Passionate About San Antonio
and the Moms Who Live Here

A Walk in the Park: The Best Parks in San Antonio

I have to be honest, it’s taken me a while to wrap my brain around how I was going to put this post together. So many parks, so much fun and useful information, so many pictures—how do you narrow down from a list of over 250 city, county, state, and national parks within our city limits?

And if I’m even more honest, this post was also challenging due to the questions it raised for me in a civic-minded way. While comparing and contrasting parks and amenities from different sides of town, it became evident that we as citizens can take an active role in advocating for and improving our park land and green spaces. For me, this information-gathering has created opportunities for conversation with friends and colleagues. Simply put, it’s a quality of life matter.

The City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department provides so many services to the community, it’s impossible to capture it all here. I’m hoping to write other posts soon that touch on that breadth and depth. However, I encourage you to check their website closely. Scan the lists, calendars, and maps, and keep track of their social media outlets. Like the MySAPL app from the San Antonio Public Library, I’m hoping the parks department will launch a mobile app soon that can help people find area parks, amenities, and activities.

Currently on the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department’s website, you can use the Find a Park tool to search for parks by location, amenity (dog park, bicycle trail, skate park, swimming pool, softball fields, etc.), and even council district.

What I’ve discovered is that parks in San Antonio seem to come in packages of playgrounds, athletic fields and courts, fitness stations, trails, a pool, maybe even a community/education center, etc. With this post, I’ve tried to select parks that have an interesting combination of amenities and maybe something interesting on site or in the area to draw you there. In addition, I encourage you to get outside of your comfort zone and explore your city.

So in the words of Dr. Scott the paleontologist from Dinosaur Train: “Get outside, get into nature, and make your own discoveries!”

Phil Hardberger Park

13203 Blanco Road, 78216 (East) &

8400 NW Military Hwy, 78230 (West)

It would seem like everyone knows about Hardberger Park since it was a pretty big deal when it opened in 2010. The park sits on either side of Wurzbach Parkway with entrances on Blanco Road (East) and Northwest Military Highway (West). However, the two sides of the park don’t connect (at least not yet, anyway—there are future plans for a land bridge) so be sure you know which side you’d like to explore first. On the west side, you’ll find a partly shaded playground for younger and older kids, a soccer field, basketball courts, a dog park, unpaved trails, public art, and the Urban Ecology Center. On the east side, there are more play areas and trails, a dog park, outdoor classroom, and the Voelcker Homestead.

Park Perk: Nature Education Programs

Hardberger Park has no shortage of programming for all ages of students, including homeschoolers. My son and I have attended classes on both sides of the park. I will warn you though, the weekday programs fill up fast so you need to be pay close attention to the events calendar and when registration opens. Plenty of programs also take place on Saturdays and do not require registration.

McAllister Park

13102 Jones-Maltsberger, 78247

McAllister Park covers 976 acres and is located about a mile from North East ISD’s Blossom Athletic Center. This park is huge, so you might want to take a drive through it to get familiar. Playgrounds and pavilions are located throughout the park, as well as soccer and baseball fields and plenty of hiking and biking trails.

Park Perk: Kite Festival

Each year, the San Antonio Parks Foundation hosts the Fest of Tails Kite Festival and Dog Fair. It gets busy quickly, so I highly recommend you get there early.

mcallister-kite

Orsinger Park

12230 Huebner Road, 78230

If your kids go to Hobby Middle School, you’re probably familiar with this park since it’s just down the road. This park has a fun playground area for little ones with a recently installed cushion floor. You might also consider renting the large pavilion (plus kitchen with barbeque) for a family event. One of our ACMB moms also noted that she loves the clean bathrooms at this park.

Park Perk: Sandbox

orsinger-sandbox

Playing in the sandbox at Orsinger Park

Walker Ranch Historic Landmark Park

12603 West Avenue, 78216

Lately, Walker Ranch has been the park my family frequents the most, and it always amazes me how busy it gets. Sometimes you might even see cars parked in the front grass. There are play areas for younger and older kids, trees to climb, and plus lots of shade and paved trails for running, walking, and biking.

Park Perk: Airplanes Overhead

This park is located right under a flight path of the San Antonio International Airport. I don’t know about your kids, but my son never gets tired of watching airplanes overhead.

walker-ranch-plane

Southwest Airlines 737 flying overhead at Walker Ranch Historic Landmark Park

Friedrich Wilderness Park

21395 Milsa Road, 78256

This park is out past Fiesta Texas just off IH-10. No playground here, but plenty of hiking trails for all skill levels. It’s also known as a great spot for bird watching. Friedrich Wilderness Park is actually a nesting site for two endangered species of birds, the black-capped vireo and the golden-cheeked Warbler. Maggie’s got some great tips for family-friendly hiking at Friedrich and several other parks in and around the San Antonio area.

