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Complete Guide to the River Walk in San Antonio

River Walk in San Antonio Guide

Immerse yourself in the magic of San Antonio’s River Walk, a bustling 15-mile attraction in the heart of the entertainment district. While strolling its meandering pathways offers undeniable charm, consider amplifying your exploration with an Old Town Trolley tour. Imagine comfortably traversing the distance, effortlessly hopping off at hidden gems tucked away from the main path, and soaking in captivating narratives about the riverbank’s history and stories. This dynamic duo — walk and ride — lets you maximize your sightseeing, covering more ground while saving your legs for deeper dives into enchanting spots.

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History of San Antonio River Walk

The San Antonio River Walk, also known as the Paseo del Rio, is a network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River in downtown San Antonio, Texas. It is a popular tourist destination that draws millions of visitors every year. The history of the San Antonio River Walk dates back to the 16th century when Spanish explorers first arrived in the area. The river, known as Yanaguana by the indigenous Payaya people, was a vital source of water for both Native Americans and European settlers.

In 1691, Spanish explorer Domingo Teran de los Rios visited the area and named it San Antonio after Saint Anthony of Padua. Over the years, the settlement grew and became a hub for trade and commerce due to its location on the river. In the 1920s, city officials began considering ways to beautify the San Antonio River and make it more accessible to visitors. Architect Robert Hugman proposed a plan for a river-level walkway with shops, restaurants, and hotels along its banks. His plan was approved in 1929, and construction of the River Walk began.

However, progress on the project was slow due to the Great Depression and World War II. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the River Walk took off as a tourist attraction. The addition of new businesses, hotels, and attractions made it a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.

Best Places To Stay Near the River Walk

Hilton Palacio del Rio

Hilton Palacio del Rio is a luxurious hotel located on the River Walk. It was designed by architect Charles H. Ormond Jr. and opened its doors in 1968. The hotel has been an iconic landmark of the city and continues to attract visitors from all over the world. It offers stunning views of the city skyline and the scenic river below. Its unique design features an H-shaped structure that allows for all guest rooms to have balconies facing the river. This architectural innovation was a first of its kind and has become a hallmark of the hotel.

Mokara Hotel & Spa

Mokara Hotel & Spa is the perfect destination for those seeking relaxation, rejuvenation, and upscale accommodations. The hotel offers world-class amenities, personalized service, and a serene atmosphere that will leave you feeling pampered and refreshed. Mokara Hotel & Spa features 99 spacious and elegant guest rooms and suites, each designed with comfort and style in mind. The rooms are equipped with modern amenities, such as plush bedding, flat-screen TVs, complimentary Wi-Fi, and marble bathrooms with luxurious bath products.

Omni La Mansion del Rio

The Omni La Mansion del Rio was built in 1852 and has been renovated to preserve its original Spanish Colonial style. With its prime location on the banks of the San Antonio River Walk and steps away from the famous Alamo, this hotel offers unparalleled views and access to some of the city’s best attractions. The hotel features 338 guest rooms and suites, each elegantly decorated with traditional Mexican artwork and furnishings. The rooms offer modern amenities, such as flat-screen TVs, plush bedding, and luxurious marble bathrooms. Some of the suites also include private balconies overlooking the river or courtyard.

Things To Do on the San Antonio River Walk

Take a River Cruise

San Antonio River WalkOne of the most popular and relaxing activities to do on the River Walk is taking a 35-40 minute narrated river cruise. This unique experience allows you to see the River Walk from a different perspective, with views that can only be seen from the water. The cruise features a combination of live guides and recorded commentary, providing interesting insights into the history and culture of downtown San Antonio and the Pearl Brewery District. You can also hop on and off the barge at various points along the river, making it a convenient way to explore different parts of the River Walk. Some of the top sites that the cruise passes include the Alamo and the San Antonio Museum of Art.

