Visiting San Antonio, Texas
Partial view of The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas
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 which is 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 and James Bowie.
They along with others 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 Wayne it 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 around 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 said it 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.
This 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 is in 7th and Dallas is in the number 9 spot. Austin which is 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. 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
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.
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 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
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.
The tower was 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
McNay Art Museum in San Antonio
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. She also left a generous amount of foundation money to keep it operational. Not only are the grounds and home gorgeous. The extensive art that she had collected over the years numbering over 700 pieces 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. They are easy on the pocketbook. Many of them are open and free to the public.
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.
Sightseeing in San Antonio
Another personal favorite place is Los Patios. It is 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?
© 2012 Peggy Woods