There are plenty of Things to do in San Antonio. It is a bustling city full of life and culture highly influenced by the Hispanic and Latinx communities. The city offers a wonderful touristic experience! Although the traffic is terrible, there is a lot of culture and fun things to do here. It’s not a bad place and definitely worth the visit.
Everywhere you go, you will come across at least one mural or street art, as creativity and art is one of the biggest things here. There is never a dull moment in San Antonio as there are always new places to visit and foods to try.
- The Alamo
- The River Walk
- Tower of the Americas
- San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
- The Buckhorn Saloon and Texas Ranger Museum
- SeaWorld San Antonio
- Historic Market Square
- San Antonio Tours
- Questions About San Antonio
- What is San Antonio Texas best known for?
- Why is The Alamo so famous?
- How long is the San Antonio Riverwalk boat ride?
- Can you walk with alcohol on the River Walk?
- What do you do in the Tower of the Americas?
- How long does it take to visit the missions in San Antonio?
- How long is the San Antonio Missions trail?
- What is the oldest saloon in Texas?
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Known as San Antonio de Valero Mission, The Alamo has served many purposes over the past three centuries, primarily as a Spanish mission, a military garrison, and a tourist attraction.
The Alamo as a Mission
San Antonio de Valero Mission was the first Spanish mission to be built in the present-day San Antonio area. It was established on May 1, 1718, by Father Antonio de Olivaras.
The original site, a temporary structure, of the mission was built near San Pedro Springs in 1718. Less than a year later, the mission was moved to another site near the river, which was deemed less likely to flood. A few years later it was destroyed by strong winds from a Gulf Coast hurricane.
The present location of the Alamo mission was chosen in 1724. The stone mission church was built around 1744, although much of this original structure was later damaged or destroyed in the 19th century.
Over time, the mission expanded to include additional buildings and structures, primarily made of adobe. The final footprint of the Mission San Antonio de Valero took up about 3 acres, with farmland and pasture owned by the mission surrounding the complex.
San Antonio de Valero was a successful and largely self-sufficient mission, which at its peak was home to over 300 converted Native Americans (mostly Coahuiltecan) and a herd of over 2,000 cattle.
However, the late 18th century brought increased Apache attacks and a change in the law in 1778 that stated that all unbranded cattle belonged to the government. This law meant that the mission lost much of its resources and its population rapidly dwindled.
In 1793, the mission was secularized and soon abandoned.
The Alamo as a Military Garrison
The complex remained unoccupied until 1803 when it was occupied by a Spanish military company. It was also around this time that it became known as The Alamo. It served a number of roles over the following years, including acting as a political prison and hospital. When Mexico gained independence in 1821, ownership of the complex was passed from the Spanish to the Mexicans.
The Alamo is famous for being the site of the Battle of the Alamo, which lasted for 13 days in 1836. The siege ended when Mexican troops overran the heavily outnumbered Texian defendants, leaving only two survivors.
The Alamo which had around 150 Texian defenders inside under the command of William Travis and James Bowie was largely unprepared for the arrival of the 1,500-strong Mexican army under the command of the Mexican President, Antonio López de Santa Anna. On February 23rd, 1836, the siege of the Alamo began.
The Texians were surprised, outnumbered, and badly beaten during the Battle of the Alamo. The Texian Army is believed to have lost between 180 to 257 men during the battle. Although true numbers are unknown.
Almost all the Texian combatants were killed. William Travis, Davy Crockett, and James Bowie all died during the Battle. While it is estimated the Mexican Army lost between 400 and 600 troops.
Instead of accepting defeat, the bloody loss at the Alamo would be used as a motivating factor for the Texians to continue toward independence from Mexico. The battle cry “Remember the Alamo” is still well-known today.
After the Texas Revolution, the Mexicans left the Alamo and Texas. Over the next 40 years, the complex was badly destroyed and rebuilt multiple times. It was used by the Texian, Mexican, American, and Confederate militaries.
It was last used by the U.S. Army in 1876 which did some significant rebuilding of some of the structures.
The Alamo as a Tourist Attraction
The abandoned complex was in disrepair and further damaged by tourists and vandals. Although calls for preservation first began soon after the Battle of the Alamo, it wasn’t until the Daughters of the Republic of Texas took an interest in the preservation of the building, that it began to be preserved and restored in the early 20th century.
Today, The Alamo is the most popular attraction in San Antonio and is one of the most popular historic attractions in the United States. It can be found right in the center of the city, so is easy to get to.
The primary purpose of The Alamo is a visitor attraction, where you can learn about the history of the buildings, the Texas Revolution, and of course the story of the Battle of the Alamo itself. It is one of the most popular things to do in San Antonio.
