Fun Things To Do on the San Antonio River Walk With Kids

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San Antonio River Walk

For families seeking an easy Texan adventure, the San Antonio River Walk is just the ticket. With 15 miles of beautifully landscaped waterside walkways, this Texas gem offers unique experiences around every bend. From playgrounds and pickle popsicles to mariachis and missions, here are our favorite things to do on the San Antonio River Walk with kids.

San Antonio is a vibrant city full of parks, historic sites and gardens. An easy drive from Austin, Houston and Dallas, this Central Texas destination offers families endless options for outdoor fun. It makes an excellent getaway in November when the weather’s cool.

Book a suite at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio River Walk and park your car for the duration of your stay. You won’t need it to explore the river walk. Plan to spend your entire vacation exploring downtown San Antonio on foot, by bike and by boat!

GO RIO boat cruising the San Antonio River Walk, a fun thing to do
Sightseeing by riverboat. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

GO RIO San Antonio River Cruises

One of my favorite ways to see the River Walk – also called Paseo del Rio – is on a narrated GO RIO boat tour. The GO RIO tour guides entertain passengers with local stories ranging from history to pop culture. You’ll learn about the 1968 World’s Fair, but also see the bridge where Jennifer Lopez sat while playing Selena. You’ll see the hospital where Carol Burnett was born. And your boat will pass the stage where Sandra Bullock filmed “Miss Congeniality.” A boat tour is a great way to learn a little about San Antonio while also getting the lay of the land.

Passengers view the Arneson River Theatre while cruising the San Antonio River Walk
GO RIO guided tour passing the Arneson River Theatre. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

GO RIO usually offers a hop-on-hop-off service, for those looking to explore beyond downtown. These River Shuttles offer water transportation from Rivercenter to The Historic Pearl and beyond. But, this service is temporarily suspended. Check the GO RIO website for updates.

 

La Villita Historic Arts Village

Across the river from the GO RIO dropoff point, you can walk up the steps of the open-air seating for Arneson River Theatre to discover La Villita. This street-level block of small art galleries is on the National Registry of Historic Districts. There are some quaint shops, but your kids might be more interested in getting ice cream from La Villita Cafe.

Hemisfair Park

Child on slide at Hemisfair Park in San Antonio
Hemisfair Park. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

From La Villita, it’s only a four-minute walk to the epic playground in Hemisfair Park. Here you’ll find climbing structures and swings, mosaic sculptures and benches, playhouses, a sandpit, giant chess, table tennis and a splash pad. After you’ve worn your kids out, swing into Paleteria San Antonio for homemade popsicles (my son recommends pickle flavor).

Leaving the playground, you can walk in a variety of directions. Stroll over to see the cool fountains by Tower of the Americas. Walk around the public art in Yanaguana Garden. Or head back to the River Walk by way of The Grotto at the Henry B. González Convention Center.

Interior view of The Grotto near the San Antonio River Walk
The Grotto at the Henry B. González Convention Center. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

The Grotto is next to the Grand Hyatt San Antonio River Walk, so if you’re a guest there this would be a great time to stop for a rest. We love staying right on the River Walk so we can take these midday pitstops.

The Alamo

On foot, Alamo Plaza is a seven to 15-minute walk from the Convention Center, depending on which way you walk. You can head up to street level, cut through Rivercenter, or follow the river. Walking along the River Walk is the prettiest route, although not the quickest. Visiting The Alamo is free and takes about an hour. You can join a tour or explore on your own.

Across the street from The Alamo, overpriced attractions like Ripley’s Haunted Mansion and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not will vie for your kids’ attention. I recommend skipping these and heading to lunch instead. Chips and salsa are always a good distraction.

Casa Rio

colorful umbrellas at Casa Rio in San Antonio
Colorful umbrellas line Casa Rio. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

Sure, it’s touristy, but we eat at Casa Rio every time we visit San Antonio. This Mexican restaurant just celebrated its 75th birthday, so it has long been a fixture on the River Walk. I love the street tacos (and margaritas). Kids will enjoy watching ducks on the river and listening to the mariachi band.

River Walk Hike and Bike Trail

San Antonio River Walk
San Antonio River Walk is pretty even in winter. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

Once you have a belly full of Tex-Mex, it might be a good time to work it off! Get away from the crowds by venturing beyond the five miles of River Walk that stretch through downtown San Antonio. Rent a bike from San Antonio Bicycle and join the River Walk Hike and Bike Path. Travel north past the San Antonio Museum of Art and pedal all the way to Brackenridge Park. Or, head south past King William Historic District and visit the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Just be sure to calculate how many miles you’ll go in advance, to avoid little legs getting too tired to return.

