Located in the heart of Texas, San Antonio is probably best known for the 1836 battle of The Alamo where 189 defenders held the old mission against some 4,000 Mexican troops for 13 days. However, the city’s history dates back to a band of Spanish explorers and missionaries who came upon the river in 1691, and because it was the feast day of St. Anthony, named the river “San Antonio.” The actual “founding” of the city occurred in 1718 by Father Antonio Olivares, when he established the Mission San Antonio de Valero.
Twenty million visitors each year vacation in San Antonio due in large part to the diversity of attractions available in the city. Sequestered 20 feet below street level, lies one of San Antonio’s jewels – the Paseo del Rio, better known as the River Walk. 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, and nightclubs. Rio San Antonio Cruises, the river’s floating transportation system, provides a novel method of sightseeing in downtown San Antonio. Groups can also dine aboard open-air cruisers as they wind their way along the scenic waterway. River taxis deliver visitors to Rivercenter Mall, a dazzling three-level glass shopping, dining, and entertainment complex. Nearby Market Square is the largest Mexican marketplace outside of Mexico and the Tower of the Americas offers a spectacular view of San Antonio from 750 feet above the ground.
With over 300 days of sunshine annually and an average temperature of 70°, visitors to San Antonio find an abundance of outdoor sports and recreational activities to challenge them. 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 fishermen, as well as water skiing and sailing enthusiasts. State Parks offer opportunities for hiking and camping in the rugged terrain of the Hill Country. Just south of San Antonio, Corpus Christi and South Padre Island offer splendid oceanfront recreational activities.
San Antonio is also home to two major theme parks – Sea World San Antonio, the world’s largest marine life park, showcases some of the ocean’s most fascinating creatures through shows, educational exhibits, and rides; and Six Flags Fiesta Texas, a town built just for fun!. Brackenridge Park, a 433-acre refuge in the heart of the city, is a focal point for outdoor activities, providing picturesque opportunities for bicycling, fishing, picnicking, pedal boating, and walking. The park’s primary tourist attraction is the San Antonio Zoo, which houses a collection of more than 3,000 animals and is ranked as one of the best zoos in the country. Explore Texas history and science at the Witte Museum and burn off excess energy at HemisFair Park and the newly renovated Milam Park (across from Market Square).
When the stars come out over the South Texas Plains, it’s time to head to the nightclubs and dance halls, two-step to a country-western band or sway to a Tejano super group, traditional jazz, or a sing-along at an Irish pub or piano bar. Or simply chill out at the Hard Rock Cafe on the River Walk.