If you’re visiting San Antonio, you have to take some time to explore the San Antonio River Walk, also known as the Paseo del Río. This is a 15-mile-long series of walkways that run along the San Antonio River, with shopping, dining and other attractions along the route.
The River Walk is definitely one of the highlights of the city, and we loved exploring it. In this post, we’re going to share everything you need to know to visit the San Antonio riverwalk.
We’ll go through the highlights, explain what the river walk is and how to find it, as well as anything else you might need to know about visiting the San Antonio riverwalk. Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
What is the San Antonio River Walk?
The San Antonio River Walk (also referred to as the riverwalk or Paseo del Río in Spanish) is a 15 mile long network of walkways which run alongside the banks of the San Antonio River. Five miles of the River Walk runs through downtown San Antonio.
The River Walk is home to attractions, shops, art, and restaurants, and is today a major San Antonio attraction in its own right.
The history of the riverwalk is fairly long, but its beginning can be traced back to a tragic flood on the San Antonio River in 1921, which killed 50 people.
Following this disaster, a means for controlling the river levels was discussed, with the end result being the San Antonio River Walk. Set one level below the main city level, the initial River Walk had around three miles of walkways and twenty bridges.
Construction of the riverwalk started in 1939. Most of the initial funding needed for the project came from the Works Progress Administration in 1939. The first restaurant, Casa Rio, opened on the River Walk in 1946. Casa Rio is still in operation today, along with many others.
Over time, the River Walk has expanded, and today there are over fifteen miles of walkways, as well as countless attractions and sights to be seen.
The River Walk now stretches from the San Antonio mission area, through downtown, and up to the major museums in the city. It’s a must-see for visitors to the city, and we’re going to share some of our favourite things to do along the San Antonio River Walk.
Useful San Antonio River Walk Information
Here are some useful facts about the River Walk that might help you plan your trip.
How Long is the San Antonio River Walk?
The San Antonio River Walk is 15 miles long, with five miles of that flowing through downtown San Antonio.
Is the San Antonio River Walk Accessible?
Yes, the river walk is accessible. There are ramps and elevator access points from street level down to the river walk level. Some of the crossing points are not wheelchair accessible however.
This website has maps that shows the ramps and elevators that provide accessible entry to the San Antonio River Walk.
Are there restrooms on the River Walk?
There are public restrooms at some locations along the river walk, such as in the Rivercenter Mall. There are also restrooms at the various bars and hotels along the River Walk.
Outside of the downtown area, there are also restrooms in some of the parks and missions in the Mission Reach area. There are also some facilities in the Museum Reach area.
Are there water fountains on the River Walk?
The Mission Reach stretch of the River Walk has a number of water fountains, which is important as this is the longest stretch and if you are cycling or walking here it can be very hot, especially in the summer months.
In the downtown area, you will need to visit the shops or malls, or pop into a restaurant or cafe for water.
Where does the San Antonio Riverwalk Start and End?
The River Walk starts around 4 miles north of the city center, where E. Hildbrand Ave crosses the River. It finishes to the south of the city, near Mission Espada.
How Long Would it Take to Walk the Whole River Walk?
To walk the entire River Walk from one end to the other including the downtown area would likely take five to six hours.
When is the San Antonio River Walk open?
The River walk is open year round, 365 days a year. The majority of the River Walk, from Mulberry to Eagleland Plaza, is open 24 hours a day.
However, the River Walk that passes through Brackenridge Park in the north of the city is only open from 5am to 11pm. The Mission Reach stretch of the River Walk south of Eagleland Plaza is only open from dawn to dusk due to it being a natural area which is home to wildlife.
Is the Water in the River Walk Ever Drained?
Yes. The water in the river is normally drained for essential maintenance every two years. This generally happens at the end of January and lasts for around 10 days. At this time there is no water in much of the river loop, and the river cruises will not be running.
The next scheduled emptying and maintenance is January 2024.
You can see the dates for future maintenance on the river maintenance page of the San Antonio city here.
Are Dogs Allowed on the River Walk?
Dogs are permitted on the River Walk but they must be on a leash. Many of the restaurants on the River Walk allow dogs on their patios, but do always check to be sure.
