City Guide: San Antonio parks

Brackenridge Park: San Antonio’s “Central Park,” Brackenridge served as a Confederate tannery, stone quarry, and a key part of the city’s waterworks before the heart of it was deeded to the city by George Brackenridge in 1899. The park is home to lofty tree canopies, the San Antonio River’s headwaters, bicycle trails, bits and pieces of the old Spanish acequias, and an assortment of excellent day-trip options such as the San Antonio Zoo, the recently restored Japanese Tea Garden, a golf course, and playground, as well as being sited just downhill from the San Antonio Botanical Garden to the East. The Witte Museum, with its kid-friendly historic and hands-on exhibitions, is located adjacent to the park, too. 3700 N St. Mary’s

Phil Hardberger Park: Just nine miles north of downtown, you can find San Antonio’s newest biotic gem, 311-acre Voelcker Park straddling Wurzbach Parkway. This mostly undisturbed area ranges across former pasture, mesquite scrub, and oak forest. The city purchased this former dairy farm in 2007 and has developed excellent trails — and a 1.8-acre dog park. 13203 Blanco Rd

HemisFair Park: Built over the mostly scraped remains of an historic working-class neighborhood for the 1968 World’s Fair (catalyzing SA’s conservation movement), the 15 acres of HemisFair Park, linked to the popular River Walk, is now teeming with attractions. From the Tower of the Americas it is an easy walk to prime picnic spots, a children’s playground, and soothing water effects, as well as the Instítuto de México, the Institute of Texan Cultures, a children’s playground, the Convention Center, and Southtown’s many restaurants, bars, and art spaces. Given its central location, it’s no wonder the city is now planning a major redevelopment of this area. Enjoy those picnics while you still can. 200 S Alamo

Emilie and Albert Friedrich Wilderness Park: Roughly 600 acres on the northwest side of San Antonio with great trails of all ability levels and inclines. Nice overlooks. A string of good hiking parks on this side of town, including Crownridge and Government Canyon, have been preserved to help protect the recharge area for the Edwards Aquifer, San Antonio’s main drinking-water source. Great place to spot a golden-cheeked warbler and other songbirds. 21395 Milsa

San Pedro Springs Park: Home to one of the iconic springs that first drew settlers to San Antonio, San Pedro Park — the second oldest city park in the nation — was once the center of San Antonio social life, echoing its earliest known history as a Coahuiltecan Indian settlement called Yanaguana. The park offers a shallow, cypress-lined swimming pool, is embraced by numerous archeological traces, the San Pedro Springs Park branch library, the McFarland Tennis Center, and baseball diamonds, and sits across the street from San Antonio College on the southern edge of historic Monte Vista. 1315 San Pedro

MLK Park: Located between Martin Luther King Academy and the MLK Freedom Bridge, MLK Park is a recreation area adjacent to the Eastside Branch Boys & Girls Club. The park features basketball, tennis, and volleyball courts, a softball field, three pavilions available for rent, various picnic tables, barbecue pits, and a children’s playground structure. Paved walkways throughout the park cater to pedestrians, while some visitors fish in Salado Creek, which runs through the park. The 2008 Visitor Tax extension has the potential to dramatically alter this area with the Wheatley Heights sports complex. 3505 Martin Luther King Dr.

Lady Bird Johnson Park: Home to the popular Alva Jo Fischer softball complex and the Hamilton Community Center, Lady Bird Johnson Park is also the site of San Antonio’s first skate park/pool facility combo. The skate park includes a 7,000-square-foot bowl that ranges from 5 to 9 feet deep, an 1,800-square-foot deck, a 5-foot quarter-pipe ramp, and a 5-foot bun pyramid. Entry into both the pool and skate area is free, and visitors often utilize both facilities during the same visit in the summer months. LBJ also features basketball and tennis courts, grassy sports fields, and a hiking trail. 10700 Nacogdoches

Eisenhower Park: Eisenhower Park, south of Camp Bullis on Northwest Military Drive, is a 320-acre natural area that provides excellent examples of Texas Hill Country landscapes, including wooded dry creek beds and rocky canyons. The park is popular among hikers, joggers, and nature observers, offering five miles of both paved and natural surface trails, but is for pedestrians only. A wooden observation tower offers a view of surrounding landscapes and the San Antonio skyline, while picnic tables, barbecue pits, restrooms, and a playground cater to families. 19399 N.W. Military Dr.

Woodlawn Lake Park: Woodlawn Lake Park is a 62-acre recreational area located northwest of downtown which features an artificial lake about 30 acres in size. The lake is available for fishing (not that we’re recommending you eat your catch), while non-motorized boating and watercraft are allowed by special request. Home to the Woodlawn Sailing Club (small craft and radio-controlled sailboats;, the park is also popular with walkers and joggers, including students from nearby St. Mary’s University, and offers a fishing pond, gym, swimming pool, softball field, basketball and tennis courts, and two playgrounds. 1103 Cincinnati

McAllister Park: One of San Antonio’s largest and most popular city parks, McAllister features the city’s only official dog park (for now; keep an eye on Madison Square Park downtown), an extensive network of over 25 miles of trails, both paved and unpaved, and is a favorite of hiking, biking, and running enthusiasts, in addition to extreme-sports gurus. The wooded northside park is characterized by trees, rocky trails, logs, and natural surfaces, and native animals such as deer are easily observable in their natural environments. McAllister is extremely spread out and never overcrowded. Athletic fields and picnic spots dot the expansive landscape. 13102 Jones Maltsberger

Dozens more of SA’s hundred-plus green spaces, from tiny plazas to athletic fields to mostly untamed wildernesses, can be found at

Read more from our 2011 City Guide here.

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