Best Museums in San Antonio

San Antonio Museums Offer Arts and Culture for All Ages

San Antonio can often be overlooked for its arts and culture offerings, but as the city is becoming one of the best places to live in the United States with a low cost of living and a burgeoning food and arts scene, you can bet the museums are doing their best to keep up with the demand. With two dozen museums, there's a breadth of delights to be found here.

Thanks to the newly-built Children's Museum, the DoSeum is easily one of the best museums in San Antonio right now, that is if you have children. Kids of any age will love the amazing offerings that range from the creative to the educational, touching on art, science, math and more. 

The Witte is another museum that is strongly family-focused. Located in Brackenridge Park, The Witte is constantly featuring unique, engaging and interactive exhibits that appeal to all ages. The Bodies Revealed exhibit, for example, enables people to see the complex inner-workings of the human body. They also host a successful dinner series called Salud! Culinary Night that brings an educational component to cooking and eating great food. 

For world-class art and international exhibits that span from Egyptian artifacts to modern art, San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) can't be beat. They showcase numerous visiting exhibits and host lectures and special events throughout the year. 




Located across the street from the Alamo and the historic Menger hotel, Ripley's is a place like no other. There are over 500 exhibits including wax figures of well-known personalities (think Oprah, Dr. Phil, characters from your favorite movies) and hand painted murals depicting America's history. Other exhibits featuring religion and odd facts are scattered throughout the museum. The museum also includes a 4D theater where you can experience the thrills of a fast paced snow ride or skate race. Ripley's San Antonio is the largest interactive museum in the United States. Again, because of its proximity to other major attractions like the Alamo and the River Walk, it is a definite 'must see' to add to your San Antonio agenda.

Recommended for Museums because: Ripley's is a fun place to take the kids for an off-beat activity.

Kimberly's expert tip: The horror exhibit is graphically interactive and may scare young children and babies.

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The Texas Transportation Museum seeks to educate on how advancing transportation technology has impacted our daily lives. Run by volunteers, the museum is proud that all of its equipment, displays and exhibits were provided or built by volunteers with a passion for transportation. There are four locomotive steam engines on the property with a true to life historic depot. The museum provides train rides on authentic coaches and hosts events such as the Ford Model T Show and the San Antonio Train Show. If you visit around Christmastime there is sure to be a train ride featuring Santa and "Wonderland" themes on the property. Guests will also find historic and preserved carriages, model railroads and automobiles on three different scales. Kid friendly and educational at the same time!

Recommended for Museums because: The museum also hosts parties and festive events. It's a great option for kids who want to take a ride on a 'real' train!

Kimberly's expert tip: They host Santa's Railroad Wonderland in December. Check the website for dates and details.

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The Texas Air Museum is proud to boast significant collection of aircraft, historic weapons, vehicles and other items from times gone by. The museum is honored to have in its possession a Focke-Wulf 190. This WWII fighter plane is considered rare to own and is one of the main attractions. The Focke-Wulf 190 was used as a fighter bomber during WWII as well as a ground attack aircraft. Kathryn Stinson, one of America's first female pilots and known for flight acrobatics had an early aircraft called a Bleriot. The Texas Air Museum has bragging rights as it includes Ms. Stinson's personal Bleriot.

Recommended for Museums because: Military buffs and kids will truly enjoy this rare look at the world of aircraft.

Kimberly's expert tip: The museum is definitely not 'flashy' but has many items of historical interest. Very casual and while it could be kept in better shape, the museum has a great amount of potential and is an opportunity for learning and education.

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One of five missions established in the early 1700's, the Alamo is nearly 300 years old. It is perhaps the most cherished landmark in San Antonio. If you ask around, you will find that all children here and in surrounding towns take at least one field trip to the Alamo as part of their education. Visitors to the Alamo stroll inside and view artifacts preserved in the onsite museum. Texans feel emotion imagining the defenders waking to General Santa Anna's army that fatal morning. The Battle of the Alamo on March 6, 1836 became the turning point in the Texas Revolution. Due to the stories of cruelty, many were inspired to join the Texian army. Just over one month later, the Mexican army met defeat at the Battle of San Jacinto. Go back in time, take a few photos and Remember the Alamo.

Recommended for Museums because: The museum at the Alamo offers folks a unique glimpse into a pivotal part of American history.

Kimberly's expert tip: Take your time and plan to spend a couple of hours here. Research and share stories with your children before you visit. This can help them stay more engaged as you tour the grounds.

