For tourists with an interest in the gallant deeds of yesterday, San Antonio, Texas ranks high on the list of places to see.
The founding of the city came in 1718 when Father Antonio Olivares established Mission San de Valero, which became permanently etched in the annals of history in 1836 as the Alamo. Located in the heart of downtown San Antonio, the Alamo is a shrine and museum where visitors are welcome to explore life as it was back then, in the shadows of the big, gray stonewalls. Flags, artillery, hand-written letters and other artifacts of interest are on permanent display there.
But there is much more to see in this colorful city. There’s music everywhere, warm and friendly people, many other missions and museums to explore, theme parks and great nightlife. High on everyone’s “must see” list is one of San Antonio’s jewels — the Paseo del Rio, better known as the River Walk. Cobblestone and flagstone paths border both sides of the San Antonio River as it winds its way through the middle of the city’s business district.
Dining and entertainment are two of the most popular activities to be enjoyed along River Walk. Restaurants abound, and offer everything from Tex-Mex delicacies to savory Texas steaks to Creole cooking and Italian pasta. It’s also the perfect place to people-watch as lively music groups play in the background and colorful barges float past on the river.
While it’s impossible to list everything this lovely city has to offer, another one of my particular favorites was a trip to El Mercado, supposedly the largest Mexican market outside Mexico. With its tiled fountains, adobe-painted walls, restaurants giving off luscious odors of sizzling fajitas, and stores offering all kinds of Mexican wares, it’s a great place to spend an afternoon.
Visitors can also tour various other Spanish missions, such as Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo, the “Queen of the Missions” and the largest mission in San Antonio. Spanish designers built the mission in the late 1700s. At its height, it provided sanctuary and a social and cultural community for more than 300 Indians, and was surrounded by acres of fields and livestock herds. It was restored to its original design in the 1930s.
Don’t miss La Villita. “The Little Village” is San Antonio’s first neighborhood, originally established by Spanish soldiers stationed at the Alamo. Today it is an historic arts village that houses shops, art galleries ad restaurants in Spanish, Mexican, German and French-influenced residences.
San Antonio also boasts many interesting museums, including the Witte Museum geared towards experiencing South Texas History, natural science and technology; the McNay Art Museum, established as the first museum of modern art in Texas; the San Antonio Museum of Art, which houses the most comprehensive collection of Latin American art in the country; the Buckhorn Saloon & Museum, a 120-year-old repository for real-deal cowboy and Old West history; and many, many more.
And if you travel as a family, there is plenty for children to do here, too. For example, take them to the San Antonio Zoo, the third largest in the U.S., and one of the oldest as well. They will probably also enjoy Six Flags Fiesta Texas, with its 1950s boardwalk and 90-foot Ferris wheel. And don’t miss SeaWorld San Antonio. At 250 acres, it’s the largest marine life adventure park in the world. Take in a show with trainers and animals at Shamu Stadium, then set off to explore one of the four individual parks.
San Antonio also boasts major events and festivals practically year ‘round, including the Texas Folklife Festival in August, Oktoberfest, and much more. Just check with the local tourist board for more information.
And with over 300 days of sunshine annually, as well as an average temperature of 68.8 degrees Fahrenheit, visitors to this fair city will find it’s all theirs for the taking anytime they are lucky enough to get there.