AD | Affiliate Links
San Antonio was established as a Spanish military garrison in 1718 as MisiĂłn San Antonio de Valero. The mission would later be named The Alamo. A city well known for its friendliness and hospitality, San Antonio has a rich past influenced not only by Spain and Mexico but by the many Europeans who settled here during the establishment of the Republic of Texas and the thousands more who followed once Texas was annexed into the United States.
Things To Do In San Antonio
The Alamo is the most famous, enduring and sobering symbol of the fight for Texas independence. Located at the heart of the city, the chapel and the barracks are all that remain in the original fort. The museum contains many relics, weapons and personal mementoes from the Republic of Texas as well as a diorama depicting the battle of 1836 and the overwhelming odds confronting the men who defended this stronghold for almost two weeks until their bloodied defeat. A month and a half later, the rallying cry to Remember the Alamo led the Texas army to defeat the enemy and stake a claim to freedom. Admission is free but donations are encouraged.
Just 100 yards away is the Menger Hotel, another San Antonio landmark that stirs feelings of patriotism. The original structure was built in 1859 and is still operating to this day. Of the many luminaries who stayed there over the years, perhaps the most notable was then Colonel Theodore Roosevelt who recruited many of his Rough Riders from the surrounding area during the spring of 1898. Remember Maine would soon become as popular a call-to-arms catchphrase among the locals as the reference to the Alamo over 60 years previous.
If you’re planning to visit during the month of April, San Antonio is made even livelier by its traditional 10-day citywide festival. Outdoor concerts, parades, food booths, and live entertainment celebrate its Mexican ancestors’ cultural contributions and proud heritage.
The River Walk
What began as a flood control project on the San Antonio River in the 1920s has today become a popular destination for those who want to experience the sights, sounds, and flavours of this city. Barges and water taxis not only do a thriving tourist transport business but also provide narrated tours.
During the year, many special events take place along this waterway. One of the favourites is the Fiesta de las Luminarias when the river path is lighted by 2,500 luminarias, candles in sand-filled bags, traditionally lit for the Holy Family. Try to schedule your visit for the December holidays when the Texas temperatures are at their most accommodating.
King William District
Near downtown and just steps from the River Walk, the King William area is a cluster of elaborate homes built by German settlers in the 1860s and later designated as the state’s first historic neighbourhood. Some of the ornate homes have been converted to bed and breakfast inns, a relaxing alternative to the hotels in the centre of the city. Organised and self-guided walking tours are available year-round.
San Antonio is the home of the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Basketball isn’t the only game in town, though. The San Antonio Missions of the Texas League play a full minor league schedule during the spring and summer. They are affiliated with the Seattle Mariners.
San Antonio Missions
Before the Republic of Texas, the San Antonio region was part of Mexico and, before that, New Spain. Four colonial missions that form the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park bring history to life in the 800-acre park that features many exhibits and artefacts of the Spanish colonial era. Together with the four missions, the park includes the historic Espada Dam and Aquaduct, and the Rancho de las Cabras. The largest of the four missions, Mission San Jose, has been an active parish ever since it was originally established in 1720. As with any place of worship, visitors are advised to dress appropriately and tread quietly.
In 1968, Texas was host to the World’s Fair. Today, HemisFair Park is a 15-acre collection of shops, historic buildings and educational facilities. The most notable structure at the park, the Tower of the Americas, rises 750 feet from the ground to the top of its antenna. The Tower Restaurant, an observation deck, and a lounge are accessed by a glass-walled elevator that offers an unforgettable view of the city.
San Antonio Zoological Gardens
The San Antonio Zoo at Brackenridge Park is one of the largest and most highly regarded zoos in the nation, especially in terms of its aggressive research and preservation efforts toward such endangered species as the Snow Leopard and both the White and Black Rhinoceros. The Zoo has several restaurants and gift shops as well as interactive educational programs for children and adults who want to learn more about the environment. Botanical gardens including the Japanese Tea Garden are also located at Brackenridge Park, along with picnic areas, jogging paths and even a golf course.
Shopping And Dining
There is no shortage of regional and cosmopolitan dining opportunities throughout San Antonio, especially along the River Walk. Treat your taste buds to Tex-Mex chilli, Southwestern nouveau cuisine, Mexican tamales, and, of course, outrageous slabs of beef. San Antonio’s fondness for the latter has a long history that goes back to the days when it was a significant centre for the transport of cattle.
The River Walk is also the centre of San Antonio’s lively nightlife and dance clubs. There are a number of unique craft and clothing stores along the Walk, too, as well as department stores and family-friendly food courts to help you recharge your batteries for more shopping. The outdoor plaza at Market Square, the biggest Mexican marketplace outside of Mexico itself, is where you’ll find art, music, pottery, textiles, and plenty of herbs, spices and hot sauces to take the flavours of this region home with you. Nearby, the expansive Rivercenter Mall by the Alamo offers modern shopping amenities and arcades for the kids.
The Buckhorn Museum
The Buckhorn Saloon and Museum is the type of place one can only expect to find in Texas. In continuous operation since its opening in 1881, this bar takes you back to bigger-than-life times when Theodore Roosevelt, O. Henry, and Will Rogers were at the rail. Don’t forget to take a stroll inside the onsite curio store, The Oddest Store in the World, and check out its quirky collection of antlers, rattles, and feathers.
Natural Bridge Caverns
The man-made beauty of the San Antonio cityscape can be seen in many locales. But if it’s natural wonders and great photo ops that you’re seeking, the Natural Bridge Caverns is the place to go. Located only four miles from the heart of San Antonio, the Caverns offer hiking and exploration opportunities for children and adults alike. The 75-minute tour of the North Cavern is the highlight of the trip.
Limestone passages carved by the centuries, eerie stalactites and stalagmites, and the Glen Rose Aquifer give this venue otherworldliness. The Caverns are open from 9 to 7 during the summer and 9 to 4 the rest of the year. Subject to availability and weather conditions, the park also invites visitors to take the Watchtower Challenge, the largest outdoor public climbing tower for Spiderman-wannabees to go vertical. The reward of reaching the top, of course, is the rush of getting back down on a 350-foot zipline. Zip is the operative word; you’ll be back on the ground before you know it and ready to do it all over again.