Family Things to Do on the San Antonio River Walk, including boat tours, dining, shopping, and more.
On our recent spring break vacation, my family visited the San Antonio River Walk. This beautiful spot is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Texas, and is home to countless hotels, restaurants, and shops. Located one story below street level, the San Antonio River Walk initially gained popularity during the 1968 World’s Fair in San Antonio. It’s a great “home base” for your San Antonio family vacation, and there are a number of hotels that you can stay in.
We chose to stay at the Omni La Mansion Del Rio, which is located in the busy section of the River Walk. If you plan to stay there, here are some family things to do on the San Antonio River Walk.
Disclosure: Our lodging and airfare was booked and paid for by us. I did visit this hotel and destination several years ago as part of a Cooper Tire press trip. All opinions are my own. Affiliate links are included – if you click on/purchase from one of these links, the proceeds benefit Family Travel Magazine.
Boat Tour of the San Antonio River Walk
If you are visiting the San Antonio River Walk, you absolutely have to take a San Antonio Riverwalk boat ride. Rio San Antonio Cruises operates a number of river boat rides, including narrated tours, river taxis, and dinner boats. The newest boats are different from the ones pictured in this post. They are electric, and quieter than the original boats.
We chose to take a riverboat on our second full day in San Antonio. After walking the short distance to the ticket booth to purchase our tickets, we boarded the next boat (expect lines during busy times, including weekends). Since it was a Monday, and the weather was overcast with a chance of rain, we didn’t have to wait. The boat trip takes about 30 minutes, and the guide/driver narrates the whole trip. We found it entertaining and educational – and the kids thought it was one of the best parts of the trip.
Narrated trips run for 35 minutes, and run every 15 minutes from 9 a.m. – 10 p.m. Boats can accommodate about 40 passengers. Tickets can be purchased online to save time, and are $12 for those aged 6-59, and are $6 for kids 5 and under. Senior citizens over the age of 60 are $9.
During the holiday season, you can take one of several holiday tours, including a holiday narrated cruise that should be reserved in advance.
If you are visiting during a busy time of the year, it’s best to purchase tickets and board early. There are loads of these boats going up and down the river all day long, but there are also lines to access the boats!
They also offer a water taxi that goes up and down the river. Tickets are sold on board, but they don’t make scheduled stops, so you have to call for them when you see them going by. River boats can be differentiated from the tour boats by the checkered flags in the back. The River Walk is pretty walkable, but taking a water taxi definitely can be lots of fun.
If you’d like a special experience, some of the restaurants on the River Walk offer dinner cruises. These have to be reserved in advance – talk to the specific restaurant if you are interested. That could be a really fun way to experience the River Walk.
Walking the San Antonio River Walk
Although we loved the boat tour, it’s also fun to walk on the River Walk. Keep in mind that it’s a narrow sidewalk, and there are no guardrails in most spots, so definitely supervise young children. Strollers are allowed, but you’ll either have to use the various elevators down to the River Walk, or carry your stroller down. If you have a stroller, it may be worth taking your walk earlier before things get busy.
Eating on the San Antonio River Walk
There are so many delicious and fun restaurants on the River Walk, from popular chain restaurants like the Rainforest Cafe, to local, independent restaurants. We had some recommendations from friends, but also relied on Yelp and our hotel concierge to get other ideas. Here were our favorites:
Casa Rio – the oldest restaurant on the River Walk, Casa Rio (pictured above) is also the most photogenic. You’re likely to find a wait during busy times. Their cuisine is traditional Mexican/Tex-Mex. It’s a fun location on the busy part of the River Walk, and is a great spot to sit outside and people watch.
Boudro’s – this was our favorite restaurant. It gets very busy, so make a reservation, especially if you want to eat outside. We loved the filet, the shrimp and grits, and the prickly pear margaritas. We loved it so much that we went here twice.
Acenar – we ate here when we first arrived in San Antonio, and we all loved our meals. It’s a great spot for authentic, delicious Mexican food.
Margaritas on the San Antonio River Walk
Of course, assuming you are of legal drinking age, you’ll want to try a margarita. Our favorite was the prickly pear margarita at Boudro’s. You’ll find lots of different restaurants offering various types of margaritas, and every one I sampled was delicious.