There are far more places to remember than the Alamo.
Truth be told, there are far more things to remember in San Antonio, Texas, than the Alamo. While visiting the historical mission is a must for first-time travelers, Texans know deep down that the Alamo pales in comparison to the city’s other cultural gems. Put down your Davy Crockett tour hats to experience an insider’s look at the nature, inimitable heritage, and vibrancy that makes San Antonio a top suitor for your next getaway.
Discover the Natural Bridge Caverns
Rather than practicing keg stands and rushing Greek life, four college students uncovered one of San Antonio’s greatest destinations in 1960. Tucked under a 60-footbridge of natural limestone, the St. Mary’s University students found two miles of vast caverns that had yet to be explored.
San Antonio visitors can now put themselves in the shoes of those young explorers (or Indiana Jones). The first half-mile in the Natural Bridge Taverns is part of the area’s Discovery Tour, an excursion that’s 180 feet underground. Stalagmites, stalactites, and chandeliers all create a colorful vision straight out a geologist’s dream.
Take a Stroll Through Brackenridge Park
Predating back to B.C. era, with Native American artifacts from as early as 9,200 B.C., Brackenridge Park is a scenic sanctuary right in the heart of San Antonio. The 343-acre park is the epicenter of San Antonio’s outdoor life, featuring the city’s zoo, recreational golf trail, the Witte Museum, Japanese tea gardens, and the Sunken Garden Theater. The colossal grounds are brimming with activities that encapsulate San Antonio’s authentic heart and tranquil milieu. Biking, bird watching, yoga, and kite flying are just a few of the many activities you’ll encounter while people watching in the park’s verdant meadows.
Dive Into History at the Mission San José
The largest of the five missions, Mission San José is considered the queen of them all. It was nearly fully restored to its original design in 1930, giving visitors a strong idea of how the building looked in its heyday. For a better understanding, take the park ranger-led tour any day of the week.
Embrace Your Inner Cowboy at the Briscoe Western Art Museum
You don’t have to buy a ticket to West World to experience the Wild West. The Briscoe Western Art Museum is the home to artifacts you’ve only read about in textbooks on the great American West. Each piece tells a story that’s just as climatic as the life of a pistol-slinging cowboy. As you make your way through the three-story museum, explore an artifact collection comprised of expansive stagecoaches and Native American relics.
Drink Beer and Shop the Pearl Brewery District
Raise a glass to the once largest brewery, the Pearl, and learn the origin story of Texas’ most-famed hops in history. After the Pearl Brewing Company closed its business in the 1990s, the space was reimagined into a mixed-use development of trendy shops and buzzing restaurants. Browse hipster hangs like the Twig Book Shop and The Tiny Finch; expand your palate with charcuterie at Cured; relish the delectable oddity of goat cheese, thyme and honey ice cream at Lick Honest Ice Creams; and find yourself at a concert in the riverside amphitheater.
If you do get a chance to stay the night, the exquisite Hotel Emma is a purveyor of chic and industrial décor. The hotel’s historical charm, riverfront views, and charming cocktail bar make it one of the grandest auberges in the area.
Enjoy a Tableside Guacamole Demonstration
Get a prime seat at Boudro’s, a beloved Texas bistro on the San Antonio River Walk, and prepare to devour the bold flavors. While the menu is chock-full of South Texas dishes, there’s one true reason people come to Boudro’s: the guacamole. If there’s anything Texans love more than rodeo season, it’s this satisfying avocado concoction. Order Boudro’s tableside guacamole and watch as your server freshly prepares the dip with remarkable finesse. Yes, the guac is extra, but it’s worth every penny.
Dine on Old-School Fare at Restaurant Gwendolyn
San Antonio is arguably the most historically rich city in Texas. With monuments and missions scattered across its territory, the 19th century feels alive and well. History runs deep here, down to the menu. Restaurant Gwendolyn, a farm-to-table dining experience, is not your modern staple restaurant for a night out. Owner Michael Sohocki loves a good throwback, so much so that he keeps his kitchen operating like its 1850.
You won’t find your typical appliances in this pre-industrial culinary concept. The old-school fare is made with techniques from the Victorian era, sans all electric machinery. You can guarantee that everything on Restaurant Gwendolyn’s menu was sourced from farmers and ranchers within a 150-mile radius. While the food may no longer travel by horse and buggy, the chefs treat it so with handmade dedication.
