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Is there anything better than river walks surrounded by lush landscapes and cypress-line paths (and vibrant city life) on a balmy evening?
Welcome to the legendary San Antonio River Walk, also known as the Paseo del Rio; a 15-mile oasis in the heart of a hot Texas city.
The San Antonio River Walk is what will turn your impression of America’s seventh largest city from a heaving metropolis image into scenes of memorable wows.
Not only is it peaceful, but there are so many things to do on the San Antonio River Walk.
I feel so tranquil just reliving the River Walk through these photos. Our trip to San Antonio was short, with the intention of taking my Dad to see the Alamo, which was a lifelong dream of his.
We did however, have time to explore the River Walk.
It’s a place I will always go back to whenever I’m in the city. After every visit, I discover more amazing things to do in San Antonio, including exploring nearby Texas Hill Country.
In this guide, I will reveal to you all the best attractions on the San Antonio Riverwalk so you can make the most of your visit.
- Where is The River Walk in San Antonio?
- Attractions in Downtown Reach of the San Antonio River Walk
- Attractions on The Museum Reach of the San Antonio River Walk
- Attractions on The Mission Reach of the San Antonio River Walk
- How to Experience the San Antonio River Walk
- Video: the Alamo and San Antonio Riverwalk
- Where to Stay on The San Antonio River Walk
- FAQs About San Antonio River Walk
- Final Thoughts on Visiting San Antonio River Walk, Texas
- More Texas Travel Tips
Where is The River Walk in San Antonio?
It begins at the University of Incarnate Word College, just 4 miles north of the city, and flows through approximately 5-miles of downtown San Antonio before eventually joining the Guadalupe River and flows all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
It’s divided into three sections: The Downtown Reach, The Museum Reach, and the Mission Reach. The entire length of the Riverwalk is 15 miles.
Attractions in Downtown Reach of the San Antonio River Walk
The downtown area is the most popular part of the Riverwalk since it’s so close to some of the other main attractions in San Antonio.
Below are some of the best things to do in downtown San Antonio Riverwalk.
1. Walk Along The Riverwalk Path
The San Antonio River Walk has been named by some as the American Venice. But instead of old world European charm, it has the sights, sounds and flavors of Native America, Old Mexico and the Wild West.
A little more raw and edgy than Venice.
Brightly colored umbrellas line the banks of the San Antonio River, as diners and merrymakers sit at tables underneath relishing in the festive spirit.
Colorful, (and brightly lit at night), barges pass under arched stone bridges, which help you move from one side of the river to explore the many restaurants, bars and unique attractions.
The shady cypress, oaks, and willows, give off a tropical, exotic aura.
You naturally slip into a tranquil spirit as soon as you step down onto the river walk.
It’s a perfect match to the cobble stone streets surrounding the historic Alamo on the street level just above.
The Hyatt Hotel provides a public walk through connecting the River Walk to the Alamo through a beautiful urban park lined with fountains.
Mornings are a good time to see the main part of the River Walk, when the crowds are smaller and the light filters softly through the trees.
2. Watch the Mariachi Bands
At night the River Walk takes on a different character with the sparkling lights reflecting on the water and mariachi bands playing to the diners spilling out from the River Walk restaurants.
If you’re looking for things to do on the San Antonio River Walk at night, then head to the downtown district and keep your ears on the ground for mariachi music.
Get yourself a cocktail and enjoy the live music under the glowing fairy lights on the river walk.
3. Try The Deviled Eggs at The Esquire Tavern
One of the best bars on the River Walk is The Esquire Tavern, which is a vintage-inspired, old-fashioned tavern that has become well known for its exquisite food and mezcal selection.
One of the most popular dishes on the menu is the deviled eggs, which are so well seasoned it’s hard to describe how good they are.
4. Take a River Barge Cruise
One of the most popular things to do on the San Antonio River Walk is a relaxing 35-minute narrated river cruise.
With a combination of live guides and recorded commentary, you’ll enjoy the sights of downtown and the Pearl Brewery District from a relaxing boat tour.
The cruise also runs on a hop-on, hop-off basis so you can simply dismount the barge at various points when you want to explore on the ground for a while, and rejoin the cruise when you’re ready to explore some more.
The cruise passes several of the top sites on the River Walk, including the Alamo, San Antonio Museum of Art, Pearl Brewery, and the Market Square.
Grab your river tickets here through our affiliate partner, Get Your Guide. We book most of our tours with them as you can book now, pay later, cancel up to 24 hours before the tour, and get a handy mobile ticket! You may also like this 4 attraction combo pass wihch includes the cruise aand other top San Antonio attractions.
5. Do Some Boutique Shopping
Get in some shopping and dining at Rivercenter, which is a 4-level shopping mall with over 100 streets, 6 restaurants, as well as IMAX theatres and a Marriott hotel.
