San Antonio, Texas
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Best like by middle of scale-Centric-Authentics, Centric-Venturers and some Mid-Venturers
Did you know … ?
- Market Square is the largest Mexican marketplace outside of Mexico.
- There were survivors at the Alamo bloodletting: a score of women and children plus one male slave.
- The San Antonio River originates from artesian springs.
- Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson were married at St. Marks Episcopal Church.
- San Antonio was the capital of the Spanish province of Texas.
Culture with a Spanish accent
In the minds of many, the Alamo — built by the Spaniards in 1718 — defines San Antonio. Today, Spanish influence survives under Mexican wraps in a city where the biggest festival of the year is a fiesta, and fine dining could mean Mexican food.
Tourists visit the Alamo, but they make their home on the often-crowded River Walk, a pathway that borders the San Antonio River as it meanders through the business district. The River Walk is park-like in some places; other sections jump with sidewalk cafes and lively nightspots.
In tourists’ favorite Texas city, top attractions include the remains of San Antonio’s Spanish heritage: five missions including the Alamo, now tied together on a Mission Trail; La Villita, one of the city’s original settlements and now an arts-and-crafts community; the Spanish Governor’s Palace, and the San Fernando Cathedral.
The River Walk extends three miles along both sides of the San Antonio River — all this 20 feet below street level. Visitors frequent its shops, eateries and clubs, and stay in its hotels. The River Walk also hosts a number of festivals, plus water-based events, such as canoe races and holiday boat caroling. Rio San Antonio Cruises provides river trips for sightseeing, and river taxis deliver visitors to the Rivercenter, a shopping, dining and entertainment complex, and to the convention center.
For families, two theme parks stand out: Six Flags Fiesta Texas and Sea World San Antonio, the world’s largest marine life park.
More than half the population is Hispanic, but the city has absorbed elements of the South, the cowboy West and German traditions, the last due to immigration in the mid-1800s.
Business owners field a cadre of Centro San Antonio Amigos who assist visitors, providing information, even First Aid if called on. They are found in the historical downtown.
Central San Antonio can be navigated on foot or with public transport, but for points beyond, visitors need a car.
Finally, San Antonio’s summers are very hot. As counterpoint to that, winters are mild with average lows in the 40s and highs in the 60s December through February.
Things to do for Venturers
- Go canoeing or whitewater rafting on Guadalupe River outside of San Antonio. Or, head to Canyon Lake for lots of choices: fishing, kayaking, parasailing, sailing, scuba diving and waterskiing.
- Hike in one of the state parks in Texas Hill Country, the area that forms an arc around the northern edge of San Antonio.
- Sign on for one of the adventure tours at the Natural Bridge Caverns. At the start of one guided three- to four-hour excursion, you are lowered on a rope through a 160-foot shaft, after which you climb and crawl as you make your way through the caverns’ dark places. You are advised to wear jeans and a shirt that may be ruined. Hiking boots with good traction and ankle support are required.
- Make a rented bicycle your transport of choice. City buses have bike racks to facilitate this sort of thing. Bike the San Antonio Mission Trail, a route that takes visitors to all five historic missions.
- Register to compete with teammates in the annual Ford Canoe Challenge, featuring a number of timed heats on the San Antonio River in the middle of town.
- Here’s one you’ll want to catch: the Wild Hog Cookoff in Cotulla south of town. Dining selections include hog quiche, hog eggrolls, hog en brochette.
Things to do for Centrics
- Board a cruiser and sightsee from the vantage point of the San Antonio River. Also, take a river taxi to Rivercenter, the shopping, dining and entertainment complex.
- Take a break from the city at a nearby dude ranch, where you can go horseback riding.
- Shop in the bustling Mexican market at Market Square. Look for event schedules, as well, because the square is the locale for a number of Hispanic festivals featuring food and beverages, mariachi music and Mexican dances. Or, consider the Alamo Quarry Market. It is housed in the former Alamo Cement Company, and you can tell that by looking.
- Pan for gems and minerals much as miners panned for gold. Do your “mining” at the Natural Bridge Mining Company. You keep what you find.
- Taste the finest wines and foods on offer at the city’s New World Wine & Food Festival. Note the Mexican fare in this city which is not so far from the border. For an alternative, consider the annual Wurstfest in nearby New Braunfels. It celebrates beer and all things German.
- Investigate your choices if you are interested in an event focused on the written word, whether prose or poetry, fiction or nonfiction. The event is the Gemini Ink Summer Festival. There are writing classes taught by nationally recognized writers, and there are writing camps for kids.
Things to do for Authentics
- Take a hop-on, hop-off narrated trolley tour through the heart of San Antonio. Or, take a horse-drawn carriage ride through town. You also may have the chance to buy carriages or other equipment when one vendor, Yellow Rose Carriage, is ready to sell used gear.
- Play golf. The state’s first public golf course was built in San Antonio in 1916, and new courses are added every year.
- Be entertained at the event that celebrates the city and all its diversity, the Fiesta San Antonio. It is 10 days in April with more than 100 events on tap. Failing that, opt for the June Texas Folklife Festival highlighting the traditions and crafts of more than 40 ethnic groups in Texas.
- Hear the San Antonio Symphony, but get a load of its home: the Majestic Theatre, a vintage vaudeville movie palace. The theater also hosts touring Broadway shows. Time your visit, in July, to coincide with the Classical Music Festival.
- Tour the Alamo, of course, then visit San Antonio’s other four historic missions. They were built by the Spanish in the early 1700s, and today, they comprise the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.
- Take in the Chuck Wagon Dinner Show at nearby Enchanted Springs Ranch. The event includes a Texas BBQ dinner and an evening’s entertainment. Or, stay overnight at the ranch in an Old West guesthouse.
For more information, consult the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.visitsanantonio.com