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Visiting San Antonio, Texas

Updated on November 15, 2016

Partial view of The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas

Partial view of The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas
Partial view of The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas | Source

The Alamo City

Most people when thinking of planning a visit to San Antonio, Texas hope to see The Alamo. It, along with the Riverfront, are fairly well known icons of this city, aptly nicknamed "the Alamo City."

The Alamo was originally one of several Catholic Spanish missions in the area and is located in what is now downtown San Antonio.

Of course when it was originally constructed, there were lands surrounding it and the nearby river which would have furnished fresh water for the mission inhabitants was nearby.

It became well known when this particular mission became a stronghold fort for people like Davy Crockett, William Travis, James Bowie and others when they fought to defend these lands in the Texas Revolution against the much stronger Mexican forces commanded by Santa Anna back in 1836 during the famous Battle of the Alamo.

Imagining the Alamo because of the many films popularized by such actors such as John was literally a shock the first time I laid eyes upon it.

While the Alamo and a few adjacent structures of what once was the mission are preserved, the modern city of San Antonio has been built up and literally surrounds it with streets and buildings tightly nestled up against it. For comparison purposes...the Alamo is like a small rowboat surrounded by a sea filled with massive ocean liners surrounding it. So if you are going to be a first time visitor to this iconic site, forget the images in your mind from watching movies!

That being is definitely a place to see. The Alamo is a preserved historic site owned by the State of Texas and operated by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. The pockmarked stone exterior shows some of the old battle scars and it has a hallowed type of feeling when walking through it, knowing of its history as a mission and then...the place where many people lost their lives.

Mission San Jose in San Antonio, Texas

Mission San Jose in San Antonio, Texas
Mission San Jose in San Antonio, Texas | Source

Missions of San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio

San Antonio, the second largest city in Texas has a much more relaxed feel to it as compared to the more cosmopolitan cities of Houston and Dallas.

It is a blending of the old and the new with many influences of its historic past.

Texas has 3 of the top ten cities by way of population in all of the United States with Houston ranking in the number 4 spot; San Antonio in 7th and Dallas in the number 9 spot. Austin...the capitol city of Texas falls in the number 14 position.

San Antonio is a large spread out metropolis that was named after Saint Anthony by the Spanish missionaries of early years.

For those who like seeing more of its history, in addition to the Alamo...there are four other missions of note which are a part of the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park.

The missions can be toured at no cost and are also active churches. Thus, church services, marriages and other happenings are still held at these locations.

In my opinion, the mission tour is definitely worth a bit of time to see if one likes buildings of a historic nature.

They include the following:

  • Mission San Jose
  • Mission Concepcion
  • Mission San Juan
  • Mission Espada

The famous San Antonio Riverwalk

The famous San Antonio Riverwalk
The famous San Antonio Riverwalk | Source

The San Antonio River Walk San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio RiverWalk

Also called Paseo del Rio, the portion of the San Antonio River that meanders through the downtown section of San Antonio has been capitalized upon and marketed to full effect.

Suffice it to say, those who ride the boats, dine at the numerous riverside cafes, attend performances at the outdoor Arneson River Theater, wander along the tropically landscaped banks of the San Antonio River or gaze down upon it from the streets which are primarily one story above are in for a real treat.

It is a must see destination if planning a visit to San Antonio!

One can even stay at a hotel right on the river, if desired. It makes for easy access to numerous sites of interest that are located in that central location and will make for a memorable stay in the Alamo City.

Be sure and set aside some time to walk through the first neighborhood of San Antonio. It is called La Villita and it is located directly above the Arneson River Theater on the RiverWalk. Today it is a vibrant arts community and the old buildings contain a treasure trove of uniquely hand crafted gifts for those who wish to take away a souvenir that has some local flavor.

Tower of the Americas in San Antonio

Tower of the Americas in San Antonio
Tower of the Americas in San Antonio | Source

Tower of the Americas

For anyone wishing to have a bird's eye view of San Antonio, a trip to the Tower of the Americas is a must. It is the tallest skyscraper in all of San Antonio standing at 750 feet (228 m) of height.

Originally built as the main iconic structure as a part of the world's fair titled HemisFair in 1968, it still serves people today with an observation deck as well as a revolving restaurant at the top.

The RiverWalk was extended into this southeastern part of downtown San Antonio and along with splashing fountains and waterfalls adds to the water features in what is now called HemisFair Park.

HemisFair Park, a short distance from the location of the Alamo is where the city's convention center is located along with the Institute of Texan Cultures which was originally the Texas pavilion for HemisFair. One can see and learn much about the history of Texans by viewing the exhibits displayed there.

Zoo train that can be ridden in Brackenridge Park

Zoo train that can be ridden in Brackenridge Park
Zoo train that can be ridden in Brackenridge Park | Source

Japanese Tea Gardens San Antonio

Brackenridge Park

This is a grand old park consisting of 343 acres of land named after one of the original donors, George Brackenridge.

Additional land has been added over the years and it is the location of the San Antonio Zoo which was one of the first zoos in the country to keep many of their animals in more humane cage-less type enclosures.

Like many zoos especially in our moderate southern climates, it also supports beautiful botanical exhibits and specimens throughout the park like setting.

The Japanese Tea Gardens are a site worth visiting within the park. It was created out of an old quarry and consists of not only water features but spectacular stone bridges, Koi fish and beautiful plants.

I well remember my first visit there as a young teenager. The exotic beauty of the place amazed me and my family. There is no charge to visit these gardens.

Naturally there are many picnic areas within the park, trails, playgrounds, a softball field and even a golf course.

Brackenridge Park is a very family friendly place in which one can spend hours to even days of enjoyable time spent doing various activities.

SeaWorld San Antonio...

Six Flags Fiesta Texas - Boomerang Ride - San Antonio

Theme Parks

For good family fun that has nothing to do with the historic nature of San Antonio, one can plan to spend a day or more at one of San Antonio's theme parks.

SeaWorld San Antonio is all that one might expect. There are the beluga and killer whales, dolphins, sea lions, penguins and many more animals to be seen as one might expect.

Different shows and exhilarating rides can keep one entertained in happy fashion for an entire day or even multiple days of fun. For those who live nearby or plan multiple visits, a season pass can be purchased which makes economic sense.

Six Flags Fiesta Texas is also located in San Antonio.

For thrilling roller coaster rides, shows and water park fun, this is another theme park where one can easily spend a day or days. It covers an area of 200 acres.

Both San Antonio theme parks have food concessions and studying a map and planning one's day is probably a good idea to take in the shows one might wish to see amidst the other offerings.

show route and directions
A markerSix Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio -
Six Flags Fiesta Texas, San Antonio, TX 78257, USA
get directions

B markerSeaWorld in San Antonio, Texas -
SeaWorld San Antonio, 10500 seaworld drive, san antonio, texas 78251, USA
get directions

C markerBrackenridge Park in San Antonio, Texas -
Brackenridge Park, 3910 N St Mary's St, San Antonio, TX 78212, USA
get directions

D markerThe Alamo in San Antonio -
Battle of the Alamo, San Antonio, TX 78205, USA
get directions

San Antonio Spurs Amazing Tribute

Sports in San Antonio

The San Antonio Spurs are well known to basketball fans.

They have won five NBA championships from their first title in 1999 to their last (to date) in 2014 and continually rank among the top tiered winning teams almost always making the playoff games.

My mother-in-law who lived in San Antonio for a majority of her adult life was an avid Spurs fan.

There are also some minor leagues in such sports such as hockey and rugby.

There is no professional football nor baseball but that doesn't keep parents and fans from cheering on their high school teams throughout the year.

High school football is big business in Texas!

McNay Art Museum in San Antonio

McNay courtyard
McNay courtyard | Source
McNay front
McNay front | Source

McNay Art Museum SA Living Segment

San Antonio Museums

Among the art museums in San Antonio, the McNay Art Museum is a personal favorite.

My husband remembers being taken there many times as a boy when his great uncle Bob (Dr. Robert Rogan) would come over to San Antonio from Beaumont for a visit. Bob was in charge of the art department at Lamar University in Beaumont and relished getting to see the McNay collection of art.

After Marion Koogler McNay died in 1950, she had the 23 acres of grounds and her 24 room Spanish Colonial Revival house donated to the City of San Antonio along with a generous amount of foundation money to keep it operational.

Not only were the grounds and home gorgeous, but the extensive art that she had collected over the years numbered over 700 pieces and became the first modern art museum in the entire State of Texas.

The home has since had several additions of much needed gallery space to house the expanded art collection which now tops 20,000 pieces.

There are many other museums in San Antonio worth one's time and effort to see.

If you love visiting different types of museums when you plan a visit to the Alamo City, there will surely be one or more that will spark your interest. And they are easy on the pocketbook...many of them being open and free to the public.

El Mercado (Market Square) San Antonio

San Fernando Cathedral

San Fernando Cathedral
San Fernando Cathedral | Source

Visiting San Antonio

So much more could be said about this lovely city which attracts the most tourists to the State of Texas. Is it any wonder?

In addition to the things already mentioned above, San Antonio can boast of having the largest Mexican market in all of the United States. It is called El Mercado. One can be entertained by mariachis while one purchases all sorts of items ranging from crafts and clothing to food and more.

Like rodeos? There is a large Livestock Show and Rodeo held here annually.

Like visiting historic and haunted hotels? Check out the Menger Hotel while you are in town!

The beautiful San Fernando Cathedral in the downtown area is the oldest still operating cathedral in all of the United States.

Wish to see a residence that goes back to the early days of Spanish dominion over this area hundreds of years ago? Visit the Spanish Governor's Palace which has a Coat of Arms of King Ferdinand VI over the entrance door. It is furnished with Spanish colonial furnishings and has a beautiful courtyard.

Spanish Governor's Palace - San Antonio Texas

Old Katy Depot window at Los Patios in San Antonio

Old Katy Depot window at Los Patios in San Antonio
Old Katy Depot window at Los Patios in San Antonio | Source

Sightseeing in San Antonio

Another personal favorite place is Los Patios...a place to pass some relaxing hours under the shade of majestic live oak trees along the bubbling Salado Creek. The site is a great one for wedding photos! Restaurants and shops along with a garden nursery complete that picture.

Military bases are also a part of the make-up of San Antonio and many a recruit has spent time in San Antonio for that reason. Lackland and Randolph Air Force Bases and Fort Sam Houston were merged in October of 2010 to become Joint Base San Antonio.

These are just a few of the reasons why you might wish to visit San Antonio if ever planning a trip to Texas. Has this captured your attention and interest? If you have other favorite places in San Antonio please mention them in the comments below.

Would you like to visit San Antonio, Texas?

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San Antonio Uncovered: Fun Facts and Hidden Histories
San Antonio Uncovered: Fun Facts and Hidden Histories

Believe me...San Antonio is a wonderful vacation destination as well as a place to live.

show route and directions
A markerSpanish Governers Palace in San Antonio, Texas -
Spanish Governor's Palace, 105 Plaza De Armas, San Antonio, TX 78205, USA
get directions

B markerSan Antonio, Texas -
San Antonio, TX, USA
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Visit San Antonio Texas

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5 out of 5 stars from 15 ratings of Visiting San Antonio, Texas

© 2012 Peggy Woods

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    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 12 months ago

      Articles like this one bring back many many memories for me. Thank you.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 12 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Robert,

      When my mother-in-law still lived there we visited San Antonio much more often. There is a lot to enjoy over there but we have now not been there for a couple of years.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 13 months ago

      This brought back memories. Yes, there was much to see when I was in the San Antonio area and there is more to see now. The zoo is not only friendly to animals but also to visitors. There are good views of the animals and there aren't that many hills.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello VJGSA,

      I also spent many years in the Valley. San Antonio has definitely changed over the years and has become an even better tourist spot mixing the old with the new. Glad you liked this!

    • VJGSA profile image

      VJG 2 years ago from Texas

      I live in San Antonio. But when I was a kid my family would drive 5 hours up to San Antonio from the Valley for vaction. It was a vacation in the big city for us. Back then we had Joske's downtown and Playland. Now residents have so many offerings for staycations from the Mission Trail to 2 theme parks. Nice list for newcomers. Thanks.

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