A New Look at an Old Fave | San Antonio
Last year, San Antonio celebrated its Tricentennial (that’s 300 years!) in style! The whole city planned fun events and partied all year long. But just because the tricentennial is over doesn’t mean the party is. San Antone still has lots up its sleeves for visitors who want to explore this lively Texas city.
San Antonio is where classics are cool, contemporaries are innovative, and recent additions and renovations promise to keep the city worthy of its world-class reputation. When you are ready to stretch out on a grassy lawn under the warm Texas sun, watch children splash through the water or challenge a local to a game of table tennis by a giant mosaic panther, you can stay downtown. Hemisfair, site of the 1968 World’s Fair, is well into the second of a three-phase development plan to become the Central Park of San Antonio. The goal is to be the place where locals and visitors can meet, play, and relax. The park’s most exciting space is Yanaguana Garden, a family-friendly four-acre park. Next door, Con Safos Cocina y Cantina honors San Antonio’s working-class Mexican-Americans with creative twists on familiar Tex-Mex dishes. Grab a Mexican frozen ice pop from Paleteria San Antonio before walking the tree-lined promenade of Civic Park. When Civic Park is complete, it will offer apartments, retail space, a boutique hotel, food hall, and more green space to enjoy.
When the hot Texas sun burns bright, continue your experience indoors at the remodeled and expanded Shops at Rivercenter. Classic shops and restaurants such as Macy’s, Fogo de Chao, and Morton’s Steakhouse welcome guests to cool off and shop. Another nearby project, The San Pedro Creek, will soon entice visitors to enjoy two full miles of walkable paths with public art on display, a plaza, rehabilitated bridges, and 11 acres of enjoyable greenery. This year, the newest hotels to dot the downtown skyline will be Canopy by Hilton, Thompson Hotel, and The Saint Hotel. The fully renovated Hotel Valencia still embraces its Spanish colonial style and now offers guests a new Argentinian restaurant, Dorrego’s.
No matter how you move down Mission Reach, take time to admire the World Heritage Trail’s new public art installations and murals. Take advantage of the SWell Cycle stations at the Blue Star Arts Complex and ride along the nation’s largest urban ecosystem restoration, featuring 113 acres of aquatic habitat, 334 acres of restored woodlands with over a hundred species of native plants, and more than 15 miles of trails. Or go with the flow of the San Antonio River via kayak. An official Texas Paddling Trail, the eight-mile Mission Reach Trail features more than 30 canoe chutes that allow kayaks to pass through light rapids in shallow water before docking near Mission Espada. Mission Kayak offers hourly rentals, river trips, and classes.
One of San Antonio’s most beloved and popular attractions — cruising the San Antonio River by river barge — has embraced the tricentennial spirit. With a shiny new fleet of eco-friendly, electric-powered boats, GO RIO offers narrated history tours, dinner cruises, as well as chartered tours of the river.
Along the Broadway Cultural Corridor, learning and play go hand in hand. The San Antonio Zoo has a year-round calendar of fun events, and be sure to meet the newest member of the zoo family: a two-year-old hippopotamus whose playful antics have made him a social media favorite. For those who can’t get enough wildlife, head to Natural Bridge Caverns a bit outside the city and discover underground chambers filled with spectacular formations. Their onsite ranch allows you to get up close with animals, vegetables, and minerals.
Older kids enjoy unique attractions at nearby Alamo Plaza, when exploring the world of Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Further down Houston Street, the Buckhorn Saloon and Texas Ranger Museum give families a feel for the old West. Also downtown, the San Antonio Fire Museum highlights artifacts and the history of the San Antonio Fire Department. Enhance your visit to the nearby Alamo with Battle for Texas: the Experience, and immersive journey through the life and times of the Alamo heroes.
This year, downtown promises even more family fun with a Sea Life Aquarium and LEGOLAND Discovery Center. These two attractions, which include a walkthrough underwater tunnel and a San Antonio skyline made completely of LEGOs, are sure to be a popular spot for everyone. But one of the city’s most popular attractions, Topgolf, gets golfers started early in the Kidszone — exclusively for kids 12 and under.
A melting pot of cultures, the city’s past and present intersect with a multitude of influences: cowboys and cowgirls, Spanish and German settlers, Mexican influence, poets, entertainers, and artists. With such brilliantly interwoven roots, it is no wonder San Antonio’s arts community shines. Art is everywhere in San Antonio. The Museum Reach extends the famed San Antonio River Walk while providing patrons with access to top-tiered attractions like the Japanese Tea Garden, Brackenridge Park, The Witte Museum, The DoSeum, San Antonio Botanical Garden, and the San Antonio Museum of Art. Along your trek, take time to enjoy the stunning works of public art dotting your tour. You will find 15 works of public art created by artists both local and international. For more contemporary art, head to the McNay Art Museum, Texas’ original modern art museum. The museum houses a pristine collection of more than 20,000 works of modern art.
Located off the River Walk, the Briscoe Western Art Museum captures the new spirit of the West with a three-story museum housing artifacts, painting, sculptures, and more, which tell the rich history of the American West. One of San Antonio’s most popular museums, The Witte, is devoted to science and natural history, with intriguing children’s exhibits.
Slated to open this year, don’t miss the remarkable new exhibition space as part of the art center known as Ruby City, a 14,000-square-foot art exhibition space on Camp Street. The modern, geometric building will house more than 800 paintings, sculptures, installations, and video projects.
A downtown gem, the Majestic Theatre is one of the most ornate venues in the country. Built in 1929, the Spanish Mediterranean-style theater hosts Broadway shows, concerts, comedians, and other live events. The Theatre offers happy hour tours if you cannot catch a show. Just around the corner, on St. Mary’s Street, a revived historic motion-picture theater invites visitors to intimate experiences. Built in 1913 as a vaudeville venue and movie theater, it now hosts a wide variety of musical concerts and comedy. History buffs will also delight at the chance to take in a show at The Public Theater of San Antonio, the nation's oldest municipally built theater.
In 1718, the founding of Mission San Antonio De Valero - which was relocated and later called The Alamo - and military presidio on the riverbank marked the official birth of the city that we now know today. At the start of the 18th century, the Spanish government had their sights set on south Texas - then known as New Spain. Although Spanish rule had been claimed, settlements were yet to be established. 300 years later, five missions from that period remain and welcome more than one million visitors each year. In 2015, the Alamo and San Antonio Missions National Historical Park joined the UNESCO World Heritage Site List.
Plan to stay an hour or two at each mission. There is more than enough to take in, read, and enjoy. Many visitors have time to see only two or three of the mission on their first visits, so research what you would like to explore before you arrive. Then again, you could always return to San Antonio and see them all. We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of everything visitors can enjoy in San Antonio. Be sure to plan ample time to soak in this city with all its colorful art, rich history, and newest attractions.
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