With its storied past, cultural diversity and developing arts scene, San Antonio, Texas, should be on your radar. Explore Alamo City with Culture Trip’s essential list of attractions and activities for your next trip.
“Remember the Alamo!” was the rallying cry during the Texas Revolution, and it’s certainly hard to ignore the landmark on any visit to San Antonio today. This small colonial mission building is one of the destination monuments for US history, and a key part of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park – a Unesco-listed World Heritage Site including four other missions: Concepción, San José, San Juan and Espada.
Weaving its way through the heart of the city is the San Antonio River Walk. A network of paths and walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River, the 15mi (24km) route is flanked by the multicolored parasols of bars, cafés and restaurants. True, it’s a well-trodden path, but it’s well worth the walk to get a flavor of the city. And if a sojourn on foot does not appeal, book yourself onto one of the boat tours, which depart regularly from various points along the promenade.
Opened in 1995 as a “laboratory of dreams” by San Antonio native Linda Pace, Artpace is the city’s non-profit contemporary art gallery and creative hub. Its main focus, alongside the program of engaging and often provocative exhibitions and events, is the nurturing of local and international talent through its residencies. Three times each year, the organization nominates a curator to bring together three artists – one each from Texas, the rest of the US and anywhere in the world – to create a work which will be exhibited for two months. This means that each visit will offer a thought-provoking mix of artistic expression.
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Enjoy panoramas over San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country beyond from the top of the Tower of the Americas. Built for the 1968 World’s Fair, the tower is the highest building in San Antonio, standing at a proud 750ft (230m), and was the highest observation tower in the entire US until as recently as 1996. Once you’ve descended and are back on terra firma, you can explore the manicured gardens and fountains of Hemisfair Park – the original site of the World’s Fair. Today, it’s home to a number of additional cultural attractions including the Instituto Cultural de México and lively Yanaguana Gardens – a modern adventure park for children, crammed with climbing structures and a cheerful kaleidoscope of artwork.
The San Antonio Botanical Garden is a 38 acre (15ha) non-profit oasis of flora and fauna in the heart of the city’s downtown area. If a leisurely stroll isn’t your thing, head for highlight landmarks including the Lucille Halsell Conservatory – a futuristic greenhouse filled with rare plants from across the world – the Texas Native Trail – a lush area celebrating species native to the State of Texas – and the child-friendly Family Adventure Gardens. Once you’ve done your exploring, stop by the Rosella at the Garden café in the Sullivan Carriage House for refreshments light or large throughout the day and into the evening.
San Antonio Zoo can trace its roots back more than 100 years, to an odd assortment of animals, including a herd of buffalo, monkeys and a pair of lions, gifted to the city in 1914 by local newspaper magnate George W Brackenridge, along with a plot of land. Today, it has one of the best collections in the US, with upwards of a million annual visitors seeking to appreciate the more than 750 species represented across the 56 acre (23ha) site. Look out for the large float of crocodiles, the collection of rare Komodo dragons and the dazzling butterfly house.
The UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures makes for an interesting visit, even if a museum is not usually on your agenda. Situated in Hemisfair Park, it strives to raise awareness and appreciation of Texas’s long and diverse history, through an engaging series of exhibits, programs and special events. The sprawling establishment is also extremely family-friendly and always offers some hands-on elements to keep little ones entertained.
An underground wonderland, the Natural Bridge Caverns were discovered by a group of adventurous college students in 1960 and now are a popular attraction for adventure-seekers. The best way to explore these bewitching caves is on a 75-minute Discovery Tour, as a guide leads you past the stalagmites, stalactites, flowstones and chandeliers sparkling 180ft (55m) beneath the earth’s surface. For the serious adrenaline junkies, the Hidden Passage Adventure Tour involves climbing, hiking and rappelling much deeper into the surrounding pockets and passageways, while there are plenty of above-ground thrills to enjoy too, including an enormous maze and a canopy zip line.
Based in the city’s Brackenridge Park, the award-winning Witte Museum underwent an impressive $100 million renovation, reopening as the expanded “New Witte” in 2017. Its slogan is “where nature, science and culture meet,” so you can expect a good balance of exhibits, from dinosaur skeletons to modern sculpture, cowboy culture to the science of space exploration.
An explosion of color, light, music and archival images, The Saga is a multimedia video projection, splashed over the facade of the imposing San Fernando Cathedral in the city’s Main Plaza. The attention-grabbing, 24-minute show, first introduced in 2014, tells the story of San Antonio from the earliest settlers through to the present decade – with music in surround sound to accompany. Much of the drama from the unique project – the brainchild of French artist Xavier de Richemont – comes from the juxtaposition of classical architecture and cutting-edge modern technology, leading to what the artist himself describes as an enormous “video painting.”
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Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
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