San Antonio is the third largest city in the state of Texas and the 7th largest in the United States.
It’s the 24th largest metropolitan area in the country. Visited by more than 31 million annual visitors, San Antonio is a beautiful city at the axis of three different geological terrains: Hill Country, South Texas Plains and Prairie and Lakes. There’s a lot to do in this city: fine art museums, historical missions and plenty of amusement parks in addition to great dining and lots of drinking. The culture and people are vibrant and interesting. San Antonio’s downtown is one of the most lively in the nation.
Understand : San Antonio is considered to be the cradle of Texan liberty. Its most well-known landmark is the Alamo, the site of the famous battle (1836) where Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie were killed. Though it must be said that when most visitors see the Alamo for the first time, their common reaction is “Hm, I thought it would be bigger.”
No other city in Texas reflects the state’s Spanish and Mexican heritage better than San Antonio. Hispanics make up a considerable fraction of the population though and it shows in most places. The Hispanic atmosphere of San Antonio makes it a truly unique U.S. city. This becomes most evident during Fiesta week, a yearly celebration that attracts 3.5 million people to its 110 plus events from all over to enjoy parades, music, festivals, fairs and food and drink in the charming downtown streets of the city. San Antonio also has a significant African-American population.
San Antonio, with a population upward of 1.5 million, and a metro population of nearly 2.4 million, still enjoys a small-town feel despite the hustle and bustle. Its people are friendly, open and bicultural, and the concentration of population around its center makes it easy to get just about anywhere within a 30-40 minute drive.
Access : Coordinates: 29.416667, -98.5 / By plane : 1 San Antonio International Airport (SAT IATA). Serves over 30 national and international destinations with non-stop service and many more with one-stop direct service. For destinations, check with individual airlines. Ground transportation from SAT to Downtown available by shuttle ($19 one way per person), by taxi ($25-35 one way, up to 4-6 persons depending on the size of the taxi), or by public bus (Number 5) which stops just outside Terminal B (brings you downtown in about half an hour for $1.20 exact change and runs approximately every 30 minutes).
2 Amtrak, 350 Hoefgen St. The Texas Eagle provides service north to Chicago the Sunset Limited train runs west to Los Angeles and east to New Orleans. Before Hurricane Katrina, the Sunset Limited was a transcontinental route with service to Orlando now the route is truncated.
Most visitors to San Antonio arrive by either I-35, I-10, I-37 or US 281. I-10 comes from El Paso to the west and Houston to the east. I-35 comes from Austin to the north and Laredo to the south. May be reached by automobile in about 1 hour from Austin, 4 hour 15 minutes from Dallas/Fort Worth or less than 3 hours from Houston.
Greyhound, 500 N St Marys St, Downtown. (Across the street from Bill Miller’s Parking Lot)
Megabus. Service from Dallas, Austin, and Houston. The bus stop is in the parking lot on the south corner of 4th St and Broadway St.
Autobus Americanos. Mexican trans-border bus line with services to various points in Mexico. Bus stop is at 301 Broadway in San Antonio.
Turimex Internacional. Mexican trans-border bus line with services to various points in Mexico. Bus stop is at 518 N, Alamo in San Antonio.
Omnibus Mexicanos. Mexican trans-border bus line with services to various points in Mexico. Bus stop is at 930 Broadway in San Antonio.
San Antonio is in the middle of Texas. Therefore, it is not accessible by boat. Although there are many tubing opportunities around San Antonio, thanks to the huge abundance of rivers in the area. The River Walk, in downtown San Antonio, does offer a River Taxi that shuttles people to hotels, restaurants and shops along its banks.
