Local Favorites: A Newcomer’s Guide to San Antonio

Welcome to San Antonio! In my humble opinion, it doesn’t get better than living in the Alamo City, and I can’t wait to show you around. Here is a list of local favorites suggested by our readers in the ACM Community Group. It covers all the basics—family dining, kid outings, date night, and of course, margaritas—so y’all take a break from unpacking and start enjoying life in the Alamo City!

Favorite Kid-centric Activities

San Antonio kids have it made. Amazing city parks, top-notch libraries, a zoo, a children’s museum—so much fun for the young and young at heart! You’ll be your kids’ favorite person after taking them to one of the following spots:

  • What’s not to love about playtime at the park? It’s free. It’s outdoors. It offers comfortable benches for moms and tons of active play for littles. The Alamo City has so many awesome parks! Brackenridge, Hardberger, McAllister, Pearsall—the list goes on. Read all about them here, here, and here
  • The San Antonio Zoo is a family favorite. Not only does have impressive animal exhibits, but it also offers train rides, a carousel, play areas, and now in its new location, Kiddie Park. Many families in town purchase a Zoo Membership because they love going to the zoo often!
  • The DoSeum is a blast any day, but it’s an especially wonderful option for days that are just too hot or too rainy for outdoor play. This multi-story children’s museum has something for everyone, including areas specifically designed for kiddos under five (looking at you, Little Town).
  • Very few things compare to family time at the Pearl splash pad. Kiddos can frolic in the splash pad while caregivers get cozy on the nearby green space. Every Saturday and Sunday morning the Pearl hosts a huge farmer’s market, which adds even more fun (and food) for the family.
  • Morgan’s Wonderland is the world’s first ultra-accessible theme park. What does that look like? Every ride and attraction is wheelchair-friendly, even the splash pads! In fact, the water park, Inspiration Island, has five accessible splash pads. Kiddos with special needs get in free at Morgan’s Wonderland, and all kids can enjoy the attractions after paying for admission. This is the perfect place if you want a theme park experience for kids who aren’t quite ready for Six Flags. 
  • Everyone can enjoy the outdoors at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. The Family Adventure Garden has a man-made stream for splashing, sand-play areas, a hill your kids are supposed to roll down called “Tumble Hill,” and more!
  • San Antonio Public Libraries take storytime to another level. They offer different storytime programs for different age levels (Baby Time, Toddler Time, etc.), and go far beyond reading a book. Songs, rhymes, playtime, and crafts are also included. Some branches, like Landa and Parman, also have fun outdoor play areas. 

Favorite Family Dinner Places

Successful family dining demands a tricky balance between good food AND good entertainment for your pack of little humans. Luckily there are several such establishments rocking the dinner scene in San Antonio. Load up the minivan and drive out for some grub at one of these family-friendly spots:

  • The Cove has the perfect set up, with an impressive playscape and tables located directly next to the play area so you can enjoy your sustainable, organic, locally-sourced meal AND watch the kiddos having fun at the same time. Win-win!
  • If you’re after fresh tortillas and delicious queso, Alamo Cafe is your place. Its casual atmosphere lends itself well to family dinners, and the Tex Mex can’t be beaten. 
  • With a menu that has something for everyone and a sandbox that will keep little hands busy, Willie’s Ice House is perfect for family nights out. 
  • Big’z Burgers does indeed have big delicious burgers. It also has a big backyard play area. While you’re enjoying your meal on the patio, your children will be kicking a ball, playing tag, and wearing themselves out so you can put them to bed as soon as you get home. 
  • La Hacienda greets you with a beautiful outdoor dining area, complete with twinkle lights and mariachi music. But most parents agree that an even more beautiful sight is the outdoor playground for your rugrats. Oh, and the food is muy delicioso.  
  • You will not find a playground at Torchy’s Tacos; however, the food makes up for it. Local tip: ask them to make your taco “trashy.” The vibe is very laid-back, so there’s no need to hesitate about bringing the whole family here.  
  • Dough is San Antonio’s most beloved pizzeria. It serves up authentic neopolitan pizza and, upon request, they will give your kids some dough to make their own little pizza at your table!

