to a bubbling boy and girly girl, wife to an associate pastor, communications consultant, and a variety of mis pronunciations of her name {Honest- Asia}. Mostly found with a large unsweet tea or iced Americano in hand at The Pearl, Yanaguana at the Hemisfair, side lines of games in Floresville, or exploring the trails of the San Antonio river.