Get around : Public transit :
San Antonio’s bus system is known as the VIA Metropolitan Transit. It also runs the downtown trolley service (actually a bus) for a small fare. Bus fares range from about $1.10 to $2.50 depending on the service with a one-day $2.75 pass (for purchase at some retail outlets see VIA’s Website under Fare information) for all routes. There are 4 different types of routes: Express, Skip, Frequent, and Metro. The Express routes usually run from the sub-urban areas (mostly Park and Rides) to downtown.Most of them run about once every 30 minutes. Skip service usually runs along the streets with high traffic, they are called Skip routes because they usually Skip bus stops that are serviced by the frequent routes. Skip routes also usually run about every 30 minutes.
Frequent routes can also be found on high traffic roads and as the name implies, the stops are very frequent. Although Frequent routes come by about once every 15 minutes, it is usually faster to wait a little longer and take the skip routes if you are going a long distance,for example on San Pedro ave, it is usually quicker to wait for the #3 (Skip) as opposed to the #4 (Frequent) if you wanted to get from downtown to North Star Mall. Metro service is usually found in neighborhoods around the city, frequency varies with each route, but they usually run about once an hour. Discount fares are available to children between the ages of 5 and 11, senior citizens 62 and older, Medicare recipients, persons with disabilities and students. A reduced fee ID is required for reduced fares and can be acquired from VIA Information Centers (students may get the necessary forms from their campus administration). Bus schedules and route information can be found at VIA’s website, by calling the VIA information line or for the hearing impaired at , or at the San Antonio Visitor Information Center.
Taxi : Cabs are available to be hailed downtown, at the airport, or at military bases. In other areas you should reserve a cab in advance. Yellow Cab, AAA Cab,
- The Alamo :
- The Alamo, 300 Alamo Plaza (park at any of the pay lots in the area) . Daily 9AM-5:30PM, closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Considered to be hallowed ground and the Shrine of Texas Liberty, the Alamo is a former mission which was also the site of the Battle of the Alamo (1836). Admission is free, although donations are appreciated. Revenues from an adjacent gift shop fund the historic preservation efforts.
- Aztec on the River (aka Aztec Theatre), 104 N St Mary’s St (On the River Walk, at the corner of E. Commerce and N. St. Mary’s Streets) . The Aztec on the River was touted as the Riverwalk’s most exciting entertainment attraction. This historic 1926 movie palace was meticulously restored in 2006, complete with a Mighty Wurlitzer theatre organ.
- Casa Navarro State Historical Park, 228 S. Laredo St . Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day). Homesite of Jose Antonio Navarro, a 19th-century Texas legislator under Mexico, the Republic of Texas and the U.S. The park is the site of Navarro’s furnished house, first residence, and store. $4, 6-18 $3, 5 and under: Free.
- King William Historic Area, Bounded by Durango, South St. Mary’s, Eagleland and the San Antonio River. A 25-block area south of downtown and east of the San Antonio River. In the late 1800s, prominent German merchants settled the King William area, making it the most elegant residential area in the city. It is Texas’ first Historic District. Accessible from Alamo Plaza via the Blue VIA Streetcar. Highlights include the magnificent mansions along King William St. from Beauregard St. to Guenther St. Don’t miss the Steves Homestead (1876) on King William St. or the Guenther House (1859) and Pioneer Flour Mills on Guenther St. If you happen to arrive in San Antonio early in the month, try to catch First Friday, like the name implies, it happens the first Friday of the month. On First Friday you can find all kinds of little booth selling things ranging from flowers to art to funnel cakes. There is usually live music.
- River Walk Tour Boat : River Walk (Paseo del Rio). The River Walk area, one level below the street level of San Antonio, is an excellent place to explore by day and party by night. The River Walk has guided barge tours by Rio San Antonio Cruises departing regularly. Numerous restaurants, shops, and hotels line the River Walk on both sides of the most popular and developed downtown loop, which winds its way below the streets bounded by Houston to the north, Alamo to the east, Villita to the south, and St. Mary’s to the west. The east end of the River Walk is extended to the Convention Center and to the Rivercenter Mall. Further development of the River Walk is proceeding north and south of downtown. No visit to San Antonio is complete without a stroll along the River Walk. Along many sections of the River Walk, there is nothing between the edge of the sidewalk and the River. Be very careful with young children, baby strollers, wheelchairs, intoxicated persons, etc.
