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Exploring the San Antonio River Walk: What To See and Do

August 28, 2023
San Antonio River Walk

The San Antonio River Walk is one of Texas’s top attractions, a stretch over a mile long in the downtown area, covering vibrant shops, an array of restaurants, lively bars, canals, and bridges. It’s the city’s top tourist destination, and it’s also conveniently within walking distance of other popular attractions, like the Alamo, the Tower of the Americas, and the Henry Gonzalez Convention Center.

Here’s everything to see and do at the San Antonio River Walk when you visit, including a history of when it was created and some insider tips to help you plan the perfect trip.

San Antonio River Walk history

San Antonio River Walk Postcard

First, a little history about this Texas landmark.

Due to flooding in the early 1920s, the city decided to dam the river. In 1929, architect Robert H.H. Hugman designed the initial downtown River Walk. Construction was put on hold until after the Great Depression, so the first section wasn’t completed until 1941. Hugman’s plan was to create a series of channels and canals inspired by Venice. 

Today, the River Walk  spans about 15 miles throughout the city. It’s been extended and now reaches some of San Antonio’s best parks like Brackenridge and other major destinations like the San Antonio Zoo. 

The Museum Reach has access to three museums and attractions, including the San Antonio Museum of Art, the Witte Museum, and the Pearl Brewery at the heart of the Pearl district. If you’re a nature lover, you’ll prefer the Mission Reach, which stretches nine miles along natural areas and trails like the San Antonio Missions Trail. 

Things to do on the San Antonio River Walk

San Antonio River Walk

As you can tell, there’s a lot to do on the River Walk. As a Texas local, I’ve scouted out the best places to visit when you go — here are the ones you can’t miss.

Visit the Alamo

Alamo San Antonio

It would be a shame to visit the city without visiting San Antonio’s most famous missions. Just a few blocks from the River Walk, you can learn all about the Alamo and its significance in Texas’ independence. 

It may be smaller in size than you’ve imagined, but the role it played in the community and in the history of Texas is as wide as the state itself. 

Travel tip: Admission to the church is free, but a reservation is required to get inside the Alamo. 

Tour the River Walk with a guide

San Antonio River Walk

There’s a lot to do around the River Walk, but fortunately a local guide can point you to all the hotspots and best eateries that locals flock to. For travelers who are foodies and want to explore the River Walk’s highlights, our Historic Downtown San Antonio Food and Culture Tour is a great way to see all that the area has to offer.

We start at the historic Alamo and continue on to try some of the neighborhood’s best local cuisine, with Texas-sized portions, starting off at La Panadería for some sweets and bakery items. 

After that, we’ll explore the rich history of San Antonio at the Menger Hotel and San Fernando Cathedral, one of the oldest cathedrals in the country. 

Then we’ll stroll along the River Walk to try even more tasty restaurants, so bring your appetite. You’ll love the Esquire Tavern and the Mengerita Tacos Taqueria, both popular local hangouts.

Cruise San Antonio in style

Why not get out on the river itself? It’s a different way to experience the River Walk with unique views you can only get from the water. 

You can take a scenic, 40-minute boat ride along the river year-round. Boats run throughout the day, and there are also dinner and cocktail cruises if you’re looking for a night out or to celebrate a special occasion.

The boats are ADA-accessible so that everyone can enjoy them. Be sure to bring your camera to take photos along the way!

Catch a show at a historic theater

At night, the River Walk is still the place to be. 

Watch a musical show or dance performance at the open-air Arneson River Theatre. Located on the banks of the river, this historic theater hosts everything from folk music to operas. 

Another historic venue to watch a show is the unique Aztec Theatre in the city’s downtown district, just a few blocks from the River Walk. Opened in 1926, the Meso-American style theater is known for its stunning architecture and details and is a great place to watch a more contemporary concert.

Visit the city’s first neighborhood

La Villita Historic Arts Village

Save time to explore the La Villita Historic Arts Village, an artsy part of the River Walk lined with lush courtyards, limestone buildings from hundreds of years ago, and over 20 boutique shops and art galleries. 

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this Instagrammable village is a great place to pick up a handcrafted and locally-made souvenir from one of the artisan shops. 

When to visit the River Walk

The River Walk is a popular destination to visit year-round, but many travelers come to visit during the milder months from late fall to early spring. 

The River Walk also hosts many popular events throughout the year. Visit during the month of April to join the city’s famed Fiesta San Antonio. The 10-day festival features more than 100 events that celebrate the city’s diverse culture and rich heritage with food, music, and parades.

Fiesta San Antonio

The holidays are also a great time to visit. If you’re in town late November, be sure to check out the annual Ford Holiday River Parade. The riverfront area is beautifully decorated with thousands of lights along the banks of the river and illuminated floats and bands perform throughout the event.  

Where to eat at and around the River Walk

In the heart of downtown, you can easily spend the entire afternoon just trying out the restaurants that are around the area. With so many spots to choose from, here are a few of our favorite places to chow down. Even if you aren’t hungry, they provide a great place for people-watching and admiring the boats passing by. 



Opened in 1917 and now the city’s oldest-running restaurant, Schilo’s serves up classic German dishes. 

Located just above the river, it’s easily accessible if you want some air conditioning and a spot to grab grub by the water. They’re best known for their schnitzels, classic root beer floats, and bratwursts. 

The Esquire Tavern

The Esquire Tavern

The Esquire Tavern is one of the River Walk’s oldest bars, with the self-proclaimed longest wooden bartop in the entire state. The eccentric speakeasy is a whimsical place to down a few drinks. On our San Antonio food tour, you’ll try their famous Texas brisket fries and scrumptious grilled cheese. 



Located at Hotel Havana, Ocho is a charming restaurant with a clear glass conservatory directly overlooking the River Walk. The Cuban-style restaurant is known for its pan-roasted red snapper and pulled pork sandwiches. 

Local tip: If you’re more in the mood for cocktails, try their delicious mojitos and mimosas. 

Where to park

San Antonio Parking

As you can tell, there’s a lot to do here, and the place is popular (and therefore brings in crowds).

To allow for this, downtown has thousands of public and privately owned parking spaces in garages and on the street. But they can fill up quite quickly, especially during one of the special events or holidays. Check out this page for a map of parking garages and spots for easy reference.

Savor the flavor of San Antonio

San Antonio

We hope our River Walk guide gave you all the info and insider details you need to know to plan your trip to San Antonio

We can’t wait to show you around and hope we can introduce you to the area’s best food on our downtown food and culture tour. It’s a great chance to hit all the major historic spots of San Antonio along the River Walk while getting to know the foodie side of this city.