Prior to Texas joining the United States of America in 1845, it was an independent republic that had ruled itself after declaring its independence from Mexico just ten years earlier. As with America, this portion of its history did not come without bloodshed, as Mexico actively resisted Texas’ attempt to secede.
One of the greater tragedies in the Texan Revolutionary War came in what is San Antonio today, as the Mexican army surrounded and laid siege to the Alamo. It fell after 13 days, resulting in the death of most that were holed up within its walls.
News of this bloody massacre spread, and soon cries of “Remember the Alamo!” rang throughout the land. This motivation rallied the ranks of a soon to be independent Texas, and while it is part of the USA today, the Alamo has made San Antonio a popular domestic tourism spot for Texans, and due to its history, for foreign travelers as well.
Being a thriving urban center in South Central Texas, this city has an assortment of other attractions to keep visitors occupied in the 3 to 4 days that most spend here. From amusement parks to one of America’s most atmospheric urban entertainment districts, as well as its undeniable Latin culture, San Antonio should not be missed by any traveler that seriously seeks out the cultural heart of this prominent American state.
Start your time in San Antonio by heading to The Alamo, which is far and away its biggest historical attraction. Seeing well over four million visits a year, you would do well to visit it early in the morning before the tour buses arrive.
Strolling through the barracks and chapel on site, see the weapons that were likely used to defend this outpost in vain, and admire the Spanish style architecture that has stood up well to erosive forces over the years.
The Alamo’s original purpose was to serve as an education center, with the intent of converting the local native population to Christianity. It was only one of five much missions in the area, with the other four being preserved and administrated by San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.
Mission Concepcion (still serves as an active church), Mission Espada (its aqueduct still supplies neighboring farmland with water), Mission San José (church is also still active, with an elaborate exterior) and Mission San Juan Capistrano (several priceless statues were stolen in 2000, but ruins of another unfinished church and the beauty of the main mission still make it worth the trip) compose all the outposts that this park covers, all have a frontier meets colonial architectural aesthetic that needs to be seen to be appreciated.
Being located closer to the Mexican border than most major Texan cities, San Antonio has a Latin culture that stands out here more prominently than in other urban centers in the state. As such, Museo Alameda is a must visit for those from out of town, as the USA’s biggest museum geared towards the story of Latino Americans will give you a window into their culture that is unparalleled to anything else in the city. The focus on Mexican art is particularly noteworthy, making this place a great stop if you are continuing south of the border shortly afterwards.
Those looking to experience one of the best urban districts in the United States, let alone Texas should spend a day or night on the San Antonio River Walk. Containing a wide variety of shops, bars, and restaurants strung along a walkway that parallels the banks of the San Antonio River through the heart of the city, visitors will be entertained by the attractions as they are charmed by the beauty of the parkland here.
One of the world’s best known sea-themed amusement parks has their largest park not in Orlando, but here, as Sea World San Antonio offers plenty for those with families and the young at heart. Meet Shamu in a live show featuring the well-loved orca, rip around on its roller coaster and flume rides, or seek respite from the oppressive Texan heat by visiting its sister park, Aquatica.
Have a thing for spelunking? Located just outside town, Natural Bridge Caverns gives you a chance to feed your need to get underground. Those that aren’t experienced in this art needn’t worry, as guided tours are provided of this limestone cave’s alien-like interior … just watch out for the bat colony contained within!