San Antonio Tourist Stops That Are Anything but a Trap: Top Destinations for Out-of-Town Visitors

At the end of this month, a professional organization I belong to is hosting its annual meeting right in our backyard. As the area VP, I’ve received calls, texts, and emails about what to do and see in San Antonio. The conference is only about 72 hours, so I had to pick what I felt was the best of the best San Antonio has to offer. Not only that, but each pick needed to say something unique about San Antonio.

No pressure, right?

I’ve reviewed, revised, revisited, changed, rearranged, picked friends’ brains, called my parents, and recomposed this list over and over and over and over (well, you get it), but I think I’m left with a pretty solid list. Without further ado, below is a list of my top three picks per category of things to eat, see, and do in San Antonio.

Note: I have chosen things I believe would provide a unique experience for visitors and showcase San Antonio at its best. Hopefully, my painstaking research can help you next time you have friends or family in town who want to check out the best San Antonio has to offer!

Restaurants

Mi Tierra Café y Panadería

It’s no coincidence that Mi Tierra is number one on my list. While this list is generally in no particular order, Mi Tierra in the top spot just feels right. Growing up, I spent every Christmas Eve at Mi Tierra waiting on Santa. Between the year-round twinkle lights, an infamous pan dulce bar, and their signature Mexican Hot Chocolate, Mi Tierra is a San Antonio staple. if you don’t make it to this Tex-Mex favorite, you haven’t been to San Antonio. Authentic mariachis top off an experience that only Mi Terra can deliver. Pro tip: don’t be surprised if there’s a long wait when you get there, but it moves fast! Grab a seat in the bar and enjoy the mariachis and the sights of downtown San Antonio while you wait.

Hours: Open 24/7, 365 days a year!
Mi Tierra Cafe y Panaderia, 218 Produce Row, San Antonio, TX 78207 | (210) 225-1262

La Fogata Mexican Cuisine

La Fogata is a more intimate, authentic San Antonio hot spot, but it’s just as magical. If Hawaii and San Antonio had a baby with delicious, fresh Mexican food, you would have La Fogata. La Fogata boasts intimate dining areas on breezy patios, with beautiful florals and vegetation all around. You’ll forget you’re in the middle of the city! Pro tip: sit outside. Even when it’s warm, it’s delightful. Promise.

Hours: Open daily, 11:00 A.M.–10:00 P.M.
La Fogata, 2427 Vance Jackson Rd., San Antonio, TX 78213 | (210) 340-1337

Battalion

I can’t include only Mexican food on this list. OK, I definitely could, and I have about 15 more favorites, but for the sake of switching it up, Battalion deserves a spot on the list. Located right on the edge of Southtown in an old fire station, Battalion is within walking distance to some of the best nightlife in town (and ice cream), while offering some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had. Pro tip: bring at least three or four friends, order anything and everything that sounds good, and share. Plates are generally small, and this way you can try everything. Heads up: on this one, you’ll want to make a reservation!

Hours: Monday–Thursday, 5:00 P.M.–10:00 P.M.; Friday–Saturday, 5:00 P.M.–11:00 P.M.; and Sunday, 5:00 P.M.–9:00 P.M.
Battalion, 604 S. Alamo St., San Antonio, TX 78205 | (210) 816-0088

Activities

Blue Star Arts Complex

Located along the San Antonio River, the Blue Star Arts Complex is home to a variety of art venues, shops, and restaurants. Known as the Anchor of San Antonio Art, the Blue Star Arts Complex is a quaint, creative niche adjacent to the historic King William neighborhood. Whether you decide to peruse local art galleries, ride a bike or go for a walk along the San Antonio River, or grab a drink at San Antonio’s first brewpub, there’s a little something for everyone at Blue Star. Pro tip: after checking out some local art, grab dinner at Stella Public House and then drop by South Alamode for some late-night gelato!

Hours: Vary by individual shops and restaurants
Blue Star Arts Complex, 1414 S. Alamo St., San Antonio, TX 78210 | (210) 354-3775

Museum Reach at the San Antonio River Walk

Want to pack some of the best hot spots into one afternoon? Check out the Museum Reach expansion of the San Antonio River Walk, which encompasses the San Antonio Zoo, Japanese Tea Garden, Brackenridge Park, the Pearl, and three of San Antonio’s best museums: The Witte, The DoSeum, and the San Antonio Museum of Art. About 1.3 miles in length, Museum Reach is pedestrian-friendly and great for all ages. Pro tip: start at the Tobin and walk towards the Pearl. You’ll get to enjoy beautiful art along the way!

