Sightseeing in San Antonio

San Antonio, Texas is the most visited city in all of Texas and is an important cultural and tourist hub for the state. The original inhabitants were Native Americans who were drawn to the beautiful and very useful river, now known as the San Antonio River. In 1691 a group of Spanish explorers happened upon the area and its Native American inhabitants, and in the arrogant way of the explorers they decided to name the region after their saint, Saint Anthony of Padova, Italy, or San Antonio. In 1731 sixteen families from the Canary Islands arrived in the region and the King of Spain founded La Villa de San Fernando, the first civil government in Texas. The city of San Antonio continued to grow and became the largest Spanish settlement in Texas. This region became highly sought after and soon there were a number of battles to claim the area for a variety of empires. The most famous battle was the Battle of the Alamo, which is honored today at the Alamo in San Antonio. Eventually Texas became its own country and by 1845 it had been annexed into the United States.

With such a long and colorful history it’s no wonder that the city of San Antonio draws almost 20 million tourists a year, each one wanting to experience this magnificent city and explore all of the sightseeing options San Antonio has to offer.

The Alamo

Originally known as the Mision San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo is the most visited destination in San Antonio and serves as a testament to the courage and determination of the soldiers who stood brave to protect their lands. Originally the Alamo served as home to missionaries and the current site was established in 1724. By 1793 the Spanish government distributed the missions and the land to the Native American residents but by the 1800’s the Spanish military was occupying the mission during Mexico’s struggle for independence. It was during the Texas Revolution in 1835 that the Alamo grew to its current level of importance, throughout the two years this battle raged the fort was a key defense and although its defenders were defeated it remains a symbol of the sacrifices people make for freedom. And it almost goes without saying, but visitors to the site will always Remember the Alamo.

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

The San Antonio Missions were originally established not as churches but as Native American towns. The church was the focus of the town but the mission was designed to help in a number of ways by bringing the community together. When the missions were established in the 1700s San Antonio was under Spanish rule and if the local inhabitants wanted the benefit of Spanish rule then they were required to convert to Catholicism. The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is responsible for maintaining and preserving four of the five missions that were established in the region. The fifth mission, the Alamo, is owned by the State of Texas. As these missions originally started with a religious bent it should be no wonder that today the Archdiocese of San Antonio still owns portions of the missions and runs them as active parishes. The four missions are Mission Espada, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan Capistrano, and Mission Concepcion. Each mission in the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park has its own history and features that made distinct from its brethren.

The San Antonio River Walk

The San Antonio River Walk lines the San Antonio River with a variety of activities including attractions, entertainment, restaurants, museums, galleries, local businesses and a happening nightlife. The area around the river has always served as an important location for inhabitants of this region and as with many major waterways the banks quickly became hot property. The River Walk in San Antonio has been built up in such a way that it has a fairy tale type quality with the gently meandering river, the quaint restaurants and cafes, and lush landscapes with numerous waterfalls. It almost feels European in nature. If you’re in San Antonio it’s almost impossible to miss the downtown River Walk and it’s something you’ll definitely want to enjoy. Whether you’re looking for a fine dining alternative, a quick snack, a souvenir or piece of artwork to remind you of your trip or if you just want to explore the art and culture of the city, the River Walk has all of that rolled into one region. For the best overview of the area and a must for first time visitors, a cruise along the river will give you a different view of the city and the guide will provide informative highlights on what to see and do during your stay in San Antonio.

Tower of the Americas

Speaking of views, one of the most breathtaking views of San Antonio is from the Tower of the Americas. This 750 foot tall structure provides 360 degree views of the surrounding city, several dining options including an upscale dining alternative, and a 4D ride. The Tower of the Americas is a wonderful stop for families who want to have a little entertainment with their mid day meal. The Rainforest Café is a perfect stop for a healthy meal that children will enjoy as they’re entertained and then the trip to the top of the tower is the icing on the cake.

San Fernando Cathedral

The San Fernando Cathedral was founded in 1731 and is the oldest continuously functioning religious community in the State of Texas. The building is also the oldest standing church structure in the state as well. The importance of this marvelous architectural structure goes way beyond its bricks and mortar to the very hearts of the citizens who have lived in San Antonio throughout the centuries. San Fernando Cathedral has served as a cultural, civic and service center for the region, helping many in need and enriching the region with its generous patrons.

In addition to the cultural and historical significance, San Antonio also offers a lot of fun options for tourists and locals. The San Antonio Zoo is top notch, as is the SeaWorld San Antonio, the San Antonio Botanical Gardens and Conservatory give you a better view of the local flora and the local golf courses will keep you captivated for hours.
Creative Commons License Photo credit: Corey Leopold