Free Things to Do in San Antonio

Free, fun and sun at San Antonio's top destinations

San Antonio is one of the few metropolitan cities where you can still have a great time on a slim budget, and sometimes, even no budget at all, although it helps if you bring a few bucks for some tacos, of course!

One of the most unique destinations is the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Most of these missions are free to visit and give you an insight into the origins of this great city, which has a rich and colorful history. The architecture alone is enough to inspire the historian and artist in all of us. 

You can't visit San Antonio without a trip to the historic Pearl Brewery, which is just north of downtown. This destination is a true gem with a variety of retail shops, restaurants, coffee shops, bars and more to enjoy. However, no funds are required to take in the sites and sounds here. We suggest coming on a Saturday or Sunday morning for the farmer's market. It's the perfect place for people and dog watching!

Check out the list to find out where to go next! 



San Pedro Creek Culture Park
Photo courtesy of April Monterrosa

The City of San Antonio invested $125 million dollars into revitalizing the San Pedro Creek and transforming it into the San Pedro Creek Culture Park, which means a beautiful and free destination for visitors to enjoy throughout the year. Located on the western edge of downtown, near the Alamo, is a merging and celebration of this city's nature, art, and culture. The first section opened in May of 2018 and showcases the Plaza de Fundacion and its stunning "Rain from the Heavens" public art installation of custom tile work that adorns a dozen generational benches. Visitors can stroll through this picturesque park, very similar to the riverwalk, and take in their surroundings, which includes a variety of commissioned murals and art pieces that depict the history and culture of San Pedro Creek.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The new San Pedro Creek Culture Park is a great way to explore the culture of San Antonio with the family at no expense.

Kimberly's expert tip: The ideal place to go for a morning jog or grab a cup of coffee and go for a walk if you're staying in the downtown area.

Read more about San Pedro Creek Culture Park →

King William District
King William Historic District
Photo courtesy of Kimberly Suta

Within this lovely district, leading German merchants settled in the late 19th century. Today, its elegant Victorian mansions and tree-lined streets are a pleasure to behold. Madison, Guenther, and King William streets are particularly pretty for a stroll or drive. Stop in at the Guenther House or Steves Homestead, two historic homes that offer guided tours. The former features a small museum of mill memorabilia, a gift shop, and a restaurant serving fine German pastries and full breakfasts and lunches. Perfect for family bike rides, river walks or even a picnic.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Taking a tour of King William, one of the first established neighborhoods in San Antonio, the perfect "free" afternoon adventure of history and architecture.

Kimberly's expert tip: Take advantage of some of the top restaurants and bars in the area, including one of our favorites, Little Em's Oyster Bar.

Read more about King William Historic District →

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.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Located on the northside of town, their walking trail is secluded among a large expense of forest and feels like your own private retreat!

Kimberly's expert tip: Phil Hardberger Park is a great place to hop on the Salado Creek Greenway trails for over 14 miles of additional trails!

Read more about Phil Hardberger Park →

San Antonio
Slab Cinema
Photo courtesy of Slab Cinema

What's better than an outdoor movie? A free outdoor movie! And thanks to Slab Cinema, which provides free movie watching experiences all over the city of San Antonio, you have the opportunity to enjoy popular films, often several times a month. Slab Cinema started in 2004 and has been a favorite family activity ever since. From The Little Mermaid to War Games and even a Coen Brothers triple feature which includes Raising Arizona, Big Lebowski and Fargo, Slab Cinema pops up at the coolest, iconic venues, ranging from the San Antonio Museum of Art (at Confluence Park) to Hemisfair Park and even the Alamo. On the Southside, they've been playing movies on a restored drive-in screen at Mission Marquee Plaza. Typically, the movies tend towards family-friendly flicks, but the content varies, so be sure to check out their website to see what's coming up. Bring a blanket or chair, maybe a cooler with some drinks and snacks and you're set for the evening. Often the venues have food trucks or access to nearby restaurants, in case you don't have time to prepare. Free never felt so fun!

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Slab Cinema is a great way to enjoy family time watching your favorite movies for free at iconic locations around San Antonio.

Kimberly's expert tip: Slab Cinema doesn't want you to miss the movie, so they ask that you be there before dusk. The movie starts approximately 15 minutes after the official sunset time.

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If you only visit one museum in San Antonio, make sure it's the McNay. Not only do they have a superb art collection, but the museum itself is also a work of art. This 24-room, Spanish colonial revival-style mansion and its own sizable collection was donated by Marion Koogler McNay, an American painter and art teacher. The museum focuses primarily on 19th and 20th century European and American art and has some impressive pieces by artists such as Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Georgia O'Keeffe, Diego Rivera, Mary Cassatt and Edward Hopper. Also, be sure to visit the absolutely stunning interior courtyard, complete with a Japanese-inspired garden and fishpond. It's a nice place to sit and ponder.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: On H-E-B Thursday Nights, this stunning, one-of-a-kind museum offers free general admission from 4 to 9 pm.