Stroll Along the Path

Some have named the San Antonio River Walk the American Venice. One side of the river is lined with restaurants, bars, and unique attractions, making it an ideal spot for dining and entertainment. The other side of the river features a public walkway that connects the River Walk to the historic Alamo through a beautiful urban park filled with fountains. The best time to visit the San Antonio River Walk is in the morning when crowds are smaller and soft light filters through the trees, creating a peaceful and picturesque setting.

Visit the Alamo

Alamo PlazaThe Alamo, a historic Spanish mission and fortress compound founded in the 18th century by Roman Catholic missionaries, holds immense significance in Texas’ independence. Located just blocks away from the River Walk, this iconic landmark played a crucial role not only in shaping the community but also in the history of Texas as a whole. Originally named Misión San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo was the site of the famous Battle of the Alamo in 1836. This event, marked by a 13-day siege between Texian and Mexican troops, became a key moment in the Texas Revolution. Today, the Alamo is a museum situated in the Alamo Plaza Historic District and is also recognized as one of San Antonio’s five Spanish colonial missions that together make up the San Antonio Missions World Heritage Site. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, a visit to the Alamo is a must for gaining a deeper understanding of Texas’ past and its role in shaping the country’s future.

Catch a Show at Arneson River Theatre

The Arneson River Theatre is a unique attraction located in San Antonio, Texas. It is situated on the famous River Walk and provides a beautiful outdoor setting for various events and performances. The theatre was built in 1939 as part of the Works Progress Administration project during the Great Depression. It was originally known as the “San Antonio Municipal Auditorium” and was primarily used for concerts, graduations, and other community events. In 1968, the theater underwent renovations and was renamed after its designer, Robert H.H. Arneson. The renovations included a new stage area, dressing rooms, and seating for up to 800 people. Today, the Arneson River Theatre is known for its stunning location along the San Antonio River and its unique design. The theater is built into a natural limestone cliff, providing a beautiful backdrop for performances.

Check Out the Aztec Theatre

The Aztec Theatre is a historic theater located in downtown San Antonio, Texas. It was built in 1926 and designed by the architectural firm of Meyer and Holler. The theater features a mix of Spanish Colonial Revival and Moorish Revival styles, making it a unique and visually stunning structure. The Aztec Theatre opened its doors in 1926 as a movie palace, showcasing the latest films of the time. It quickly became a popular entertainment venue in San Antonio, hosting movie premieres and live performances by famous musicians such as Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan. During World War II, the theater served as a USO facility for soldiers stationed at nearby military bases. In the 1950s, it underwent renovations to include a stage and dressing rooms, making it suitable for live theater performances.

Walk Through Brackenridge Park

San Antonio Brackenridge ParkBrackenridge Park is a popular 343-acre park. It was named after former mayor George W. Brackenridge and has been open to the public since 1899. The park offers various activities for visitors to enjoy, including hiking, biking, picnicking, birdwatching, and more. One of the main attractions in Brackenridge Park is the San Antonio Zoo, which houses over 3,500 animals from around the world. Aside from the zoo, there are also many other interesting places to explore within Brackenridge Park. The Japanese Tea Garden, for example, is a peaceful and serene spot where visitors can relax and admire the beautiful scenery. It features a large pond, a waterfall, and many traditional Japanese structures such as pagodas and bridges. Another must-visit spot in the park is the Sunken Garden Theater, an outdoor venue that hosts various events and concerts throughout the year. The theater’s unique design makes it a popular spot for wedding ceremonies and other special occasions.

Unique Shops on the River Walk

Rivercenter Mall

The Rivercenter Mall is a premier shopping and entertainment destination located in San Antonio, Texas. It opened in 1988 and has since become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. With over 100 shops and restaurants, the Rivercenter Mall offers something for everyone. From high-end luxury brands to affordable fashion options, shoppers can find a wide variety of products to suit their needs. The mall also features an IMAX theater, a comedy club, and a variety of other entertainment options.