The Alamo is a historical site but it also serves as a shrine and memorial to those who died during the Battle of the Alamo.
The Alamo is currently free to visit and it takes a lot of money to preserve, protect, and operate the site. You can help preserve The Alamo by making a donation or visiting and purchasing on-site services and products.
The River Walk
If you’re visiting San Antonio, you have to take some time to explore the San Antonio River Walk, also known as the Paseo del Río. The River Walk is a pedestrian zone that sits one level below the main city streets. It has restaurants, bars, shops, and public artwork, and it allows you to get around the city and between many of the city’s major attractions without having to worry about traffic and crossing roads. This is a 15-mile-long series of walkways that run along the San Antonio River.
The San Antonio River Walk was largely the result of the vision of Robert H. H. Hugman, a San Antonio architect, who came up with the idea to create the downtown waterway surrounded by commercial development.
There’s a lot to do on the San Antonio River Walk. Home to attractions, shops, art, and restaurants, it is a major San Antonio attraction in its own right. From shopping to entertainment to museums to just taking a leisurely stroll or boat ride, the River Walk has something for everyone.
One of the most popular ways to experience the River Walk is to take a ride on one of the various boat cruises.
Boat cruises on the Riverwalk are an amazing way to see the river and downtown San Antonio. The tours are operated by Go Rio Cruises and take place from 10am to 10pm, 365 days a year. The Narrated Cruises of the main Downtown area last about 35 to 40 minutes and are a wonderful way to learn about the origins of the river and the downtown history. River Shuttles runs along the River Walk from downtown to Museum Reach.
Taking a cruise on the San Antonio River Walk is a wonderful way to experience it, and costs are not too high, with narrated cruises available for around $14, and all-day shuttle passes for the downtown River Walk area are around $20.
Tower of the Americas
Taking your adventure to new heights, the Tower of the Americas is the tallest observation tower in Texas at 750 feet tall and provides guests with the most spectacular view of the Alamo City. Tower of the Americas is a skyline-defining landmark left over from the 1968 World’s Fair to celebrate San Antonio’s 250th anniversary.
These observation towers always seem to have a revolving restaurant at the top, and this one’s no exception. If you want the view to last all through dinner (or if you want to skip the admission price and the film), make a reservation to dine at the Chart House. In addition to the revolving restaurant, an indoor and outdoor observation deck, a cafe, a gift shop, and a 4D theater show are located within.
Reach new heights atop the observation deck. At 800 feet per minute, it takes only 43 seconds for the elevators to climb to the top! Its rich history and spectacular views make The Tower of the Americas a must-see spot when visiting San Antonio.
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
The complexes were built by Franciscan missionaries in the 18th century and illustrate the Spanish Crown’s efforts to colonize, evangelize and defend the northern frontier of New Spain.
The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park was established in 1978 by the United States Congress. The Park includes four of San Antonio’s Spanish Colonial-era Missions as well as associated dams, acequias and other irrigation resources, agricultural fields or labores, and recorded prehistoric and colonial period sites within the 475-acre park boundaries.
It is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas. World Heritage Sites are cultural and/or natural sites considered to be of ‘Outstanding Universal Value’, which have been inscribed on the World Heritage List by the World Heritage Committee. These places or buildings are thought to: have special importance for everyone.
The Spanish mission system was developed with three purposes in mind: the conversion of the Native Americans to the Roman Catholic faith; the extension of Spanish civilization; and the defense of the northern frontier of the Spanish empire in the Americas.
The missions within the National Park include Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purísma Concepción de Acuña, Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo, Mission San Juan Capistrano, and Mission San Francisco de la Espada. Mission San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo) was specifically excluded from the park boundaries as it is owned by the State of Texas.
The Buckhorn Saloon and Texas Ranger Museum
The Saloon itself is a bar, which is free to visit, but the highlights here are definitely the two museums – one which is primarily Albert Friedrich’s most unique collection of horns and antlers in the world, and one which focuses on the history of the Texas Rangers.
Friedrich opened the saloon with the offer: “Bring in your deer antlers, and you can trade them for a shot of whiskey or a beer.”
The world-famous Buckhorn Saloon and Museum has delighted hundreds of thousands of visitors for over 120+ years. Today, the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum features thousands of dead animals and dead animal parts for your enjoyment. Don’t miss the 4,000-antler chandelier and the chair made for Teddy Roosevelt out of 62 pairs of buffalo horns.
The Buckhorn Saloon also features the Ranger Museum, which exhibits revolvers, automatic handguns, sawed-off shotguns, badges, photographs, and more. But, its major exhibit is “Ranger Town,” a recreation of San Antonio at the turn of the century. Explore this western town with a saloon, jail, blacksmith shop, and telegraph office. The Bonnie and Clyde exhibit, complete with a ’34 Ford V8 Deluxe, is a guest favorite.