Kimberly's expert tip: The McNay has several places that are perfect for a quick photo-op!

Read more about McNay Art Museum in San Antonio →

Lucy Cooper's Ice House
Photo courtesy of Braunda Smith

Lucy Cooper's Ice House is a female-focused, chef-forward establishment that serves up food and drinks with kitschy class and a dash of sass. The go-to for the 21-and-up crowd looking to kick back with some local brews and innovative cocktails, but most importantly an array of Southern-inspired, scratch-made bar fare that rivals SA's best casual dining restaurants. During the month of December, the one-of-a-kind Chef Braunda Smith has created a Christmas miracle called the "Holidays at Mom's Burger." This soon-to-be Santa's favorite is made with a signature burger patty covered in creamy swiss cheese and topped with smoked ham, a deep-fried "ho'made" stuffing patty, zesty orange cranberry compote, a drizzle of roasted turkey gravy on a potato bun topped with a deviled egg. Simply the perfect place to sit back and relax with friends, enjoying some of the best burgers, tin can nachos, signature soda pop BBQ sauces (and more) in Texas and beyond! Located near the airport and with plenty of room, indoors and outdoors, for folks to social distance, Lucy Cooper's also features live music on Friday nights, as well as special events such as Naughty Bingo and Trivia Night.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Lucy Cooper's Ice House offers free "naughty bingo" play every Wednesday at 9 pm. Bring your own dauber or you can purchase one from them.

Kimberly's expert tip: You should bring a few coins to get in on Lucy Cooper's chef-forward menu and awesome drinks!

Read more about Lucy Cooper's Ice House →

Hot Wells of Bexar County
Photo courtesy of Kimberly Suta

Hot Wells is a historic ruin with a fascinating story and a beloved icon of San Antonio. Without knowing the history of this place, you might escape its lure. The ruin itself is fun to explore, however, it's the history that will have you going back for a visit time and time again. Once upon a time, movie stars and other celebrities took in the healing waters at Hot Wells, when it was a hotel and hot springs spa of sorts. There was just something special about it and still is. Even after it burned down, people still visited and snuck in the hot springs. Just recently, Bexar County put some work into and opened it up as a historic park that everyone can enjoy for free. Located along the southern stretch of the riverwalk, known as Mission Reach, bring your friends, bring your dog and take a part of San Antonio's history.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Hot Wells is a free and unique historic site and Bexar County Park worth seeing on the Southside of San Antonio.

Kimberly's expert tip: The south side of San Antonio has some delightful options for a quick bite. Check out HASH - Vegan Eats SA for something different and healthful!

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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.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Brackenridge Park is a beautiful location near downtown with a small lake, walking/biking trails, kiddie park and sites to barbecue.

Kimberly's expert tip: Bring some old bread to feed the ducks!

Read more about Brackenridge Park →

San Antonio
Pearl Brewery
Photo courtesy of Kimberly A. Suta

The Pearl Brewery is one of the coolest places you can visit in San Antonio. This brewery, established in 1883 and once home to Pabst beer, has recently been transformed from a historic brewery to a thriving multi-use space where you can eat, shop, learn, work and live. The Pearl is situated next to the recent Riverwalk expansion, so you can catch a tour boat or walk from the Pearl all the way downtown, past the San Antonio Museum of Art and numerous artistic elements that have been carefully built into the landscape. You'll find fine dining to street food restaurants, a great coffee shop run by the Culinary Institute and more. The Culinary Institute and the Aveda School have facilities at the Pearl and both are open to patrons. Every Saturday, the Pearl is host to an amazing Farmer's Market and has become a traditional Saturday event for locals.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: It's always free to take in the sights and sounds at the historic Pearl Brewery. Enjoy window shopping, strolling the Riverwalk and more!

Kimberly's expert tip: Bring a packed lunch and sit along the Riverwalk next to the Pearl for the best seats in the house. If you have a few bucks grab a coffee and some pastries from Bakery Lorraine.

Read more about Pearl Brewery →

There were five missions established in the early 1700s. These Spanish missions were more than churches. They became towns with a focus on encouraging the natives to become Catholic in order to be citizens. The Spanish king was able to extend influence outward from Mexico. Four missions are linked on this trail. San Jose, San Juan, Concepcion, and Espada. The fifth was the Alamo. With the exception of the Alamo, all four of the missions are still active Catholic parishes. Beautiful architecture remains almost as it was nearly 300 years ago. Step back into a beautiful history as you tour the San Antonio Missions. Family-friendly and educational.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: It's free to visit most of the historic missions in San Antonio (not including the Alamo). It's a fun outdoor educational activity for the family!

Kimberly's expert tip: Bring your bikes for a self-tour along the mission reach part of the riverwalk!

Read more about San Antonio Missions National Historical Park →


Meet 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,...  More About Kimberly