San Antonio has several unique museums. They are definitely worth the visit whether you’re in San Antonio on vacation or you’re a local. Each museum has interesting architecture as well as exhibits. Four of the museums are located along the San Antonio River. The McNay Museum, not located on the river, is surrounded by beautiful gardens instead. Touring the museums are also a great rainy day activity in San Antonio.
Note: Several of the museums are closed on Monday, so plan your visits accordingly! Also, check for free admission hours.
Learn about San Antonio’s unique culture and heritage by visiting these museums on your next trip or date night in San Antonio!
The Witte Museum
Address: 3801 Broadway St, San Antonio, TX 78209
Entrance Fee: $12 / adult for General Admission (extra for special exhibits)
Hours: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM (open until 8 PM on Tuesdays)
The Witte Museum is San Antonio’s Natural History Museum, dating back to the early 1920’s. The Museum has undergone many expansions, with the most recent one in 2016-2017. The “New Witte” displays dinosaur bones in a stunning gallery as you first enter the museum. You and your family can learn about the massive creature that used to roam what is now Texas in this exhibit and the interactive Dinosaur Lab. (You can see the dino prints on display in person at Government Canyon, too). Like most Natural History Museums, there is a display of taxidermy, but this one is tastefully done and animals are separated by the regions of Texas: central prairie, coast, piney woods, mountains, and thornbrush. You can hear sounds of Texas wildlife, too, in the Texas Wild Gallery. There are other rotating exhibits inside the new Susan Naylor Center. Next door, inside the South Texas Heritage Center, are exhibits featuring the history and culture of Texas: cattle ranching, oil industry, changing landscapes, and more.
Behind the museum is the San Antonio River, houses that were recused from threat of demolition, and the H-E-B Body Adventure–the perfect place to bring your children after touring the museum.
Parking: There is parking in front of the Witte Museum, but it is limited so I suggest parking in the garage. The front parking lot is off of Broadway and difficult to enter unless you’re driving south on Broadway. The garage is a lot easier to get in and out of and its free. Turn down Tuleta Drive, then left onto Avenue B to enter the garage.
Best time to visit is early afternoon on a weekday. I arrived on a weekday around 1:00 PM and it was very quiet. A lot of families arrived as I was leaving, around 3:00 PM.
McNay Art Museum
Address: 6000 N New Braunfels Ave, San Antonio, TX 78209
Entrance Fee: $20 / adult
Hours: Closed on Mondays. Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday: 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Thursdays: 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM (with free general admission from 4 – 9 PM). Saturdays: 10:00 AM to 5: 00 PM. Sundays: Noon to 5:00 Pm with free general admission on the first Sunday of the month. The grounds are open from 7:00 AM to PM (sunrise to sunset).
The McNay Art Museum was the first museum of modern art in the state of Texas. The museum opened its doors in 1954. It is located inside a beautiful Spanish Colonial-Revival house that belonged to Marion Koogler McNay, whose art collection was donated to establish the museum upon her death in 1950. In 2008, the Jane and Arthur Stieren Center for Exhibitions was built alongside the Spanish home, adding 45,000 square feet to display rotating exhibitions.
The art at the McNay is more than just the pieces hanging on the walls, its the entire building. It is by far my favorite museum in San Antonio because of the historic mansion and the beautiful grounds. There is a large fountain, statues, a rotating art installation, and a small Japanese garden to admire before entering the museum. Usually I’d recommend the museums in San Antonio as an option for a rainy day activity, but the McNay is more enjoyable on a sunny day so you can enjoy walking around the grounds an taking photos. The best part, to me, is the inner courtyard. I love it so much we had our wedding reception here! (We had a destination wedding in Italy and hosted a reception back home).