Shop for boutique items such as handcrafted jewelry, or pick up some locally made produce.
6. Check out La Villita Historic Arts Village
Stop in to check out the caliche block and stucco structures in La Villita Historic Arts Village.
It’s a collection of boutiques, art galleries and restaurants that date to the mid-1800s when European immigrants lived and worked there.
7. Catch a Show at Arneson River Theatre
Just outside of the entrance to La Villita is an outdoor theater, the stage sits across the river, separate from the amphitheatre style seating.
The open-air theatre was built in 1939-1941 and was named after the father of the river walk, Edwin P. Arneson, who was the regional engineer for the River Walk.
The stage sits on one side of the river, and the spectators on the other. It can seat around 800 people.
There are on average around 200 performances a year, from theater to musical performances, so be sure to check out what’s on with the La Villita Historic Arts Village when you go.
This part of the River Walk is also famous for the celebratory parades they host throughout the year, particularly when one of the professional sporting teams win.
We were fortunate to be in San Antonio back in 2007 when the San Antonio Spurs won the NBA championship.
It was fantastic watching the players float by on the river boats barges with crowds of fans cheering them on.
Like Chicago, they dye the river green on St Patrick’s Day.
8. Check out the Aztec Theater
Another theater worth checking out is the Aztec Theater, which was built in 1926 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It has stunning architecture, made from columns, sculptures and murals.
Attractions on The Museum Reach of the San Antonio River Walk
The Museum Reach area is an 1.33-mile extension that features visual and aural works of art, terraces landscaped with native plants and pedestrian access to the San Antonio Museum of Art, and the historic Pearl Brewery complex.
9. Watch the Ford Holiday River Parade
Around Christmas time, is the Ford Holiday River Parade, which is an annual parade showcasing illuminated floats, where live bands play and local celebs come to perform.
It has been going for more than 30 years and contains more than 1.8 million LED lights.
The parade starts at the northern part of the river near the Southwest School of Art.
The event is a charity event which raises money for children’s charities.
10. Walk Through Brackenridge Park
The River Walk continues for another two miles through Brackenridge Park, where you’ll find soft shady trails winding through the woods and attractions like the Japanese Tea Garden, Sunken Garden Theater, Witte Museum, and the San Antonio Zoo.
We didn’t get a chance to walk along this section, but we did see parts of it on our hop on hop off tour of San Antonio, which gave us a nice overview of the city.
The Museum Reach section of the San Antonio River Walk is looks quieter and has a more local flavor.
11. Check out the Pearl Brewery Complex
The path heading north goes to the Pearl Brewery complex, which is filled with some of the city’s trendiest stores, bars, and restaurants.
The Pearl Complex was the most recommended thing for us to do in San Antonio apart from the Alamo and River Walk.
The Pearl Brewery was founded in 1883 and over the century has become the crown jewel of San Antonio.
It’s not just a brewery, but a community of innovative and world-class restaurants and bars. It’s also the space where the Pearl Farmers Market operates every Saturday and Sunday to sell farm fresh produce to local arts and crafts.
Hotel Emma is a San Antonio boutique hotel housed within the Pearl Brewery and receives rave reviews.
Attractions on The Mission Reach of the San Antonio River Walk
12. Check out the Spanish Colonial Missions
South of downtown the trail will take you down the eight-mile Mission Reach to the four sister Spanish colonial missions, Concepcion, San Jose, San Juan, and Espada.
These missions have earned UNESCO World Heritage status.
This part of the river walk is the nation’s largest urban ecosystem restoration and will give you access to miles of additional hiking and bike trails.
How to Experience the San Antonio River Walk
The Downtown and Museum Reach sections of the River Walk are open 24/7, which provides you with endless opportunities for exploration, day or night.
The Mission Reach is open during daylight hours only so plan accordingly.
The central loop of the San Antonio River Walk can be enjoyed by walkers or boat cruisers.
The North and South extensions of the San Antonio River Walk are perfectly suited to joggers and cyclists (and walkers too).
You can get on the water to explore the river on barge cruises or kayaks with Go Rio Cruises. They guide you through more than thirty canoe chutes over light rapids in shallow water.
You can borrow a B-Cycle for as little as $10 a day, as long as you dock it every half an hour. There are multiple stations along the trail.
You can also rent an electric assisted bike from Blue Star Bicycles.
San Antonio Bike Tours caters to riders of all experience levels.
Dine at the Iron Cactus
The Iron Cactus Mexican Grill & Margarita Bar is one of the best Mexican restaurants on the San Antonio River Walk.
It’s a Tex Mex fusion with dishes like Mexican Meatloak, Baja Fish Tacos, Tequila marinated fajitas, hickory grilled salmon, and burgers.
My parents aren’t adventurous eaters so I was worried about Visiting a Tex Mex restaurant, but they had plenty of options for those who don’t like exotic and spice.
