A Guide to Free or Cheap Date Ideas in San Antonio

As economists and politicians debate whether we’re in a recession or heading into a recession, there’s no denying that wallets are hurting in the United States as prices for basic necessities, entertainment and everything rest are down.

Whether money is tight or you’re cutting back on spending to prepare for the looming threat of the R-word, there are always opportunities to have fun in San Antonio without breaking the bank.

We’ve rounded up some cheap or free hangouts around town. Some are perfect for creating summer memories.

Villa Finale, the Italianate mansion in the King William District, which is the only site in Texas owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Bob Owen /San Antonio Express-News

Enjoy Il Forno hour followed by a walking tour through King William


Il Forno, San Antonio celebrity chef Michael Sohocki’s Nogalitos pizzeria, offers happy hour from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. For $9.50 you can snack on a Neapolitan wood-fired pizza which should be a great snack for two. After the sun goes down, take a self-guided tour of nearby King William Historic District using this map created by the San Antonio Conservation Society. The information provides address specific histories on a list of homes in the area with photos so you can be sure you are looking at the right home.

Find it: 122 Nogalitos Street, San Antonio, TX 78204

IKEA is located in Live Oak, just outside the San Antonio city limits.

IKEA is located in Live Oak, just outside the San Antonio city limits.

Khainon Adams

While we’re talking homes, beat the heat and spend a day browsing household items inside IKEA

It’s easy to lose track of time inside the giant Live Oak store. If you live closer to San Antonio proper, the long drive will give you and your date time to talk. Once inside the store, you can get lost in the various model rooms and, if things get serious, idealize your own home. Otherwise, there are always reasonably priced bites to snack on in the cafeteria. You can spend money or be like Tom and Summer in 500 days of summer and stroll for free.

Find it: 1000 IKEA-RBFCU Pkwy, Live Oak, TX 78233

McNay's Second Thursdays are back after a two-year hiatus.

McNay’s Second Thursdays are back after a two-year hiatus.

Stacey Lovett

Reunion with Second Thursdays at the McNay

After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the free opportunity to tour the art museum and have a picnic with live music is back at the McNay. Every second Thursday of the month, the museum hosts the event from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Evenings include free admission to the museum and access to the park, which usually features live music and food trucks.

Find it: 6000 N New Braunfels Ave, San Antonio, TX 78209

Hanamaru Cafe is located at 7460 Callaghan Road.

Hanamaru Cafe is located at 7460 Callaghan Road.

Courtesy, Hanamaru

Have a feast in Hanamaru

The Japanese snack bar specializes in taiyaki, a waffle-like bread shaped like tai fish and stuffed with sweet or savory fillings. Hanamaru opened in April and with prices ranging from $2.85 to $3.60, you can be the fish in the sea with a creative but inexpensive idea. If there are a few extra dollars to spend, the shop is close to entertainment like the new Santikos Northwest, Dave and Busters, and The Lanes at Oak Hills.

Find it: 7460 Callaghan #333, San Antonio, TX 78229

Oasis Tavern poolside bar and grill.

Oasis Tavern poolside bar and grill.

Camille Sauers/MySA

Take paletas and go for a swim

Oasis Tavern, a new concept private poolside bar and grill, recently took over the former Jefferson Swim Club/Laguna Del Rio. For a $10 blanket, you and your date can enjoy a laid-back atmosphere and refuge from the sun. The tavern has a list of concessions and adult drinks, but if you want to spend a little more time with your date, buy some paletas at nearby El Paraiso. The beloved San Antonio store recently increased its prices by five cents but still sells for a low 55 cents.

Paletas of El Paraiso ice cream.
Paletas of El Paraiso ice cream.Mike Sutter /San Antonio Express-News

Find it: 1409 Donaldson Ave, San Antonio, TX 78228

SoundCream Sunset Sessions are popular at Pearl.

SoundCream Sunset Sessions are popular at Pearl.

B. Kay Richter, for mySA.com

Grab a drink at Pearl and take a stroll

Whether it’s Soundcream Thursdays or people watching, there’s always something going on at Pearl. Grab a coffee at Local or Bakery Lorraine or a cocktail at Park Bar or Southerleigh and stroll and chat around the property. If you’re reading this closer to the holidays, consider finding a place at the park by the river and taking in the tree lights with a hot drink in hand.

Find it: 303 Pearl Pkwy, San Antonio, Texas 78215

Cool Crest Mini Golf has been a part of San Antonio for almost 100 years.

Cool Crest Mini Golf has been a part of San Antonio for almost 100 years.

Archive photo from the Express-News

Take a step back in history and take a swing at Cool Crest Mini Golf, then enjoy the night at nearby Metzger Biergarten

The nearly century-old Cool Crest Mini Golf is still operational. For $10 per person (adult fare), you and your date can compete on the beloved course, then enjoy live music and snacks on food truck meals at the connected biergarten.

Find it: 1402 Fredericksburg Rd, San Antonio, TX 78201

The first Phase 1 of the San Antonio Street Art Initiative is taking place at the Interstate 35 underpass, where Quincy and St. Mary's streets meet.

The first Phase 1 of the San Antonio Street Art Initiative is taking place at the Interstate 35 underpass, where Quincy and St. Mary’s streets meet.

Courtesy of San Antonio Street Art Initiative

Walk through the San Antonio mural scene

The San Antonio Street Art Initiative provides digital maps for each of its downtown phases. The expansive outdoor art gallery features murals at the SASAI Pillars at the Interstate 35 and St. Mary’s Underpass and on the St. Mary’s Strip. If you find yourself on the Strip, spend a few bucks playing arcade games at Slackers.

Find it: N St. Mary’s St & E Quincy St, San Antonio, TX 78215

Here is a map of all the spots in San Antonio for a cheap/free date:


Christy J. Olson