A gorgeously beautiful slice of Europe in the heart of downtown San Antonio is San Antonio River Walk. Also known as Paseo del Rio, San Antonio River Walk is a 15 miles (24 kilometres) long series of walkways running along San Antonio River. One of the top things to do in San Antonio is to wander on this lovely network of walkways, set one level beneath the ground level. There are fairytale-like stone footbridges, riverfront cafes serving delicious food and landscaped gardens straight out of a postcard. It also has dining, shopping and other attractions along the route. Clearly, San Antonio River Walk is a must-do and indispensable part of the San Antonio experience. So, read on to know more in our guide to San Antonio River Walk and experience it in the best way possible.
Things to do / Highlights
Take a boat tour
One of the best ways to explore the River Walk is via a boat tour. These cutesy, colourful boats glide down the canals from where you get gorgeous views of many of San Antonio’s unique landmarks from below ground level. One such landmark is the impressive Tower of Life Building. Another is the statue of St. Anthony of Padua, the city’s namesake. Glide along and you come upon the impressive Alamo Mission, Bexar County Courthouse, The Tower of the Americas, etc.
Explore a museum
Since 2009, an extension of the River Walk called ‘Museum Reach’ has been open to visitors and features a garden, park and several museums. The Doseum, Buckhorn, McNay Art Museum and San Antonio Museum of Art are must-visit attractions for art lovers. The museums highlight historic, cultural, native and modern art of the San Antonio area.
Catch a performance at Aztec Theatre
Aztec Theatre is one of Texas’ most popular attractions. Open since 1926, the theatre was built during America’s economic boom and was one of the most lavish motion picture palaces during that era. Today, Aztec Theatre is filled with carefully restored opulent murals, sculptures and columns and is even listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Relax at Mokara Spa
The sprawling 17,000 square feet (1580 square metres) huge Mokara spa at Mokara San Antonio hotel is a great place for an indulgent and relaxing spa day. The spa has saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools as well as an outdoor poolside cafe that offers fabulous rooftop views of San Antonio.
What to eat
With its origins going back to 1933, Esquire Tavern is said to be the oldest bar on San Antonio River Walk. The historic bar was opened to celebrate the end of the Prohibition era. This legendary watering hole offers a complete menu of food, wine, beer and an array of craft cocktails.
A River Walk fixture since 1946, the Mexican restaurant of Casa Rio is no less historic. It is perched on the land whose title was first granted in 1777 by the King of Spain. The hugely popular Mexican restaurant boasts a fantastic Tex-Mex menu including tacos, tortillas, fajitas, queso, enchiladas and more.
Things to buy
Shops at Rivercenter
This is perhaps the most popular and scenic shopping places in San Antonio. The four-level shopping complex houses about 80 stores, six restaurants and AMC and IMAX movie theatres as well. What’s more, the complex is also home to a sprawling 1000-room hotel for those who wish to stay back.
La Villita Historic Arts Village
Soak up the history while shopping at La Villita, one of San Antonio’s very first neighbourhoods. Located in Downtown San Antonio south of the River Walk, La Villita houses around 30 galleries and shops which sell unique, one-of-a-kind handcrafted items created by artists from the city and surrounding areas. From jewellery, copperware and sculptures to textiles, folk art and paintings, you will find a wide range of items here.
Most of the San Antonio River Walk from Mulberry to Eagleland Plaza is open 24 hours, daily. However, the River Walk path via Brackenridge Park is open only between 5am and 11pm. On the other hand, the area of the River Walk south of the Eagleland Plaza, which is the Mission Reach section, is only open from dawn to dusk.
San Antonio River Walk is unique since it lies a few steps below San Antonio’s street level. The River Walk’s most popular and populated zone has three distinct sections - River Bend, North Path and Museum Reach Section.
River Bend section has boat access points at Marriot Rivercentre, opposite the Hilton Palacio Del Rio and Aztec Theatre. Major elevator access points include Marriott Rivercentre, Torch of Friendship at Loyola Street, Hyatt, the Aztec Theatre and Yturri Street next to International Centre. Ramp access is from Marriott Rivercentre, Briscoe Museum and right next to Homewood Suites. North Path is largely non-accessible to wheelchair users on one side. It has ramp access near Tobin Centre of Performing Arts and opposite Southwest School of Art and Craft. Museum Reach section is extremely accessible to all and has numerous ramp access points at San Antonio Museum of Art, VFW Post 76, and El Tropicano. Plus, it also has a major boat access point at San Antonio River Lock and Dam.
Water and bathroom breaks
There are four public restrooms along the River Walk at Loyola and Commerce, Portland Loo, King Phillip and Villita and off the main plaza at East Commerce Street. Other than these, most restrooms are at shopping and eating destinations like bars and malls along the River Walk. While there are water fountains in the Mission Reach section, other places do not have any water sources. So, it’s best that visitors carry water with them while on their River Walk sojourn.
How to get there
San Antonio River Walk begins around 4 mi (6.5 km) north of San Antonio’s city centre, near East Josephine Street. It finishes near Mission Espada south of the city. If one were to walk along its entire length, it would take nearly five to six hours. Since there is hardly any parking near the entrances and exits to the River Walk, it’s best to travel by bus, tram or a taxi.
San Antonio’s bus system, known as VIA Metropolitan Transit, has a dedicated trip planning page which provides individual bus schedules as well as apps and tools to figure out which bus to take. So, simply enter your origin and the nearest entry point to the River Walk to see which bus number you need to take to get there in the quickest possible manner.
There are three streetcar lines, red, yellow and blue, which run downtown from the Alamo to various areas. Visitors who are downtown can take any of these three lines to two destinations - Market Square and King William Historic Area, both of which lie close to some of the River Walk’s access points.
For those who don’t want to deal with buses and streetcars, a taxi is the next best thing. Most cabs ply the downtown area. So, for those living in any other areas, it’s best to book cabs in advance by calling these numbers - Yellow Cab: +1 210 222-2222 or AAA Cab: +1 210 599-9999.
San Antonio River Walk information
San Antonio River Walk
Address: 849 E Commerce St, San Antonio, TX 78205
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
Official website: San Antonio River Walk
Department of tourism: Visit San Antonio
San Antonio River Walk Cruise and Hop-On Hop-Off Tour
Duration: 2 days
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