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Exploring the Great Outdoors in San Antonio 

click to enlarge COURTESY OF CONFLUENCE PARK
  • Courtesy of Confluence Park

A visit to the park can mean a lot of things, beyond fresh air and interaction with nature. Whether your idea of fun is a playground, a brisk hike or a rugged camping trip, San Antonio has outdoor attractions suitable for everyone from out-of-towners to intrepid local adventurers.

Beginner

Brackenridge Park
Centrally located and adjacent to family-friendly attractions including the Witte Museum, San Antonio Zoo and recently relocated Kiddie Park, Brackenridge Park has major draw. With amenities including paved trails, softball fields and multiple pavilions, not to mention a gently meandering segment of the San Antonio River flowing through it, there are plenty of ways to spend quality time outdoors, from picnicking to jogging, and even fishing. The park also includes the gorgeous Japanese Tea Garden — a picturesque enclave converted from a rock quarry with winding walkways, koi ponds and lush foliage along with a pavilion and the Jingu House café — and the Sunken Garden Theater, an open-air performance venue that can accommodate up to 4,800 people. 3700 N. St. Mary’s St., (210) 207-7275, sanantonio.gov/ParksAndRec.

Yanaguana Garden at Hemisfair
Located on the historic grounds of the HemisFair ’68 Exhibition, Yanaguana Garden is the first major milestone in the city’s plan to eventually open three parks on the Hemisfair property. The colorful, kid-friendly destination in the heart of downtown features a playground and splash pad, plus tons of games including foosball and giant chess and checkers. Art is integrated throughout Yanaguana Garden, both in the form of interactive and climbable installations and Instagrammable murals. 434 S. Alamo St., (210) 709-4750, hemisfair.org.

San Pedro Springs Park
Anyone who’s spent a bare minimum of time in the city has heard of San Pedro Springs. The historic park — one of the oldest public spaces in the nation — is a welcome place of respite for tourists and locals alike. The jewel in the park’s crown is a spring-fed pool originally built in 1922 and reopened in 2000 after a late-’90s restoration. It’s a perfect place to spend an afternoon soaking in cool waters under the shade of Cypress trees — if you don’t mind sharing the space with the summer crowds, that is. 2200 N. Flores St., (210) 732-5992, sanantonio.gov/ParksAndRec.

Pearsall Park
The sheer amount of stuff to do at Pearsall Park makes it a must-visit stop for anyone looking for outdoor fun. In the Family Fun Zone, kids and adults alike can enjoy two splash pads, a pair of basketball courts, a reinforced lawn for play in the grass and both the city’s largest skate park and largest playground. Gym rats looking to escape the drudgery of the treadmill can shake things up in the Fitness Challenge Zone, where they can clock their sprints with 40-yard sprint timer, fly through the air on a zip line, get gymnastic on traveling rings or keep the course on several 5K walking and running routes. Oh, and did we mention that there’s an 18-hole disc golf course? 5102 Old Pearsall Road, (210) 732-5992, sanantonio.gov/ParksAndRec.

Intermediate

Confluence Park
Confluence Park welcomes visitors to the Mission Reach with award-winning and environmentally conscious architectural design. Confluence is all about the river ecosystem: the arches of its trademark concrete pavilion capture rainwater as part of a sitewide water catchment system, the park’s facilities are energy neutral and the landscaping features native plants. The park serves as a gateway to the eight-mile stretch of the River Walk’s Mission Reach, along which people can walk, run or bike. Confluence also features the city’s only Texas Parks and Wildlife-designated Inland Paddling Trail, with built-in kayak chutes for aquatic adventurers to experience the river in a whole new way. 310 W. Mitchell St., (210) 224-2694, sariverfound.org/confluence-park.

Phil Hardberger Park
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: if you’ve got a pup, Phil Hardberger Park is the place to go. Classified as a natural area, the park preserves San Antonio’s outdoor beauty without sacrificing any amenities. For many, though, the main attraction is Hardberger’s two massive dog parks, each more than an acre in size and featuring separate areas for large and small pooches. The east park has a two-story doghouse in the small dog area, while aspiring trainers can make use of the agility equipment in the west park. 13203 Blanco Road (East Entrance), 8400 NW Military Highway (West Entrance), (210) 207-3284, sanantonio.gov/ParksAndRec.

McAllister Park
McAllister Park’s whopping 976 acres make it worth the trek outside of Loop 410 — or inside 1604, for those in the burbs. The park has several trails for hiking, running and biking, including the six-mile Blue Loop, as well as a fitness station near the entrance. Pet owners can take advantage of a 1.5-acre dog park, but be forewarned — there are no separate areas for large and small canines. 13102 Jones-Maltsberger Road, (210) 732-5992, sanantonio.gov/ParksAndRec.

Advanced

Friedrich Wilderness Park
Friedrich Wilderness Park has a lot of rules: no fires, smoking, pets or any wheeled modes of transportation are allowed. But, that’s for good reason: the outdoor space is home to two federally listed endangered species of birds, the Black-capped Vireo and the Golden-cheeked Warbler. The opportunity to see one — or more! — of these rare birds makes a hike through the pedestrian-only park well worth it, not to mention the chance to enjoy a pristine example of South Texas’ natural landscape. 21395 Milsa Drive, sanantonio.gov/ParksAndRec.

Medina River Natural Area
Birdwatchers can also enjoy the over 500-acre Medina River Natural Area, which is home to the Green Kingfisher and Painted Bunting, among other species. The large natural area park on the South Side is a great place to camp, hike and bike, and fishing is permitted at certain river access points with a valid license. Just don’t plan on jumping in — visitors are not allowed to swim or boat. 15890 Highway 16 South, sanantonio.gov/ParksAndRec.

Government Canyon
An expansive state natural area in Northwest San Antonio, Government Canyon is certainly advanced. While there are plenty of trails suitable for beginner and intermediate hikers, it’s not unheard of for visitors to bite off more than they can chew and require an assist from a helpful Park Ranger. That said, the park is a mecca for experienced outdoors people, with rewarding vistas, over 40 miles of trails, plenty of camping and even a set of nearly 110 million-year-old dinosaur tracks to visit. 12861 Galm Road, (210) 688-9055, tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/government-canyon.

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