The Iron Cactus has over 100 different Tequilas, and named top ten 10 tequila bars in the country by Spirits and Cocktails and top 25 Tequila Bars in the country by USA TODAY.
We’re not usually tequila drinkers having horrible memories of lip sick suck foul tasting tequila shots in our twenties.
But there is a remarkable difference between the crappy tequila used for lip sip sucks and those authentic award winning Mexican tequilas used in sophisticated cocktails.
When in San Antonio…you cannot go past having a margarita when visiting a Mexican restaurant, especially one so classy as the Iron Cactus.
Upon recommendation from our server, we ordered the extra strong Iron Cactus Double Barrel made from Herradura Double Barrel Reposado, Cointreau.
It’s mixed with fresh lime juice and organic agave nectar.
Craig and I shared it. It was deliciously smooth and subtle.
I really loved the taste of this tequila and it may be a new way for me to approach this famous liqueur. Shots begone.
The food was equally delicious and the menu extensive, including gluten free options.
Our friendly waiter recommended the Pescado del Mar as his favorite dish on the menu.
It’s seared Atlantic Cod topped with wild caught gulf shrimp and bay scallops all nicely tied together in a citrus-butter sauce and served with sauteed spinach and the cilantro lime rice.
It was delicious, but I was kind of jealous of Craig’s Southwest Paella.
A perfect mix of shrimp, mussels, bay scallops, jalapeno Texas sausage with lobster cream.
I know, your mouth is watering right?
After spending the day at his beloved Alamo, how could my Dad not order the Travis Burger?
We finished our meal with Mexican Donuts and my favorite gluten free dessert, Vanilla Bean Espresso Creme brulee.
I snuck a sample of the donuts and they were sensational!!
And here’s a look at all the desserts on offer.
The Iron Cactus has prime position on the river front and what I loved about it that separates it from the other many restaurants you’ll find on the San Antonio River Walk is the lack of the other restaurants surrounding it.
It’s on a much quieter and peaceful part of the river, which feels slightly more upmarket and refined.
The foot traffic is separated by a large stone planter box and shaded by trees.
The Iron Cactus is popular, so be sure to reserve a table ahead of time. We ate as guests of the restaurant.
Video: the Alamo and San Antonio Riverwalk
Where to Stay on The San Antonio River Walk
In need of a place to stay? Here are some places we recommend you stay on the San Antonio River Walk…
The Emily Morgan Hotel
We stayed at the Emily Morgan Hotel, the official hotel of the Alamo, and an historic hotel of America.
Our room overlooked the Alamo. The hotel is located right near the Alamo, the River Walk and within walking distance of many downtown San Antonio attractions.
It’s stylish and elegant and will enhance your San Antonio historical and cultural experience. We stayed as guests of the Emily Morgan Hotel.
Omni La Mansion del Rio
This is one of the most popular hotels on the River Walk given that it’s a pet friendly hotel with valet parking, an outdoor pool, and a fitness center.
It also has a tropical courtyard and a restaurant, Las Canarias, which has 3 levels and has views of the River Walk.
The guest rooms are spacious and elegantly styled, with marble bathrooms, and some even have a balcony overlooking the river.
FAQs About San Antonio River Walk
Here’s what people usually ask us about visiting the San Antonio River Walk…
Is the River Walk accessible?
The main path is accessible with ramps and flat pavements, though some of the bridges are not wheelchair friendly so you may have to walk on to the next one. Many of the hotels will have elevator access from the street.
Is there parking at the San Antonio River Walk?
Yes, there are several places to park along the River Walk. Here are some popular parking lots; Riverbend Garage, South Bank, Groos Bank Parking Lot, Market Street Garage, Travis Lot and Western Lot.
Does the San Antonio River Walk Flood?
In 1921, the river flooded extremely badly which killed 50 people. After that, the River Walk area underwent renovations to control the flow of water. Since then, the flooding hasn’t been as serious. The Upper San Antonio River, the Medina River, Cibolo Creek, and Lower San Antonio River are known to flood on occasion.
Final Thoughts on Visiting San Antonio River Walk, Texas
There are plenty of things to see and do on the San Antonio River Walk. It was a complete contrast from the rest of the city, and to be honest, it didn’t even feel like we were in a city!
Exploring the River Walk was one of the highlights of our trip to San Antonio. Even our kids loved it.
We’ll definitely be back next time we’re in the city.
More Texas Travel Tips
Need more inspiration for your trip to Texas? Check out these other guides…
- Things to do in Big Bend National Park
- In Dallas, we visited the JFK Museum.
- And one of our favorites – a day with Chip and Jo in Waco, Texas
- Enchanted Rock State Park – hiking the summit trail
- A 4-wk Dallas to Boston Road Trip