What to Do on the San Antonio River Walk
There’s a lot to do on the San Antonio River Walk. From shopping to entertainment to museums—to just taking a leisurely stroll or boat ride—the River Walk has something for everyone.
Here are some of our favourite things to do on the River Walk to give you some inspiration for your visit.
Take a boat ride
One of the most popular ways to experience the River Walk is to take a ride on one of the various River Walk barges.
There are a number of different options for these, ranging from the River Boat taxi services, which will take you from one part of the River Walk to another, through to narrated tours, private boat tours and even boats that offer a full meal as you float along!
Taking a cruise on the San Antonio River Walk is a wonderful way to experience it, and costs are not too high, with narrated tours available from around $12, and an all-day taxi pass for the downtown River Walk area also $12.
You can get tickets for the river shuttle and cruises in person at various points along the River Walk, or you can buy them online in advance here.
The GoCity San Antonio Explorer Pass also includes a Go Rio San Antonio river cruise along with many other attractions, and is a great way to save money in the city.
Eat at the restaurants
One of the highlights along the downtown river walk area are all the places to sit, eat, or drink, and watch the world go by.
The restaurants are adorned with wonderfully colourful umbrellas, and there’s a wide range of dining options. This can make picking a spot challenging, so take a look at our section on restaurants along the River Walk further on in the post to help you decide where to eat.
Some quick tips though would include Casa Rio, which is the oldest restaurant on the River Walk, as well as Justin’s ice cream, for excellent ice cream!
If you love shopping, the San Antonio River Walk has you covered. There are a number of shopping locations along the riverwalk, but perhaps the most well known and largest is the Shops at Rivercentre (formerly known as the Rivercenter Mall).
The Shops at Rivercentre is built around an extension of the River Walk, which is known as the Rivercentre lagoon. Around this lagoon, the Shops at Rivercentre provides shopping and dining experiences across four floors, with over 100 retailers operating here, including theatres, restaurants, a Macy’s, Starbucks, and more.
There’s also outdoor seating around the lagoon area and even hotels available – see our guide to where to stay on the River Walk below for more information on these.
Another popular shopping destination on the River Walk is the La Villita Historic Arts Village. This art community is home to several art galleries, as well as stores selling a variety of items, including souvenirs, customised jewelry, pottery and regional folk art.
We’re sure you’ll find something to love here!
Visit the Museum Reach section of the River Walk
The San Antonio River Walk was extended in 2009 to include an area north of the city which is home to a number of museums and other attractions, including the Pearl Brewery. This section of the riverwalk is known as the Museum Reach.
Attractions in the area include the Witte Museum, the San Antonio Zoo, the DOSeum, San Antonio Museum of Art and Pearl Brewery. This river walk runs through Brackenridge Park, which is also home to a Golf Course and Japanese Tea Garden.
If you are interested in visiting these museums and attractions, then the Museum Reach section of the River Walk is a great way to get here and get around. You can either walk, or take a river taxi to get here and around.
Take in a Show
If you’d like to take in a show or performance whilst you’re on the San Antonio River Walk, you might want to head to the Arneson River Theater.
Designed as part of the original riverwalk by architect Robert Hugman, the theater is split across the river, with the stage on the north side and the 800 person seating area on the south side.
The outdoor theater hosts a variety of performances, from music to plays, dance recitals and opera. You can see some of the events on the official riverwalk events page here.
If you are looking for a more traditionally designed theater, then you might want to visit the Aztec Theater. Built in 1926, this actually predates the riverwalk, however it is located right next to it.
When it was built, the Aztec theater was designed to be highly decorated and opulent. As the name suggests, the style focuses on Aztec design, with columns, artwork, murals and sculpture working together to give a feel for ancient Mexican temples.
In terms of shows, the Aztec primarily hosts musical performances, however there are also other shows available. You can see the full listings here.
Visit the Missions
In 2011, the San Antonio River Walk was extended again, this time to the south of the city where you will find the San Antonio’s Missions National Historical Park.
This park consists of four Mission buildings, which along with the more famous Alamo Mission in downtown San Antonio, form a UNESCO world heritage site.
Whilst many visitors take the time to visit the Alamo, which is just a couple of minutes walk from the downtown section of the River Walk, far fewer head south to the Mission reach stretch of the River Walk.