- San Antonio Missions National Historical Park (Missions are about 2.5 miles apart). Four Spanish frontier missions, part of a colonization system that stretched across the Spanish southwest in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, are preserved here. They include missions San Jose, San Juan, Espada, and Concepcion. These, plus four other missions around San Antonio, have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The national park, containing many cultural sites along with some natural areas, was established in 1978 and covers about 819 acres.
- San Antonio Zoological Gardens and Aquarium, 3903 N. St. Mary’s Street . Open 365 days a year: 9AM-5PM from Labor Day to Memorial Day; 9AM-6PM, Memorial Day to Labor Day. The zoo is home to over 3,500 animals representing 750 species of animals on 56 acres. Adults $14.25 seniors (62+) and children (3-11) $11.25; under 2 free, group rates available.
- San Antonio Botanical Gardens, 555 Funston Place. Daily 9AM-5PM closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Another peaceful place to walk is in the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. In the spring they have the Spring Children’s Vegetable Garden Program. Adults $10 3-13 $7, under 3 free Seniors, military and students $8
- Museums and galleries
- Blue Star Contemporary Art Center, 116 Blue Star . A part of the Blue Star Arts Complex, the art center is a non-profit, non-collecting contemporary art center that advances the growth and understanding of contemporary art, artists and the curatorial process.
- Buckhorn Saloon and Museum, 318 E. Houston Street . Daily 10AM, closing time varies with season. See website for deails. A short two blocks from the Alamo and 50 feet from the River Walk. Adults $19.99 children (ages 3-11) $14.99.
- Institute of Texan Cultures (aka ITC), 801 E. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd. (HemisFair Park main entrance is off Durango near Bowie) . M-Sa 9AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. A one-story 50,000 sq. ft. museum featuring Texan history, brought to life by docent-interpreters, and the cultures of over 20 national/ethnic groups of people who have made Texas their home. Admission fee. Snack machines. Accessible from downtown via the Purple VIA Streetcar. $10 children, seniors, military, students $8.
- Instituto de Mexico (Mexican Cultural Institute), 600 HemisFair Park . M-F 10AM-6PM, Sa 11AM-6PM, Su 11AM-5PM. (Website in Spanish.) Contemporary art from Mexico. Free.
- McNay Art Museum (The McNay), 6000 N New Braunfels , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Su noon-5PM, Tu-W, Fr 10AM-4PM, Th 10AM-9PM, Sa 10AM-5PM. Free admission on Thursday evenings and the first Sunday of the month, except for select exhibitions and special events. Fine arts exhibits, library. museum store. $20 Senior, military, student $15.
- The DoSeum, 2800 Broadway , e-mail: email@example.com. M-Th 10AM-5PM, F-Sa 9AM-6PM, Sun noon-5PM. A vibrant museum for children, although with exhibits that might also appeal to adults. Groups, parties, events, hands-on learning play. $12.
- San Antonio Museum of Art (aka SAMA), 200 W Jones (2 blocks west of Broadway). Tu F 10AM-9PM, W-Th Sa-Su 10AM-5PM. Four floors of fabulous permanent collections, from Antiquities to Asian to Contemporary Art, as well as changing exhibits. Bring your sketchpad or camera (no flash, permanent collections only). Cafe SAMA serves only snacks. On the #7 Sightseer Special bus line, or via any of the buses along Broadway (#9,10,14) with several blocks walk. If you can do only one museum visit, this is the one to explore in San Antonio. $10 senioers $7 students and military $5 12 & under free. Free Tuesdays 4PM-9PM.
- Southwest School of Art & Craft, 1201 Navarro and 300 Augusta . Vary by gallery. See website for hours.. Art/museum gift shop in the Ursuline Campus as well as student work in the hallways and cafe. On bus lines, and the Ursuline Campus backs up to an older, parklike section of the River Walk. Free.
