La Villita is a darling little village of historic homes near the Riverwalk in San Antonio. It’s a great free thing to do in San Antonio and age-appropriate for, well, pretty much anyone! You’re probably going to see “visit La Villita” on any well-rounded list of the best things to do in San Antonio…and you should! But here are a few things you should know about La Villita before you visit.
What Is La Villita in San Antonio?
Established in the 18th century, La Villita is commonly regarded as "San Antonio's first neighborhood." Located just south of the Alamo, this neighborhood was a safe place for people to build homes and plant crops.
In 1809 La Villita + The Alamo formed what is now known as the city of San Antonio, Texas!
In the mid-1800s La Villita had some rough years. I mean, San Antonio has quite the robust history of fighting for independence and ownership, and La Villita is located in the heart of it all!
But by the late 1800s this "little village" was home to dozens of tradespeople, including cabinet makers, lawyers, doctors, saloon owners, and dress- and shoe-makers. It really was its own little village that could function nicely.
Fast forward to the early 1900s and it had become somewhat of a slum in San Antonio. Mayor Maury Maverick was the guy who really initiated getting it cleaned up as a monument to all the people who made San Antonio possible.
Nowadays, the historic homes have been turned into art studios, galleries, and shops. La Villita is a thriving art community in the heart of downtown San Antonio where visitors and locals can browse, shop, dine, and enjoy entertainment. La Villita is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Where Is La Villita Located?
It's actually on the south bank of the San Antonio River (aka the Riverwalk.) It takes up a full city block that's basically between the San Antonio River Walk and Hemisfair Park.
San Antonio is pretty cool in that a lot of the fun things to do are centrally located. I think that visiting La Villita is the perfect thing to do between Hemisfair Park (lots of great restaurants there!) and a stroll at the Riverwalk.
What Is There To Do At La Villita?
You could absolutely just spend a morning wandering through Villita Street and soaking in the ambiance. The cobblestone streets, plaza, and ambiance are adorable. And they have amenities like plenty of free public bathrooms, benches, and shady areas to sit.
It's a short walk from the village to the Riverwalk, and you can just enjoy wandering around on a beautiful Texas day.
Shopping at La Villita in San Antonio
This artisan village is absolutely full of adorable shops. Artists sell their jewelry, textiles, crafts, and folk-art from the old adobe houses. These homes have obviously been made modern with air conditioning, electric lighting, and other modern day touches, but the historic bones are still there.
There are too many art galleries here to list all of them, but here are a few that are worth looking out for:
The Copper Gallery: the artisan who runs this gallery uses precious metals to create household copper ware and jewelry.
Bird and Pear: if you're looking for gifts and souvenirs, this store is for you! Bird and Pear features unique handmade items like purses, throw pillows, jewelry, and clothing. There really are some adorable things in here made by local artists. Their motto is "we have 10,000 things to make you happy!" because there literally are thousands of bright and fun items inside this store.
Little Studio Gallery: for the art lovers who are reading this, Little Studio Gallery is the place to go for local San Antonio art. It's a small, tranquil spot to visit and enjoy some of the best local art in San Antonio.
Angelita: hoping to shop for clothes? Angelita is a women's clothing boutique featuring items from a curated list of designers. This store features clothing, jewelry, footwear, accessories, and apothecary items like hand milled soaps and beautiful candles.
Scentchips: this is one of the most unique stores at La Villita, and it's probably where you'll want to go if you hope to purchase a fun and memorable souvenir from your trip. Scentchips makes and sells luxury wax melts. You can choose from their seasonal scents, or you can "create-a-scent" and make your own custom blend. Don't forget a warmer! They have a few beautiful options that are sold in the store. Worth noting: this place is HIGHLY perfumed!! You'll smell it from about a block away.
Dining At La Villita Historic Village
I'll go ahead and share my honest opinion, which is that the dining at La Villita Historic Village doesn't accurately reflect the amazing cuisine at some of the best San Antonio restaurants. However, these are historic places and sometimes it's fun to eat for the ambiance.
If you're hoping to dine during your visit at La Villita, you have four options.
La Villita Cafe
This centrally-located cafe offers both indoor and outdoor seating for breakfast, lunch, and coffee. They offer a fairly typical American menu: omelets, bagels, and yogurt parfaits for breakfast, salads and wraps and sandwiches for lunch, and a full coffee bar.
Serving Tex Mex in La Villita for more than 30 years, Guadalajara Grill is located inside a historic two-story building from the late 1800s. The menu is your typical Tex Mex fare: tacos, fajitas, chips and queso, and margaritas.
Fig Tree Restaurant
An upscale French restaurant overlooking the Riverwalk, Fig Tree is the most high end place to dine at La Villita. They require a business casual dress code and are only open for dinner. While it's been open since 1971, it had a major renovation and re-opening in 2021 with new owners. Expect to splurge on your meal here (averaging a hundred dollars per person) on specialty French menu items like foie gras parfait, tuna tartare, and duck with fermented spicy peach honey.
Little Rhein Prost Haus
Looking for some German food on the Riverwalk? Little Reign Prost Haus has one of the best patios on the Riverwalk and some fun German cuisine. It is a bit touristy with souvenir steins and "bro-y" cocktails and shots on the drink menu, but it can be fun if you're in the right mood. The food consists of both German and Texan influences, like a giant Bavarian pretzel and a chicken schnitzel club sandwich all the way to jumbo fried chicken tenders and Texas nachos with beer chili.
Entertainment at La Villita Historic Village
There's more to do at La Villita than just shopping and eating! They have a few other places to explore, including a theater, a museum, a historic church, and seasonal events.
Arneson River Theatre
Built in 1939, this 800-seat amphitheater spans OVER the Riverwalk! The stage is on the north side of the water and the grassy seating area is on the south side.
Every summer, the Arneson River Theatre puts on a performance called Fiesta Noche del Rio on Friday and Saturday nights. Be sure to secure your tickets ahead of time!
You can actually rent out Arneson River Theatre! Hourly rates are on the website.
San Antonio African American Community Archive & Museum
There's only one museum at La Villita, and it's SAACAM. It shares the untold story of San Antonio's African American descendents. This museum is free (donations are accepted) and definitely worth a visit while you're at La Villita. SAACAM's goal is "to collect, preserve and share the cultural heritage of African Americans in the San Antonio region."
Little Church of La Villita
This non-denominational church in the heart of La Villita is actually active and fully functioning! You can attend the Sunday worship service at 11 am. They're also very active in projects like their food pantry and clothing distribution.
The church is available for rental for religious ceremonies like weddings, funerals, and baptisms.
There are multiple historic plazas at La Villita Historic Village. They're open to the public and you can wander through them. Or, you can rent them out for private events. The plazas can accommodate anywhere from 100-500 people.
And if you're hoping for an indoor event rental at La Villita, Cos House is an 1,100 square foot private house with two rooms, indoor bathrooms, and a kitchen prep space. It's a popular option for wedding receptions for the folks who rent out Little Church of La Villita for their weddings.
How much time should I spend at La Villita?
Guests can spend anywhere from 1-3 hours here, depending on their desired activities. If you just want to wander around and browse the shops, an hour will be plenty. If you plan to see a show or enjoy a nice meal at Fig Tree Restaurant, you'll need a few more hours.
Parking At La Villita
There's no designated parking lot for La Villita, but there is an unofficial lot on the western edge of La Villita (located on S Presa St) that has $5 parking. Bring cash! You can just search for "5 dollar parking" on google maps.
Or, if you're coming from or going to Hemisfair, you can park at any of the Hemisfair parking options. La Villita is a short walk from Hemisfair.
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