This is a shame, as this stretch has a much more relaxed vibe, with a more natural feel and the option for cycling and kayaking.
The four missions are also well worth visiting. All four are free to visit, and by doing so you will get a fuller picture of early life in this part of the world. You can see our full guide to visiting the Alamo and San Antonio missions for more information and to help plan your visit.
Just be aware that it is quite a long walk from the downtown section of the River Walk. Instead, we would suggest either cycling, taking the bus, or doing a guided tour with transport like this.
Whilst the river taxi and river barges are a popular way to get around the downtown and Museum section of the riverwalk, they don’t go everywhere.
Another great option for getting around the River Walk, particularly for those of you who want to head down to the Mission Reach section, is to cycle the River Walk.
The cycle trails along the river, which are shared with pedestrians, are level and well maintained, and there’s a network of cycle hire points around the city and at various points along the river walk trail, so you don’t even need to bring your own bike. Bike hire is affordable, and this is a great way to get around.
One thing to be aware of is that in summer San Antonio gets very hot, and there is limited shade along the southern parts of the River Walk. So if you do decide to hire a bike, make sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen.
Follow the River Walk Plaques
The San Antonio River Walk was largely the result of the vision Robert H. H. Hugman, a San Antonio architect, who came up with the idea to create the downtown waterway surrounded by commercial development.
His plans were finally approved, and Hugman was the main project architect for the Riverwalk.
Today, you can take a self-guided walking tour of the River Walk—the Historic Hugman Tour. This historical trail includes more than 50 plaques which tell the story of the area with photos and information.
The tour is also available on smartphones—QR codes are available at each stop which you can scan for information on what you are seeing.
You can find out more about the tour and Hugman at the official Hugman Tour website.
The Mission reach section of the riverwalk, at the south of the city, is great for kayaking, and this makes for a unique way to see the river at a leisure pace. It also allows you to get close to some of the wildlife that lives in and along the river.
You can rent kayaks for unguided or guided tours. The river is calm and easy to paddle, so even beginners shouldn’t have much trouble!
Enjoy the Art
San Antonio has a lot of public art, and there are many pieces on display all along the River Walk.
There’s a great website here which lists the public art in San Antonio, with a map you can use to locate pieces and their artists.
Visit the King William District
Just a 20 – 30 minute walk south from the downtown loop of the River Walk is the King William Historic district.
This area of San Antonio is home to a number of beautiful 19th century homes, which are constructed in a variety of styles, including Greek Revival, Victorian and Italianate.
Some of the properties are open for viewing, so you can visit inside them, or you can just enjoy a wander around. We can also recommend visiting the Guenther House, which is both a historic home you can tour, and a cafe/restaurant.
Tours including the San Antonio River Walk
If you’re interested in taking a tour of the San Antonio River Walk, there are a number of options. Many of these tours also include other sights in San Antonio beyond the river walk.
- A San Antonio Ghost tour. San Antonio has it’s fair share of paranormal goings on, and a good way to learn about these is with a ghost tour of the city. There’s also a Segway ghost tour.
- A full day tour of the whole city, which includes the majority of the highlights of the city. Also available as a half day tour.
- A combination river cruise and Hop on Hop off bus ticket for the city. This two in one ticket will let you experience a lovely river cruise, plus get around the city in an open top bus. You can also purchase a ticket for the Hop on Hop off bus by itself of course, and use it to get to different parts of the river walk.
As you can see, there are a number of tour options which include the San Antonio River Walk!
San Antonio River Walk Map
Here is a Google Map which shows the general route of the San Antonio riverwalk, which you can also see on Google Maps here.
We can also recommend looking at the official San Antonio river walk map, which you can see here.
San Antonio River Walk Hotels
There are a lot of places to stay in San Antonio. For our guide to the riverwalk, we wanted to share some good options that are either on, or very close to, the San Antonio River Walk.
- Marriott Rivercenter – Connected to the Rivercentre mall and on the Riverwalk, this well-rated 4* property has an indoor and outdoor pool, fitness centre, variety of dining options, and all rooms are en-suite.
