Antonio's downtown Water Garden.
San Antonio was christened by Franciscan Father Damien Massanet on
June 13, 1691 for the Native American "Indian" village
site in a pleasant wooded area of spring-fed streams at the southern
edge of the Texas Hill Country. He named the site and the river for the Feast
Day of Saint Anthony of Padova (who is still entombed in a magnificent Basilica in Padova,
Italy). In 1718 Spain established The Mission San Antonio de Valero
(later called the Alamo). A customary accompanying presidio (fort), San Antonio de Bexar
(Bay-er), protected mission endeavors. Today's city and county names derive from those
18th- Century Spanish beginnings that predate founding of the United States by more than
half a century.
Several other Spanish missions soon followed, but the city's real
growth dates from establishment of a villa (civil settlement) in 1731, Spain's first step
to colonize Texas. Original colonists were Spanish Canary Islanders, to whom many Texas
families proudly trace their roots. San Antonio remained the chief Spanish, then Mexican
stronghold in Texas until the Texas Revolution.
Among many nationalities, German builders and businessmen were
prominent settlers in the 19th Century. Today, San Antonio is colorfully accented by its
Institutions of higher learning include Incarnate Word College, Our
Lady of the Lake Univ., St. Mary's Univ., National Univ. of Mexico, Trinity Univ.,
Wayland Baptist University, San
Antonio College, Palo Alto College, St. Philips College, Univ. of Texas Health Science
Center at San Antonio, and the Univ. of Texas at San Antonio.
Art museums and theaters are among the state's finest; its symphony
orchestra rates with the nation's best, and San Antonians' love for fiestas is
Some of those popular events include the Great Country River
Festival in Sept., the Holiday River Festival in Dec., the Texas Folklife Festival in
Aug., the San Antonio Livestock Show and Rodeo in mid-Feb., and at Easter the Starving
Artists Show held at La Villita and along the River Walk.
Fiesta San Antonio spans 10 days the third and fourth weeks of Apr.
This major event includes art exhibitions, coronation of King Antonio, Pilgrimage to the
Alamo, concerts, band festivals, Battle of Flowers Parade, King's River Parade, Fiesta
Night Parade, flower and fashion shows, musical productions, balls and street dancing,
fireworks, and the fabulous series of "Nights in Old San Antonio."
For literature and details about city attractions and events, and
for a schedule of the San Antonio Streetcars--an inexpensive, fun way to get to many of
the city's downtown attractions.
Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center, built as part of 1968
HemisFair, features 241,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, banquet halls, meeting rooms, and
international conference center; arena for sporting and entertainment, and theatre for the
performing arts. "The Confluence of Civilizations" mural on facade of theater is
by Juan O'Gorman of Mexico. With extension of San Antonio River actually flowing into
heart of the center, river boats provide an unusual means for convention delegates to
travel from riverside hotels to meetings.
Alamo Museum - D.R.T. Library
Located on grounds that surround the Alamo. On view are relics of
famous Battle of the Alamo, and other artifacts associated with days of early colonization
and Republic of Texas period. Open Mon. - Sat. 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Dominating the plaza in front of the Alamo, the monument was
designed by Pompeo Coppini, eminent Italian-born sculptor who adopted Texas as his home.
Names of those who died at the Alamo are inscribed in marble.
Buckhorn Hall of Horns
Formerly downtown, the vintage Buckhorn Saloon developed one of
world's finest collections of animal horns. Today the old saloon's famous horn and mounted
animal collection is displayed along with comparable Hall of Fins, Hall of Feathers,
a collection devoted to famous marksman Ad Topperwein, and a superb aggregation of antique
and custom firearms. Hall of Texas History wax museum recalls Texas history events from
Cabeza de Vaca to Teddy Roosevelt. Also preserved is house in which O. Henry lived while
he published "The Rolling Stone" newspaper in San Antonio. The Buckhorn Saloon
& Museum is open daily , 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. 318 East Houston Street
the River Walk
San Antonio's world famous River Walk.
One level below the busy streets of downtown is san antonio's premier visitor experience!
Meanders several miles through midtown beneath giant cypress trees and palms, accented by
tropical foliage and flowering shrubs. Edged by hotels, cafes, restaurants, shops, and
33 acres of formal gardens, pools, fountains, and natural areas;
Native Texas Area, South Central Xeriscape,Endangered Species Project, Formal Gardens,
Biblical Garden, Garden for the Blind, Japanese Garden, and Children's Garden. (All
walkways accommodate handicapped.)
Also featured are several Texas houses, reconstructed on the site to
help illustrate and interpret the regional theme of the Native Texas Area.
Included is the Lucile Halsell Conservatory, a 90,000-square-foot
complex of below-ground greenhouses that use the earth's insulation to limit plant
exposure to the elements. Only the pyramidal glass roofs are visible from above ground.
Sixteen feet below ground several different ecosystems surround a courtyard and pond.
Gardens are open Tues. - Sun. and holidays 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. at 555
Funston (just north of Fort Sam Houston). Admission.