Brackenridge Park

A family favorite, Brackenridge Park is home to the San Antonio Zoo, Witte Museum and Japanese Tea Garden. All are worth a visit but start with the tea garden which is free. After visiting the animals, be sure to take a zoo train ride along the miniature railroad that winds through the 343-acre park.

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

Exterior of Mission San Jose in San Antonio
Mission San Jose. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas. And you can get there from the river by bike. The River Walk’s Mission Reach is an eight-mile stretch of recreational trails that lead to four Spanish colonial missions: Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan and Mission Espada. The missions are spaced about 2.5 miles apart. The closest mission to downtown is Mission Concepcion.

Kayaking the San Antonio River Walk

Kayaks on the San Antonio River Walk
Seeing the River Walk by kayak. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

Another interesting way to explore the San Antonio River Walk with kids is by kayak. Paddling trails can also get you to the Mission Reach section of the River Walk. Bring your own non-motorized watercraft, or rent one from an approved vendor.

San Fernando Cathedral

San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio Texas
The Saga at San Fernando Cathedral. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

At night, you might be tempted to wind down but it’s worth staying up to see “The Saga.” This free light show sets the history of San Antonio to music. And what better place to serve as a backdrop than one of the oldest cathedrals in the United States. For 24 minutes you will be captivated by the moving pictures displayed on the front of the San Fernando Cathedral in Main Plaza. Be sure to check the Main Plaza website for showtimes.

Where to Stay on the San Antonio River Walk

Grand Hyatt San Antonio Suite
Grand Hyatt San Antonio Fiesta Suite. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

On a recent visit to San Antonio, my family stayed at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio River Walk. It was a fantastic home base for our weekend getaway. A 10-minute scenic stroll from the hotel and we could be at the Hemisfair playground and splash pad, Rivercenter shops, Casa Rio, or GO RIO boat tours. It only took us 12 minutes to walk to the San Fernando Cathedral (and, more importantly, 12 minutes to walk back when the kids were tired).

Coming back to the hotel was just as fun as leaving. We stayed in a Fiesta Suite, which gave us plenty of room to relax in between outings. My kids were thrilled to have so much space to spread out. Grand Hyatt also offers a Gamer Suite with a Playstation 4 and arcade games and an Entertainer Suite with billiards and board games.

Topgolf Swing Suite at Grand Hyatt
Topgolf Swing Suite at Grand Hyatt. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

We spent plenty of time exploring our hotel, inside and out. When it was raining, we tried to win prizes in the game room and spent an hour in the Topgolf Swing Suites in the lobby. These interactive simulator bays had us playing everything from virtual golf and hockey to carnival games and zombie dodgeball. It was quite a workout! We ordered drinks from Bar Rojo to stay hydrated as we tried to conquer the zombies.

Pool at Grand Hyatt San Antonio River Walk
Heated pool with a view. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

And, when the sun came out, we headed up to the Grand Hyatt’s rooftop pool. The water is heated so this pool is open year-round. It’s almost always a good time to swim in Texas.

Other Hotel and Vacation Rentals Near San Antonio

Looking for other kid-friendly Atlanta hotels or vacation rentals? Use this interactive map to find the right accommodations for your family!

Booking.com

Where to Eat at Grand Hyatt San Antonio

While staying at Grand Hyatt San Antonio River Walk, we sampled all of the hotel’s on-site restaurants. Breakfast @ Rojo was delicious – my daughter loved her Texas-shaped waffle. During an afternoon break, the kids got snacks from Perks in the lobby. My husband and I opted for a Sangria at Bar Rojo instead. And, for dinner, we indulged in a family date at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. You haven’t lived until you’ve dined on steak cooked in a 1,800-degree double oven and served still sizzling in butter. 

Plan Your Visit to the San Antonio River Walk

Before you visit San Antonio, check online for events and closures. The river is drained each year in January, so this would not be a good time to go. The Visit San Antonio website also offers a digital travel guide with information on the best restaurants, live music and nightlife. Plus, you can learn about theme parks in San Antonio, including SeaWorld and Fiesta Texas.

For more tips for families, read Things to Do in San Antonio With Kids20+ Free Things to Do in San Antonio, and Spring Break in San Antonio.

When not running around on adventures with her five children, Heidi Gollub volunteers for the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau and creates content for the local news. She frequently appears on television and was recently a speaker at Mom 2.0 and the Texas Conference for Women.
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