- Hotel Gibbs Downtown Riverwalk – This hotel is just across the street from the Alamo and a minute or so from the River Walk. It’s a mid-range hotel, and was where we stayed in San Antonio. We loved the great breakfast, friendly staff, well-sized rooms, and fantastic location
- Best Western Premier Historic Travelers Hotel – just 100 yards from the River Walk, this is one of the better value mid-range hotels in downtown San Antonio,
- The St. Anthony – a luxury pick in the historic property, the St Anthony features a heated pool with bar, 42″ TV’s in every room, and a location just 200 yards from the River Walk.
- The Westin Riverwalk San Antonio – a highly rated 4* hotel on the Riverwalk, with an on-site restaurants, 42″ TVs in ever room, coffee making facilities and on-site spa
- Drury Plaza Hotel San Antonio Riverwalk – a 3* property with direct access to the Riverwalk, with a rooftop swimming pool as well as an indoor pool. Breakfast is available, and rooms come with coffee machines, microwaves and refrigerators
- Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk – found on the Riverwalk and just 100 yards from the Alamo, this 4* hotel gets excellent reviews. Rooms have coffee makers and fridges, work areas, and there’s a pool.
- Holiday Inn San Antonio Riverwalk – a good value 3* hotel on the Riverwalk, the Holiday Inn has on-site dining, a cafe and gym. Rooms have work desks, coffee makers and refrigerators.
It’s worth being aware that this part of San Antonio is a more premium part of the city, being in the heart of downtown, so prices can be a little higher on average than other parts of the city. You can see more listings for San Antonio, which includes hotels, apartments and hostels, on booking.com here.
There aren’t many well rated properties in the budget category in the downtown area. We’d advise checking out the Days Inn by Wyndham and Motel 6 San Antonio Downtown, although do read the recent reviews before booking.
Vacation rentals are of course another option. You can see the listings for San Antonio on Vrbo here.
San Antonio River Walk Restaurants
There are a huge number of restaurants on the San Antonio riverwalk, which can make picking one a challenge. To help you out, we’ve put together this short list of options to help you decide.
Casa Rio is the oldest restaurant on the riverwalk, making it a bit of an institution. The building is an old Spanish hacienda, and there’s indoor and outdoor seating. They serve up Tex-Mex fare, and this is an excellent place to sip a margarita whilst watching the river boats and world go by.
If you love tequila, you’ll want to head to Iron Cactus. This popular Mexican restaurant has over 100 to choose from, including a range of tequila flights if you want to try some different options.
They also do a line of tequila infused dishes if you’re feeling adventurous, as well as a range of cocktails. The food here is award winning with a wide range of Mexican dishes to choose from.
The Esquire Tavern
The Esquire Tavern is the oldest Riverwalk bar, and also has the distinction of being the home of the longest wooden bar top in Texas. It’s not just drinking though, as this Riverwalk location also has a good choice of bar-style meals.
Biga on the Banks
If you’re looking for a fine dining experience on the Riverwalk, you’ll want to make a beeline for Biga on the Banks. With a focus on classic American dining overlooking the Riverwalk, we’re sure you’ll have a lovely meal here.
Justin’s Ice Cream
If you just want to enjoy a delicious home made ice cream, then we would highly recommend a visit to Justin’s Ice Cream. These guys started serving ice cream on the River Walk in 1981, and we very much enjoyed the ice cream we had here.
Other Things to Do in San Antonio
San Antonio has a great many attractions, from the famous Alamo to the Six Flags theme park just outside the city.
As well as the River Walk, some of our other favourite attractions include the Buckhorn Saloon, San Fernando Cathedral, and the Historic Market Square.
We’ve put together a detailed guide to visiting the Alamo, as well as all our favourite things to do in San Antonio, which should help you plan a trip to this lovely city.
Hopefully this guide to visiting the San Antonio River Walk has helped you prepare for your visit to one of the top attractions in Texas.
We’ve put together some other content on San Antonio to help plan your trip, and we also have a lot of other posts about the USA. We’ll also be be writing more about Texas, including our visits to Austin, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and Big Bend National Park, so do sign up to keep up to date with our latest posts.
In the meantime, here are some other posts we think you might find useful to help you plan trips within the USA.
- Our detailed guide to things to do in San Antonio
- Our guide to visiting the Alamo, to help you plan your visit to this popular attraction as well as the other San Antonio Missions
- We have a detailed guide to things to do in Austin, which is just an hours drive away, plus a guide to things to do in Houston and things to do in Dallas if you are doing a trip through Texas.