Favorite Date Nights

On those rare nights you find yourselves sans children, San Antonio has tons of great date night dining options. The city’s main date night hot spots are at The Pearl, downtown, and La Cantera. So choose a location, grab your honey, and check these out:

  • The Pearl is the ultimate date night destination. Aside from being set on the San Antonio River in one of the most architecturally beautiful spots in the city, you have your choice of dining at phenomenal eateries such as Cured, Supper, and Southerleigh. Another highly recommended venue is Jazz, TX, located in the cellar of the bottling house. The perfect combo of swanky and southern, you’ll be dancing the night away in no time. 
  • Exploring downtown isn’t just for tourists. Locals frequent this charming area to take advantage of the many delicious restaurants. Bohanans can’t be beaten when it comes to old-timey steakhouse atmosphere and mouth-watering entrees. For tasty Mediterranean fare, visit Bella on Houston. Other fine dining options include The Fig Tree and Restaurant Gwendolyn. On the other hand, dueling piano bar Howl at the Moon, with its part-bar, part-concert approach, is perfect when you are in the mood to party. South Alamode Panini and Gelato is a solid dessert option.
  • La Cantera is primarily known for its shopping, but it also boasts some terrific dining options. Signature is located in La Cantera Resort and offers spectacular food to go with the gorgeous scenery. Bob’s Steak & Chop House, located at The Rim, is all you could hope for when it comes to Texas steak and fine dining. For a casual, outdoor dining experience complete with live music, check out The Rustic. A few other fan favorites in the La Cantera area are Piatti, Uni’Ko, and George’s Keep.  

Favorite Margaritas

Margaritas are the lifeblood of San Antonio, and every place has a different spin on their “house” version. Here are a few to try:

  • For many, “getting margaritas” means going to El Mirasol. As one of the most recommended on our ACM Community page, it’s definitely worth a try!
  • When you need a break from exploring the River Walk, try the prickly pear margarita at Boudro’s.
  • San Antonians love avocados and margaritas are no exception! Be sure to try the famed avocado margarita from Aldaco’s
  • What’s better than a frozen margarita? Rosario’s would suggest a frozen margarita swirled with Mexican sangria wine (aka their swirl margarita). 
  • Paloma Blanca is an all-around local favorite. Whether you’re there for date night or girls’ night, be sure to taste one of their delicious margarita options!
  • La Fogata‘s award-winning margaritas are so tasty, they are served in larger, 16-ounce glasses! And with a pretty, edible orchid.

Other Favorites

We asked our Community Group to just share their favorite “something else” in San Antonio. Answers ranged from coffee to hockey. The moral of the story: there is a lot to love in the Alamo City! Here’s to finding your favorite something soon:

  • Moms’ Night Out spot: Whiskey Cake is perfect for a girls’ night dinner! They even have Ladies Wine Wednesdays with half-priced wine from 4:00 P.M. to close. Did you know that ACM hosts an annual Moms’ Night Out? Be sure to check out the next one!
  • Shopping: For those hardcore “shop till you drop” shopping trips, check out the Forum and La Cantera. Both are huge shopping centers with plentiful retail and dining options. For a more local, boutique shopping experience, we love Feliz Modern.
  • Outdoors: Hiking in Eisenhower Park and biking the Missions were both recommended by outdoor enthusiasts in the community group. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
  • Coffee: Press Coffee and Local Coffee are hometown favorites. Check out this list for a full San Antonio coffee guide. Book club, anyone?
  • Close-to-Home Getaway: Whether it’s on your own or with your crew of little humans, staycations are a blast! You can’t go wrong with the JW Marriott or La Cantera Resort.
  • Music and Arts: Yes, we listen to more than just country music here (some more reluctantly than others). The Majestic Theatre and Tobin Center both provide enjoyable, high-quality performances, including the San Antonio Symphony.
  • Sports: You don’t have to live here long to realize that we love our San Antonio Spurs! Sports lovers can also enjoy hockey, soccer, and baseball.

Locals, have any other options to add to the mix? Leave your favorites in the comments!

Whitney
When Whitney fell in love with a handsome Texan, she just knew that someday they would call Texas home. Her family has been in San Antonio for two years now and they couldn't be happier. She loves the heat, the tacos, and the family-friendly feel of the Alamo City. A typical day for Whitney consists of taming her two wild ginger children with some running, reading, and resting sprinkled throughout. Her son has profound hearing loss and wears both a hearing aid and a cochlear implant. Her daughter has selective, self-imposed hearing loss that I'm told cannot be corrected with any form of technology. Simply put, those crazy kiddos are her world. In Whitney's former, non-mom life, she taught ninth grade English. Working with students on their writing was her absolute favorite and she's always been passionate about helping kids become writers.

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