San Antonio: 5 Family Friendly Things to Do

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Explore San Antonio with your kids and teens. The city features historic attractions, parks, the restaurant and shop lined River Walk plus SeaWorld San Antonio’s critters and rollercoasters.

San Antonio Missions© Candyce H. Stapen Photography

San Antonio is an ideal family vacation destination with a good mix of historic sites and fun attractions.

In San Antonio, find first-class museums, centuries-old attractions as well as plenty of parks, plus 15-miles of paths along the famous River Walk. History slides down easily at the Alamo and other missions; dinosaurs tower over visitors at the Witte Museum; and dolphins, killer whales and gut-wrenching rollercoasters engage kids at SeaWorld. Here are five family-friendly things to experience with your children when visiting San Antonio.

Family-Friendly San Antonio

Witte Museum© Candyce H. Stapen Photography

Witte Museum

1. Meet dinosaurs:

Dinosaurs from the region that became Texas dominate the first-floor of the Witte Museum’s new $100 million building. A Quetzalcoatlus, a pterosaur with a 36-foot wingspan, flies in the entranceway, an Acrocanthosaurus atokensis steps into molds of the critter’s actual footprints found in a Texas creek, and a full-size T-rex towers over visitors. At the Lifeways Lab, budding archeologists use brushes to uncover a skeleton and can peer into discovery drawers to ogle real dino bones.

San Fernando Cathedral© Candyce H. Stapen Photography

San Fernando Cathedral

2. Experience a sound and light show:

San Antonio: the Saga, the 24-minute light and sound video projected onto the façade of the 18th century San Fernando Cathedral, dazzles kids with its mosaic of morphing images and kaleidoscopic colors. Fire-lit cave paintings, falling rain, battle scenes, and faces, plus Indian chants and country music combine to present an experiential sense of the city’s history.

3. Cruise the River Walk:

The city’s jewel, the River Walk, consists of 15 miles of pathways that hug the San Antonio River. Hotels, shops, restaurants and cafés line the five miles that cut through downtown. Kids like the 35-minute boat rides, not so much for the historic narration, but for the cruise’s scenic views, cool breezes, and reveals of murals hidden under the bridges.

4. Tour the Alamo and other missions:

See the bullet holes in the walls of the Alamo, a.k.a. Mission San Antonio de Valero, a result of the 1836 battle in which Texan defenders were ultimately killed by the Mexican army. The Mission San José’s green lawn, and centuries-old walls and church create a peaceful place to learn about the goals and history of missions in the Southwest.

SeaWorld San AntonioSeaWorld San Antonio

SeaWorld, San Antonio

5. Ride coasters and swim with dolphins:

Those are two of the many encounters available at SeaWorld San Antonio. Although the SeaWorld parks are phasing out some animal shows, you can still watch Shamu and pals perform as well as ogle the last baby Orca whale bred and born at SeaWorld. For thrills, plunge 15-stories on the Steel Eel, turn head-over-heels on Great white, and lean into turns while straddling a jet ski-style car on Wave Breaker: the Rescue Coaster, a coaster debuting this summer. Little ones like the carousel and character-themed rides at Sesame Street Bay of Play.

Where to Stay: Well-located in San Antonio’s downtown, The St. Anthony, faces Travis Park’s greenery and sits within an easy stroll of the Alamo and the River Walk. The national historic landmark renovated in 2015 offers upmarket accommodations, but is far from stuffy. Youngsters like strolling Peacock Alley, the long lobby with its row of pillars and elaborately decorated piano. Foodies, both teens and adults, will appreciate the fare and the flashy atmosphere of Rebelle, The St. Anthony’s restaurant.