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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrSan Antonio is the second-largest city in Texas after Houston, and the seventh-largest city in the United States. Located in south central Texas, San Antonio is home to over 1.4 million people, and is famously known as the home of the Alamo. Other popular attractions in San Antonio include its beautiful River Walk alongside the San Antonio River that is lined with restaurants and shops, several historic Spanish colonial missions, and the impressive Tower of the Americas.
The city is also home to the San Antonio Spurs, a professional basketball team that have been named the NBA champions several times. There’s something for everyone in this bustling city: historic sites, museums; parks, theaters; theme parks, delicious Tex-Mex food, and a seemingly endless supply of places to shop.
HistoryThe city of San Antonio was first visited by Spanish explorers and missionaries in 1691. At the time, the area was home to the Payaya people and referred to as Yanaguana. However, the Spanish group decided to rename the area and its river San Antonio since the day they arrived was the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua. Over time, San Antonio became the largest Spanish settlement in Texas, and was also the capital of the province of Spanish Texas, which later became Mexican Texas .
Without a doubt, the most famous event in the history of San Antonio was the Battle of the Alamo , which occurred between February 23rd and March 6th of 1836. During this key battle of the Texas Revolution, Mexican troops killed almost all of the Texians defending the Alamo Mission, who were seen as martyrs by those who desired Texas’ independence from Mexico. The phrase “Remember the Alamo” was then used to encourage the Texian army, which soon after defeated the Mexican army on April 21st of the same year at the Battle of San Jacinto, ending the revolution.
In the following decades, San Antonio became an important center of the American cattle industry. In recent years, it has become an important economic center in Texas, focusing on military and the defense industry, healthcare, financial services, and tourism.
SightseeingThere’s plenty to see and do in San Antonio, from visiting historic sites like the Alamo to exploring the city’s famous River Walk. Here are some of the city’s most popular attractions.
The AlamoThe Alamo Mission, originally known as Misión San Antonio de Valero in Spanish, is one of the most popular historic sites in the entire United States. The former Catholic mission and fortress is known as the site of the famous Battle of the Alamo in which Texian forces protecting the Alamo were killed by the Mexican army. Visitors to the Alamo can tour the historic site for free, as well as view its small museum that features fascinating artifacts such as weapons from the Texas Revolution, as well as exhibits which tell the history of the mission from its creation in the 18th century to the present day. Since it is considered to be the “Shrine of Texas Liberty”, photos within the site are not permitted, but it is still well worth a visit.
River WalkThe San Antonio River Walk, known as the Paseo del Río in Spanish, is a network of pedestrian walkways alongside the San Antonio River in the heart of the city. It is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions due to its seemingly endless selection of shops and restaurants, as well as its fun-filled sightseeing boat tours. If you’re interested in having the true San Antonio experience, you simply must go for a stroll along the river and see everything it has to offer. There are plenty of historical markers to inform you about the many fascinating sites along the River Walk, as well as Ambassador Amigos in their distinctive straw hats and bright shirts, who provide tourist information.
Tower of the AmericasThe Tower of the Americas is a 750-foot tall observation tower in downtown San Antonio that was the centerpiece of HemisFair ‘68 , an international exposition focused on civilizations in the Americas that was held in 1968. It is the tallest building in San Antonio, and was the tallest observation tower in the United States until 1996. The top of the tower contains a restaurant and an observation deck, both of which provide spectacular panoramic views of the city.
Spanish Governor’s PalaceThe Spanish Governor’s Palace is a National Historic Landmark that was originally designed to protect the Alamo Mission. Widely considered to be the most beautiful building in San Antonio, the site is now a museum, where visitors can learn all about Spanish rule in Texas and view its gorgeous landscaped gardens.
Cathedral of San FernandoThe Cathedral of San Fernando is one of the oldest cathedrals in the United States. In 1738, settlers from the Canary Islands began the construction of this Catholic cathedral in what is now Downtown San Antonio, naming it after King Ferdinand III of Castile. One of its most famous artifacts is the supposed tomb of American folk hero, Davy Crockett , who died during the Battle of the Alamo.