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Institute of Texan Cultures
Photo courtesy of Joshua Simmons

The Institute of Texan Cultures is located downtown and is within walking distance of the Alamo, the River Walk and Rivercenter Mall. This interactive museum features over 65,000 square of exhibits. Visitors are educated on the stories of past and present Texans. Go back in time as you visit a cabin restored from frontier times. Past exhibits include the Buffalo Soldiers of Texas and how they fought in the Civil War. One ongoing exhibit is The Back 40. This is a 'living' exhibit in that you can walk in to a typical one room schoolhouse; visit a hill country barn, and even early military barracks that were all a part of Texas life in the mid to late 1800's. The museum is kid friendly and all Texans should visit at least once. If you are visiting San Antonio, this is a must see attraction!

Recommended for Museums because: The Institute of Texas Cultures is often overlooked, but is, in fact, a very comprehensive museum.

Kimberly's expert tip: If you plan to arrive later in the day, call ahead. If you arrive with limited time left during their business hours,it is possible you will get to view the museum at no charge.

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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, the museum itself is 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 Museums because: The McNay carries world-class art collections and features amazing traveling exhibits as well as a gorgeous estate.

Kimberly's expert tip: Check the website for current and upcoming exhibits – they're usually worth the trip!

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The Briscoe Western Art Museum is a collections-based institution building upon art and artifacts that tell the vast and multifaceted story of the American West. Located on San Antonio's famed riverwalk, the institution is housed in San Antonio's first Public Library and newly constructed pavilion. The Briscoe Campus consists of the historic Museum building, the Jack Guenther Pavilion and the adjacent McNutt Courtyard and Sculpture Garden. The Briscoe Western Art Museum, named in honor of the late Texas Governor, Dolph Briscoe, Jr. and his wife, Janey, preserves and interprets the art, history, and culture of the American West through engaging exhibitions, educational programs, and public events reflective of the region's rich traditions and shared heritage. Their unique collections include Santa Anna's Sword, Visions of Change bronze sculpture by John Coleman, Pancho Villa's Saddle of leather and silver, a replica of a Western mail stagecoach and much more!

Recommended for Museums because: The Briscoe is one of the newer museums, located downtown, and offers a unique peak into the past of the American West.

Kimberly's expert tip: Check the website for monthly events.

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This is a great museum for families! Built on the banks of the San Antonio River, the Witte is considered San Antonio's foremost museum. With a four story tree house and dinosaur bones, kids are hooked as soon as they arrive. The tree house itself features endless hands on science related activities and a ride on a 'Sky-cycle' 15 feet in the air! Adults appreciate the Texas art and in May 2012, an extraordinary South Texas Heritage Center opened. Long term exhibits include dinosaurs and mummies among other fascinating collections. The Witte will often host special events and exhibits that are an additional fee on top of the museum costs. Ask the staff to tell you about the most current featured exhibits to help you determine whether or not you want to add this to your regular museum ticket price and tour.

Recommended for Museums because: The Witte is always showcasing fun and educational exhibits for families and kids.

Kimberly's expert tip: Take the train from right outside the San Antonio Zoo to the Witte Museum. It stops right outside the museum and will pick you back up on your way out (during operating hours).

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The San Antonio Museum of Art boasts one of the most comprehensive collections of ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Near Eastern art in the southern United States. It is also one of the largest collections found in public museums. The size and variety of all the exhibitions is astonishing. Located on the River Walk, the museum is also host to many children during the school year. The vast array of educational information makes it a very attractive place for field trips. The museum hosts over 500 guided tours each year and is appealing to adults seeking scholarly immersion as well as families with young children.

Recommended for Museums because: SAMA is a large museum on par with some of the greatest in the country, even the world.

Kimberly's expert tip: If you know that you'll be visiting in the future, it is a good idea to sign up for the email list on their website. They send out weekly updates about educational programs, upcoming exhibits and other interesting events that take place on site.

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The DoSeum
Photo courtesy of Open Travel

The new DoSeum Children's Museum sits on 5.5 acres of property and includes 26,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space and an additional 39,000 square feet of outdoor exhibit play space. It offers unique exhibits unlike any other children's museum in the U.S., including an interactive robot, a spy academy filled with math challenges, an interactive puppet parade, a musical staircase like in the movie Big, an ADA-accessible treehouse, a children's river and a significant outdoor exhibit area. There's truly something for kids of all ages. Toddlers will enjoy spending time in Little Town, while the six- to ten-year-olds will have fun in the Spy Academy. The literacy exhibit, called Imagine It, is a brilliant interactive story-making exhibit that enables kids to pair fantasy with imagination in order to build a story where they are the real heroes. By using 2D and 3D elements they construct an animated story frame-by-frame. Parents will appreciate that the majority of the exhibits at The DoSeum boast a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) focus, integrated with literacy and creative arts concepts, for a 21st century learning experience.

Recommended for Museums because: The DoSeum recently built a brand new museum with state-of-the-art exhibits for kids of all ages.

Kimberly's expert tip: Free Kids' Night is every third Tuesday of the month from 6pm-8pm.

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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