There are four sections of the McNay Art Museum: (1) Tobin Exhibition Galleries, (2)Lang Gallery, (3) Emily Wells Brown Gallery and Tobin Theatre Arts Gallery, and (4)Lawson Print Gallery. The Jane and Arthur Stieren Center hosts the Tobin Exhibition Galleries, usually rotating exhibits, and is located in the modern-building with a wall of windows. In the sculpture garden out front is a LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana and is a permanent feature at the McNay. The Lang Gallery with views of the courtyard displays a permanent collection of works, from paintings to furniture. This gallery leads into the Zilker, Zoch, and Mays Galleries and the foyer of the mansion and the Emily Wells Brown Gallery. At the end of this gallery is a library. On the other side of the courtyard is the Lawson Print Gallery.
Parking: There are two parking lots at the McNay. A small one usually used by tours is closer to the Tobin Exhibition Gallery and off of Austin Highway. The other, larger parking lot is located off of New Braunfels Ave, right after the intersection (you may miss it because its hidden by shrubs). Once you enter, turn left at the fork.
Address: 7034, 2800 Broadway St, San Antonio, TX 78209
Entrance Fee: $14 / person
Hours: Monday – Friday 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM; Saturday 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM; Sunday noon to 5:00 PM
The newest addition to the museums in San Antonio is the children’s museum, The DoSeum! Opening in 2015, the museum features exhibits with a focus on hands-on learning for children. Several of these exhibits have a STEM focus (science technology and mathematics). There is also an outdoor space and exhibits featuring water, so bring your child’s bathing suit or an extra pair of dry clothes for the car ride home. If you have children, the Doseum should be on your list of things to do when visiting San Antonio!
The museum is unique for the exhibits offered as well as the building design. The building uses solar energy and recycles water. It was also built with habitat restoration in mind. It’s outdoor space is among the largest of all children’s museums in the country, too.
Parking: There is an attached parking lot.
Note: I visited the Doseum with a friend and her 2 year old. Most of the activities were geared towards kids older than him. He was also very shy so it was a little overwhelming for him. If you have kids and visit the museum, let me know your experience in the comments! Also, check out the website’s menu for First Time Tips!
San Antonio Museum of Art
Address: 200 W Jones Ave, San Antonio, TX 78215
Entrance Fee: $15 / adult
Hours: Closed Monday, Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, open until 9 PM on Tuesdays and Fridays
The San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) is where you’ll find Egyptian artifacts, ceramics from around the globe, and European paintings dating back to the 15th century. The SAMA also has rotating exhibits. During my visit, there was an exhibition featuring works of art influenced by the Spanish Colonization of America and several pieces on loan from museums in Mexico. If you’re looking for a dose of culture, SAMA is where you’ll want to go!
A great feature of the SAMA building is the Sky Bridge connecting the two buildings. Head to the top floor for views of downtown San Antonio and the Pearl District. You’ll notice the building is similar to the Emma Hotel in design. Both buildings were originally breweries. The Hotel is located inside the Pearl Brewery, while the SAMA is located in the former Lone Star Brewery. It was converted into the SAMA during the 1970’s.
General Admission is FREE during these hours: Tuesdays from 4:00–9:00 p.m. and Sundays: from 10:00 a.m.–noon! If you’re hungry after walking around the museum, walk across the river to the Luxury for drinks and a food truck meal.
Parking: A parking lot is located across the street from the museum and is free.
Briscoe Western Art Museum
Address: 210 W. Market Street, San Antonio, TX 78205
Entrance Fee: $10 / adult
Hours: Closed on Mondays. Tuesdays: 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM with Free Admission from starting at 4 o’clock. Wednesday – Sunday, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
The Briscoe’s mission is the preservation of the art, history and culture of the American West through educating the public on these rich traditions. If you love everything about the West, whether its Cowboy culture, Native American art, or beautiful prairie landscapes, the Briscoe Western Art Museum should be on your museum list. The museum itself is housed in a beautiful building, which was once the San Antonio Public Library. It is also located along the River Walk so museum goers can go straight to the river after their visit.
The front desk will recommend starting your visit on the 3rd floor and making your way down. Don’t forget to look down the the floors below for a different perspective on the exhibits and to look up at the beautiful ceiling.
Parking: The best place to park is in the parking garage directly across the street from the museum. It’s not the cheapest but it is the most convenient. It’s located on the corner of Market Street and N. Presa.