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San Antonio is proud to boast sites like the Alamo, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, and the Spanish Governor’s Palace. San Antonio’s museums, such as the San Antonio Museum of Art, are also worth visiting. This city is also a great place to take a family vacation – with educational and adrenaline-pumping activities. Both SeaWorld and Six Flags Fiesta Texas will thrill you and your kids. There is no complete trip to San Antonio without strolling along the River Walk, a 3-mile-long path that crosses the San Antonio River. One of the best San Antonio tours can help you navigate the city’s top attractions.
# 1. Brackenridge Park in San Antonio
Take refuge from the heat and the crowds of tourists at Brackenridge Park when the River Walk seems too crowded. On its 343 acres, visitors can relax with its rustic stone bridges and shaded walkways. The Japanese Tea Garden and San Antonio Botanical Garden also beckon botanists. Dress casually to enjoy Brackenridge’s jogging trails, golf course, and athletic fields. Sunken Garden Theater also hosts outdoor concerts. The Witte Museum and the San Antonio Zoo are also nearby attractions.
#2. The Alamo
The Alamo is San Antonio’s most famous landmark. Formerly a Franciscan mission, it was here that 189 Texans lost their lives during a 13-day siege by Mexican ruler, President Antonio López de Santa Anna, in 1836. Texas’ struggle for independence began with this fight. Today, the Alamo stands as a tribute to these men by displaying artifacts belonging to some of the Alamo’s most famous defenders, such as Davy Crockett and James Bowie. After visiting the Alamo (either independently or with a guide), head around back to the small museum and research library that provides further insight into the siege. The gift shop offers a variety of souvenirs to help you “Remember the Alamo.”
#3 San Fernando Cathedral
You can’t miss the San Fernando Cathedral if you’re in San Antonio. As one of the oldest churches in the country, the cathedral was built by colonists from the Canary Islands in 1738. General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna revealed his plans for the Alamo and married Wild West legend James Bowie here. Many heroes from the Alamo (including Davy Crockett) are believed to be buried here in an unmarked tomb. While it suffered damage from a fire in the late 19th century, the San Fernando Cathedral still maintains its antique appearance, beckoning you to explore its breathtaking interior.
#4 River Walk
It is generally considered that the best way to see San Antonio is by taking a stroll down the River Walk or Paseo del Rio. The San Antonio River meanders through the city center, connecting significant attractions such as Brackenridge Park and the San Antonio Museum of Art. It is the city’s most popular tourist attraction. The River Walk is lined with dozens of restaurants, boutique hotels, sidewalk cafes, and street performers who fill the air with mariachi music. In January, if you’re in San Antonio, don’t miss the River Walk Mud Festival and Parade, when the river is drained, and the muddy riverbed becomes the main venue for celebrations.
#5 San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
San Antonio’s historic missions – Mission San José, Mission Concepción, Mission Espada, and Mission San Juan – are all located here, making it a must-see site for history buffs. These missions were founded in the 18th century by Franciscan friars along the San Antonio River as a testament to Spain’s success in spreading Catholicism through the Southwest and into Mexico. From the undisturbed frescoes at Mission Concepción to the Romanesque arches of Mission San Juan, each mission (located approximately 3 miles apart) is beautiful in its way.
#6 San Antonio Museum of Art
It may not be as large as other art museums, but the San Antonio Museum of Art is a cultural gem not to be missed. There are top-notch collections of Native American, Spanish colonial, and Latin American art. The museum is also home to the most extensive collection of Asian art in Texas, not to mention a good grouping of more contemporary pieces.
#7 Spanish Governor’s Palace
Despite never being a palace, this adobe building looks like one with rooms filled with 18th-century furnishings and a stunning patio. Both history buffs and art lovers will enjoy exploring this National Historic Landmark and former seat of the Spanish government (dating back to when San Antonio was the capital of Spain’s territory in Texas). You can explore the property on your own or tag along on a guided tour during which staff members can explain everything from the building’s general history to the intricate carvings on the doorways.
#8 San Antonio Zoo
For animal-loving families who don’t want to spend a fortune at SeaWorld San Antonio, the San Antonio Zoo is a great alternative. The 56-acre facility houses one of the largest animal collections in the country (more than 700 species). Butterfly exhibits, four-legged friends from the African plains, and colorful critters from the Amazon await. Special events, such as animal feedings and various festivals, occur throughout the year.
#9 SeaWorld San Antonio
Take the kids to SeaWorld San Antonio to beat the Texas heat. You can cool off in the pools and water slides at the adjacent Aquatica water park or get close to penguins, dolphins, sharks, and sea lions in the walk-through habitats. When your fingers begin to prune, you can dry them off on one of SeaWorld’s many rides, such as the Steel Eel “hypercoaster” or the Great White inverted roller coaster. Alternatively, grab a bite to eat at one of the dozen concession stands located throughout the parks.
#10 Witte Museum
Take your kids to the Witte Museum for an educational afternoon primarily air-conditioned. With exhibits showcasing everything from dinosaurs to mummies to tarantulas, this usually overlooked site delves deep into natural science, anthropology, and Texas history. By exploring the historic log cabins on the grounds, you can also get a deeper insight into Texas’ intriguing past. And don’t forget to check out the rotating special exhibitions covering space and other fascinating topics.
#11 Natural Bridge Caverns
Natural Bridge Caverns is the most extensive commercial cave system in Texas. Some above-ground activities include ziplining, a ropes course, a maze, gem mining, shopping, and dining. But the primary reason to visit the caverns is to partake in one of the five underground tour options, which include tours lit by only lanterns and others that explore the caverns’ hidden passages.
#12 Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch
Natural Bridge Wildlife Park is located about 25 miles northeast of downtown San Antonio and brings the feel (and some animals) of an African safari to Texas. The ranch covers over 450 acres and is home to animals such as southern white rhinoceroses, lemurs, and Damaraland zebras. Hungry visitors can stop at the Safari Camp Grill, while the Safari Trading Post provides several knickknacks for purchase.
#13 Six Flags Fiesta Texas
Six Flags Fiesta Texas is located about 17 miles northwest of downtown San Antonio, a year-round destination for families and adrenaline seekers. The park’s more than 50 attractions range from coasters to slides to pools to go-karts. With shopping options and an assortment of restaurants to boot, spending an entire day (or three) at Six Flags Fiesta Texas is not hard.
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