- If you do visit Houston, check out our guide to visiting Space Center Houston, to help you plan your visit to this awesome attraction
- We visited San Antonio on a road trip, which is our favourite way to travel in the USA. If you want to do something similar, we have a guide to how much it costs to travel in the USA, as well as tips for driving in the USA
- If you want some road trip inspiration, see our itineraries for a USA Deep South road trip, California Road Trip, Route 66 Road Trip and Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip
- We’ve visited a lot of other cities in the USA! See our guides to Things to do in Savannah, Things to do in Charleston, Things to do in Albuquerque, Visiting New Orleans During Mardi Gras, Things to do in Cambria and Things to do in Santa Fe to get started!
And that’s it! As always, we’re happy to hear your questions, feedback and suggestions about this post. Just use the comments section below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!
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Paula D'Aiuto says
We will be coming to Austin in early March and wanted to take a side trip to San Antonio. Would you happen to know approx how long of a drive is it from the Fairmont in Austin (between the Capitol and UT)? And where is a good place to park that is convenient to the River Walk?
Thank so much, great and informative page!
Laurence Norah says
So it’s about a 75 minute drive down the I-35 if the traffic is clear. For parking there are quite a few options in the downtown near the river walk including various parking structures. You can see a good list here across various prices.
Have a great time in Austin and San Antonio! Let me know if you have any more questions 🙂
What is the situation with parking near the Riverwalk area for those who would be using a suburban hotel?
Laurence Norah says
So there are a number of parking structures in the vicinity of the river walk. Obviously these are paid locations, but it is possible. However, you would want to check the price, as depending on the location of your chosen hotel it might be more cost effective to take either public transport (if available) or use an app like Lyft / Uber to get around.
Have a great time in San Antonio!
While this guide is good it does not discuss the many mosaic and other/sculpture art pieces along the walk. I am trying to identify the pictures I took of many but there seems to be little information available other than 1 artist has 11 between 2 bridge no titles to the pieces or actual locations.
Laurence Norah says
Thanks for your feedback! There’s some good information here on the art around San Antonio and along the river walk:
Yvonne Brockmeyer says
Are there places to sit and rest along the river walk? My husband can’t walk for long periods of time.
Laurence Norah says
Yes, there are a number of areas you can stop and sit along the river walk, so you should be fine 🙂
Have a great time in San Antonio!
Bob Holsclaw says
good article…planning a trip in the fall….thanks for the info!
Laurence Norah says
My pleasure Bob, have a great trip!
We are coming August 7th. Any suggestions?
Laurence Norah says
Sure – I’d recommend reading our guide to things to do in San Antonio here:
Most visitors have a trip to the Alamo as a key highlight, and we also have a guide to doing that as well:
Have a great time in San Antonio and let me know if you have any specific questions about your trip!
My first time to San Antonio coming up March 3rd and I am a guy that sits outside and have some drinks. My question is are there some little places that provides beer and some seating next to the river?
Laurence Norah says
Hey Larry – there sure are. There are lots of restaurants all along the river walk with seating right by the river. There’s the Esquire Tavern, Mad Dogs British pub, Naked Iguana… the list goes on 🙂 I don’t think you’ll have a shortage of choice! Have a great time in San Antonio – let me know if you find a favourite spot 🙂
this was very helpful. we are planning trip in February 2022. will the river have water in it?
Laurence Norah says
Thanks Marcia! Currently the downtown area of the San Antonio River is scheduled to be drained from the 23rd January 2022 until 30th January 2022 for maintenance. This happens most years. However, barring any unforeseen circumstances, it should be back to normal by February for your trip. Have a great time!
I live in San Antonio, and must say this is a great guide. You captured many great aspects of the riverwalk, including the light display at Fernando Cathedral. We have yet to witness that without it being cancelled. Anyway, I hiked the entire riverwalk with my dog recently and can confirm that it DOES take 5 – 6 hours. It’s 15 miles to The Pearl. If you happen to do many of the Mission Trails and hike through Brackenridge toward the headwaters it’s probably 20 miles or so.
