San Antonio On The Cheap

As you know, we try to travel as cheaply as possible (we don’t always pull it off, but it’s a goal). Part of that includes finding fun and free things to do in the various cities we visit. Our recent two day visit to San Antonio definitely gave us lots of cheap and free options.

San Antonio is vastly different from the other cities we’ve been to. You have to really get out on foot to see just how incredibly beautiful the city is. There are major Spanish and Mexican influences that have been preserved in the architecture, many of which are jaw-dropping. So when you go to San Antonio, be prepared to do some walking if you really want to see the city. The good news is that, aside from food and drinks, you can enjoy several days without spending much money at all.

In no particular order, here are five things we found that are free and fun:

The Alamo

I’m sure you’re not surprised to see The Alamo (aka “Mission San Antonio de Valero”) on this list. No visit to San Antonio is complete without a visit to one of Texas’ most iconic buildings and a symbol of Texas’ fight for independence from Mexico. There’s plenty here to occupy the better part of an hour if you’re into reading about the history of the mission and its later use as a military establishment. Don’t forget to take a good look at the quintessential Texas police officer out front. If you’re lucky, he’ll have the hat and sunglasses just like ours did.

Unfortunately, pets aren’t allowed here or in the other Missions.

The Other Missions

The Alamo was but one of five missions built by Spanish friars during the expedition to find and “convert souls” amongst the Native Americans living in South Texas at the time. The other four are located in San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. Our 2nd day in San Antonio became quite rainy, but we still managed to make it to two of the four missions: Concepcion and San Jose. If you have the time, San Juan and Espada are there for the visiting too. If you’re Catholic, you could actually go to mass at any of them.

Each mission (or at least the two we saw) is open for self-guided tours. At San Jose, we got to watch a 22-minute free video describing the life and times of the people before and after Spanish arrival and the life and times of people living in the missions. You can easily spend an entire day just exploring these 4 missions. If you only have time for one, see Concepcion. It is the best preserved of all 4, but all offer a chance to learn more about the history of the area.

If you’re so inclined, there’s actually a 12-mile long path that leads from The Alamo to the other missions that would be great for a bike ride.

The River Walk

Just like The Alamo, you can’t visit San Antonio and not go to the tourist district known as The River Walk. The River Walk is a pedestrian walkway right next to the San Antonio River lined with excellent restaurants, bars, and shops. It’s below street level, so there are no cars to be concerned with. There are tons of ducks that are absolutely unscared of people though. Even with Knox 2 feet away, they came right up and took chips out of our hand while we were eating at Casa Rio (we offered the chips, they didn’t steal them, for the record).

Edie was quite curious about a River Walk statistic: how many people fall into the San Antonio River from The River Walk? Well, Google didn’t give us a precise number, but what we found was “a lot”. Perhaps the lack of railings between dry land and water along much of the canal causes that. Regardless, it’s only about 3′ deep, so just stand up.

Free Jazz

We planned to head back to the River Walk at night to catch some of the free jazz at Jim Cullum’s Landing, but the torrential downpour made us think twice. Jazz bands probably don’t play in the rain anyway. Despite not getting to experience this, we’ll tell you about it. If the weather is nice, you can catch some jazz right outside on the patio. Of course, it’s free in that there’s no admission fee. You should probably buy a drink or some food if you’re going to sit and listen for long though.

The Parks

Like most good cities, San Antonio has a large parks network. Again, the rain kept us from getting there, but they have several enormous parks that would be worth a visit. In particular, there are Brackenridge, Comanche, Hardberger, and McAllister that we looked into, all with hiking trails. If you’re traveling with a furball, Hardberger also has a dog park for your furry friend.

San Antonio Pictures

Here are some of the cool sights we found in our two days in San Antonio: