I’m not a touristy person. I detest big chain restaurants, no matter how “MUST TRY!” they are. I will never look to TripAdvisor for tips on fun things to do in a city. I wrote this guide to the San Antonio Riverwalk Restaurants because I found it annoying that all of the popular restaurants served horrible food. I don’t usually spend my money doing the touristy stuff, but…the Tower of The Americas was calling my name.
Ok, ok…I know. It’s just about as touristy as you can get in SA! After a GoRio cruise, a visit to the Alamo, and maybe a margarita at Casa Rio on the Riverwalk, a trip to the top of the Space-Needle-Thing in downtown San Antonio ranks about as high as you can get on “things tourists do in San Antonio.” But bring it on.
I did it on a whim. It was a day when I was already at Hemisfair, finishing a coffee and a breakfast taco at one of my favorite restaurants (and work places!) in the garden: CommonWealth. (Tip: this coffee shop has multiple locations, and it’s one of the best coffee shops in San Antonio.)
The Tower of the Americas was looming in the distance, and I thought, why not? It’s not very expensive to take an elevator ride to the top, and I happen to love seeing cities from above. (Maybe I’ll be a highrise condo dweller sometime in the future…who knows?)
There was no line on a weekday morning, so I went up to the ticket counter, bought a single ticket to the top, and approached the elevator. In about 3 minutes I was 750-feet up in the air, experiencing a bird’s eye view of San Antonio.
I kept thinking of how much my 3-year-old would love this experience. And maybe my 1-year-old, too? And as I enjoyed my brief visit to the Tower of The Americas, I started thinking of all the opinions I typically hear about this sort of tourist experience…and my opposing thoughts after visiting this San Antonio landmark.
6 Unpopular Opinions About The Tower Of The Americas in San Antonio
1. It’s Actually One Of The Best Things To Do In San Antonio
Ok, hear me out on this one… I know that everyone plans to go to the incredibly cute and picturesque historic Pearl district, or visit the fun theme parks like SeaWorld or Six Flags Fiesta Texas, or check out the incredible resorts or spas in San Antonio, or (of course) take a walk on the Riverwalk and visit some restaurants and shops.
But if you’re visiting San Antonio for the first time (by the way, here’s how you can fill one perfect day in San Antonio!) A trip up to the top of the Tower of the Americas is a great thing to do in San Antonio with a family, by yourself, or with a significant other.
2. It’s Incredibly Kid-Friendly
I’m always looking for fun things to do in San Antonio with kids, and I have to say: the Tower of the Americas is GREAT for kids!
It’s a brief activity, so don’t expect to fill an entire day with this one thing. But if you’re already at Hemisfair and you plan to go to the park and splash pads and maybe check out one of the restaurants at Hemisfair, you could definitely squeeze in a visit up to the observation deck of the Tower of the Americas.
The elevator ride is brief (about one minute or so) and the top deck is fully indoors, so you can go up there even on windy and cold days. If you choose to step outside to the outer ring of the observation deck, it’s fully secure with a tall rail and a sturdy clear barrier that you can see through.
Note: very small children won’t be able to see over the rail, so you’ll have to hold them up. But children 3 & under are FREE!
Part of the fun of the Tower of the Americas is where it exists in San Antonio: at Hemisfair! This centrally located park is an excellent place to bring kids for FREE things to do in SA! The splash pad is epic, the pizza is some of the best pizza in the city, and there’s even a nearby wine bar where parents can get a glass of vino to sip while watching the kids run around at the park.
So a trip up to the top of the tower fits right in for a family-friendly day in SA.
3. The Food Is Actually Pretty Good
Chart House, which is the restaurant at the top of the tower, is definitely NOT going to be making our list of the best restaurants in San Antonio anytime soon. That being said…the food is actually pretty good!
I stopped by Bar 601, the bar that’s directly above the Chart House restaurant. It’s free to visit and you can stop by for a snack and a beverage and enjoy the same view that the folks at the restaurant get…without paying for a crazy expensive meal.
I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food. Granted, it’s not incredibly memorable, but it’s good. Think of the food you might be served at an upscale wedding from a catering company, or the food you would get at a nice restaurant aboard a cruise ship. It’s good! It’s not the best in your life, but it’s good.
4. It’s Very Cheap
When you start to look at the prices of tickets + parking at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, or the cost of attractions in big cities like NYC or Chicago, it’s pretty crazy how much it costs to get a family of 4 to the top of one of the skyscrapers.
Little ol’ San Antonio’s tallest tower only costs $16.50 for adults, and $12 for kids. And it’s FREE for children 3 & under. So if you’re a single parent visiting with two toddlers (hi, that’s me!) the entire adventure is only $16.50 for my family. That’s less than I spend at a drive-thru lunch stop.
Another great cheap thing to know about at The Tower of the Americas is the happy hour at Bar 601. It’s from 4:30-7 pm every Monday-Friday, and the prices are really good. And you don’t have to pay to go up the elevator to the top! So instead of spending the $16.50 on a ticket up to the observation deck, you can just spend it on a couple of cocktails at the bar while you enjoy a view of downtown San Antonio from 750 feet up in the sky.
5. The 70s Vibe Is Kind Of Fun And Retro
The tower was constructed in 1968, so it’s a bit dated. Some people say that the 70s appearance is dated, but my unpopular opinion is that the 70s vibes are retro and fun.
It feels a bit like you’re stepping back in time to when the tower was HOT stuff. Did you know it was the tallest observation tower in the country until the Strat was built in Vegas? For about 3 decades, San Antonio had it goin’ on as the place to go for a trip up to the top of a tower for an unobstructed view of the city.
There have been updates, of course, but in general, the feel is still a bit 70s hotels vibes. It’s a whole thing, and you just have to embrace it and enjoy it.
6. You Won’t Regret Going
This is my final unpopular opinion about the Tower of the Americas to share with you: you’re going to be glad you did it. Yeah, I know some people will tell you it’s overhyped, not worth the money, etc. But I happen to think a visit to the top of the Tower of the Americas is incredibly worth it! If it costs $50-60 dollars, I probably wouldn’t say that…but at the current price point, it’s a fun, quick, memorable thing to do in San Antonio.
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