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The Japanese Tea Garden is one of San Antonio's many hidden gems.
While well known for the Alamo and River Walk, San Antonio is home to a wide array of sights and experiences that reflect its deep-rooted culture.
If you’re a newcomer to the city, it’s a great idea to veer away from the tourist draws and experience a variety of less-known attractions — at least less-known to tourists. From scenic parks to annual cultural events to top-notch arts and entertainment, San Antonio has much to explore.
Japanese Tea Garden
Located within Brackenridge Park, the Japanese Tea Garden offers visitors a slice of serenity just miles away from downtown. What was originally a rock quarry was transformed into a lily pond and garden in 1917 through collaborative city efforts. Shaped over the course of generations, it’s evolved into the beloved attraction we know today. The garden is open to the public daily from dawn to dusk. 3853 N. St. Mary’s St., saparksfoundation.org.
Since its opening last year, the immersive, interactive gallery Hopscotch has packed work from a wide variety of artists into its 20,000-square-foot space near downtown’s Travis Park. Since photography is allowed in its exhibitions, the gallery is also known for its prime Instagram photo ops. Getting hungry after perusing the art? Hopscotch also features a lounge, patio, food truck and full bar. Tickets are $24, but students — hey, that’s some of you! — get $4 off with a valid school ID. $20-24, 711 Navarro St. Suite 100, letshopscotch.com.
Little compares to the nostalgia-inducing experience of pulling into the drive-in theater to catch a screening of your favorite flick — an experience Slab Cinema offers. Catch a movie at one of the San Antonio Museum of Art’s Film on the Green or Family Flick nights, or venture out to the historic Mission Marquee Theater for weekly family-friendly screenings. Many of the movies are even free to attend. Just make sure you get there before dusk to claim the perfect spot. Ticket prices and locations vary, slabcinema.com.
Blind Tiger Comedy Club
As San Antonio’s only underground comedy club, Blind Tiger brings the intimacy of a New York City-style club to the basement of the historic Magic Time Machine restaurant in Oak Park. Every Friday night, comedians take the stage beginning at 10 p.m. — just be sure to stick around for the free Secret Midnight Show with special guests. The club is 21+, so bring a valid ID if you’re hoping for an evening of laughs. Ticket prices vary, 902 Northeast Loop 410, (210) 828-1470, blindtigercomedyclub.com.
The Classic Theatre
Courtesy of Classic Theatre
Founded in 2008, the Classic Theatre is a small, non-profit professional theatre featuring both local and national performing artists. Last year, during the pandemic, the company partnered with the San Antonio Botanical Garden to provide the same quality theater in an outdoor setting. Its production of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It
will run September 9-26. classictheatre.org.
At 505 acres, you’re sure to find something new on every trip you make to Pearsall Park — the sheer size alone pretty much guarantees it. A fitness area, splash pads, a skate park, disc golf, dog parks and various art installations can be found throughout the public space. With so much stuff to do and acres of land to explore, there’s something for everyone regardless of age or interests. 4838 Old Pearsall Road, sanantonio.gov.
Ruby City is the posthumous realization of a dream of the late art collector Linda Pace. The contemporary art center offers a range of exhibitions and is a part of a larger campus that includes Chris Park and the Studio exhibition space. What’s more, it’s housed in an award-winning building designed by renowned architect Sir David Adjaye OBE. Free, 150 Camp St., rubycity.org.
Agarita Chamber Players
This homegrown chamber ensemble is known for offering innovative, interactive performances and events across San Antonio. Its four San Antonio musicians are dedicated to putting on shows that are accessible to people from all walks of life. Also, each performance is typically a collaborative effort with a local venue or artist — sometimes both. Upcoming performances include Postcards from the Border (October 15) and Agarita Celebrates SAMA’s 40th (December 12). Free, locations vary, agarita.org.
In San Antonio, Día de los Muertos is a big deal. As such, Muertos Fest celebrates our lost loved ones with live music, poetry, vendors, a procession and an altar contest. The festival is open to everyone, and it’s a great way to get a sense of San Antonio’s culture while connecting over a lively and meaningful cultural celebration. Free, October 23-24, Hemisfair, 434 S. Alamo St., muertosfest.com.
San Antonio’s nonprofit contemporary arts festival, Luminaria, will take place on November 13 in Hemisfair. The annual event provides a platform for local, national and international performing and installation artists via a magical night of inspiring creativity. Luminaria is sure to have a little something for everyone — art enthusiasts and newbie alike. Free, 6 p.m.-midnight November 13, Hemisfair, 434 S. Alamo St., luminariasa.org.
Ballet San Antonio
Courtesy of Ballet San Antonio
Ballet San Antonio has been bringing the professional dance experience to the Alamo City since 1985. If you need a place to take your sweetheart on a date, this may be a romantic and unforgettable option. Upcoming performances include A Night at the Castle
(October 22-24) and The Nutcracker
(December 3-5 and 10-12). If you are interested in checking out a show, but not sure which one, you can also head down to Travis Park on September 18 for Ballet SA’s free event, Ballet in the Park, which will feature a sneak peek of its 2021-22 season. Ticket prices and locations vary, balletsanantonio.org.
Friedrich Wilderness Park
This isn’t your regular city park. Friedrich Wilderness Park is known internationally for being home to two federally recognized endangered species of birds: the Black-capped Vireo and the Golden-cheeked Warbler. While you can’t bike or bring the pups along because of this, the 10 miles of hiking trail that wind throughout the park are sure to please any nature enthusiast. 21395 Milsa Dr., sanantonio.gov.
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