Things to Do Downtown at the San Antonio Riverwalk

The city of San Antonio boasts that its 15-mile urban waterway is our nations largest urban ecosystem. There are many things to do at the San Antonio Riverwalk. Some of them can be done with your dog.

Things to do at the San Antonio Riverwalk with your dog include a calm walk.
The San Antonio Riverwalk

Tourism, dining, special events, or a pleasant walk are a few of the popular things to do downtown at the San Antonio Riverwalk. This article will cover dog friendly things to do along the downtown stretch of the San Antonio Riverwalk. I have covered the Historic Pearl and Mission Reach areas in separate posts.

I’ve only been a resident of San Antonio for a few years, but I have been to the riverwalk more times than I can recall. It is a free, dog friendly attraction flowing right through the heart of the city. My dog, Abbey, is only two years old and has been to the riverwalk several times already. She may love the riverwalk more than I do! Before we get into things you can do at the San Antonio Riverwalk, we need to go over the parking situation.

The San Antonio Riverwalk from the Rivercenter Mall.
The riverwalk from Rivercenter Mall

Where to Park Downtown at the San Antonio Riverwalk

Although the San Antonio Riverwalk is a free attraction, it can be difficult to find parking for free. It took a few visits, but eventually I learned where to park when visiting the riverwalk. Initially, I used the Rivercenter Mall garage due to convenience. However, the nearly $20 cost of parking caused me to seek other options. There are outdoor parking lots in the area as well, but those cost nearly as much as the garage.

During my previous hikes along the river, I recalled seeing vehicles parked along more than one bridge overhead. I did some research and successfully found cheap parking on Convent Street. Parking in this location costs only a few quarters, and has direct access to the riverwalk. It’s about a four block walk to the Alamo and the San Fernando Cathedral, but may not be as close to your destination, so keep that in mind.

I believe there may be free street parking a few blocks east of the Rivercenter Mall. I noticed this while attending a concert at the Alamo City Music Hall (which no longer exists). There is a parking lot across from Hemisfair Park along Cesar Chavez, but it is only free during nights and weekends. I’m sure there are other options as well if you are looking for free parking and don’t mind an extra walk.

Abbey watches the San Antonio Riverwalk parade.
Abbey watches the Riverwalk parade

Things to Do

The simplest thing to do at the San Antonio Riverwalk with your dog is walk. There are many routes down to the riverwalk from street level. Once you have chosen a parking spot, simply head down to the river and enjoy the scenery. The downtown sector of the riverwalk will be the most densely populated, but it is a “must see”. There are weekly events taking place on, or near, the river. Check them out on the San Antonio Riverwalk website.

Visit the riverwalk in the winter and you will find that it’s lit up by Christmas lights at night! However, dogs aren’t interested in Christmas lights. Abbey’s main interest at the riverwalk is the wildlife – she loves the ducks. She’s on high alert the entire hike along the river and sleeps very well after the trip.

If you are in need of drinking water or restrooms during the hike, there are several options along the way. You will find them at the Rivercenter Mall, and some at street level as well. Restaurants along the river may refuse you entry if you are not dining. I prefer to carry a water bottle with me, which I can easily fill at a fountain.

Visiting the Alamo is one of the top things to do in San Antonio.
The Alamo

Riverwalk Attractions

The most obvious thing to see while visiting the riverwalk is the Alamo. The historical mission and fortress may look out of place in the center of the city, surrounded by commercial shops, but it’s a “must see” for those with any interest in history. There are always people visiting the Alamo with mid afternoon being the busiest time of day.

Pictures are not allowed inside the building, and neither are pets. However, the space outside the Alamo is much larger, and dog friendly. While dogs probably have little to no interest in seeing the Alamo, it’s free, and worth a visit if you do. Service dogs will be allowed anywhere you go.

A short walk down the street to the west you will find the San Fernando Cathedral which is very close to the river. I doubt pets are allowed inside the cathedral, but light shows take place on a weekly basis outside. Your dog(s) could easily attend one of those with you. A couple blocks south of the Alamo you can find Hemisfair Park and the Tower of the Americas. The park is dog friendly which we covered in a separate article, “A Dog Friendly Hemisfair Adventure“.

San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio.
San Fernando Cathedral

Local Markets

Across the street and to the west of Hemisfair Park you will find La Villita. This was one of the very first neighborhoods in San Antonio, and is currently an arts and crafts market where you can find hand-crafted items. Head several blocks west of the San Fernando Cathedral and you will find the largest Mexican Market in the nation. Inside the three-block historic market district you will find hundreds of locally owned shops, restaurants, and a farmers market.

These are just a few of the major attractions near the riverwalk. If you are visiting San Antonio, and you brought your four-legged family member along with you (which is awesome), there are multiple options. If you are thinking about visiting San Antonio with your dog(s), there are hotels with pet friendly options. Let us know what you and your dog(s) enjoyed!

A view of the San Antonio Riverwalk from the outdoor theatre near La Villita.
An outdoor theatre overlooks the riverwalk behind La Villita

Restaurants Downtown

If food is what you crave, there are many options along the riverwalk. Many of the restaurants on the riverwalk have outdoor seating because many people desire a river view while they eat. There is one major bonus about outdoor seating. That’s right! It’s dog friendly.

There are 35 places (at least) to eat near the riverwalk. Choose from Mediterranean, steak, sushi, Mexican, American bistro, Tex-Mex, or pub style. There are more than a few options. Most of the restaurants maintain a rating of 4 stars or better and can get a bit pricey, especially if you start ordering margaritas!

We’ve dined at a few of the restaurants along the riverwalk and found Acenar to be the best value for the money. We enjoyed the blue crab tacos. That being said, it will depend on what type of food you are in the mood for, and we definitely have not tried everything. Let us know what you and your dog(s) tried as well!

Special Events

Keep an eye on the San Antonio Riverwalk website for special events taking place during your visit. We’ve attended NIOSA and some of the riverwalk parades, but it seems like new events are happening every week. We plan on attending the glow in the dark lantern event, and future Christmas events as well.

Near La Villita you will notice a small outdoor amphitheater along the riverwalk where concert-like events take place once in awhile. However, you may want to leave your furry friend at home if there is going to be loud music, or fireworks at the riverwalk.

These are just some of the things to do at the San Antonio Riverwalk with your dog. There are many things to do at street level as well, but since they are not dog friendly, I have not included them here. Plenty of other reviews focus on things to do in general, but here we focus on all things dog friendly.

There is something for everyone at the San Antonio Riverwalk – even dogs! Take a short hike along the San Antonio Riverwalk with your dog, or hangout the entire day. You will not be disappointed. Your dog(s) will not be disappointed either. We give it five paws!

A view of the Tower from the Riverwalk during Christmastime.
Christmas time at the Riverwalk

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.

David Earley


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