Family Vacation Tips for San Antonio, Texas!
We had the best time in San Antonio over February school break. It was freezing in Massachusetts and while San Antonio got a freakish dump of snow two weeks ago, we enjoyed a week of temps in the 50-70 degree Fahrenheit range! I think the key to this trip was The River Walk. Miles of meandering paths along the Venice-like canals chock full of small waterfalls and restaurants was a most pleasant way to get exercise and entertainment!
While we did not reunite with our families, this would be a great location for an extended family reunion vacation. San Antonio is such a lovely and manageable city and, even better, the bigness of Texas works in your favor when making reservations for dinner. Parties of 18? Not a problem at most of the restaurants along the River Walk! There are also lots of options both walking and otherwise that makes this a great place to do group outings by interest (golf versus museum versus poolside, for example) and then meet up for meals. Not only is San Antonio child-friendly, it’s just hands down friendly! The people are genuinely nice here and we loved that about Texas in general!
My husband spent countless hours trying to figure out a good hotel. He changed the reservation 3 times which is not like him at all! The first pick was The Westin. He booked it for the two pools (one outside and one inside) then canceled because it was a little expensive. He picked another boutique hotel but after reading bad reviews on TripAdvisor got concerned and canceled. Then he spent HOURS on the tourism site for San Antonio pouring over hotels and came up with ours: Omni La Mansión Del Rio (hey, I wanted the kids exposed to Spanish).
And the verdict? Job well done mi espouso! The hotel was fantastic and, back in the day, was St. Mary’s University. It has exposed beams, thick white adobe walls, and a charming courtyard with an outdoor pool. The staff was extremely nice and the room service food, excellent! If we return to San Antonio (and plans are being laid for next year), we’d stay here again. As for The Riverwalk, La Mansión is right in the thick of it, and is strategically across from a charming bridge dedicated to the visionary architect Robert Hugman who designed it.
Kids versus Adults had different takes on sightseeing. I will give you my kids’ recommendations first.
What My Kids Liked
River Walk (for general exploring, checking out the ducklings, myriad of ice cream stores).
The pool at the hotel, La Mansión. The pool is heated and they swam in 50 degrees with no problems. The shallow end is 2 feet and the deep end is 7 feet which works perfectly for the varying swimming abilities of my three children. Even when they were loud (because the courtyard amplifies sound), no one seemed to care. The pool stays open until 10 pm and the kids swam right up to that limit!
Market Square In Los Angeles which is near where I grew up there is Olivera Street, a Mexican tourist stop. This is the San Antonio equivalent but it’s perfect for my kids to shop their hearts out. We had to go twice because they wanted to bring back gifts for their friends and the list grew ever longer. After much deliberation, enamel bracelets for girls and wooden “bey blade” spinning tops for boys. Both items $4/each. Mom got hand blown thick water glasses, a bargain at $9 each.) We ate at Mi Tierra but found out that all the restaurants in Market Square are owned by one family. The corn tortillas were the best we ever ate and are clearly hand-made right before serving. There is a bakery (panaderia) with Mexican sweets and treats that were fun to try.
The River Walk Boat Tour – Rio San Antonio Cruises. We were told that the boat tours are better at night, what with all the sparkly lights, but we didn’t manage to pull that off. We took our tour ride during the day and it took just over a half hour but we all enjoyed it. The same boats but with checkered flags serve as water taxis. Our boat driver also happened to be hilariously funny.
Guinness World Record Museum There are a bunch of these small museums across the street from The Alamo and just a ten minute walk on The River Walk from our hotel. I bought a 4-for-the-price-of-3 pass and this was my kids’ favorite museum of the three we went to. The last one scared them so much that they refused to go into the 4th. Ah well! I got my money’s worth! We did these museums over 2 days.
My son’s head atop a replica of the world’s fattest man.
Plaza Wax Museum They liked the Wax museum just “ok” but it had a nice mix of actors they recognized (thank you for having the Harry Potter crew there!) along with actors from by-gone eras (i.e. my era).
Candy Store near Wax Museum. Need I say more?
The Children’s Museum (geared for our six-year-old who enjoyed it immensely. The other two — ages 8 and 11 — not so much). As far a Children’s Museums go, and we have been to a lot of them, this one is small and lacks the charm of being housed in a historic building. Nevertheless, it’s perfect for kids in the sweet spot of 2-7 or so. It’s a short 15 minute walk from our hotel too!
*please note that the Ripley’s Believe or Not Museum scared the bejesus out of them thus causing us to forgo our 4th museum on our multi-pass ticket.
What The Parents Liked
The River Walk The perfect way to explore Downtown San Antonio and get a bite to eat. We enjoyed many walks both to explore and for a goal. It’s worth visiting San Antonio just to hang out at the River Walk.
The Alamo. The video on the site is actually more exciting than perusing the site but that’s only because the main wall that surrounded The Alamo and had little apartments built into the actual wall are long gone. There is just a few structures left and it’s hard to take it all in when your kids are bored but you have to go. It’s the Alamo, after all. You remember it, right?!
The San José Mission. If you are going to visit one mission, visit this one to see what the original Alamo walls were like — the walls contained two room apartments where the Native Americans lived once they decided to enter mission life. The Alamo began it’s life as a mission. My friend, who is a tri-athlete so keep that in mind, suggests biking as a family to all the missions. We, however, took a minivan tour.
Zuni Grill on The River Walk. The best Tex-Mex meal on the River Walk. We went there for breakfast having discovered it too late for dinners on previous nights. Our waiter took our order and disappeared for what seemed like a long time. My husband groused, “Where is he? Is he squeezing the oranges?” I looked around as I was facing out, and, in fact, he was doing exactly that. That is the kind of restaurant it is! The food is awesome!
Pearl Brewing Company Complex: Outside Mexican Street Food Restaurant, La Gloria. We walked there and it was quite a hike. I’d recommend taking a water taxi. But it was worth the hike to eat this food! Street food from Mexico. Heaven! My husband says that it was one of the best meals he ever ate and we got to eat outdoors on the patio while all 6 kids ran around like maniacs.
El Guajillo A family owned dive that won best Mexican restaurant in San Antonio. It’s not on the River Walk but worth the 20 minute drive. Our friends took us there for a birthday dinner.
Golf. My husband recommends La Canterra and it’s a short drive from our hotel. He played with this guy (we went to San Antonio to see old friends and they finally got to play a round of golf together which they had not done in over a decade)
Aaron Bengochea is a former PGA Tour Player (2000) and the manager for Presidio Title. He beat my husband on the final two holes. They were tied up to that point. The more things change, the more they stay the same!