San Antonio, Texas is known for the River Walk and The Alamo, among other historic and recreational sites, making it a great place to vacation with the kids. However, there’s an abundance of hidden gems that makes San Antonio truly unique. These off-the-beaten-path destinations range from phenomenal food truck tacos to educational exhibits showing Army medical history. Book a stay at a San Antonio vacation rental, and plan to visit as many of these secret spots as possible.

1. Madhatters Tea House and Cafe

Source: madhatterstea.com

Madhatters Tea House and Cafe lies just south of San Antonio’s downtown area. Despite its prime spot amidst popular attractions such as the Tower of the Americas and the Alamadome, it’s patronized largely by locals who want a good cup of tea, delicious brunch items, and delectable pastries. While tourists don’t line up to get inside, it still might be packed due to all the regulars, so nab a table early and pretend you’re not just visiting. The mad breakfast plate is one of the popular orders (as well as the astonishing selection of tea).

2. Briscoe Western Art Museum

Source: Flickr/Phil Roeder

After feeling up on good food and tea, head over to the Briscoe Western Art Museum, just a few blocks away. It might often be overlooked in favor of The Alamo next door, but it offers a unique look at the old American West that supplements your Alamo experience. For instance, the museum’s galleries include covered wagon exhibits, history of the local Native Americans, and mail coaches on display. It also offers educational films, an outdoor sculpture garden, and regular events such as lecture series, gallery talks, and parties. With the museums location on the River Walk, you can easily visit while strolling along and hit some excellent eateries while you’re at it.

3. Barney Smtih’s Toilet Seat Art

Source: Facebook/Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum

Barney Smith is a well-loved local who creates both amazing and bizarre toilet seat art. His interesting talent has resulted in a toilet seat art museum that’s definitely off-the-beaten path. Located in a residential area at the artist’s home in the northern suburbs of San Antonio, the small space is both a museum and a store, which means you can buy your favorite piece as a reminder of your vacation. Plus, there are plenty of vacation rentals in the area, so you can stop by before or after heading out to some of the more mainstream attractions San Antonio has to offer.

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4. U.S. Army Medical Department Museum

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Army Medical Department Museum lies off the beaten path not just figuratively, but literally as well with its location at the historic Fort Sam Houston, almost as far south as Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum. However, what it lacks in publicity it more than makes up for in a fascinating army medical history that dates back to the founding of the country. There are photos, artwork, and exhibits displaying old medical equipment from stretchers to trucks. There’s even an old medical rail car on display. Because the museum is part of Joint Base San Antonio, you need valid identification to enter. Otherwise, access is free to the public.

5. Old Time Wooden Nickel Company

Source: ot-wooden-nickel.com

After visiting the medical museum, head across the street to the Old Time Wooden Nickel Company. This place has been producing wooden nickels for 70 years and has some interesting items on display, including a giant wooden nickel right out front. You can pick up a few wooden nickels as an inexpensive souvenir and keep your kids occupied for a while. The Old Time Wooden Nickel Company also hosts a community farmers market, so you can stock up on fresh produce for your vacation rental while browsing the wooden nickels. Afterwards, visit the nearby botanical gardens to round out your day.

6. Tacos El Regio

Source: Flickr/rpavich

Tacos El Regio makes one of the best tacos in the city, but its location in a food truck often parked outside a male strip club (though just as often parked along Nacogdoches Road in southeastern San Antonio) makes it hidden to anyone but the most converted of foodies. On the other hand, its simple, authentic Mexican food makes it well-worth the drive. Also, it’s open during the night to early in the morning, so plan your meals accordingly, or drop by and grab something before heading home to your vacation house for the night.

7. Robber Baron Cave Preserve

Source: Flickr/z0rc

San Antonio boasts the Natural Bridge Caverns, a popular network of caves beyond San Antonio’s city limits, but the overlooked Robber Baron Cave Preserve lies within 6 miles from downtown. The latter is easy to get to, a few minutes from many vacation rentals, and doesn’t have the crowds or the commute that the other option requires. Plus, it boasts a dark and hopeful history, one of abuse and renewal. It once housed a literal underground for drinking during the prohibition. It was even vandalized before it became protected, but now you can see as the cave slowly heals itself.

8. Crownridge Canyon Park

Source: Facebook/San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department

Crownridge Canyon Park sits in northern San Antonio. While San Pedro Springs Park and Brackenridge Park are the go-to parks for visitors and families, Crownridge Canyon offers solitude and peace from the crowds. The park has a walking trail, covered picnicking areas, restrooms, public art displays, and plenty of natural flora. Frolic through fields of bluebonnets and wildflowers during the spring. If you get a vacation rental nearby, you can spend long hours exploring Crownridge as well as other close parks such as the Leon Creek Greenway and Friedrich Wilderness Park. You can even pick up the Valero Trailhead and do a little hiking.

9. Landa Library and Gardens

Source: landagardens.org

Directly north of downtown San Antonio lies Landa Library and Gardens. While it’s surrounded by the Japanese Tea Garden, Brackenridge Park, Olmos Basin, and Headwaters Sanctuary, this little oasis combines the beauty of outdoors with the glory of books to create a space where you and your family can relax after a busy day of sightseeing. The gardens, which include more than 7,000 plants, community gardens, walking paths, a playground, and the Valero Pavilion, host events all year round such as outdoor puppet shows and concerts for the kids.

 
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