Hours: Open daily; best for daytime
Download a map of the San Antonio River Walk, including the Museum Reach, here.

Historic Market Square

While you’re having lunch or dinner at Mi Tierra, you might as well check out Historic Market Square. Why? Market Square is packed with local artisans and vendors (more than 100 locally owned shops and stalls) that are pure, authentic San Antonio. Whether you’re looking to browse for some beautiful tops and dresses or snag a new dining set that is sure to be one of a kind, this is the San Antonio shopping you’ve been looking for! Pro tip: Make a lap before you purchase anything so you can know what’s there and make a plan.

Hours: Open daily; best for daytime
Historic Market Square, 514 W. Commerce St., San Antonio, TX 78207 | (210) 207-8600

Sights

San Antonio Missions

San Antonio is home to five missions: The Alamo, Mission Concepcion, Mission San José, Mission San Juan Capistrano, and Mission Estrada. Of course, we all remember The Alamo, but the other four should not be overlooked. Feel like an athletic jaunt through San Antonio? Check out Mission Reach. It’s an eight-mile stretch that provides visitors with a unique look at San Antonio’s history. Enjoy on foot or by bike, but save this one for October–March!

Hours: Open daily; best for daytime
Download a map of the San Antonio River Walk, including the Mission Reach, here.

The Pearl

The Pearl is one of San Antonio’s most exciting locales: a one-stop shop offering unique culinary experiences, fabulous shopping, a to-die-for spa, a weekend farmer’s market, and amazing overall hang-out space. Head over on the weekends for the local farmer’s market, or enjoy a date night with your other half at one of the Pearl’s unique restaurants. Bring the kids to the splash pad or story time at the Pearl, or leave them at home and grab a massage at Hiatus Spa. Not feeling one of those options? Grab your dog and head out for a walk and some people watching! The Pearl has it all. Pro tip: I don’t have one. Just go.

Hours: Open daily; hours vary; best any time of day!
The Pearl, 312 Pearl Pkwy., San Antonio, TX 78215 | (210) 212-7260

San Antonio River Walk

I don’t think you can publish a tourist guide to San Antonio and ignore the River Walk. For good reason, the San Antonio River Walk is one of San Antonio’s most recognizable landmarks, offering shopping, dining, and an experience you cannot get anywhere else. My favorite, local way to experience the River Walk? Date night dinner at Boudro’s (where I got engaged!), followed by some dueling pianos at Durty Nelly’s!

Just for fun: Hop on a River barge tour or a double-decker bus tour and allow the local tour guides to charm with you with their knowledge and wit. Think I’m crazy? I have local friends who learned something new and were shocked by how much fun they had. Sandra Bullock fans, ask about Miss Congeniality hot spots. You won’t regret it! H

Hours: Open daily; great any time of day
Download a map of the San Antonio River Walk here.

Miscellaneous

San Antonio Botanical Garden

I recently re-discovered this botanical oasis, and am I hooked. The San Antonio Botanical Gardens boasts 38 acres of gorgeous landscapes right in the middle of town. Parents, they recently opened the Family Adventure Garden, which is ah-mazing for littles, especially on hot Texas days. Pro tip: check out their calendar for fun events throughout the year.

Hours: Open daily, 9:00 A.M.–5:00 P.M.
San Antonio Botanical Garden, 555 Funston Place, San Antonio, TX 78209 | (210) 536-1400

Sternewirth Tavern and Club Room

Located inside Hotel Emma, Sternewirth Tavern & Club Room offers a one-of-a-kind atmosphere that will instantly transport you back in time in the best way possible. The 25-foot vaulted ceilings and eclectic assortment of sofas offer an atmosphere that is perfect for a break from the Pearl’s weekend farmers market to a date night with your one and only. Pro tip: this is my favorite spot to kill time when I have people in town for work.

Hours: Monday–Thursday, 3:00 P.M.–12:00 A.M.; Friday–Saturday, 12:00 P.M.–2:00 A.M.; and Sunday, 12:00 P.M.–12:00 A.M.
Sternewirth Tavern & Club Room (located inside Hotel Emma), 136 E. Grayson St., San Antonio, TX 78205 | (210) 223-7375

Where are your favorite places in San Antonio to take out-of-town guests? Leave your picks in the comments!