Park Perk: Nature Education Programs

Plenty of kid-friendly/kid-focused educational programming is offered throughout the year and open to the public. Learn about ecosystems, trees, insects, birding, etc. Some programs require RSVP, so be sure to check the fosana.org calendar to sign up.

Eisenhower Park

Dawn’s post shares her experiences exploring this natural area and covers the programming offered at Eisenhower.

Roosevelt Park

330 Roosevelt, 78210

In the downtown/Southtown area, you’ll find this cool park sitting right next to the San Antonio River. There are two playground areas for different ages, a basketball court, and a large climbing wall. The public swimming pool is open during the summer months. The park also has a great air-conditioned clubhouse available to rent for events. We almost had my baby shower at this facility, but it was booked.

Park Perk: Mission Reach and San Antonio BCycle

Mission Reach is an ecosystem restoration and recreation project similar to the Museum Reach, both of which are part of the San Antonio River Improvements Project. While you’re there checking out the new views and paths, rent a bike from San Antonio BCycle and take a ride down to the San Antonio Missions.

 

Southside Lions Park

3100 Hiawatha, 78223

This park is one of the biggest in San Antonio in terms of acreage. Southside Lions park has plenty of amenities spread over 600 acres, including a community center, tennis courts, swimming pool, a small skate park, and several pavilions. Lions Park Lake sits right in the middle of the vast park surrounded by shade trees and populated by ducks, geese, and other water fowl.

Park Perk: Neighborhood Fishin’ Program

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department regularly stocks the lake at Southside Lions, as well as the nearby Miller’s Pond located at 615 Pearsall Road. They are stocked approximately every two weeks with rainbow trout (average size 10″-12″) in the winter (late November to early March) and with channel catfish (average size 12″) in the warmer months (May-July and September-October). A valid fishing license with a freshwater stamp endorsement is required.

sslions-fishin

Pearsall Park

4700 Old Pearsall Road, 78242

This park had a spectacular grand opening; take a look at my post from June 2016. Last time my son and I went back, the park was still filled with families (but not as packed as opening weekend) and there were at least two ice cream trucks set up to help keep everyone cool with tasty treats.

Park Perk: Splash Pad

pearsall

Medina River Natural Area

15890 Highway 16 South, 78264

As my friend who works for REI describes it, Medina River Natural Area is one of San Antonio’s best-kept secrets, but maybe not for much longer if people find this post useful. She informed me that you can camp at this park year-round, so I called the Parks department to get more info. I was told the park recently opened the camp site (with six tent pads) to the general public; it used to be available for nonprofits only. A group can reserve the camp site for only $20 per night! This green space is 511 acres with seven miles of trails, including a representation of El Camino Real wagon trail. I’ve read it’s also a great place to see birds such as the green kingfisher and the painted bunting.

Park Perk: You Can Camp!

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

Headquarters at 2202 Roosevelt Avenue, 78210

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably already know that the San Antonio Missions recently became a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site. It is important to visit all five missions (San José, Concepcíon, San Juan Capistrano, Espada, and San Antonio de Valero) to understand the origins of San Antonio and its people and the intersection of cultures and religions.

Park Perk: Every Kid in a Park

Did you know that every fourth grader can get a free pass to the National Parks? Check out the Every Kid in a Park program. For a complete list of national parks in Texas, take a look at this post from a guest blogger.

Image from City of San Antonio Office of Historic Preservation

Image from City of San Antonio Office of Historic Preservation

Pittman-Sullivan Park

1101 Iowa, 78203

My son and I stopped by this park—one of the oldest (est. 1733) in San Antonio—on our way to or from the nearby Hays Street Bridge. It’s got a small playground and fitness area. In 2015, the park got some much-needed improvements; here’s a video that captures the community’s response to the work. I hope the Eastside gets more park improvements in the near future. Thanks to its large size and bright color, you can’t miss the public art work Open Hand, Open Mind, Open Heart by Douglas Cornfield that sits atop the park in a spot that provides a great view of downtown.

Park Perk: Proximity to Hays Street Bridge

My son is a train fanatic and we often hang out at Hays Street Bridge, which is just about two miles from Pittman-Sullivan Park. One time we got lucky and saw three trains in just one visit!

hays-bridge

Lincoln Park

2915 East Commerce, 78203

Lincoln Park is conveniently situated in the middle of several community resources: a University Health System clinic; the Barbara Jordan Community Center; Lincoln Community Center with an open gym, game room and weight room; and the Claude Black Center, which provides a variety of services and also houses the City Council District 2 field office. There is a small playground on site and nearby basketball court, as well as a community pool that is open during the summer months.