The question popped up in the search engine and I wanted to see your response to it. I shared our adventure on our website Places for Pups, and uploaded my own video to youtube. It’s a pretty unique and amazing experience. Do you happen to have any posts sharing your lifestyle specifically, as in the planning and preparations which go into the travels, as well as how it works?
Laurence Norah says
First thanks very much for your positive feedback. To have a local give us their compliments is always the best praise! It also sounds like you had quite the walk – thanks for letting us know how long it took.
So your question seems multi faceted. Are you asking about how we plan our travels in general, or how we run a travel blog? I’ll answer both, but happy to answer follow up questions as well 🙂
In terms of the planning, we tend to primarily do independent travel. That means we plan the route, book the hotel (and hire car if necessary), and try to come up with a day to day itinerary as well of the things we want to see. Because our goal is to create content from our trips, we are probably a little bit more detailed than most people might need to be, and we also tend to see a lot of sights per day so we have a good idea of what we are talking about. We then try to share our experiences to help other do something similar. A good example of this might be some of our Route 66 content, such as our our 2 week Route 66 itinerary, and our guide to planning a Route 66 trip.
In terms of the blog, I would say that we have been doing this since 2010, and over time our model has certainly evolved. I did write a guide to starting a travel blog, which goes over many of the ways we make a living doing what we do, but the main points of income for us include advertising, sales of products we recommend, and my online photography course. I would say it is certainly possible to make a living as a travel blogger, as we do, but it definitely has to be something you love doing first and foremost because it can take a long time to make a success at it, and it can certainly be discouraging at times!
Let me know if you have any more questions and I’m happy to try to help. We also have a facebook group you’re welcome to join, which you can see here.
In response to the praise, you definitely deserve it because I expected your guide to be short and lacking in details like many websites. You shared a lot of photos and details, you went inside/outside, answered several questions, shared maps and other resources – great stuff! I can tell you take pride in the details and I am the same way.
I started blogging again about my hikes with my dog because I find so much lackluster information online. I figured I would just provide better information AND it would be dog friendly. We’ve got several articles on pages 1-5 for their topics. Sadly, the Ultimate Guide I created last year refuses to rank. I’ve been trying to update it all week, but can’t figure out for-the-life-of-me why it’s not showing up for its topic. It’s really bizarre.
Anyway, I’ll check out the facebook group. Do you use professional cameras, or cell phone cameras? I use my iPhone which seems to do much of what I need right now, but I’m sure there are better alternatives. I’ll check out your guide as well because my wife and I would definitely be interested in visiting new places. I would have to do all of the writing though lol, but that’s cool. I set up our site so that I could eventually include places out of town. Thanks for the quick response.
Laurence Norah says
Hi David – thanks! So there are so many ranking factors and sometimes it’s just very hard to know. I’d suggest using the Google Search Console tool to see what search terms people are using to find your site, and then trying to optimize around those. It is a long game, and if its a competitive search term, it can take a while to rank. And sometimes it just doesn’t happen. It’s frustrating! The best option is really just to create lots of great content and over time it will all start to rise 🙂
We do travel with professional cameras, lots of them in fact. We have a complete guide to our photography gear here. However, smartphones have come on in leaps and bounds over the years, and you definitely don’t need high end equipment to get great photos 🙂
Jan Leach says
Can we get a hard copy of this guid?
Laurence Norah says
We don’t have the functionality to do hard copies as yet, it’s something we’re trying to figure out how to provide. However, most web browsers will let you save a webpage, or print it to PDF, which would be your best option in the meantime,
Laurence Norah says
Just as an update for you, I’m pleased to say that we have now added a print button to our site which will let you get a copy of the guide in a print friendly format!
Tanya Reed says
Hi Lawrence – This guide is very helpful and we look forward to visiting San Antonio. We definitely want to do a boat ride. Do you know if there are any way to do a private boat ride (with a driver/captain) along the River Walk here with just my family (there are 7 of us)? THanks!
Laurence Norah says
Thanks very much 🙂 You absolutely can do a private river cruise, for example, Go Rio cruises who do the shuttle and narrated cruises offer a private cruise option, you can see more about that on their website here:
Obviously this will work out more expensive than a general cruise, but it is certainly doable and not too expensive 🙂
Have a great time!