Tower of the Americas is that "Space Needle thing" in the middle of San Antonio. You can see it from almost every angle of downtown SA, and it really is one of the most recognizable parts of the San Antonio skyline. That's really saying something, because it was built in the 1960s! Talk about iconic. You do have to pay to go to the top of the observation deck, but here's how you can go up the Tower of the Americas for free. (Mostly free.)
At the time of writing this, there are three ways to get to the top of the Tower of the Americas:
1. Get a ticket to the observation deck.
It's actually not all that expensive when you compare it to the cost of observation decks in other cities.
For instance, the Space Needle in Seattle can cost up to $42 for a single ticket, and Reunion Tower in Dallas costs up to $40. So the fact that the Tower of the Americas is only $16.50 for an adult (even on the weekends) isn't so bad.
2. Make reservations at Chart House restaurant.
Chart House is the restaurant that exists at the top of the Tower of the Americas. You get to dine next to the window, and the tower makes a 360 degree turn every hour so you can get an unobstructed view of San Antonio from every angle.
While you won't have to pay for the elevator ride to the top, you will have to pay for your lunch or dinner, and it's not cheap. These prices are definitely inflated a bit because you're paying for the view.
But here's how to go to the top of the Tower of the Americas for free...
3. Go to Bar 601 during happy hour.
The third option for getting to the top of the Tower of the Americas is to simply dine at the bar. It's located on the floor above Chart House restaurant, and you can sit at a small table that overlooks the restaurant and gets beautiful views from the windows.
But here's the real trick:
You HAVE to go to bar 601 during happy hour
The happy hour deals are insane. You can easily get a beverage for under $10, or a snack for about $5.
Happy Hour is every Mon-Fri from 4:30-7 pm.
Note that bar 601 is 21+, so this isn't an option if you're planning to go to the top of the tower with young children.
How to get to Bar 601 at Tower of the Americas
Go to the Chart House entrance of the Tower of the Americas. This is on the opposite side from the window where you buy the Observation Deck tickets.
Then you'll need to walk in the door to the hostess stand.
From there, you can tell them you'd like to go get a drink at the Bar 601.
If it's a really busy day you might need to wait a bit, but if you go on a weekday (especially if you go right at the beginning of Happy Hour at 4:30 pm) you should good to go!
You'll be directed to a separate elevator that is for Chart House and Bar 601. After a free elevator ride to the top, you'll arrive at Bar 601 where you can order a drink and some small bites and enjoy the beautiful view of San Antonio from 750 feet in the sky.