Enjoy the Great Outdoors at San Antonio's Many Incredible Parks
By Kimberly Suta
San Antonio Local Expert
San Antonio, Texas is one of the leading tourist destinations for a reason, actually, for several reasons. People come from all around the country just to go to Seaworld and Fiesta Texas, which should definitely be on your list, especially if you brought the kids with you, but San Antonio also has a wide array of other amazing parks that shouldn't be overlooked.
Brackenridge Park is one of the best parks in town because it has a little bit of something for everyone and is also conveniently connected to the San Antonio Zoo and the Witte Museum, also fantastic destinations for the little ones. Brackenridge has beautiful tree-covered walking trails, bike trails, a playground, and private areas for families to barbecue and picnic in virtual privacy. On any given holiday, this park is packed, so make sure to get your spot early.
Those looking for some serious outdoor activity will love McAllister Park, which sports endless bike trails, but be careful because it's easy to get lost here! And if you happen to be here on the right day of the month Mercado O'liva downtown is a fun free event in a small park next to the Governor's Palace.
For sheer beauty and elegance, The Japanese Tea Gardens are a great place to find serenity. The Botanical Gardens are equally beautiful, but require an entrance fee. They also feature special events, such as Shakespeare in the Park, which is a must-see if you're in town!
Woodlawn Lake Park
Woodlawn Lake is one of the few areas in the city that has a lake. Although not impressive by most standards, San Antonio's proud of the pretty little body of water that you can canoe on and fish in, although it might be best to catch and release. It's definitely a popular park for locals and the place to go on Fourth of July for fabulous fireworks, even though it gets insanely crowded. Other amenities include a pavilion, outdoor seasonal swimming pool, gymnasium, island house, playscape, basketball court, tennis court, athletic fields and picnic tables for summer (or even winter in San Antonio) barbeques. (210-207-7275)
Camanche Lookout Park
Comanche Lookout Park is a 96-acre public park with an almost five-mile nature hiking trail. The park includes the fourth highest point in Bexar County with an elevation of 1,340 feet. Vegetation includes native ash juniper, Texas and Mexican buckeye, chinaberry, graneno, Lindheimer hackberry and honey mesquite, to name a few. Comanche Lookout is a historic park that was so named because Native Americans used the hill as a vantage point during war or for hunting. The Apache were the first to control the area, followed by the Comanche Indians, who hunted along waterways, including nearby Cibolo Creek. Ruins of a medieval-style stone tower, built by a retired Army Colonel in the 1920's, can still be seen. The park also sports a few picnic tables, but the highlight is the great hill and history of this landmark. (210-207-7275)
San Antonio Botanical Gardens and Conservatory
San Antonio's Botanical Gardens is one of the prettiest places to see in the city. This extraordinary 33-acre facility showcases plants from desert regions to equatorial rainforests, some of which are housed in individual, climate-controlled glass environments surrounded by a sunken courtyard and tropical lagoon filled with aquatic plants. Specialty collections include epiphytic plants, desert cacti and succulents, equatorial tropicals, palms and cycads, tropical fruits, ferns and aroids and insectivores. The Gardens, which always strive to connect people to the plant world through experience, education and research also features a children's garden, a Japanese garden and even a garden for the blind. . (210-207-3250)
Concepcion Park is one of the smaller parks in San Antonio, but is conveniently located just south of downtown. If you're looking for a little sightseeing as well as some outdoor activity, check out Mission Concepcion, located next to the park. Mission Concepcion was built in the 18th century by Spanish missionaries as part of a chain of missions located along the San Antonio River. The park itself has a great sports complex with a swimming pool, covered basketball court, fitness equipment and playground as well as softball fields, multi-purpose fields and dozens of picnic areas. What better way to spend your day than combining history with athletics!? (210-207-7275)
