There are two special occasions to visit San Antonio: either Christmas on the Riverwalk or in April for Fiesta. Both times are great. In September they start stringing the Christmas lights in the trees on the two-mile horseshoe bend of the San Antonio River. And the dazzling display continues all night from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Or if you go at Fiesta time there are parades, including a boat parade, and mariachi bands everywhere celebrating independence from Mexico.
On the tours I do, we start the evening with a dinner cruise on the River. Actually, the Riverwalk owes its existence to an architect, Robert Hugman, and a group of ladies who fought to save it. There was a devastating flood in 1921 which killed fifty people and destroyed much in the downtown area. There was the talk of cementing in that portion of the river. But Hugman drafted a plan to dam up portions of the river as well as putting in a series of floodgates. Since the Riverwalk is all about eating and drinking, the main two-mile horseshoe bend is only about four feet deep. However, it has a muddy bottom and falling in is not the most desirable option. But, cell phones, baby strollers, chairs and any number of other items find their way to the bottom. Every January the floodgates are closed, the river is drained, and a mud Queen & King are elected while all the items that have fallen in are retrieved.
Some of the more interesting places to visit are, of course, the missions. There were five Missions along the trail spaced a day’s walk from each other. Yes, the Alamo was one of the Missions, but the famous one that is still well preserved today is Mission San Jose. The CCC was instrumental in bringing this mission back to life. All the missions today, except the Alamo, are active parishes. You can drive the trail but I find San Antonio a little complicated to get around with one-way streets and some names changing. If you are not on a tour, where a city tour is included, it’s much simpler to take the trolley you catch up by the Alamo. It’s a hop on & off all day and you don’t need to worry about where to go or where to park.
Some of the other places you may wish to visit are San Fernando Cathedral, the oldest Catholic church sanctuary in America (1731). The church has recently gone through a renovation and is beautiful. Plus in the back is a marble coffin said to contain the remains of some of the Alamo defenders. Other sites you don’t want to miss is LaVillita, the Mexican Marketplace, the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum, the Alamo, and Hemisphere Plaza (site of the 1968 World’s Fair) including the Tower of the Americas (don’t call it a space needle) that has a revolving restaurant and bar at the top.
On the river, there are too many places to even mention but be sure and take a day or evening cruise to get the lay of the land. You will see Arneson River Theater where Sandra Bullock had the swimsuit competition for her movie “Miss Congeniality” and Selena’s bridge. While on the riverwalk Dirty Nelly’s has a piano bar where you throw the peanut shells on the floor or Jim Cullum’s Landing, a jazz bar that often broadcasts on PBS radio stations.
Only a couple of hours away is Austin. If you want to follow history you can take in the LBJ library, and then a ride deep into the hill country to the LBJ Boyhood home and onto the Ranch. You could even sneak in a quick stop to Luckenbach for an afternoon Lonestar or Shiner Bock beer. Finally, it’s dinner in the beautifully preserved German town of Fredericksburg before returning to San Antonio… Or stay the night and see all the fun places here, including the WWII Museum of the Pacific. Did you know Admiral Nimitz family came from Fredericksburg?
Don’t forget the IMAX movie of the Alamo before touring that sacred ground. It is the most historically correct version that is known and helps put all that Texas history in perspective. Finally, after all your touring, sit back and relax along the riverwalk while you have dinner and drinks and watch all the boats and people go by.
For the next few weeks, I will be discussing some top vacation spots for you to consider.
Editor’s Note: To read more in-depth about this area, check out Kileen’s book “Journey Beckons“. Her latest, “Journey To Port” now also on Kindle.