San Antonio Missions National Historical ParkIf you’re interested in history, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to visit San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. It consists of four Spanish colonial missions that were used to spread Christianity to the indigenous groups who originally inhabited the area. If you only have time to visit one of the missions, consider choosing Misión Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña, the best preserved of the four sites. The other three are named Misión San Francisco de la Espada, Misión San José y San Miguel de Aguayo, and Misión San Juan Capistrano.
Brackenridge ParkBrackenridge Park is a large public park near downtown San Antonio which features playgrounds, walking trails, sports fields, and picnic pavilions. It is also home to several tourist attractions, including the Japanese Tea Garden, the San Antonio Zoo, and the Sunken Garden Theater.
Japanese Tea GardenThis serene garden is the perfect place for a leisurely stroll in the springtime due to its lush greenery and beautiful flowers. It also features a 60-foot waterfall, stone bridges, and numerous koi ponds that are popular with young visitors.
San Antonio ZooThe San Antonio Zoo is one of the city’s most popular family attractions, and is home to over 700 different animal species, including giraffes, giant anteaters, otters, cheetahs, and gibbons. It also has a zoo train, a carousel, a butterfly garden, and a rainforest exhibition where visitors can feed lorikeets.
San Antonio Botanical GardenThe San Antonio Botanical Garden is a great place to learn about plants native to Texas. There’s plenty to see inside its conservatory, but its best feature is undoubtedly the Texas Native Trail, which showcases the diverse plants and flowers that can be found throughout the second largest state in the United States. Another popular attraction is its birdwatching structure, where you can sit and view birds like hummingbirds and purple martins.
Theme ParksSan Antonio is home to several theme parks, including SeaWorld and Six Flags.
SeaWorld San AntonioSeaWorld San Antonio is the largest SeaWorld site in the United States, and is home to a marine mammal park, an oceanarium, and an animal theme park. Attractions include roller coasters, thrill rides, kiddie rides, water play areas, animal exhibits, and shows that feature trained killer whales, sea lions, otters, walruses, dolphins, and whales.
Splashtown San AntonioIt can get really hot in San Antonio in the summertime, so if you need to cool off during your visit, you might want to visit Splashtown San Antonio, a local water park with over 50 different water attractions.
Six Flags Fiesta TexasSix Flags Fiesta Texas is a large theme park divided into six different locally-themed areas. It is a popular attraction due to its varied selection of roller coasters and thrill rides, as well as White Water Bay, its connected water park.
MuseumsSan Antonio is home to dozens of museums. Here are some of the city’s top museums related to art, history, and transportation.
San Antonio Museum of ArtThe San Antonio Museum of Art features a comprehensive collection of over 30,000 artifacts related to art and culture. Its most interesting galleries feature Egyptian and Greek antiquities, Latin American art, Asian art, and contemporary art.
McNay Art MuseumThe McNay Art Museum is a modern art museum within a beautiful mansion surrounded by landscaped lawns, fountains, and a Japanese garden. While its collection primarily focuses on 19th and 20th century pieces by artists such as Picasso, Matisse, and Diego Rivera, it also features an extensive sculpture collection and fascinating works of art from the medieval and Renaissance periods.
Buckhorn Saloon & MuseumThe Buckhorn Saloon & Museum was originally home to a private collection, and now holds the Buckhorn Museum and the Texas Ranger Museum. The Buckhorn Museum features a unique collection of wildlife exhibits, including a famous 78-point buck. The Texas Ranger Museum, on the other hand, contains fascinating artifacts related to Texas Rangers, including revolvers, badges, and photographs. Its Ranger Town historic exhibit is especially popular due to its replica saloon and working jail cell, as well as its Bonnie and Clyde exhibit.
Texas Transportation MuseumIf you’re fascinated by the history of transportation, you won’t want to miss the Texas Transportation Museum, which contains informative exhibits and showcases historic railroad vehicles, automobiles, horse carriages, tractors, and fire trucks.
Entertainment & EventsSan Antonio is known throughout the United States for its exciting festivals and its thriving nightlife, as well as its historic theaters.
