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's 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 pivotal 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 or audio tour.
Downtown San Antonio sets itself apart from most cities with its winding river cutting through the city's center. 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.
Admission to the Natural Bridge Caverns is included with the GoCity Pass, which can save you money if you want to visit several San Antonio attractions.
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.
Admission to the Tower of the Americas is included with the purchase of the GoCity Pass, a great choice to save some cash if you're visiting several San Antonio attractions.
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 museum's grounds are perfectly manicured, with ponds and giant oak trees. Why not pack a lunch and eat on a bench outside?
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.
Guenther House, a home built by German immigrant Carl Guenther in 1859, lies next to the still-operating flour mill he founded five years before. The historic house underwent an impressive renovation during the First World War. You can view the Arts and Crafts style when visiting Guenther House's museum and popular restaurant in King William. The attraction frequently hosts weddings, and you can enquire about where to take the best photos. Baking enthusiasts will also appreciate the vintage accessories.
Downtown San Antonio's iconic Bonham Exchange is housed in an old building, but its ideals are decidedly modern. The nightclub has been welcoming members of the LGBTQ community for four decades. With a first-class triple-level dance club, various DJs, and drag shows, Bonham Exchange is a local nightlife favorite for a good reason, and it's open to everybody.
Nature lovers will find much to ooh and aah over at San Antonio Botanical Gardens. Conceived by two women in the 1940s, the botanical garden is a family-friendly attraction with themed green areas, including one for people who are blind.
Pack a picnic and stroll, paint, read, and relax surrounded by flowers, trees, and birds. The odds that you'll spot a bride walking down the aisle are not insignificant, and during the holidays, you may find the gardens festively illuminated.
A Land Heritage Property, Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is home to hundreds of exotic and native animals. It's a 40-minute drive away from San Antonio and well worth the trek, especially if you plan on seeing the Natural Bridge Caverns too. The main attraction is the safari-style drive through this Texas Hill Country ranch that takes about an hour to complete. The animals are free-roaming, and you can make a game of trying to spot as many different kinds as you can. A second loop may help that cause. There's a petting zoo for little ones in a separate part of the property, and your ticket comes with a bag of feed.
Are you a theatre geek who's always humming show tunes and knows every word of Hamilton? You, and basically anyone in your traveling party who enjoys live productions and excellent architecture, will want to check out Majestic Theatre, San Antonio's version of Broadway. The theatre is almost a centenarian and as fancy as ever, making every outing feel special.
Buckhorn Saloon and Museum dips into the past to give visitors a glimpse into a world frequented by the likes of Teddy Roosevelt. Albert Friedrichs first put together the collections here in 1881, and his family continues his legacy today. An avid hunter and saloon owner, Friedrichs collated mounted wildlife and game trophies from his hunting hobby, and the community contributed items as well. Friedrich's wife would use rattlesnake rattles in art, and when Prohibition struck, the couple was able to make an income by charging people to see their unique assortment of goods.
Today, the quirky museum contains all this and much more. You'll find Texas Ranger paraphernalia, a 19th-century city replica, miscellaneous oddities, and a wax figure display. It's hard to miss the museum's facade downtown, decorated as it is with huge fake animal heads.
You can't come to San Antonio and not spend part of your weekend at Historic Market Square at the River Walk. From the sombrero-donning Mariachi bands and delicious Tex-Mex food to the colorful handcrafted wares and Folklorico dancing, immerse yourself in the city's rich Latin culture at the largest Mexican market north of Mexico.
The Mercado is airconditioned, so it's a pleasant experience all year round. Take cash for vendors that don't accept other forms of payment, and try and make it in time for annual events such as Cinco de Mayo and Dia de Los Muertos.
Sure, Texas and football go together like pecans and pie, but the state has a proud basketball tradition, and the San Antonio Spurs are the pride of the city. Treat yourself to an exhilarating game at the AT&T Center, and you might see the team topple some more NBA records.
And yes, you can get a Spurs ticket with your GoCity Pass. Or for more choice seats, you can go directly to Ticketmaster or the Box office.
In the mood for a treasure hunt? Check out Back Alley Antiques. This San Antonio establishment might not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you're a vintage connoisseur, you'll relish the opportunity to go digging for golden oldies. Imagine 4,000 square feet of quilts, vinyl records, collectibles, novelty items, furniture, jewelry, maps, and magazines. Great for window shopping, research, or some nostalgic purchases.
Head for the Museum Reach on the San Antonio River Walk. SAMA has an awe-inspiring collection spanning millennia. The museum can easily occupy you for hours as you make your way through the curated items from numerous cultures, including Latin American, Egyptian, and Asian. You'll find Roman and Greek antiquities to wrap your head around and contemporary Texas works to pull you back to the present. It's a local gem for history experts and anyone with a hint of curiosity about life.
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