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Visiting San Antonio

Updated on September 3, 2014

River Walk


Intro to San Antonio

San Antonio Texas is a frequent destination for visitors and convention goers.

So before you dust off your cowboy boots and start your vacation planning to Texas, here are a few tips to help you make the most of your time in the “Alamo City”. I have lived in this warm Texas city for over 25 years and I am proud to share my best tips.

In a recent announcement by Conde’ Nast Traveler magazine, on their Reader’s choice survey of “The 2014 Friendliest and Unfriendliest Cities in America”, San Antonio was listed in third place on the friendliest side. It is no big surprise, with the attitude of southern hospitality and the down-home welcome you will find across most of Texas.

The city of San Antonio features photos of the Alamo and the famous River Walk filled with colorful barges in most of their promotional commercials. These two most famous attractions of the city are in the heart of the downtown and you will find easy access to both of them within a short walk.

So let’s review the basics for visitors. Landing at the San Antonio International Airport, you will be on the North side of the city and heading to the downtown area is about a 30 minute drive from the airport going south. The downtown has a major convention center (Henry B. Gonzalez) and the Alamodome as well as the major hotels that cater to large groups.

The Alamo

This historical site is a mission in the heart of downtown founded in 1718. The battle of 1836 made this an important Texas landmark. The Alamo is a shrine honoring those who died there so keep a respectful attitude during your visit. This makes a good history lesson about Texas and the surrounding grounds and gardens provide a pleasant walking tour. There is no admission fee for the visit but donations are excepted to help support the site.

The River Walk

The company of Rio San Antonio Cruises operates the river barges and the cost to ride a river barge is about $8.00 for adults and $2.00 for children under age 5, it takes about 30 minutes to made a barge tour. This is the best way to learn about the San Antonio history, as the barge driver narrates the ride and explains the passing structures along the San Antonio River. Check the following link for locations of where to buy tickets along the river and more details, as well as discount coupons.

If you prefer taking the walking tour, it is an easy stroll along the sidewalk lining either side of the River Walk and there are stone bridges that span across the 15 miles of paths. The area is filled with sidewalk cafes and shops and live music as well as a variety of hotels to keep it close to the central tourist areas. You will frequently hear "mariachi" music, Mexican folk music. Make the river a lunch stop for the Tex-Mex menu and put your feet up as you watch the passing river taxis. If you have a big group, consider chartering a river barge for a fun dinner event.

The holiday winter season is especially festive with the trees along the river strung with lights and the sidewalks filled with "Luminarias", (small paper bags filled with votive candles). The river barges are filled with carolers and decorated for the holiday.

If you are traveling with children

For families that want to focus their time on keeping the children happy, there are two main amusement parks, Sea World and Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Both parks offer a full day of walking and shows, including a water park and fireworks. Be sure to check the time of year for hours and openings, the parks close during the winter month or keep limited hours on the weekends. If you are coming in the summer, keep plenty of water on hand, since our high temps can reach 100.

If you are doing a winter trip and the outdoor weather is ideal, check the list of parks in the area. Near the San Antonio Zoo, there is Brackenridge Park and the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. Both are a close drive from the downtown area and have plenty of picnic space and walking trails.

If you are visiting without children

For those who are in town and want to fit in some fun time around business meetings, there are great shopping locations such as The Shops at La Cantera on the Northwest side of town. Plus lots of restaurants and theaters. A unique place for a concert is the Majestic Theater on E. Houston Street. The interior of the theater is one of the oldest in the city and is a historical landmark filled with carvings and murals. Check out the concert schedule in advance.

If you have a bit more time to expand your visit

Consider including the Hill Country in your plans, if you have a rental car and want to see more than just the downtown tourist sites. The Hill Country is the outlying area of the city, filled with quaint western towns and it tends to be a bit cooler in the summer months.

The towns of Boerne and Fredericksburg and New Braunfels are all within a 50-minute drive of the downtown area. Each town is unique with a German flair from its founders and winery locations dot the outskirts of San Antonio. Check the list of local festivals and fairs for flavor of the Texas life. In the month of October there are many German festivals on the calendar.

And if you want to get a closer view of the real cowboy life, check out the town of Bandera. There are dude ranches and western shops to give you the authentic flair of the ranch life.

Enjoy the variety of events during your visit to San Antonio. And note that the locals do not call it "San Antone".

Be friendly and have a safe visit. Kick up your heels.

Texas natives in the Hill Country


San Antonio

The Alamo


River Walk


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