People visiting San Antonio for the first time often expect nothing more than a sea of cacti, barren desert and a few armadillos if you’re lucky. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, San Antonio is an extraordinarily green city with thousands of acres of nature preserves. San Antonio’s parks are not only beautifully lush and diverse but are some of the best attractions in the city.
Certainly you can stick to the typical tourist activities and visit the amazing water park at SeaWorld, a fun way to stay cool on a hot summer day or the Hemisfair Park located in downtown San Antonio, a must see for anyone traveling from afar, but there’s still so much more! If you’re athletic, you will surely be pleased with the numerous well-kept, spots perfect for bike riding, basketball, baseball, even rugby. Kids and families will love Brackenridge Park, which always has a festive atmosphere and easy access to the Zoo and other amenities. Perhaps you just want to escape for a quick jog? You’ll find several wonderful parks just minutes from downtown – a favorite being Woodlawn Lake. Whether you’re looking to picnic, explore the local landscape, go for a vigorous hike or find a great play area for the kiddies, San Antonio Parks truly has something for everyone!
10 O.P. Schnabel Park
O. P. Schnabel Park was originally called Bandera Road Park and includes 202 acres that were purchased by the City of San Antonio back in 1964. This enormous park is known for its many oak trees, mountain laurels and other native vegetation, so it's a great place for hiking and birding. Schnabel himself was widely known for his efforts to "keep San Antonio clean and beautiful." O.P. Schnabel offers an array of outdoor fun as it has several athletic fields, including basketball courts, baseball fields and soccer fields, as well as nature trails, dozens of picnic tables and access to YMCA programs and facilities. (210-207-7275)
9 South Side Lions Park
The South Side Lions Park is a 600-acre parcel of land that was purchased by the City of San Antonio from the estate of George W. Brackenridge in 1944 and 1964. In 2010, the City rehabilitated the dam and spillway and dedicated the southern segment of a new Salado Creek Greenway with a trailhead at South Side Lions. The trailhead can be found east of the lake off Pecan Valley. This 2.3 mile multi-use trail, which also has trailheads at Covington and Comanche county Parks, offers nature-lovers outstanding views of Salado Creek. The Park also has a community center, swimming pool, pavilions, picnic areas, playscapes, fitness stations, tennis courts and a basketball court. (210-207-7275)
8 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)
7 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)
6 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)
5 Concepcion Park
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)
4 HemisFair Park
If you're visiting San Antonio for the first time or have not been before, Hemisfair Park is a must see destination spot. This lush, beautifully landscaped neighborhood park, located in the center of downtown, was originally created for the World's Fair in 1968. In recent years, it's become home to San Antonio's largest arts exhibit known as Luminaria. Walking this park will not only give you a good workout, but will lead you to some of the best destinations in San Antonio, including the Tower of the Americas, the Institute of Texan Cultures and the Magik Children's Theatre, just for starters. The park is also located directly across the street from La Villita, the historic arts village which is great for shopping! (210-207-3677)
3 McAllister Park
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)
2 Brackenridge Park
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)
1 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)
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.
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