McAllister Park has a lot to offer, chief among them; it has the best trails for bike riding in the city, but be careful as it's easy to get lost here! Although smack dab in the middle of the city, it feels like you're on a retreat. This park offers some of the most beautiful vistas and stunning variety of vegetation. It's a great place to take your camera for some scenic shots. McAllister is also a popular family spot as it has a multitude of baseball fields, soccer fields, rugby fields, multi-purpose fields, a children's play area, dog park, fitness stations, almost 200 picnic tables and fifteen miles of both hard and soft trails. ((210) 207-7275)
Mercado O'liva, located in a courtyard at the Plaza de Armas and Spanish Governor's Palace in San Antonio, is akin to a family-friendly block part. Mercado O'liva will be a place where locals and tourists can explore and buy original goods from local artisans and entrepreneurs, such as hand-crafted jewelry, photography, artwork, pottery, handmade soap, clothes and other wares. The festivities will also include food demos, refreshments and live entertainment. "This will be the first mini mercado-style market downtown San Antonio has seen in many years and the whole city is invited!" says owner and Executive Chef, Chuck Hernandez. Plaza de Armas is a unique downtown historic block between Commerce Street and Dolorosa, conveniently located to a majority of downtown hotels. The upcoming Mercado dates for 2014 are June 14, July 5, August 16, September 6, October 4, November 1 and December 6 from 10 am to 3 pm. Starting in 2015, Mercado O'liva will take place on the first Saturday of each month. (210.734.7815)
Japanese Tea Garden
San Antonio's Japanese Tea Gardens feels like a set straight out of a movie, something like What Dreams May Come or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The point is, it's a magical and enchanting place, perfect for declarations of love and sonnet writing. The restored garden is a beautiful destination all year long and features a verdant garden and floral display with shaded walkways, stone bridges, a 60-foot waterfall and ponds filled with fat and happy Koi. A whimsically winding walkway encompasses the garden and makes for nice after dinner stroll. If you visit just one of San Antonio's landmarks, be sure to make it this one! (210-212-4814)
Phil Hardberger Park
Phil Hardberger Park is the amazing creation of San Antonio's Mayor Hardberger, who has an eye for beauty, art and community projects. This classy park, if there is such a thing, is a relatively new 311-acre park located on either side of Wurzbach Parkway between N.W. Military Highway and Blanco Road. Visitors will enjoy the trails, brand new playscapes for the kids, dog parks, picnic facilities and basketball courts. Construction is also underway on a state-of-the-art Urban Ecology Center. It's worth a visit just to see the Makin' Hay Art Exhibit -- giant, fanciful characters made of hay that sit in the center of the park. (210-207-7275)
SeaWorld San Antonio
SeaWorld should be on everyone's list when visiting San Antonio, no matter what your age. Although they have some great rides, such as the Steel Eel and Great White rollercoasters, the best reason to go to SeaWorld is for the animals and the animal-centric shows. They have dolphins and stingrays that you can "pet" if you are lucky enough for them to swim by you, a magnificent oceanarium filled with all sorts of creatures, including sharks and giant sea turtles. The shows are outstanding and include dolphins, Beluga whales and sea lions. Oh, and did we mention the penguins? Yes, there are penguins in Texas, if you can believe it! (210-523-3000, 800-700-7786)
Located just below the headwaters of the San Antonio River, not far from downtown, Brackenridge Park has been a gathering spot since prehistoric times (dating back 11,000 years) and has since evolved into one of the most popular family hang-outs in San Antonio. This beautiful park is covered with Live Oak trees and offers visitors dozens of privately situated picnic tables and barbeque pits to choose from. Brackenridge offers three pavilions (available for events), a playscape for children, a softball field, a walking path around the pond, where you'll find all sorts of ducks and other wildlife and, best of all, a charming mini-train that runs right through the park. (210-736-9534)
About Kimberly Suta
Kimberly A. Suta is a professional freelance writer, filmmaker and entrepreneur with a background in marketing, advertising and social media. Her first business, Midnight Sun Innovations, involved a partnership with Regal Cinemas, the largest theatre chain in the world. Kimberly has written, directed and produced several films that have screened at Texas film festivals and she produces an annual film competition at the popular Alamo Drafthouse theatre. She recently published her second novel, The Rain Queen, which can be found on Amazon.com. Kimberly currently lives and works in San Antonio, Texas, a place of much inspiration to her.
Read more about Kimberly Suta here.