Five Reasons to Join the SA Botanical Garden This Summer


I’ll admit that I’d lived in San Antonio for five years before venturing to the city’s botanical garden for the first time, which I now know to be a real oversight.

Located at 555 Funston Place, the garden spans some 38 acres, occupying a large site between the historic Monte Vista district (and Brackenridge Park) and Fort Sam Houston. More than just a “garden,” the SA Botanical Garden is a museum of plants, a research conservation facility, a living classroom, and a tranquil escape from the city all around it.

Open since 1980, the botanical garden has changed relatively little in the past 40+ years. The historic Sullivan Carriage House was moved, brick by brick, to the garden and restored; and in 1988 the Lucille Halsell Conservatory opened to the public. Designed by renowned Argentinian architect Emilio Ambasz, it remains one of the botanical garden’s most striking, beautiful, yet functional features. In 2017, the GROW capital initiative allowed the garden to expand and better serve its users. With a new entrance, culinary garden and outdoor kitchen focused on teaching health and wellness, and a family adventure garden, the San Antonio Botanical Garden offers something for everyone.

While zoo and museum memberships are high on family wish lists, it can be easy to overlook all the benefits of membership at a place like the garden. Coupled with our fiery summer temperatures, this can be something of a tough sell! Nonetheless, if you’ve been on the fence—or just haven’t known all that SABOT offers—keep reading about what’s happening in the garden this year.

1. Fairy Tales, Magic, and More

This summer, delight your little one’s imagination with the Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time exhibit. Spectacular, giant living sculptures can be found across the garden, inspired by timeless fairy tales: from the 25-foot dragon in its lair on the conservatory lawn to a spectacular peacock in the formal gardens; walking through the larger-than-life storybook gates only hints at the magic lurking elsewhere.

The Imaginary Worlds exhibit opened on May 6, and will run throughout the summer. Make the most of the extended daylight hours (Daily, 8:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.; Wednesdays, 8:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.) and enjoy these sculptures in the cool of the morning or at dusk.

On Saturday, August 5, Celebrate Fantastic Flora is a hands-on family fun event to celebrate the Imaginary Worlds exhibit. With nature-based stories and activities based on fantasy and adventure, this is the perfect follow-up for kids who were captivated by the sculptures and the fairy tales behind them (pre-registration is required).

2. Sensory Fun

There is so much for kids of all ages to explore at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. If, like me, your little outdoor lover is happier in soil, grass, or water than anywhere else, the garden’s summer weekend activities offer the fun sensory stimulation they crave.

On Saturday, June 3, families are invited to celebrate International Mud Day with Celebrate Soil and Mud. Find a whole host of activity stations manned by garden educators, encouraging hands-on mud play for the whole family! Similarly, Saturday, July 8 is all about celebrating water. What better way to spend a morning in one of the hottest months than splashing in the garden’s No Name Creek and letting the kids enjoy a range of water-based crafts and activities?

These events are free with paid admission and for members. Unlike the Fantastic Flora event, registration is not required for the soil or water events.

3. Switch Up Your Date Night

Once a month (on Thursdays), get to know another side of the garden with LUSH: a celebration of abundance, food and drink, and after-hours entertainment. With extended hours, live music, cocktails, and beautiful flower displays, LUSH is the perfect way to switch up your date night routine or spend a fun evening with the girls.

Your ticket comes with a complimentary boozy beverage, matched to the theme of the evening. Additional food and beverages are available for purchase, and attendees are encouraged to bring blankets and lawn chairs to enjoy the sunset and make the most of the evening. These events run 7:00–10:00 p.m.; both regular and VIP experience tickets are available (and at a discounted rate for members).

Sip on Rosé while surrounded by roses in May, enjoy margarita madness in June, listen to the sound of dueling pianos in July, and cool down with sangria at sunset in August. Keep up-to-date with upcoming themes on the SABOT website calendar, and find out about other, one-off events.

4. Members-Only Benefits

If you’re starting to think you’re missing out on everything that is happening at the garden, becoming a member might be a great option! Memberships are available for an annual fee or monthly subscription, beginning at $65 for one adult, and $90 (or $9 a month) for two adults, with daily access for children and grandchildren under 18.

Along with free admission for a year during operating hours, you’ll also have access to a quiet, members-only hour before the garden opens. Complimentary admission to certain events; discounts on classes, camps, and birthday parties; and reciprocal membership benefits at 345+ gardens and conservatories across North America are some of the other perks to membership.

Lastly, members-only events like Boozy Bouquets (Sunday, May 21, and Thursday, August 13) allow members to enjoy signature cocktails while learning to arrange and display flowers with local florists like Courtney Warden of Indigo Bloom.

5. Looking Ahead

The botanical garden is continually updating its schedule and adding new, exciting events. Looking ahead to the end of the year, fall will see a whole host of children’s workshops about planting, plant sales, and more.

Lightscape has proved to be a big success for the garden and has quickly become a must-see event during the holiday season. Here’s hoping that its captivating light displays, tasty treats, and holiday spirit will be back again this year!

If you’ve yet to go to the San Antonio Botanical Garden, or it’s been a long time since you visited, I hope this post encourages you to check it out!

Natalie is a proud Brit, but moved to Texas at the end of 2017 to be with her husband, a native San Antonian. Their son was born in late October 2020, so her entire experience of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum has been under the cloud of Covid-19. She spent the frivolous years of her early 20s pursuing a PhD in Renaissance history, living in Venice, Italy, and teaching students. She pivoted into editing when she moved to the US, but currently has her academic pursuits on hold while she focuses on her son. Despite being in San Antonio for a few years now, she still considers herself a newbie. She loves to find out more about the history and culture of the city, explore new places, and find local businesses to support. A fastidious researcher and lover of lists, she’s always excited to share her finds and experiences with others. Favorite Restaurant: Dough Favorite Landmark: World’s Largest Cowboy Boots Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Riverwalk Christmas Lights