San Antonio's Legendary Attractions
With more than three centuries of attractions, there is something for everyone in San Antonio
For many, San Antonio is the Paseo del Rio, an urban masterpiece better known as the River Walk. These cobble- and flagstone paths border the San Antonio River, as it winds through culture-rich downtown. The River Walk has multiple personalities—quiet and park-like in some stretches, while other areas are full of activity with European-style sidewalk cafes, specialty boutiques, art galleries, nightclubs and gleaming high-rise hotels. Under the Mission Reach project, the river reclaimed eight miles worth of waterways in 2013. The River Walk now links Brackenridge Park on the north end with Mission Espada to the south. GO RIO San Antonio, the river’s floating transportation system, provides a novel method of sightseeing and people watching in downtown San Antonio. Groups can dine aboard open-air cruisers as they drift along the scenic waterway, while river shuttles deliver visitors to restaurants, hotels, the Henry B. González Convention Center and Pearl—a transformed historic German brewery beautifully curated into a culinary and cultural neighborhood.
Explore Spanish colonial architecture at San Antonio’s five 18th-century missions. Among them is the Alamo, which has become permanently etched in the annals of history. In 1836, 189 defenders of Texas independence held The Alamo against some 4,000 Mexican troops for 13 days. Four other Spanish colonial missions founded in the early 1700s form San Antonio Missions National Historical Park—a marvelous place to explore the city’s roots and Spain’s influence on the southwestern part of the United States. These four missions, along with the Alamo, earned UNESCO’s World Heritage Site designation in 2015. The visitor center at Mission San José is the perfect starting point for exploring what the missions have to offer. Drive from mission to mission or take Mission Trail, ideal for hiking and biking.
A tour of downtown San Antonio will uncover centuries of history. Developed in the mid to late 18th century, La Villita Historic Arts Village (“the little village”) was one of San Antonio’s original settlements. It became a hub of Texas revolutionary activities in 1835 and 1836. Today, La Villita is a haven for artists and craftsmen, selling blown glass, jewelry and other handcrafts, as well as fashions from Mexico and Guatemala.
The Spanish Governor’s Palace was the seat of government when San Antonio was the capital of the Spanish Province of Texas. This historic structure is open to the public and resides downtown near City Hall and San Fernando Cathedral. San Fernando Cathedral has the nation’s oldest cathedral sanctuary and was founded by Canary Islanders who began its construction in 1731. Four nights a week, renowned French artist Xavier de Richemont’s The Saga is projected on the façade of the Cathedral and tells the history of San Antonio through music, sound, light and visual narration.
Dating to 1840, Market Square (El Mercado), the largest Mexican marketplace north of the Rio Grande, is a festive combination of Tex-Mex cuisine, music, entertainment, products ranging from pearls to piñatas. Its anchor, Centro de Artes, is a two-story exhibition space dedicated to telling the story of the Latino experience through regional art, history and culture.
Just south of downtown’s Market Square, the King William Historic District reflects San Antonio’s German heritage in a gracious residential area settled in the late 1800s. These beautiful mansions comprise one of San Antonio’s most elite neighborhoods. Among these, the Steves Homestead mansion and Villa Finale are open to the public, transporting guests to a time of architectural indulgence.
San Antonio is the picture-perfect setting for great family vacations. Enjoy Texas-sized fun at SeaWorld San Antonio, one of the world’s largest marine life parks, and Six Flags Fiesta Texas, the town built just for fun.
SeaWorld San Antonio combines fun with education and appreciation for some of the ocean’s most fascinating creatures through shows, educational exhibits and rides. Explore Aquatica, a water park designed as a South Seas oasis with all the amenities of a beachside resort, including terraced pools, thrilling slides, meandering crystal-blue rivers, sandy beaches and private cabanas. Aquatica boasts unique attractions such as up-close stingray encounters and a “weightless” family raft ride that’s a first for North America.
Just down the road, Six Flags Fiesta Texas is a non-stop celebration of San Antonio and South Texas. It’s designed around four themed areas: The Mexican town of Los Festivales: the German village of Spassburg; the 1920’s cowboy boomtown of Crackaxle Canyon; and the small Texas town of Rockville which includes a ‘50s -‘60s seaside boardwalk. Themes are carried out by entertaining musical shows and exciting rides including water rides and massive roller coasters.
San Antonio is home to special theme park Morgan’s Wonderland. Designed specifically for individuals with special needs, but open to those of all abilities, Morgan’s Wonderland is the world’s first ultra-accessible family fun park. Morgan’s Wonderland is completely wheelchair-accessible, features more than 25 elements and attractions including rides, playgrounds, gardens, an eight-acre fishing lake, 18,000-square-foot special-events
center, 575-seat amphitheater and picnic and rest areas throughout the park. The park also features Morgan’s Inspiration Island, the world’s first and only ultra-accessible splash park.
