San Antonio is the perfect vacation destination due to its big-city amenities and small-town charm. The seventh largest city in the United States, San Antonio was initially founded in 1718 as a Spanish mission and colonial outpost. This infuses the town with a rich culture that is apparent in the food and the architecture. The Alamo and Spanish missions will appeal to any history buff, but the city also offers modern comforts such as five-star restaurants and luxurious resorts.
The Battle of the Alamo was a pivotal battle in the Texas Revolution in 1836. The Alamo remains impressively preserved and one of the top tourist attractions in Texas. Entrance to the Alamo Church and grounds is free, and you can pay for a guided tour or audio tour. The Alamo opens at 9:00 am, and drinks and snacks are available on-site.
Downtown San Antonio sets itself apart from most cities with its winding river cutting through the center of the city. The River Walk offers dining, shopping, and seasonal activities. Visit during December to see Christmas lights dotting the river and Christmas carolers singing on barges. The river is dyed green for St. Patrick's Day. But regardless of the time of year, there is never a bad time to have a traditional Tex-Mex meal by the river.
Did you know that San Antonio is one of the most haunted cities in America? Well, now, you do! Visitors who are looking for something a bit on the spooky side can have their pick of ghost tours operating throughout the city, all promising a healthy taste of tragic tales, twisted history, and gruesome facts. These walking tours are a unique blend of information, sightseeing, and entertainment, allowing participants to see the streets of downtown San Antonio in a whole different light.
Six Flags Fiesta Texas is one of the largest amusement parks in the country and offers dozens of thrill rides, shows, and activities. Fiesta Texas spans over 200 acres and features famous rides such as Scream, the Iron Rattler, Goliath, and Road Runner Express. Visit in October for a spooky experience at Fright Fest.
The Natural Bridge Caverns are a premier natural attraction offering a great range of activities for the whole family. Visitors can take a discovery tour to see the caves' natural formations, created over time by single drops of water, or opt for something more daring with an adventure tour or walk high up on the twisted trails. There's even a 5000 square foot outdoor maze and hands-on mining company that allows you to pan for fossils, gems, and other treasures.
Located north of downtown, the Pearl Brewery district is a new area featuring great restaurants, shops, and fun activities. The district is converted from an old brewery, combining new and old elements for a unique spin. Visit during the weekend to experience the farmer's market and its fresh produce and snacks. Make sure to stop for a drink at Hotel Emma, featuring one of the best bars in San Antonio.
The last two weeks of April host San Antonio's famous Fiesta. Fiesta celebrates San Antonio's culture and history by throwing lavish parades with traditional Tex-Mex goodies and Mexican music. NIOSA, short for Night in Old San Antonio, is a fun nighttime block party with food stations, dancing, and colorful clothing. Be sure to buy a few cascarones -- dyed eggs containing rainbow confetti that you crack over your friends' heads, showering them in confetti.
Built for the 1968 World's Fair, the 750-foot Tower of the Americas offers one of the best views in San Antonio. It still stands as the tallest building in San Antonio. For a small entrance fee, you can ride the elevator up to the top of the tower for a panorama view. Or dine in the tower's Chart House Restaurant at night to witness the city lights twinkling in the moonlight.
Located in Brackenridge Park, the Witte Museum tells the story of Texas, ranging from prehistory to modern-day culture. Artifacts in the permanent collection include local art, photographs, textiles, cave drawings, and even genuine dinosaur bones. The Witte Museum also showcases nationally acclaimed rotating exhibitions and hosts original plays in its Gallery Theater.
La Cantera Resort is home to one of the best golf courses in San Antonio. Set against the backdrop of the beautiful hill country, the golf course offers both a good game and great scenery. And bring your family to splash in the resort's lazy river or spend a day at the spa.
San Antonio Missions National Historic Park offers a scenic hike and bike trail with a side of history. The park showcases the preserved Spanish frontier missions from the 1700s. The trail runs along the San Antonio River and connects all five missions every 2.5 miles. Ask a ranger located at each mission for additional information and historical facts.
Fredericksburg, Texas is a tiny gem of a town located 70 miles north of San Antonio. The town is known for its wineries and day trips, tours, and tastings can be arranged directly through the wineries' websites. Shopping is also a popular hobby in Fredericksburg, as the town is home to a number of quaint antique shops. Visit during wildflower season to view the stunning bluebonnets, the state flower of Texas.
The McNay Art Museum is home to thousands of works of art ranging from ancient works to contemporary pieces. One of the most viewed paintings at the museum is French painter Claude Monet's Water Lillies. The grounds surrounding the museum are perfectly manicured, with ponds and giant oak trees. Pack a lunch and eat on a bench on the beautiful grounds.
Mission San Jose, founded in 1720, was the largest of five San Antonio missions. This Catholic mission became part of the National Park Service in 1978 and tells the tale of the people who lived in the mission, including refugees from the Coahuiltecan culture. The mission is worth visiting not just for its history, for its architectural features — particularly its beautiful rose window — and also for the mariachi mass held every Sunday.
The Japanese Tea Gardens, also known as the Sunken Gardens, are built on an abandoned rock quarry in Brackenridge Park. In 1918, construction began to turn the site into a Japanese garden, including stone arch bridges, walkways, an island, and a Japanese pagoda. The gardens also house the Bamboo Room, which serves tea and light lunches. To the south of the park, the Sunken Garden amphitheater hosts regular cultural programs and can admit up to 2700 people.