Brackenridge Park in San Antonio, Texas, has so many things to do. You could spend an entire day inside the park without seeing everything it has to offer. There is something for everyone at Brackenridge Park, including visitors, long time residents, kids, parents, students, artists, nature lovers, runners, and man’s best friend. This historic park is free to visit and open from 5am – 11pm.
Things to do at Brackenridge Park in San Antonio, Texas
Investigate its history
See the San Antonio River
Hike the trails with your dog
Exercise at the pavilion
Ride the train
Japanese Tea Garden
San Antonio Zoo
The Blue Hole
Alamo City Golf Trail
Brackenridge Park may be the most significant archeological site in Texas (according to the parks website). It was George Washington Brackenridge, who donated the park to the city of San Antonio in the late 1800’s. That’s a pretty cool piece of historical information, or maybe it’s just the name that’s cool.
Either way, some of the best things to do in San Antonio are inside Brackenridge Park. I’ve been through the park several times with my girl, Abbey. Although I do not feel completely qualified to share its history, I am able to share the details of its many attractions.
How to Get to Brackenridge Park in San Antonio, TX
As you can see, the opportunities at Brackenridge Park are abundant. You will find the park along the east side of US-281, just north of downtown San Antonio. Use either the Hildebrand Avenue, or Mulberry Avenue exits to reach the park from US-281.
Brackenridge Park is open daily from 5am – 11pm. Parking lots near the zoo and Japanese Tea Garden fill up very quickly. Drive around the park, and you will notice other areas to park. I usually choose a spot next to the river along Red Oak Road. This road connects Mulberry Avenue to Tuleta Drive, on the east side of the park, close to the river.
The San Antonio River
I have followed the San Antonio River through San Antonio, and have seen it prospering in every season. I often ask questions, and more than a few have been about the San Antonio River. How does the San Antonio River work? Where does the San Antonio River get its water? It took a bit of research, but the information I found was truly amazing.
Inside Brackenridge Park you will find the northern stretch of the San Antonio River. Most people enjoy visiting the riverwalk downtown or along Mission Reach. However, the northern section is equally important and historically significant. The San Antonio Springs used to fill the San Antonio River many years ago. During the mid 1900’s the springs dried up, and the wells inside Brackenridge Park took upon the burden of filling the river.
Eventually, San Antonio pioneered the idea of using recycled water to fill the river. Most of the wells no longer fill the river today, except for one inside the zoo. Many of the springs are dry, although I noticed the Head of the River (also known as The Blue Hole), near the University of the Incarnate Word was still active this summer. However, most of the water flowing down the San Antonio River is treated waste water. Amazing!
Approximately 100 years ago, there was a devastating flood in downtown San Antonio. Vehicles washed away, people lost their lives, and finally a decision was made to make future preparations. The Olmos Dam was built to protect the downtown area from flooding.
The dam is located just north of Brackenridge Park, and prevents Olmos Creek (and entire basin) from providing more water than the city can handle. Surprisingly, there is also an underground tunnel known as the San Antonio River Tunnel. Its job is to divert water underneath the city, preventing flooding as well.
There is A LOT going on above and below the San Antonio River! Checkout the Edwards Aquifer Website, if you are curious to learn more about the San Antonio River, San Antonio Springs, waste water recycling, or River Tunnel.
Hiking Trails at Brackenridge Park
Brackenridge Park has nearly two miles of dog friendly hiking trails. However, the majority of the 350 acre park is filled with other attractions. Most of the attractions are not dog friendly, but there is plenty of room to roam inside the park. Most of the hiking trails are on the east side of the park between the San Antonio River and Broadway Street.
The trails are made of concrete, gravel, or asphalt, and they are handicap accessible. Many of these trails are well shaded as they extend through wooded areas. You may hike with your dog along the river, through the woods, down the street, or through the grass. There’s much to see at the park and I often wonder how the trails were used in the past.
Abbey has been pretty much everywhere inside this park. Naturally, she prefers any of the areas where squirrels or ducks are present. On our last visit we tracked 5,725 steps by making a fairly large loop around the park. She saw two cats, 18 ducks, 7 squirrels, two dudes fishing, one guy sleeping on a bench, and a group of moms exercising with babies at the Joske pavilion.
Kiddie Park at Brackenridge Park
The Kiddie Park is just south of the zoo and west of the river. It’s basically a kid sized theme park for those ages 1-12. You will find carousel rides, flying saucers, and helicopter rides (not the kind requiring a pilot) with no height or weight limits.
The Kiddie Park also contains classic carnival games, and face painting. Reservations must be made in advance if you are hosting a party. Check their website for prices and hours because those vary, and change throughout the year. The Kiddie Park is closed in the summer.
San Antonio Botanical Garden
The San Antonio Botanical Garden is east of Brackenridge Park, and connected by Mahncke Park. The Botanical Garden takes pride in education regarding the value of plants and our connection to them. Since 1980, many have considered the garden a-must-see attraction in San Antonio.
View native plants, birds, and exhibits as you walk through 38 acres full of various colors and textures. The garden is open daily from 9am – 5pm. Service dogs are permitted in the garden, but other dogs are not. However, the garden is dog friendly during Dog Day Weekend events. The price of admission is $12 for adults, and $9 for children.
Japanese Tea Garden at Brackenridge Park
The Japanese Tea Garden is a free, dog friendly thing to do in San Antonio, Texas. It is one of eight well known tea gardens in the U.S., and you can find it on the west side of Brackenridge Park. The tea garden is open daily from 7am – 7pm, and the busiest time of day is around 5pm.