Families may want to start their exploration of the city at The DoSeum, where kids are encouraged to explore a miniature version of a city evocative of San Antonio with attractions like a veterinarian office, a taco truck and an H-E-B. Kids of all ages will want to experience the excitement of The Magik Children’s Theatre, a professional theater in the heart of downtown, and the nearby Yanaguana Garden at Hemisfair. Another favorite is the Tower of the Americas, which offers a spectacular view of San Antonio from 750 feet above the ground.
The Shops at Rivercenter offers several family-friendly attractions. Battle for Texas: The Experience is an immersive Alamo experience showcasing historically significant artifacts and fascinating multi-media reenactments. At LEGOLAND Discovery Center San Antonio, 10 themed zones, two indoor rides and a 4-D cinema offer families hours of fun. The newly opened SEA LIFE San Antonio Aquarium takes visitors into the ocean’s depths with a walk-through underwater tunnel and aquariums with more than 5,000 species of marine creatures.
A short walk away, Louis Tussaud’s Plaza Wax Museum houses more than 225 life-like characters in four themed sections–Hollywood, Horrors, History and Religion. Next door, the world’s largest Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium is located in San Antonio’s historic Alamo Plaza, right across from The Alamo and next to the famed River Walk. Proving that truth can be stranger than fiction, Ripley’s is known for providing exhibits that showcase the ultimate in odd and bizarre like a two-trunked elephant, a 512-pound iron meteorite and locks of Marilyn Monroe’s hair, among other oddities. The Guinness World Records Museum is a state-of-the-art, interactive experience that brings the world-famous book to life. Another popular stop is the Buckhorn Saloon & Museum which showcases a 131-year old bar, one-of-a-kind oddities, Western memorabilia, and offers visitors a journey back to the Old West through exhibits, an old-fashioned arcade, the saloon and a shooting gallery.
Brackenridge Park, a 343-acre refuge in the heart of the city, provides a full day of family fun. Play a round of golf at Texas’ most historic course. Feed ducks and picnic along the adjacent San Antonio River. Refresh with a stroll on the walking trails or catch a ride on the park’s miniature train, the Brackenridge Eagle. Here you’ll also find the San Antonio Zoo, the third largest in the nation with a collection of more than 3,500 animals representing 750 different species from around the globe. It is also the only zoo in the country to exhibit endangered whooping cranes. Nearby, The Witte Museum and its H-E-B Lantern Valero Great Hall Orientation Gallery offers hands-on learning, with exhibits exploring history, science and anthropology. The Witte recently underwent a transformational $100 million expansion that features new exhibits, classrooms, and laboratories.
Not far from Brackenridge Park, you can follow your senses through the San Antonio Botanical Garden, where acres of beautiful, lush vegetation replicate three distinct landscapes of Texas. Wander through formal gardens and even a sensory garden, where emphasis is placed on the texture and scent of plants. With an addition of eight acres in October 2017, the Botanical Garden offers new culinary opportunities through the Culinary Garden and the Family Adventure Garden, where landscapes of South Texas and the Hill Country abound.
Rivers in the Texas Hill Country, which forms an arc around the northern edge of San Antonio, provide venues for canoeing, tubing and white-water rafting. Area lakes attract fishing enthusiasts, as well as water skiing and sailing fans. Dude ranches offer a taste of the Old West, complete with horseback riding. Numerous state parks offer opportunities for hiking in this picturesque terrain.
Visitors to San Antonio also have a variety of spectator sports to choose from. The NBA’s San Antonio Spurs are a hometown favorite and play at the AT&T Center. The NCAA’s UTSA Roadrunners bring fans to the Alamodome during the football season since their first game in 2011. The San Antonio FC of the USL Championship provide soccer action at Toyota Field while the Missions baseball team encourages everyone to get out and enjoy the beautiful Texas weather. Plus, live action-packed thoroughbred and quarter horse racing seasons are presented at Retama Park from May through November.
Media information, photos and video: media.visitsanantonio.com
About Visit San Antonio:
Visit San Antonio is a 501(c)6, and serves as the sales and marketing arm of San Antonio as a leading leisure and meetings destination. San Antonio welcomes approximately 39 million visitors annually. Hospitality is one of the top five industries in the city, contributing $15.2 billion into the local economy annually and employing 140,000. More information can be found at VisitSanAntonio.com.