Five & Dime

Five & Dime at River Walk is a unique establishment that offers a one-of-a-kind shopping experience that will take you back in time. Five & Dime at River Walk is more than just a store – it’s a time capsule. As soon as you step inside, you’ll be transported back to the 1920s with its vintage decor and nostalgic atmosphere. The store is filled with unique and rare items that will make you feel like you’re browsing through your great-grandmother’s attic.

Life In Alamo City Shop

Life In Alamo City Shop offers a wide variety of unique souvenirs and gifts that capture the spirit and culture of this vibrant city. Opened in 1986, the Life In Alamo City Shop has been a staple of the River Walk for over 30 years. It was founded by local artist and San Antonio native, Maria Rodriguez, who wanted to share her love for her city with visitors from around the world.

Best Restaurants on The River Walk

Domingo Restaurant

Domingo Restaurant is a popular dining spot located along the San Antonio River Walk. It is known for its delicious Mexican cuisine and stunning riverside views. The restaurant was founded by Chef Pedro Dominguez who brought his passion for traditional Mexican flavors and techniques to the establishment. Today, it is run by his son, Chef Miguel Dominguez, who continues to uphold the family’s legacy of serving authentic and mouth-watering dishes.

Bonahan’s Steakhouse

Bonahan’s Steakhouse, located on the River Walk in San Antonio, is known for its delicious and expertly cooked steaks. The restaurant was founded by Chef Mark Bonahan, a native Texan who has a passion for cooking meat. Chef Mark learned everything he knew about cooking from his grandfather, who was known as the “King of Barbecue.” This family tradition has been passed down and perfected by Chef Mark, making Bonahan’s a must-visit for steak lovers in San Antonio.

Boudro’s Texas Bistro

Boudro’s Texas Bistro is a popular restaurant. It first opened its doors in 1981 and has since become a staple for both locals and tourists alike. The restaurant specializes in traditional Texan cuisine with a modern twist, creating unique and delicious dishes that keep customers coming back for more. One of the main draws of Boudro’s is its stunning location on the River Walk. Customers can enjoy their meals while taking in the beautiful scenery of the San Antonio River and watching the passing boats. The restaurant also has a charming outdoor patio, perfect for dining al fresco on a nice day.


What is the most famous section of the River Walk in San Antonio?

One of the most famous sections of the River Walk is the loop between San Fernando Cathedral and Market Street adjacent to the Alamo. This section is not only popular among tourists, but it also holds a significant historical and cultural significance. San Fernando Cathedral, which dates back to 1738, is the oldest church in Texas and stands as a symbol of faith for the city. The cathedral’s beautiful architecture and rich history make it a must-visit stop on any tour of the River Walk.

Adjacent to the cathedral is Market Street, a bustling area filled with restaurants, shops, and street performers. Visitors can stop for a bite to eat or browse through the many unique stores that line this section of the River Walk. But what truly sets this loop apart is its proximity to the Alamo, one of the most iconic landmarks in Texas. The Alamo holds a special place in the hearts of Texans and is a significant part of the state’s history. It was here that 189 defenders gave their lives during the Battle of the Alamo in 1836, fighting for independence from Mexico.

How long does it take to do the San Antonio River Walk?

Spanning 15 miles in length, it takes approximately five to six hours to walk from one end to the other. The beautiful scenery of the river and its surroundings makes for a leisurely and enjoyable stroll.

How long is the San Antonio River Walk boat ride?

The typical boat ride along the river is approximately 35 minutes long, covering about 1.5 miles. This may not seem like a very long ride, but it’s just enough time to take in all the sights and sounds of this bustling area. During the boat ride, you will get to see many of San Antonio’s famous landmarks, including the Arneson River Theatre, La Villita, and the historic San Antonio Museum of Art.

How far apart are the Alamo and River Walk?

The Alamo and the River Walk are approximately 1.3 miles (2 km) apart, with the River Walk located northeast of the Alamo.

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