Aztec TheatreThe Aztec Theatre was constructed in 1926 as an exotic-themed motion picture palace. Today, it is used as a concert venue for popular musical acts, as well as an event center.
Majestic TheatreAnother historic San Antonio theatre is the Majestic Theatre, which opened in 1929. It is one of the largest theatres in the United States, and is currently used for a wide variety of performing arts events, including concerts, ballet performances, musicals.
Arneson River TheaterAs you explore the River Walk, you’re likely to pass the Arneson River Theater, a famous outdoor performance venue that is used year-round. One of its most popular annual events is Fiesta Noche del Rio, which includes music and dance performances from Mexico, Spain, Argentina, California, and Texas. The theater is also used for plays, operas, and a variety of folkloric groups.
Sunken Garden TheaterThis popular local theater in Brackenridge Park is often used for local festivals and concerts.
Fiesta San AntonioFiesta San Antonio is the biggest event of the year in San Antonio. Each spring, the city hosts over 100 different events throughout 17 days, including parades, parties, sporting events, and musical performances featuring mariachi, jazz, rock, classical, pop, and Tejano music. It was originally started in memory of the Alamo and San Jacinto battles of the Texas Revolution. If you can manage to find affordable accommodation during “Fiesta”, you’re sure to have a blast.
Texas Folklife FestivalA popular summer attraction in San Antonio is the Texas Folklife Festival, a three-day event that includes music, crafts, food, and dance performances from the many ethnic groups that have immigrated to Texas over the years.
CuisineAs one of America’s biggest cities, you’ll have no trouble finding any kind of cuisine you can think of in San Antonio. If you want to try local cuisine, there are numerous Tex-Mex restaurants throughout the city that offer delicious dishes. San Antonio also claims to be the birthplace of chili, a spicy stew that usually contains beef, chili peppers, tomatoes, and beans that is also known by the name chili con carne. Due to its proximity and shared history with Mexico, the city also has many excellent Mexican restaurants.
AccommodationAs a popular tourist destination, San Antonio is home to numerous hotels. Budget hotel prices generally start at around $40 per night, while luxury hotels can cost over $100 per night. If you’re interested in historic hotels, the gorgeous Menger and Fairmount hotels offers rooms starting at around $130 per night.
ShoppingSan Antonio is a veritable paradise for shoppers due to the wide selection of shopping opportunities it provides. A few of its most popular shopping areas include:
Market SquareAlso known as El Mercado in Spanish, this outdoor plaza lined with shops and restaurants is the largest Mexican market in the entire country. In addition to providing visitors with authentic crafts and delicious treats, it also often features live musical performances and is used for various annual festivals.
La Villita Historic Arts VillageThis popular shopping area between the River Walk and the Arneson River Theater contains art galleries and shops that sell Mexican folk art, jewelry, pottery, and other great souvenirs.
North Star Mall and RivercenterNorth Star Mall features over 200 shops, but it’s also a city landmark due to the massive sculpture of cowboy boots located in front of it. Another popular shopping center in San Antonio is the Rivercenter, which contains over 100 stores along the River Walk.
The Shops at La CanteraIf you’re interested in high-end shops like Lacoste and Hugo Boss, head to The Shops at La Cantera. It also has a number of highly rated upscale restaurants.
TransportationDowntown San Antonio is easiest to get around by walking, especially along the River Walk. If you plan to visit attractions outside of the downtown area, one option is BCycle, a bike sharing system with 55 stations throughout the city. The city also has an extensive public transportation system known as VIA, which includes over 80 bus routes and 2 downtown streetcar routes. A day pass generally costs about $4.
In terms of travelling to and from San Antonio, there are several options. San Antonio can be reached from many large American cities using bus companies such as Greyhound and Megabus, or by using the Amtrak passenger train service. Amtrak services connect San Antonio to cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. It is also home to San Antonio International Airport (SAT), which offers numerous domestic and international flights.
SafetySan Antonio is a relatively safe city, so you shouldn’t have much need to worry as long as you follow normal travel precautions. If you’re planning to visit parts of the city outside of the downtown area, it is generally a good idea not to walk around alone, primarily at night.
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Author: ehuttner. Last updated: Jun 29, 2015