Blog · San Antonio · Everything To See and Do at Brackenridge Park

Everything To See and Do at Brackenridge Park

November 20, 2023
Brackenridge Park

Spanning over 12,000 years, historic Brackenridge Park is a favorite with visitors and San Antonians. The park is home to the Japanese Tea Garden, the Sunken Garden Theater, a zoo, and several other historic spots, like a stone-covered footbridge and the Miraflores Sculpture Garden.

You’ll never lack something to do in Brackenridge Park. You’ll find picnic areas lining the river, playgrounds, a miniature train, and one of the oldest city golf courses in the nation.

Here’s everything to see and do when you visit, including a history of when it was created and a list of recommended stops. 

Brackenridge Park History

Brackenridge Park

First, a little history about this Texas outdoor gem.

In 1899, banker George Brackenridge donated 200 acres of land to the city, which eventually became Brackenridge Park. Ray Lambert, the park’s first commissioner designed bathhouses, a swimming area, and playground, and a golf course. Later, the start of the San Antonio Zoo was created with just a handful of animals, including several buffalo, deer, monkeys, two lions, and four bears. Today, the park has earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places and is also a Texas State Antiquities Landmark.

Things to do at the park

Brackenridge Park

San Antonio is a great place to explore the outdoors, whether you’re traveling alone, with kids, or as a group. I’ve got a few ideas to help you plan your visit at any time of the year. 

San Antonio Zoo

San Antonio Zoo

Brackenridge Park’s biggest attraction, which spreads over 50 acres, is the San Antonio Zoo. Boasting more than 700 species, this zoo is great to visit year-round. Arranged in 15 different habitats, including the Amazon rainforest and the African grasslands, it’s inspired by some of the most biodiverse places on earth. It’s also home to the oldest children’s amusement parks in the U.S. and provides lots of opportunities to get close to the animals, like feeding the giraffes. 

Did you know? In 1929, the zoo opened up one of the first cageless exhibits in the nation. Today, you can see the Barless Bear Terraces and Primate Paradise exhibits, which still offer extraordinary views of the animals.

Check the zoo’s busy calendar for discounted tickets and special events held throughout the year.

Japanese Tea Garden

San Antonio Japanese Tea Garden Postcard

Find Zen at the Japanese Tea Garden. Steeped in over 100 years of history, this ornamental garden features a 60-foot waterfall, a koi-filled pond, and lots of walking trails. You can beat the heat here; the stone-covered bridges and shaded walkways are decorated in florals and foliage that bloom year-round. If you get hungry, head to the restaurant on-site, called the Jingu House, for a Japanese snack with a San Antonio twist. I recommend the mole-braised pork steam buns made with pickled carrots, ginger, green onions, garlic, and cilantro. 

San Antonio Botanical Garden

San Antonio Botanical Garden

Another great option for kids is the San Antonio Botanical Garden, first opened in 1980. Located about 2 miles away from the park, this botanical garden is packed with activities. You can easily spend hours exploring the walking trails, the climate-controlled conservatory chock full of plants from around the world, a family adventure garden, and more.

A visitor favorite is the Texas Native Trail. This trail takes you through Texas’s diverse landscapes and ecosystems of the state, including the Hill Country, the Pineywoods in East Texas, and the southern section of the state

Local tip: The gift shop often sells small packets of turtle food so you can feed the turtles that call the lake home.

Historic Downtown San Antonio Food and Culture Tour

Historic Downtown San Antonio Food and Culture Tour

Brackenridge Park is just a few miles away from the River Walk, San Antonio’s most famous attraction. If you’ve worked up an appetite while wandering the park, consider booking the Historic Downtown San Antonio Food and Culture Tour.

The tour starts at the historic Alamo and continues on to try some of the neighborhood’s best local cuisine, like sampling the sweets and bakery goods at La Panadería. 

Next, the guide will take you to explore the rich history of San Antonio with stops at the Menger Hotel and San Fernando Cathedral, one of the oldest cathedrals in the nation. 

Lastly, the group will wind up with a stroll along the River Walk. Here, a local guide will show you their favorite restaurants where you can sample Texan-sized portions and local dishes. Grab some more tasty grub at Esquire Tavern and the Mengerita Tacos Taqueria, both popular local hangouts.

When to visit Brackenridge Park

Brackenridge Park is a popular destination to visit year-round. However, many travelers come to visit during the milder months from late fall to early spring thanks to the milder temperatures. 

The park also hosts many popular events throughout the year. Visit during the month of September to join in on the fun at Parktoberfest. It’s the only time that alcohol is allowed in the park! It’s basically a free festival that celebrates German heritage, with Bavarian-style music, artists displaying their work, free craft beer samples from local breweries, and food and drinks available for purchase.

Local Tip: Searching for a place to park? For free parking, check out the parking garages on Avenue B and also at Tuleta Drive near the zoo. There’s also free parking near the Japanese Tea Garden on N. St. Mary’s Street.

Ready to visit Brackenridge Park?

Brackenridge Park

You don’t have to plan a detailed itinerary to visit Brackenridge Park. Just show up and watch the day unwind.

Exploring this scenic park is likely to build up an appetite. There are a few places to eat nearby, including barbecue joint Augie’s Barbed Wire Smokehouse, Pizza Classics, Chela’s Tacos Restaurant, and Cheesy Jane’s

Or, if you want to try a sample of local favorites then book the San Antonio Market Square Tex-Mex Food and Shopping Tour. This is a great way to see what San Antonio has to offer and is guided by a local expert who will introduce you to the area’s best restaurants at the birthplace of Tex-Mex!