By: David Thompson | From: Latin Post
When most people think about things to do in San Antonio, they instantly think of the big attractions, like Six Flags, the Alamo, and the River Walk. However, if you dig a little deeper into this city, you can uncover so many more unusual and quirky things to do.
San Antonio is a city full of surprises waiting to be explored, and this guide will shine the spotlight on some of its lesser-known secrets and hidden gems to try out on your next visit.
The Buckhorn Saloon and Museum
It might be a little morbid for some, but if you don't mind admiring a museum filled with parts of dead animals, the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum is certainly worth a visit.
Its story dates back to the 1880s, when a young man named Albert Friedrich started a saloon and made the odd decision to accept antlers and other hunting trophies as a form of payment for the drinks he served. He and his wife then used those antlers, pelts, and more to make art and furniture.
Their works still line the walls of the saloon to this day for visitors to enjoy. Some of the top pieces include a picture of a deer made up of over 600 rattlesnake rattles and a 10,000-year-old elk.
The World's Biggest Virgin Mary Mosaic
Tens of millions of people visit San Antonio each year, but many of them miss out on the sight of this extraordinary mosaic, situated at the corner of South Brazos and Guadalupe St.
It was created by Vietnam vet and skilled artist, Jesse Trevino, and it's the biggest mosaic depiction of the Virgin Mary anywhere on Earth, standing around four stories tall. In a city that also has the world's biggest cowboy boots, this colorful artwork is certainly worth seeking out.
San Antonio has plenty of historic buildings, like the Alamo, which dates all the way back to 1718. However, if you want to take a much, much deeper dive into days gone by, head out to the Government Canyon State Natural Area and follow the Joe Johnston hiking trail.
This extraordinary trail will take you right to a set of dinosaur tracks, made around 110 million years ago. There are two different types of tracks to be found, and the trail has plenty of dino-themed signposts to guide you along the way, so you can't miss them.
The trail is quite gentle and beginner-friendly, with plenty of shade and benches to take breaks, so it should be suitable for most visitors, regardless of age or experience level.
The McNutt Sculpture Garden
The McNutt Sculpture Garden is another of San Antonio's many overlooked treasures. In fact, many people leave this garden wondering why it isn't more popular, as it's a fun and interesting place to walk around, especially with children.
The garden, part of the Briscoe Western Art Museum, is home to a series of sculptures depicting famous scenes from the days of the Old West, like cowboys and Native American archers.
Local Texan plants grow in the areas around each sculpture, making it the perfect place to explore on any of San Antonio's 250+ days of sunshine.
The Bats of Bracken Cave
For nature and animal lovers, Bracken Cave is a must-see when visiting San Antonio any time between March and October. During that special period of the year, over 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats nest in the famous cave.
It's the biggest bat colony known to man, and throughout the summer months, visitors can watch in wonder as countless bats fly out from the cave and into the sky once the sun has set. There's nothing quite like it. A truly one-of-a-kind experience you can only find on the outskirts of San Antonio.
Animal graves aren't all that unusual. Many people like to bury dead pets and leave a little marker to honor them, for instance. However, San Antonio has a couple of intriguing examples of animal graves.
Over at Ft. Sam Houston, you can spot the grave of a horse named Pat. Pat actually served in the U.S. Army back in the early 20th century. He was so loved by the fort's soldiers that they saved him from euthanasia and gave him a proper burial when he passed away at the age of 45.
Then, over at the Alamo, look out for two tiny grave markers dedicated to a pair of cats named Ruby and C.C. The pair started life as strays but took up residence in the Alamo and became popular with the staff, who decided to give them their own honorary graves after they died.
Hot Wells Hotel and Spa
The Hot Wells Hotel and Spa was once one of the grandest structures in all of San Antonio. Wealthy celebrities came to visit, like famed movie director Cecil B. DeMille and iconic comedy actor Charlie Chaplin. But now, it's little more than a pile of ruins.
What happened? Well, the First World War took its toll. Then, a big fire in the 1920s destroyed large parts of the resort. Attempts to reopen and revitalize the hotel failed, and it gradually fell into disrepair.
Fortunately, local officials decided that the area could still be of public interest, transforming the remnants of the hotel into a preserved historic park, open for public visits. It's a great place to take a peek into the past, seeing how a once impressive and elegant building can fall so far. Some even say that the place is haunted, with ghostly figures peering from the windows.
Step off the Beaten Path on Your Next San Antonio Adventure
Most visitors to San Antonio follow the same old routine of walking along the River Walk and exploring the Alamo. But as this list proves, there's so much more to discover in River City. If you want to make your visit extra special and different to all the rest, consider stopping off at a couple of the landmarks listed above.