Park Perk: Community Resource Centers

lincoln

Aerial view from Google maps

Martin Luther King Park

3503 Martin Luther King Drive, 78220

This park has the potential to be something great for the Eastside. Martin Luther King Park is a great piece of land with the Salado Creek running through it. When my son and I visited, we spent some time on the small playground and just kept looking around thinking about how much more could be done with the space. I’m hopeful that the City and community will work together to make some significant investment in this green space.

Park Perk: What Is to Come

Rosedale Park

303 Dartmouth, 78237

You’ve probably heard of Rosedale Park as the site of a large-scale public event, such as the annual Tejano Conjunto Festival hosted by the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. The park also has a huge variety of athletic courts, fields, and facilities including a skate park and swimming pool, plus areas for basketball, tennis, soccer, and volleyball. The Westside YMCA is also located on the premises.

Park Perk: Breezy Hilltop

My husband and I attend an evening event at Rosedale earlier this year and were quickly reminded how breezy it gets atop the hill. It’s great way to spend an evening.

Heritage Duck Pond Park

900 Ellison Drive South, 78245

This park was recommended in one of ACMB’s Neighborhood Groups, so my son and I decided to take a drive. There are plenty of ducks around the pond, but be sure to use the food in the machines to feed them. As we walked around the park, we found a playground, a covered basketball court, small skate park, and even a Little Free Library.

Park Perk: Little Free Library

Give a book and take a book. That’s how it works: a simple concept that promotes community and literacy at the same time. Maybe you can grab a book and then drive down Potranco to get some ice cream at Creamistry.

Tom Slick Park

7400 Highway 151, 78251

After driving out to Heritage Duck Pond Park, we decided to check out Tom Slick Park just a short drive away. We didn’t get to see the pond there, but I’ve read you can catch some decent fish. My son did enjoy the shaded playground, and then we took a walk to check out the outdoor fitness stations. Right alongside the walking path is a large dog park that was being put to good use the day we were there. The park also has baseball, basketball, and soccer fields.

Park Perk: Dog Park

 

Woodlawn Lake Park

1103 Cincinnati, 78201

Woodlawn is a San Antonio classic. If you haven’t been, you owe it to yourself and your family to spend some time getting to know the place. When I was a kid, we used to play tennis at Woodlawn. You’ll usually find an ice cream truck in one of the parking lots selling raspas and all sorts of goodness. Take a look at Katy’s post for more details about Woodlawn.

Park Perk: Earth Day and 4th of July Celebrations

Woodlawn is a hugely popular location for public events, including Earth Day, which takes place during Fiesta. And if you’re planning to watch the 4th of July fireworks at the lake, be sure to get down there early. Parking and traffic can become quite a challenge.

Elmendorf Lake Park

3700 West Commerce, 78207

Alright, so this park is technically closed right now but I’m listing it because it’s definitely one to watch. Keep your eyes on this one! It’s currently undergoing a huge renovation and expansion project that could be completed as soon as December 2016. Elmendorf Lake borders the campus of Our Lady of the Lake University and obviously has quite a bit of waterfront. Take a look at this article from 2014 in the San Antonio Express-News about the plans for Elmendorf Lake Park.

Park Perk: What Is to Come!

elmendorf-lake

Image from saparksandrec.com

Brackenridge Park

3700 North St. Mary’s Street, 78212

Brackenridge Park is another San Antonio classic. In a way, it’s San Antonio’s version of New York’s Central Park. I remember having a piñata party under the trees when I was about six years old. Whether it’s to go to the zoo, feed the ducks, ride the train, or play on the playground, my son and I are often at Brackenridge Park. And what kid doesn’t love driving across the bridge with the San Antonio River flowing over? That was the coolest thing when I was a kid. This park also has plenty of trails and fields. It’s an extremely popular spot to camp when the City lifts the park curfew during Easter weekend. Brackenridge also has several great pavilions like Joske (pictured below) that you can reserve for special occasions. Be sure to keep up with the Brackenridge Park Conservancy and the Master Plan currently in the works for the park. Changes are coming! While you’re in the Brackenridge area, you could also check out the beautiful Japanese Tea GardenKaty’s post has details about the park’s rich history.

Park Perk: Brackenridge Eagle Train

Hemisfair

434 South Alamo, 78205

This is my current favorite. I love being downtown. You can stay at this park after dark and have a great, safe time. Yanaguana Garden opened in October 2015 and it was an instant hit. It’s centrally located, so people come from all sides of town to enjoy the new Hemisfair. What’s not to love, honestly? There’s a giant sandbox, accessible public art throughout the park, splash pad, and excellent playscapes. Plus, they offer recurring kids programming like outdoor story time and First Saturday Play Days. You can check out a kids’ show at Magik Theatre and then grab a treat at Paletería San Antonio. Oh, also, probably my favorite park bathrooms in all of San Antonio. No kidding! Colorful, with stools for kids to reach the sink, a family bathroom, and all completely ventilated. Check out Inga’s post from the opening of the new Hemisfair in October 2015.

