Beat the Heat for Cheap

The mercury is rising in San Antonio and visitors are eager to get out and enjoy everything that the city has to offer. Luckily, San Antonio has countless entertaining attractions, museums and time-honored historical stops that are totally free. Whether it’s for a family vacation or simply some time out in the sun, here are a few options guaranteed to leave visitors with lasting memories without draining wallets.

History Buffs
One of the most iconic locations that San Antonio has to offer is the world-famous Alamo (300 Alamo Plaza, www.thealamo.org), or Mission San Antonio de Valero to those in the know. The four-acre sprawl of Texas history includes the mission itself as well as the Long Barrack Museum and Gift Museum where visitors can immerse themselves in the history of both the Texas Revolution and the state’s storied past. Not far away is the San Fernando Cathedral (115 Main Plaza, www.sfcathedral.com), renowned as the oldest standing church building in the United States. The church still functions today as a civil and cultural center for San Antonio and provides many in the area with help when needed. A short trolley ride away is La Villita, San Antonio’s “oldest neighborhood” that is now a thriving art community complete with boutique shops, dining and acclaimed galleries.

Parks and Recreation
For those looking for a lush landscape on their free tour of San Antonio, a stop at the Japanese Tea Garden (3853 N. St. Mary’s St., www.saparksfoundation.org) is a must. Formerly an abandoned rock quarry, the gardens are now a mesmerizing habitat for koi fish and lush aquatic plant life. HemisFair Park (200 S. Alamo St.) is a breathtaking retreat in the heart of downtown, complete with historical structures, a playground for the little ones and the Institute of Texan Cultures and Instituto Cultural Mexicano. For a respite from the heat, take a dive into San Pedro Springs Park (1415 San Pedro Ave., www.visitsanantonio.com). The admission-free park is the second oldest in the country and treats visitors to a natural spring-fed swimming pool. If an inner-tube ride is the goal, try the Guadalupe River. Access to the river itself is free in most cases, but visitors can rent tubes on the cheap at many Comal River (www.texastubes.com) locations for easier access and safety. After a day in the river, dance along to some tunes at the San Antonio Summer Art & Jazz Festival (1300 Crockett Park, www.sanantoniosummerartjazzfestival.com), a free, three-day event that features more than a dozen jazz concerts, as well as art and crafts and local cuisine from gourmet eateries.

Cool Off and Get Cultured
For those looking for a more refined way to beat the heat, try a visit to the McNay Art Museum (6000 N. Braunfels Ave., www.mcnayart.org). This unique modern art museum (San Antonio’s first) is free to the public on Thursday evenings and the first Sunday of each month and features both local and established craftsmen. The San Antonio Museum of Art (200 W. Jones Ave., www.samuseum.org) also has free nights on select dates and highlights everything from local and emerging talent to national and international artistic icons. The Witte Museum (3801 Broadway St., www.wittemuseum.org) offers free Tuesdays and showcases the best in Southwestern culture, Texas heritage and natural science. For a true taste of the modern San Antonio art scene, visit both San Angel Folk Art (110 Blue Star, www.sanangelfolkart.com) and the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center (116 Blue Star, www.bluestarart.org) and experience some of the most eclectic and exciting new artists the city has to offer.

Richard Dennis
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