The tea garden is filled with stairs and inclines. This would not be a good place to bring a stroller. The tea garden includes a variety of plant life, pond and waterfall. What used to be a rock quarry has become a pleasant oasis attracting many visitors daily. Take in the scenery, visit the old kiln, get a unique photo, or taste the tea.
The Japanese Tea Garden may be one of the best, free things to do in San Antonio. We shared more information in our article about the tea garden.
San Antonio Zoo at Brackenridge Park
The San Antonio Zoo seeks to inspire us to love and interact with animals, and their habitats. You can find the zoo on the north side of Brackenridge Park, and it is open from 10am – 5pm daily. At the zoo you may be able to ride a train or carousel, and interact with butterflies, birds, or giraffes.
Due to federal regulations the zoo is not dog friendly. However, service dogs are allowed and must check in at the gate. Animal interactions are not guaranteed, but you might see bears, lions, hippos, or crocodiles. An annual pass for $32 is your most cost effective option. However, a normal day pass for an adult is $20, and $17 for children.
Zoo tips – The San Antonio Zoo will allow you to bring your own drinking water. If you have any children under three years old they will get in free. You may also bring baby food and strollers inside the zoo.
Witte Museum at Brackenridge Park
There are two museums at Brackenridge Park, the most notable being the Witte Museum. Its immaculate appearance is hard to miss on the northeast side of the park. The museum claims that it is the place where nature, science, and culture meet. Current exhibits include dinosaurs, pre-historic cultures, Texas ecosystems, past roadways, and ancient artifacts.
Inside the museum you can witness “anything” that happened in Texas.
Outside the museum you can walk along the San Antonio River, picnic, discover plant life, or come face to face with a dinosaur replica. The Witte Museum opens at 10am everyday, except for Sunday which is noon instead. It closes at 5pm everyday, except for Thursday which is 8pm instead. Adult admission is $14, and $10 for children everyday, except for Tuesday evenings (3pm – 8pm) because of free Tuesday. Hurray!
Doseum in San Antonio, Texas
On the southeast side of the park you will find the DoSeum, which is known as San Antonio’s museum for kids. The Doseum takes pride in discovery, interest, and joyful learning. There are several exhibits which promote learning through interactive experiences. They call this “hands on exploration.”
General admission is $14, but keep an eye on their website for Free Family Nights. The museum often closes by 5pm, but opens between 9am and noon during the week. It is specifically designed for children who are 10 and younger. Expect school traffic in the museum during weekdays. Bring a change of clothes because there are wet activities. What child can refuse the opportunity to get wet or dirty?
Things to do Near Brackenridge Park
Still looking for more things to do in San Antonio? I can confidently direct you to several other places near Brackenridge Park. Ready? Here we go…
The Blue Hole
Address: Alamo Heights, TX 78209 (inside UIW)
Across the street to the north you will find The Blue Hole. This active spring is also known as the Head of the River, and it lives inside the University of the Incarnate Word. The University also has the only nature preserve near the heart of the city. I found it to be rather spooky, and you can get more details in our article about Headwaters Sanctuary.
The Olmos Dam
North of the University you will notice Olmos Dam, which is what I like to call the guardian of San Antonio. It is in the Olmos Basin with Olmos Park, and the Olmos Creek which drains into the San Antonio River. The Olmos Basin has quite a history. You can get a look at the Olmos Dam from the nature trails at Headwaters Sanctuary, or you can drive by on East Olmos Drive.
Shopping, Eating, and Entertainment
Address: 255 E Basse Rd, San Antonio, TX 78209
Continue north of the dam and you will arrive at the Alamo Quarry, in Alamo Heights. The revitalized quarry is now a major shopping area filled with restaurants, stores, and a movie theatre.
The Alamo City Golf Trail
Address: 2315 Avenue B, San Antonio, TX 78215
Directly south of Brackenridge Park you will easily find its golf course. This is one of eight amazing courses which shaped the history of golf in San Antonio. This is the original home of the first Texas Open.
The Pearl in San Antonio, Texas
South of the golf course you will enter the Historic Pearl, formerly known as the Pearl Brewery until 2001. The Pearl is another completely revitalized area in San Antonio, and a popular hangout for residents. With its contemporary apartments, shops, restaurants, and (year round) farmers market, its popularity is no surprise.
Parking is free and easy at the Pearl, plus you can access the San Antonio Riverwalk on the west side. In my opinion, this is where the San Antonio Riverwalk officially begins, and runs 15 miles to the Medina River Greenway Trail. Visiting the Historic Pearl is one of the best things to do in San Antonio. The Pearl is definitely dog friendly, and we frequently visit with our girl, Abbey.
Downtown San Antonio
If you continue any further south you will find yourself in downtown San Antonio. Here you will find the most popular section of the San Antonio Riverwalk, along with its river boats and restaurants. There are many things to do along the San Antonio River, some of which are dog friendly. Take a relaxing ride along the river, checkout the historical sites at street level, or climb up the Tower of the Americas inside Hemisfair Park and find the best view in the city.
The amount of things to do in San Antonio are nearly uncountable. Share your experience with us below! If you have any questions, or this content has been helpful to you, let us know that as well. What are your favorite things to do at Brackenridge Park in San Antonio, Texas?
I’m a certified personal trainer in San Antonio. After adopting Abbey, I created Places for Pups to help you get outside, exercise with your dog and have fun doing it.
We have mastered hiking in Texas Hill Country. Though we emerge from the woods unharmed, we are not responsible for you or your pets. You are solely responsible for trying exercises, or places discussed on this site.
Grab the best hiking gear and go dog friendly. I wish you good fortune on the trails to come.