San Antonio’s Fun Family Attractions

Underwater views of hippos, playing in giant bubbles and a simulated space capsule are just a few of the family attractions in San Antonio.


San Antonio is cited by many of its fans as an ideal place to raise children. This owes, in part, to the number of attractions designed specifically for kids. Here are just a few San Antonio family attractions for young and old kids alike.

The Witte Museum

Located in the recently-renovated Brackenridge Park just north of downtown, the Witte Museum is primarily a natural history museum with attractions and exhibits geared mostly toward older kids. But, make your way past the dinosaur skeletons and rooms detailing various Texas topographies, and you’ll find the H-E-B Science Treehouse in the back of the museum. The Treehouse is a four-level structure housing a range of kid-friendly science experiments and displays as well as outdoor viewing platforms with telescopes for taking in more of the park. The Treehouse also includes additional displays on the grounds nearby, including the Archimedes Screw, a centuries-old device used to move water uphill. 3801 Broadway, tel. 210-357-1900.

San Antonio Zoo

Brackenridge is also home to the San Antonio Zoo, one of Parents magazine’s “10 Best Zoos for Kids” in the United States. The zoo contains 3,500 animals representing 600 species. In other words, it’s evolved since the early days in 1914, when park namesake Colonel George W. Brackenridge placed buffalo, elk, deer, monkeys, lions and bears on display. The zoo, open every day of the year, utilizes the park’s natural quarry walls to help contain some of the most popular animals, including elephants, lions, bears and tigers. The San Antonio Zoo recently completed the first phase of its Africa Live exhibit, which allows visitors underwater views of crocodiles, African cichlids and hippos through glass windows in an enclosed exhibit hall.

Another relatively new attraction, Kronkosky’s Tiny Tot Nature Spot, is designed specifically with younger zoo visitors in mind. Included is a multi-level pond, a petting zoo, massive fish displays and simulated prairie dog tunnels leading to real live prairie-dog tunnels. While much of the zoo keeps its animals at a respectable distance from visitors, Lory Landing allows visitors to get up close to Australian birds, who will sometime perch on the shoulders or hands of people inside the enclosure. In fact, visitors can purchase small cups of nectar in order to feed the birds. Another enclosed exhibit, Butterflies! Catterpillar Flight School, allows visitors to make direct contact with a number of different butterfly species.

In addition to its collection of animals, the San Antonio Zoo also runs the Brackenridge Eagle (now the San Antonio Zoo Eagle Miniature Train), the kids’ train that has traveled through the park since 1956. The train allows parents and kids to ride together through the park and along the banks of the San Antonio River ($3 for adults, $2.50 for children 3 to 11). 3903 N. St. Mary’s St., tel. 210-734-7184.

San Antonio Children’s Museum

Located downtown on Houston Street, the San Antonio Children’s Museum features a number of hands-on, interactive, play-oriented exhibits within the multi-storied complex. Highlights include the popular Bubble Ranch, which allows kids to envelop themselves inside giant bubbles, and Runway #9, with a simulated airline terminal and a kid-powered elevator. There’s enough variety in the museum to keep kids occupied for a suitable stretch of time, and the museum also hosts some story time reading adventures and other special events to mix it up. 305 E. Houston St., tel. 210-212-4453.

McKenna Children’s Museum

The McKenna Children’s Museum, about 30 minutes to the north in New Braunfels (but well worth the drive), allows kids interactive opportunities to explore a variety of interest areas germane to the region, including space (with a simulated space capsule and command center), banking (with a simulated bank), medicine (with a simulated exam room and some very detailed displays) and camping (with a tent, a simulated fire and even fake fish). 801 W. San Antonio St., New Braunfels; tel. 830-606-9525.

SeaWorld San Antonio

SeaWorld San Antonio requires a few words of caution for the visiting parent—it’s a 45-minute trek from downtown, the summer months can be oppressively hot (especially in the park’s substantial parking lot), it requires more sunscreen than you might anticipate, and a stroller will come in handy for toddlers as well as infants, even if they’re not usually prone to wearing down during a day’s outing. Yet SeaWorld is also a sort of watery Cirque du Soleil for kids extravaganza, featuring a number of elaborate shows in which sleek-suited animal trainers frolic with sea lions, walruses and a certain famed killer whale.

Sea World also features Lost Lagoon Waterpark, worth bringing the kids’ bathing suits for, and an impressive multi-aquarium sharks exhibit. The park is open from March until December, though peak months are obviously May through August, when area schools let out for summer vacation. 10500 SeaWorld Drive, tel. 800-700-7786.

Destinations: San Antonio

Themes: Amusement Parks, Art and Museums, Family Travel

Activities: Museums, Parks and Playgrounds

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