Now the eighth largest city in the United States, San Antonio, Texas is a place rich in history and bustling with modernity, as well. San Antonio is an old city. The area was first settled by Spanish explorers and missionaries in 1695. The city was officially founded in 1718 by Father Antonio Olivares, who also established the Mission San Antonio de Valero, also known as the Alamo.
The Alamo, obviously, is the most famous of tourist attractions in San Antonio. This mission was the site of a 13-day siege during the war for Texas Independence. Davy Crockett and Sam Houston both fought here. The biggest surprise of the Alamo has to be that it is now right in the middle of downtown. Most people think of the Alamo as being in the wilderness, and at one time, it was. No longer rural, it still maintains an air of quiet mystery. The enclosed grounds hold massive live oak trees, some of which may have been standing when the building was erected. Texas Rangers provide security, for the building holds many artifacts and important papers. The noise of the city is hardly noticeable inside the thick, stone walls. The Alamo's central role in Texas independence makes it a must-see attraction.
Other tourist attractions in San Antonio include the theme parks. Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Sea World and the Splashdown water park all make their homes in San Antonio, making it a great city for children to visit. Other kid-friendly tourist attractions in San Antonio include the Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum, the Downtown All-Around Playground, the Plza Theatre of Wax and the San Antonio Zoo.
Museums are also included in tourist attractions in San Antonio. The San Antonio Museum of Art, the McNay Art Museum and other museums, including those celebrating San Antonio's Hispanic heritage, are all around the city. The Texas Air Museum is another attraction for the entire family, as is the San Antonio Botanical Garden.
One of the tourist attractions in San Antonio that also pays tribute to the Hispanic culture is Market Square, or El Mercado. This is the largest Mexican market outside Mexico. Market Square includes shops, restaurants and a street fair atmosphere that is irresistible. Mi Terra Cafe y Panaderia, one of the best Mexican restaurants in the city, is in the heart of El Mercado. It is open 24 hours and serves breakfast all day. The panaderia, or bakery, sells delicious breads and pastries. Mi Tierra is a favorite of tourists and locals alike.
Since missionaries founded the city, another of the famous tourist attractions in San Antonio is the Mission Trail. The missions were a vital part of early San Antonio religious and educational life. The nine-mile trail begins at The Alamo and ends near the San Antonio River. Five missions are on the trail and the trip is suitable for driving, biking or hiking. Complete information about the trail and the missions is available at nps.gov/saan.
No article about tourist attractions in San Antonio would be complete without mentioning the Riverwalk. The San Antonio River wends its way through the middle of town, and 20 feet below street level, shops, bars and restaurants thrive. The flat-bottomed tour boats are a familiar sight along the route. Tickets for the tours are available at several locations, including Rivercenter Mall. Rivercenter Mall features some of the city's best shopping.
Other tourist attractions in San Antonio include the Tower of the Americas and the IMAX Theater at the Rivercenter Mall, along with Natural Bridge Caverns and the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum. Many wonderful lodging options are also available the city, among them the Menger Hotel. This hotel was built in 1859 and was once a bordello. It is in the middle of downtown--right across the street from The Alamo, in fact. It is a beautiful structure and the opulent lobby alone is worth a visit.
Dining in San Antonio is also an adventure. "Real" Mexican food, great Texas steaks and barbecue, Italian, seafood and other great cuisine is available in the area. A tourist can eat for a week in San Antonio and not hit a single chain restaurant, there are so many good local places to choose from.
San Antonio, Texas is a city of the old and the new. Mostly, they mix in a Creole of sights, sounds and tastes that is as delicious as it is different.