Alamo 101: How to Visit the Alamo Mission in San Antonio
Remember it! Here’s how to see San Antonio’s legendary landmark the right way.
The Alamo is so much more than a battle cry trapped in the pages of your old American History book. It’s a must-see attraction which, if done the right way, can be one of the most memorable stops on your tour of San Antonio. Here’s everything you need to know before you visit this proud part of Texas history.
WHY SHOULD I REMEMBER IT?
The Alamo is basically a monument of what it means to be Texan. The story goes: The Alamo was a battleground for Texans resisting the Mexican army, led by General Santa Anna. Though he succeeded in taking it on March 6, 1836, the bravery of the heroes who refused to surrender (including Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie) resulted in cries of “Remember the Alamo!” which rallied Texans to keep fighting. It worked–later battles led to Texas’s independence. Without this final stand, the border between the U.S. and Mexico might look a lot different today.
WHEN’S THE BEST TIME TO GO?
Beat the Texas summer heat before April or starting in October, with temperatures averaging low 62, high 83.
WHERE SHOULD I PARK?
The closest lots are the Crockett Lot at 824 E Houston ($15 for 5 hours), the lot at 203 N Alamo St., or the Riverbend Garage at 210 N. Presa with comparable rates. You can also head a little farther to the parking garage on 240 E Houston Street ($2 per half hour on weekdays or $10 on weekends); it’s a 5-minute walk.
DO I NEED TICKETS?
Entrance to the Alamo and its grounds is free, so you don’t need to worry about tickets. But it’s good to remember that upkeep depends on donations (you’ll see collection bins on the property).
DOES IT GET BUSY?
Yes; crowds are hard to avoid when 2.5 million people visit every year. Skip high season (May to September) if you can.
WHAT’S THERE TO SEE?
It’s not just the iconic church featured in all the photos. The grounds are also home to gardens surrounded by museum exhibits (including the Long Barrack, which is the oldest building in San Antonio) and a new interactive exhibit that features a wall of messages where you leave your thoughts on the Alamo.
GUIDED TOUR OR UNGUIDED?
The one-hour guided experience ($15 per person) gives a good overview of the Alamo’s history and heroes. We recommend the audio tour for $7, so you can take in the sights at your own speed. It’s better for hearing when there are so many other groups nearby
WILL KIDS BE BORED?
Regular guided tours might remind them of history class. Choose the 45-minute Young Texans Tour instead ($12 per child and per adult). It’s more engaging; ages 5-12 can interact with living history performers and imagine life during days of the missions.
HOW LONG SHOULD I SPEND HERE?
To really do the Alamo justice, take an hour in the main building (the length of most guided tours), and then another hour or two to take in all the sites nearby.
WHERE CAN I GET THE BEST PHOTO?
A line forms next to the entrance of the building, so you can get a shot out front free from photobombers. Or, come at sunset and you’ll get a colorful backdrop after tours have cleared out. No photography is allowed inside the building.
WHAT’S IN THE AREA?
The Alamo is directly across from the River Walk, a section of the San Antonio River that winds through town and is lined with restaurants and bars. Get brunch at a restaurant with outdoor seating facing the river such as Bella on the River, and watch the river boats go by. Just don’t fall in–there’s no railing along the water. The Alamo IMAX theater and Briscoe Western Art Museum are also close, within 10 minutes walking.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE ALAMO?
Singer-drummer Phil Collins (yes, from Genesis!) donated hundreds of Alamo artifacts that he’d been collecting for decades, including Davy Crockett’s leather shot pouch. Plans are currently being made for a new museum.