Learn about San Antonio, Texas, by reading San Antonio-More Than
The Alamo by Charlie Spence, Travel Writer and WTA Member. It
features a mini, but thorough tour of the destination, plus all
you'll need to know to plan your trip including getting there,
objective information on places to stay and eat, and things to do.
At the end of the article, we've provided a summary of the contact
information for your easy reference. Enjoy!
Than The Alamo
by Charlie Spence, Travel Writer and WTA Member
Once you visit San Antonio you
will remember much more than the Alamo.
The Alamo, one of the most photographed sites in the United
Photo from San Antonio Convention/Visitors Bureau
Of course, the Alamo is a top
historic attraction of this Texas city, but it is surrounded by an urban
development that combines fascinating attractions with unique shops,
restaurants, and charming spots for relaxing. Because the Alamo is so closely
intertwined with San Antonio, let’s begin our visit there.
There are five entrances into
this complex but we’ll enter through the old church where we will see many
exhibits associated with the heroes of that famous stand. There is Davy
Crockett’s buckskin vest, Travis’ ring, a flintlock rifle used in the battle, a
Bowie knife and many more reminder items from this stand against Santa Anna’s
The site—established in 1718 as
the city’s first mission—was originally named Mission San Antonio de Valero, one
of many established as homes for missionaries and their Indian converts. Disease
had taken most of the Indians by 1793 and the mission was closed. Some ten years
later a Spanish cavalry unit from Alamo de Parras, Mexico, was quartered in the
mission. Over the years Spanish, Mexican, and rebel military occupied the site
until the Texas revolution. In 1835 a group of Texan and Tejano volunteers came
against the forces of General Marin Perfecto de Cos. After five days of
house-to-house fighting, Cos surrendered and the volunteers occupied the Alamo.
They further strengthened the defenses. Two months later—February 23,
1836—General Santa Anna arrived with his massive force. The defenders held out
until a final assault thirteen days later at dawn.
You will find much more of the
history of the Alamo as you tour, but it is wise to get some understanding of
the significance of this Texas shrine before a visit. Also, you will want to
know where to look for other significant spots. Much of the battle took place in
Alamo Plaza and plaques and stones mark various sites.
The river cruise, a 30 to 45 minute tour of the river walk
Photo by Steve Moore from San Antonio Convention/Visitors Bureau
But let’s move on. There is much
more to see and do. Just across the street from Alamo Plaza is River Center Mall
and Paseo Del Rio. This area, which once was a drab and dingy river bottom, now
is the pride of the city. Fine shops, excellent restaurants, and nightclubs may
be reached along the cobblestone walkways. Along this river walk we’ll find
quiet and park-like sections and specialty boutiques, art galleries, and
high-rise hotels. Take a cruise along the river walk. Narrated tours take only
35 to 40 minutes.
Not far away is Milam Park, a
great place to relax or give the kids a time to burn off some steam. Here will
can go into the Tower of the Americas and from 579 feet above ground get a
spectacular view of San Antonia. Glass walled elevators take you up to the
restaurant and observation level.
We will uncover literally
centuries of history as we wander through the downtown area. La Villita (the
“Little Village”) dates back to the mid to late 18th century and
today is a national historic district. It is a haven for artists and craftsmen
selling blown glass, jewelry, stained glass, and fashions from Mexico and
Guatemala. The Spanish Governor’s Palace is near city hall. This palace was the
seat of government when San Antonio was the capital of the Spanish province of
Texas. Now a National Historic Landmark, the National Geographic Society has
named this structure “the most beautiful building in San Antonio.”
Nearby is Market Square (El
Mercado), the largest Mexican market place outside of Mexico. Here you will find
a festive combination of Tex-Mex restaurants, music and entertainment, and shops
featuring goods ranging from pears to pinatas.
When you are ready for a bit of
culture, visit some of the places like the Museum of Art, the Zoological Gardens
and Aquarium, or the Botanical Gardens. This latter is a 33-acre living museum
with seasonal floral displays, Rose Garden, Sacred Garden, and other plant
specimens from around the world.
Take some time also to visit the
Guinness World Records Museum and Ripley’s Haunted Adventure for some different
type of galleries on Alamo Plaza. Here, too, is Davy Crockett’s Tall Tale Rides,
a good theme park style ride through his life and times as told by Crockett
Over on Houston Street, discover
history, as you’ve never seen it at the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum. In 2002 this
was voted the best attraction of the year by the Downtown Alliance. It covers
more than 120 years of area history. See such oddities as a two-headed calf and
a lamb with eight legs. There’s a wax museum of Texas history. It is only two
blocks from the Alamo or just 50 feet from the River Walk.
Not all of the interesting and
enjoyable attractions of San Antonio are in the downtown area. A Six Flags theme
park is non-stop celebration of San Antonio and South Texas build around four
theme areas. Northeast of the city is Fort Sam Huston, another National Historic
Landmark. The oldest building on the post dates back to 1876. The army base is
where military greats like Pershing, Stilwell, and Eisenhower served. Today it
is the headquarters for the Fifth U.S. Army and houses the Fort Sam Houston
Museum and U.S. Army Medical Department Museum.
To get a real feel of the old
west, travel out highway 42 west to Boerne to the Enchanted Springs Ranch. This
86-acre ranch is right out of the 1800s with an authentic old western town. The
site has been used in many western motion pictures. Take a wagon ride through
the ranch populated with Texas Longhorns, buffalo, horses, and many other
If you have time, play a round of
golf at some of the more than 40 courses. The first public gold course in
Texas—Breckenridge—was built here in 1916 and has hosted golfers ever since. The
area averages 300 days of sunshine a year and the average temperature is about
68 degrees, perfect for outdoor fun.
Like I said, after you experience
all of San Antonio you’ll have much more to remember than the Alamo.
San Antonio Details
To Get There
Airport is just six miles from the city. Sixteen airlines provide
commuter, domestic, and international passenger service. Service is
available from many cities for non-stop flights.
AMTRAK has service
from Los Angeles through Tucson and El Paso; from Miami through Ft.
Lauderdale, Jacksonville, New Orleans, and Houston; and from
highways lead into San Antonio from all directions.
Where To Stay
You have a wide
choice of accommodations ranging from charming bed and breakfast
sites to plush hotels, primarily on or near the River Walk. Rates
vary, ranging from $49 up. Here are just a few:
Victorian Lady Inn B&B $134 to $159
- Alamo Street Victorian B&B $89 to $275
- Crown Plaza Hotel $134 to $159
- Hyatt Regency from $99
- Hotel Valencia from $119
- Days Inn- from $49
Where To Dine
A variety of
restaurants offer a wide selection of cuisines for fine dining. They
range from Caribbean and Continental to Southwest and seafood. There
are good spots for Italian, Greek, Oriental, and others but—when in
San Antonio do as many of the locals: barbeque and Tex-Mex. There
are more than 90 spots in San Antonio that serve barbeque. Long a
staple in the Southwest, the barbeque is still a mainstay and a
cook-off classic in culinary competitions. Tex-Mex is merging of
cuisines from both sides of the border.
The influx of
Germans to the area in the mid-1800s brought brewmeisters and meals
of sauerkraut, potato salad, and sausage. A few of the downtown
spots you might want to try are:
- Casa Rio – also serves dinner on river boat tours
- Bayous Riverside
- Texas Bistro Boudres on the River Walk
- Buckhorn Saloon and Museum
- The Guenther House
- Mexican Manhattan
Notice: This information is
current as of January 2006. It is recommended that you contact the numbers,
and/or visit the websites above to determine any changes to the information.