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Hit up the Historic Market Square for a Taste of Texas Mexican Culture
Visit the largest Mexican market in the United States at Historic Market Square, and be transported. The three-block outdoor market is a delightful ode to Texas’ neighbor. It isn’t uncommon to toe-tap to the rhythm of a mariachi band or observe the beauty of Mexico’s authentic dances. The Historic Market is lined with artisanal creations that showcase the country’s intricate relationship with the Lone Star State. Find everything from hand-embroidered fashion to authentic Central American cuisine appropriately lit by the Guadalajara lamps that line the streets of El Mercado and the Farmers Market Plaza.
Visit the Oldest Unrestored Stone Church in the Country, Mission Concepción
If you’re looking for a sacred experience, the Mission Concepción is a good place to start. The stone church dates back to the 17th century, with little touched over the years. While the once vibrant patterns on the outside of the building have faded under the Texas sun, original frescoes can be marveled as guests walk through several of the church’s rooms. Mission Concepción is the oldest unrestored stone church in the country, making it a beloved destination for religious travelers and history buffs alike.
Enjoy a Show at the Historic Majestic Theatre
If you should find yourself in the mood for an evening performance, experience the beauty of San Antonio’s Majestic Theatre. Built in 1929, the theatre features an intricate design that pays homage to Spanish Mediterranean architecture. Previously a movie theater, the silver screen is now a stage for both Broadway acts and musical concerts.
The Majestic Theatre’s ornate adornments add roaring glitz to the art performed on stage weekly. Performances planned for 2018 include “The Color Purple,” “The King and I,” “Cinderella,” “On Your Feet!” and other musical fan favorites.
Head to the Top of the Tower of the Americas
The Tower of the Americas is to San Antonio what the Space Needle is to Seattle. Until 1996 it held the title of the tallest tower in the U.S., and the Tower of the Americas still grants visitors the chance to gaze at the city from epic heights. The Flags Over Texas Observation Deck provides a bevy of materials to teach you about everything from the attack on the Alamo to the discovery of the Camino Real Trail.
If you’re looking to make your visit a full night out, grab a cocktail or a meal atop the tower. The Chart House has been serving patrons since 1961, accompanied by the best views in town. People come to the Tower of the Americas for the view, but a drink or dessert is a nice bonus while you’re taking in the mesmerizing cityscape.
See What's in Bloom at the San Antonio Botanical Garden
When you escape to San Antonio Botanical Gardens, you’ll be transported through the looking glass and into 38 acres of beauty. Native Texas wildflowers are just a few of the blooms found in the garden’s vast meadows. Aside from the resplendent rose garden and Texas nature trail, the architecture is the center’s pièce de résistance. The impressive Lucile Halsell Conservancy, designed by Emilio Ambasz, is a towering glass building that sweeps to 65 feet tall at its highest point. Five separate climate-controlled conservancies showcase varieties plants and flowers from different environments around the world. Sweeten your trip by packing lunch for a daytime picnic on the garden grounds.
Test Your Bravery on San Antonio's Haunted Ghost Tours
Whoever thought the nightlife in San Antonio could be so grim? Gear up and prepare for an eerie evening on the town with alleged ghost hunting equipment such as electromagnetic frequency meters and digital thermometers. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a vague visage of a ghoul with your own camera during an Alamo City Ghost Tour.
Need some liquid courage? Test your bravery with on of Bad Wolf Ghost Tours’ paranormal pup crawls. Kick off your supernatural evening with a solid libation at one of the city’s haunted bars. Choose your adventure with tours starting at the Historic Hermann Sons Building, the Hotel Indigo, and the spooky Black Swan Inn.
Expand Your Culture at the McNay Art Exhibit
Get your dose of Lone Star swank and culture at the McNay Art Exhibit. The private mansion-turned-museum is home to over 20,000 works of art. Ogle through the ages from medieval paintings to 21st-century sculptures, and explore the quarters once owned by the late heiress Marion Koogler. The billowing museum’s art collection runs the gamut, encompassing post-impressionism, South Western folk art, a sculpture garden, and more.
Hike Through Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Not quite in the confines of San Antonio, the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area gets extra credit for being an environmental wonder just a short ride away. The enormous granite dome has gained popularity as Texas’ staple hiking and backpacking destination and is home to the second largest batholith in the United States. Just an hour and a half drive from San Antonio, the pink granite wonder towers into the sky of Fredericksburg. Hunt for treasure in the wilderness with fellow geocachers or find yourself stargazing at the galaxy above your campsite. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is nothing short of its magical namesake.