- Texas Transportation Museum, 11731 Wetmore Rd. F 9AM-3PM, Sa-Su 10AM-5PM. An outdoor museum which includes a private railroad, historic cars and trucks. F Adult – $6, Child – $4 Sa-Su Adult – $8, Child – $6.
- Witte Museum, 3801 Broadway. M 10AM-5PM, Tu 10AM-8PM, W-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. Dinosaurs, textiles, natural history, science treehouse, and more. A museum complex with lots of different activities going on – fun with kids! Adult $10 Seniors and military $9 4-11 $7 free Tuesdays 3PM-8PM
Fiesta!!!. Fiesta is a yearly event held in San Antonio in late April. Fiesta is a 10-day, city-wide, fun-filled, multi-cultural celebration. Many family-oriented events take place during this time, as well as many events geared towards adults. With over 100 different events, it’s the biggest party and greatest community benefit in the state of Texas. One of the most fun events of all Fiesta, is Oysterbake on the St. Mary’s University campus. It kicks Fiesta off with a bang, has plenty of food (chicken on a stick, oysters, fried oysters, corn, corn in a cup, meats on sticks, pizza, you name it. Friday of Oysterbake is usually more family-oriented with an 1980s or ’90s band headlining the festivities.
(Previous headliners: Eddie Money, Loverboy, Night Ranger, Smashmouth) Saturday is a jam-packed day of fun, food, music and booze. More modern acts will headline the main stage, there will be a country stage, and a tejano stage. Previous acts include: Three Days Grace, Chevelle, Puddle of Mudd, Hinder, Lit, 10 Years, Buckcherry (bad year), and The Veer Union. If you’re single, Oysterbake on Saturday is your time to shine. Otherwise, you’ll have an awesome time with friends or family. Leave the toddlers at home on Saturday! Don’t be that parent.
First Friday Art Walk. San Antonio First Friday is a free showcase of the art community in San Antonio. The event takes place on the 1st Friday of every month in the historic King Williams district. Many local restaurants feature live music, and there are vendors selling local goods along the walk.
San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. The San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo is an annual agricultural fair and entertainment event in early February. It provides world class rodeo action and entertainment to people of all ages. The San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo has been nominated for the Largest Indoor Rodeo of 2009, the winner to be announced February 2010. Everyone who’s anyone in country music plays during rodeo time, simple as that.
Texas Folklife Festival. The Texas Folklife Festival is an annual four-day celebration in the second week of June, of the diverse ethnic and cultural groups that settled our state. Some 45 groups bring their stories, crafts, music, dances, and foods to share with visitors in a vibrant blend of education and entertainment.
Bat migration, River Walk. Texas is one of the best places in the world to observe bat migrations. Every night at dusk in the summer, thousands of bats emerge from their “hangouts”, including under urban bridges, and many people come to watch. Local conservation organizations host weekly events to explain the migration.
Go next : To leave San Antonio, use US 281 south to get to Brownsville, I-10 east to get to Houston, I-10 west to get to El Paso, I-35 north to get to Austin, Waco, and Dallas/Fort Worth, I-37/US 181 south to get to Corpus Christi and Floresville, SH 16 north to get to Bandera, SH 16 south to get to Poteet, or US 281 north to get to Blanco and Johnson City. An alternate route to Austin is to use US 281 north and US 290 east. I-410 and SH 151 do not leave the city. However, Loop 1604 does go to small towns in the county.
New Braunfels – 30 miles northeast of San Antonio, this town is best known for its German culture and heritage, not to mention the Schlitterbahn, persistent in being voted the world’s best waterpark.
San Marcos – 50 miles northeast of San Antonio, San Marcos is the home of Texas State University and its Aquarena Center, as well as two massive outlet malls that have more than 350 shops.