Park Perk: Splash Pad

Unlike Austin, San Antonio doesn’t have too many splash pads in town. This one gets the job done! And I love the convenient outdoor changing stalls.

San Pedro Springs Park

1315 San Pedro, 78212

San Pedro Springs Park is the oldest designated park in San Antonio. Be sure to read Katy’s post that covers practically all the amenities San Pedro has to offer plus some of the surrounding facilities.

CHRISpark

111 Camp Street, 78204

Situated between Hemisfair and Roosevelt Park, you’ll find this quaint, contemplative green space. Inga shared with ACMB her experience taking her kids and you can read more about what the park has to offer.

Guadalupe River State Park

3350 Park Road 31, Spring Branch, TX 78070

In my mind, Guadalupe River State Park seemed too far of a drive. I remember long, early morning drives to Guadalupe for my high school cross country meets. But I was wrong—it’s really not bad at all, especially when I followed my friend’s suggestion to take Blanco Road all the way there. This park is the epitome of the idyllic Texas hill country setting. If you’re going during the summer months, get there early: even on a weekday morning at 10 A.M. there was a line to get in, and they stop letting people in once the park reaches capacity. Here’s another ACMB post about Guadalupe River State Park from a few years ago.

Park Perk: Easy Directions

Just stay on Blanco Road until you get to Park Road 31! Of course, there are other ways to get there but this one has the fewest turns.

Landa Park

164 Landa Park Drive, New Braunfels, TX 78130

Landa Park reminds me of San Antonio’s Brackenridge Park, in part because it also has a miniature train that runs through the park. In addition to the paddle boats and miniature golf, there’s also the wading pool and Aquatic Complex. During the summer months, the lake and water features are packed with people of all ages catching a break from the heat. There’s plenty to do in and around this small town to make it worth the trip. Just ask Dawn: She wrote a fun piece on adventures with her son in New Braunfels.

Park Perk: Train

Image from City of New Braunfels Facebook page

Image from City of New Braunfels Facebook page

River Road Park

415 River Road, Boerne, TX 78006

River Road Park is one of those quintessential Boerne spots. It actually runs along a creek—Cibolo Creek, in fact—and you can follow the road all the way to Cibolo Nature Center; read more in this post. I remember going as a child with my grandmother to feed the ducks, and now I take my son. The park was renovated in 2013 with upgrades to the sidewalks, piers, and picnic areas. It’s centrally located near Main Street, where you can take a stroll to find a variety of eateries, shops, and bakeries. There’s no playground at this site, but the nature and wildlife will keep your kiddos entertained. Pack a picnic and stay a while to soak up the small-town feel.

Park Perk: Feeding the Ducks AND Turtles

The last time my son and I went, we were surprised to see not only a variety of ducks and geese approaching us for food, but turtles started swimming over from all directions to share in the feast as well. It was pretty darn cute.

 

Garner State Park

234 RR 1050, Concan, TX 78838

Read Kelly’s post about her family’s cabin experience at Garner, about two hours west of San Antonio.

Map of Selected San Antonio Parks by ACMB

For Park Wonks and Enthusiasts

Getting back to the civics of parks for a minute, consider this: In San Antonio, there are over 240 parks managed by the City, plus others managed by Bexar County, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the National Park Service, and more.

Did you know that according to the 2016 City Park Facts report done by the Trust for Public Land, San Antonio has over 26,000 acres of park land within the city limits? The entire city limits currently comprises 295,000 acres. This may seem like a lot of park land, but you’ll notice in the report that San Antonio actually ranks pretty far down the list in terms of park land per 1,000 residents. Dallas, Houston, and Austin all rank higher than San Antonio. What may be even more surprising is the percent of city population with walkable park access: For San Antonio, it’s only 34%. Again, Dallas, Houston, and Austin rank higher than San Antonio.

So here’s how this research and post has helped me: I want to know even more. I want to be more involved. We all have the perfect opportunity to do so with the upcoming 2017-2022 Bond Program. According to the City’s website, the next bond program is anticipated to be $850 million and should include funding for parks, recreation, and open space, among other priorities (such as facility improvements; neighborhood improvements; streets, bridges, and sidewalks; and drainage and flood control). Community Bond Committee meetings begin October 3 and run through December 15. All meetings will take place at the Central Library and are open to the public. Maybe I’ll see you there!

, , , , , , , ,

2 Responses to A Walk in the Park: The Best Parks in San Antonio

  1. Ally October 2, 2016 at 1:50 pm #

    I find it very interesting that in your opinion all of the “best” parks are on the wealthier white sides of town.

    • Heather
      Heather October 5, 2016 at 2:39 pm #

      The post includes all sides of town, plus a few beyond SA. Be sure to click on the tabs to the left to see the list of parks in the South, East, West, and Beyond SA. Let us know of other parks we should check out!