Our Cities

San Antonio on a Budget: Money-saving hacks for seeing the best of the Alamo City.

Article by Brent Salter, founder and Chief Amigo at Amigo Walking Tours.

San Antonio is one of America’s most affordable cities for locals, but it’s also a great destination for budget travelers looking to experience the Lone Star State without having to stage a train heist to afford it. Being streetwise and knowing some tricks not only makes a budget stretch further, but it also makes a traveler subconsciously feel like a winner, instead of merely a survivor in unfamiliar territory.

Below are some favorite activities in San Antonio that will leave a smile on your face, as well as some additional money in your wallet for an extra taco or margarita!

Activities that are Always Free

The Usual Suspects: The two most-visited tourist spots in Downtown are the River Walk and the Alamo, both of which are free to experience.

  • The River Walk is essentially a public park, and its only cost is patience as you navigate crowded areas along the open walkways. (At least once per week, a person falls into the shallow river due to no handrails – usually during happy hour).
  • The Alamo is just a short distance away and is an iconic part of the Texas’ history. You can wander the grounds for free, although there are some paid options. There are a total of five missions near Downtown, all of which are free to visit and accessible by bike, bus, or car.
San Antonio River Walk
A walkway designed by Robert Hugman along the San Antonio River Walk.

All the Colors: San Antonio loves art, and you’ll see public installations throughout Downtown and incredible murals on the Near West Side. But there are two niche indoor exhibition spaces for art in the Downtown area that are free, as well as an outdoor projection show at night in the heart of the city.

  • Artpace is a first of its kind in the city, describing itself as a “creative laboratory” that hosts artists-in-residence from around the world. Visitors can see works of contemporary art in several small exhibition spaces on-site, and there’s free parking nearby. Artpace was founded by art enthusiast and philanthropist Linda Pace, who also was the leading patroness of the city’s second free spot for contemporary art: Ruby City.
  • Ruby City is one of the newest museums to open in San Antonio and is entirely free. The exterior of the building is covered in fragments of glass and mica that shimmer in the sunlight, and the museum’s interior is filled with equally captivating designs and works of art. Just across the street is Chris Park, a greenspace offering quiet and shade dedicated in memory of Linda’s son Chris.
  • The Saga is a 24-minute video art projection on the front façade of San Fernando Cathedral. Created by French artist Xavier de Richemont, 300+ years of San Antonio’s history is depicted, accompanied by environmental sounds, traditional songs, and music by Grammy Award winner Flaco JimĂ©nez. For more information about this free show, visit www.MainPlaza.org.
A scene from Xavier de Richemont's The Saga on the front façade of San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio.

Close to Downtown: San Antonio’s multiculturalism is evident throughout the city, but three spots are particularly worth visiting, and they won’t cost you a thing.

  • King William District is a short walk from the touristy area of the River Walk and provides a serene contrast with the usual Downtown atmosphere. A free downloadable guide provides a glimpse into the history of the beautiful homes of prominent individuals who lived in them.
  • The Japanese Tea Garden is located 4 miles from Downtown in the city’s first quarry, which provided stone for the Alamo, San Fernando Cathedral, and many of the homes in King William District. There is no admission fee to explore the little immersive world of plants, koi ponds, and foot paths of the garden, which all serve as popular backdrops for pictures.
  • The Pearl District is located 2 miles from Downtown and shows the modern dichotomy of cultures in San Antonio, as people from across the city come to enjoy the atmosphere and industrial chic architecture. Trendy restaurants present options of southern, Asian fusion, French, barbecue, and Mexican street food.
Villa Finale in King William District.
Pagoda at the Japanese Tea Garden.
The lobby of Hotel Emma in the Pearl District.

Activities that are Free at Certain Times

Museums on Tuesdays: Almost every major museum in San Antonio has free admission on certain days of the week. Tuesday afternoon seems to be the sweet spot. So check out the websites for more information, whether you want to see fancy saddles at the Briscoe Western Art Museum, Roman statues at the San Antonio Museum of Art, T-Rex bones at the Witte Museum, or a Rodin at the McNay Art Museum.

Parking on Streets and in Garages: Okay, so this questionably made the list, but it can save you some money if you have a car. Downtown has metered 2-hour parking and many paid options for parking lots and garages 24/7, but locals and visitors can take advantage of free metered parking all day Sunday and on all other days after 6pm. Also city-owned garages provide free parking on Tuesday evenings, details of which can be found here.

Activities that are Practically Free

Bar 601 at the Tower of the Americas: The Tower of the Americas is the tallest structure in San Antonio and is affectionately called “the cupcake on the toothpick.” Generally going to its observation deck costs around $15 per adult. But those in the know go to the Tower’s Bar 601, which offers the same views but requires no ticket. Drinks are reasonable any time of day, but the happy hour deals never fail to make patrons smile. This is probably the single-best money saving hack in Downtown.

Amigo Free Walking Tours: There are around 100 options for tours of San Antonio, but only one of them is free. Amigo Walking Tours takes guests on a two-hour walk through the highlights of Downtown, providing humor and kindness alongside the best stories of the city’s history. There is no set price for the tour, allowing guests of any travel budget a full experience. At the end of the tour, guests can tip their guide whatever amount they feel is appropriate.

A group seeing San Antonio with Amigo Free Walking Tours.

On Your Next Trip

When you are next in beautiful San Antonio, remember these activities to make the most of your time and budget in the city. And if you’re headed elsewhere in the world, then check out all the great options the Free Tour Community makes available to travelers who want the greatest experiences from their journeys!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More blog posts 

Previous Next
Test Caption
Test Description goes like this