The Buckhorn Saloon and Museum is just a short two-block walk from the Alamo and only 50 feet from the River Walk at the corner of Houston Street and North Presa Street.
SeaWorld San Antonio
SeaWorld San Antonio is a 250-acre marine park and oceanarium located in the Westover Hills in San Antonio, Texas. Opened in 1988, this popular park is the largest marine theme park in the world.
It offers a huge number of attractions and activities such as roller coasters, shows, rides, tours, live animal attractions, and a huge range of family-friendly activities.
Animal lovers will be happy to learn that the park is home to orcas, dolphins, penguins, seals, sea lions, otters, sting rays, eels, tropical fish, a number of different sharks, American alligators, and flamingoes. The most popular shows feature trained killer whales, belugas, and dolphins.
Historic Market Square
The Historic Market Square is where the culture of San Antonio comes alive.
Historic Market Square thrives today on a plaza that was gifted to the original settlers “for their use and entertainment” by the King of Spain in 1730.
Since the 1820s, The San Antonio Market Square has been part of the community. With over 100 vendors, they say Historic Market Square is the largest “El Mercado” remaining in the United States and is filled with authentic Talavera pottery, exotic curios, handcrafted gifts, leather goods, and colorful ‘south of the border’ clothing.
The cobbled streets are lined with shops and restaurants – everything Mexican. From the food to traditional Mexican clothing and leather goods. It is a hand-crafted and diverse collection of culturally-themed merchandise.
San Antonio Tours
Looking for fun things to do in San Antonio? Check out some of the amazing tours the city has to offer.
What are the best tours in San Antonio?
The best tours in San Antonio according to Viator travelers are:
- San Antonio River Walk Cruise and Hop-On Hop-Off Tour
- Best of San Antonio Sightseeing Tour
- San Antonio Missions UNESCO World Heritage Sites Tour
- Hopscotch Immersive Art Experience
- River Walk Cruise, 3-Day Hop-On Hop-Off Pass, and Tower of the Americas Admission
What tours in San Antonio are good for avoiding crowds?
These hidden gems in San Antonio may have limited interaction with crowds:
- San Antonio Missions UNESCO World Heritage Sites Tour
- San Antonio Full-Day Historic City Tour
- San Antonio Missions Tour with Hotel Pick Up
- Taste of Fredericksburg Small-Group Wine Tour from San Antonio
- Segway Tour of San Antonio and the Alamo
Questions About San Antonio
What is San Antonio Texas best known for?
The Alamo is by far San Antonio’s most famous attraction and is the most visited attraction in the state of Texas.
Why is The Alamo so famous?
The Battle of The Alamo was an important event in American History. Despite being a brutal loss on the Texan side it led to a surge in the size and morale of the Texan Army. During the Texas Revolution, it rallied the rest of Texas to fight against the Mexican army eventually leading to a victory over Santa Ana at the Battle of San Jacinto.
How long is the San Antonio Riverwalk boat ride?
GO RIO’s San Antonio River Walk Boat Tour is 35 minutes and connects you to the city’s culture, history, architecture, and timeless charm.
Can you walk with alcohol on the River Walk?
Yes, you can walk around with alcohol on Riverwalk.
What do you do in the Tower of the Americas?
Located in downtown San Antonio, the 750-foot-tall Tower of the Americas provides guests with the most spectacular view of The Alamo City. Enjoy the gorgeous panorama from the Tower’s revolving Chart House Restaurant, take in the scenery from the Observation Deck, or experience the thrilling 4D Theater Ride.
How long does it take to visit the missions in San Antonio?
Allow 3-4 hours to visit the park. Mission San José and the park’s Visitor Center usually take 1½ to 2 hours to see and do everything. Missions Concepción, San Juan, and Espada can be viewed in 30 minutes or less each.
How long is the San Antonio Missions trail?
Approximately 10 miles of pedestrian-only trail connects all four missions and extends north to The Alamo and south to Medina Lake. The Mission Reach Hike & Bike Trail follows the San Antonio River to each mission.
What is the oldest saloon in Texas?
The Buckhorn Saloon in San Antonio is the oldest Saloon in the State of Texas. It was established in 1881 by Albert Friedrich at the ripe old age of seventeen. Teddy Roosevelt recruited his rough riders there.
San Antonio is a diverse city with so much to do. These are just a few of the places to visit on your next trip there.
What interesting places have you been to and can recommend? We’re always looking for neat out-of-the-way places to put on our list of must-sees. Thank you for reading our article. If you have any comments or questions we’d love to hear from you below.
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