San Antonio blends a compelling past with modern pizzazz

There’s an old saying in the “lone star state” proclaiming that every Texan has two homes, his own and San Antonio. This deep-rooted passion for the southwest city dubbed “the cradle of Texas liberty” dates back to the 1836 Battle of the Alamo, a fierce territorial fight between the Mexican army and a vastly outnumbered group of American patriots including frontier legend Davy Crockett. The patriots made their stand in the Alamo, an early Spanish mission turned fortress, and although they lost the battle it was the pivotal event that led to Texas independence and U.S. statehood.

Building on–but never forgetting its historical past–San Antonio has developed into one of the most exciting and cosmopolitan centres in the country receiving more than 25 million visitors a year. Not surprisingly, the number one attraction is the Alamo fortress where hordes of people year-round tour the former 18th century mission.

Situated in the heart of downtown, the Alamo is a free admission site with guided tours showing the exterior of the adobe building pock-marked by cannon ball and rifle fire. Inside the fortress, rooms contain a variety of exhibits including battle dioramas, ancient flint lock rifles actually used by the defenders, a leather vest worn by Davy Crockett, plus a host of other fascinating artefacts.

While almost nobody visits San Antonio without seeing the Alamo, neither do they leave town without exploring the city’s second most popular attraction, it’s renowned River Walk. In fact, it’s impossible to miss since the man-made rerouting of the San Antonio River meanders through a section of city centre and is lined with restaurants, shops, nightspots, hotels, a theatre and the entire three-mile stretch of riverside pathways is fringed with trees, flowers and tropical foliage. It’s where people gather day and night, strolling along the cobblestone walkways, dining, shopping and taking narrated sightseeing excursions aboard River Walk tour boats.

Moreover, with San Antonio’s proximity to the Mexican border, the character of the city has developed a distinct Tex-Mex flavour and boasts the largest Mexican marketplace outside of Mexico. The three square block complex called El Mercado, attached to downtown’s Market Square, features scores of vendors selling a wide variety of Mexican goods from clothing to jewellery, pottery and souvenirs. The city also has a host of family friendly attractions. Among them is the Witte Museum where there are numerous hands-on, interactive exhibits specially geared to youngsters. There are mummies, dinosaurs, a butterfly garden, a circus collection and living examples of Texas critters like tarantulas.

Sea World is another spot that’s popular with young people. It’s one of the largest marine life adventure parks in the world featuring plenty of sea life shows and exhibits plus fun rides, wave pools and flumes. A thrill for kids and adults alike is a glass elevator ride up the 750-foot-tall Tower of the Americas. Built for the 1968 World’s Fair, an observation deck at the top (where there’s also a rotating restaurant) provides panoramic views of the city.

San Antonio is also a town with a plethora of museums including the McNay Art Museum, a repository of masterpieces rendered by luminaries such as Picasso, Gaugin and Matisse.

On the flip side of fine art is The Buckhorn Saloon & Museum that contains a very different kind of collection. The 120-year-old saloon is a storehouse of cowboy and Old West history. An abundance of antlers, horns, stuffed animals and wax figures walk visitors through the city’s past. In the early days of the saloon that now doubles as a museum, a patron could trade a deer antler or a horn for a shot of whisky. Today, only U.S. dollars will do.

For some folks a trip to San Antonio would not be complete without returning home with an item of Western garb. True to its southwest roots, the city has a number of good options including Boot Hill, a store that carries everything from Western duds to cowboy boots, belt buckles and Stetson hats. Even famous stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ashley Judd have gone there to get outfitted.

Alternatively, the Lucchese Boot Company has been in business since 1883 and boasts a long history of supplying boots and other western garb to kings, presidents and famous celebrities. The city also has plenty of traditional shopping including Rivercentre Mall, a complex that looks like a monolithic glass house, and North Star Mall, a renowned shopping centre that attracts people from all over the U.S. and Mexico.

With 300 days of sunshine and an annual average temperature in the mid 70s, San Antonio is a natural golf destination. There are more than 30 courses in and around the city that run the gamut from championship tracks to public, municipal and resort courses. Remarkably, all but two of them offer greens fees well under $100.

Travel Planner
For more information go online at or call 1-800-447-3372.

Related Posts