Cowboy Museum and Gallery
Full-size re-creation of an 1870s false-front trail town built from
salvaged materials includes Bella Union Saloon, general store, jail, and cavalry fort.
Exhibits recall days of cowboys and Indians, gunfights, trail drivers, cattle barons, and
gunfights. Western art gallery. Open daily, 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. 209 Alamo Plaza. Admission.
Carver Cultural Center
Center traces its historic roots back some 85 years. Facility is
both a gallery for contemporary art exhibits and a theater for performing artists. 226 N.
Institute of Texan Cultures
Here's history not concerned with dry events, but with the people
who accomplished them--people who created the robust kaleidoscope that is Texas today.
Twenty-six ethnic and cultural groups featured in a rich variety of exhibits--where they
came from and what they did, their food and clothing, their music and festivals. Don't
miss the multimedia show four times daily in the Institute's central dome. It's a great
place to discover the roots of Texas; open Tues. - Sat., 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. and noon - 5 p.m. Sunday.
Missions of San Antonio
In addition to the Alamo, four other San Antonio missions were
established by Franciscan friars in the early 18th Century. A map for the "Mission
Trail" driving route (signed on city streets) is available from the Visitor
Information Center. El Dia de las Misiones (The Day of the Missions) is a colorful, annual
salute to these historic structures on the first Sun. in Aug. All missions are open daily
9 a.m. - 6 p.m. Apr. - Sept.; 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Oct. - Mar.
Mission Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion--Established in
1731, more than 20 years under construction. Massive church with twin towers and cupola is
oldest unrestored stone church in U.S., standing as completed in 1755. Adjacent cloister
arcade is partly restored. Church acoustics are equated with the Mormon Tabernacle. 807
Mission San Francisco de la Espada--Also established 1731, favorite
of many students of Spanish period in Texas, and popular with photographers. The little
church building, restored several times, is still in use. Ruins of walls that once
surrounded the mission compound; foundations of a granary; baluarte, or fortified tower,
can still be seen. Espada Rd. south. Near the mission is an aqueduct over Piedra Creek,
part of mission's irrigation system built in 1740s. System includes dam on San Antonio
River and acequia (irrigation ditch) still in use after more than 200 years. The aqueduct
is a NationalHistoric Landmark.
Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo--Known as the "Queen of
Missions," is both a State and National Historic Site. Founded 1720; church built
between 1768-82. Entire mission compound has been restored, including outer wall with
Indian dwellings, granary and workshops. Old flour mill outside north wall was built about
1790, first in Texas. Visitors are fascinated by rich facade of domed church, and by
sculptured exterior of sacristy window known as "the Rose Window," or
"Rosa's Window." In granary is model of mission as it looked in late 1700s. 6539
San Jose Dr. at Mission Rd.
Mission San Juan Capistrano--Like both Espada and Concepcion,
established 1731. Extensive restoration work has been carried out. Besides charming little
chapel with open bell tower, there are ruins of a larger church that was never completed.
Restored missionary residence displays artifacts from Spanish colonial period. Church
still serves community of Berg's Mill, now part of city. Graf Rd. off Mission Rd.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Depicts a scene from the Battle for Hill 881 South--a radio man
calling for help for a wounded comrade. At corner of E. Martin and Jefferson Sts. in front
of Municipal Auditorium.
Mission San Antonio de Valero, later to become famous as the
was established in 1718, the first of five Spanish missions founded in San Antonio to
Christianize and educate resident Indians. As the mission grew, the church structure that
stands today in midtown was begun about 1755. Its mission role completed, the old
buildings were abandoned by 1836 when the site, by then known as the Alamo, became the
"Cradle of Texas Liberty." Rebelling against repressions of Mexico's
self-proclaimed dictator, Santa Anna, a band of 189 Texas volunteers defied a Mexican army
of thousands for 13 days of siege (Feb. 23 to Mar. 6). The Alamo defenders died to the
last man, among them such storied names as William Travis, Davy Crockett, and Jim Bowie.
Cost to the Mexican forces was dreadful. While Santa Anna dictated an announcement of
glorious victory, his aide, Col. Juan Almonte, privately noted: "One more such
'glorious victory,' and we are finished." (The finish came Apr. 21 when Sam Houston's
Texans routed the Mexican army at the Battle of San Jacinto near Houston, and captured
"the Napoleon of the West," as Santa Anna billed himself.)
The Alamo is open Mon. - Sat. 9 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m. -
5:30 p.m. Alamo Plaza.
Jose Antonio Navarro State Historic Site
Three limestone structures, circa 1850--the home, office, and
separate kitchen of Navarro, prominent
Mexican-Texan patriot who was among signers of Texas Declaration of
Independence. Restored by Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept.; authentic period furnishings,
personal memorabilia. Open Wed. - Thurs. 1 - 4 p.m., Fri. - Sat. 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. 228 S.
Laredo St. Admission.
Texas Transportation Museum
Features antique pedicabs, horse-drawn and gas-powered vehicles,
three model railroads, and other railroad memorabilia. Static display of business,
Pullman, and steam locomotive. Train rides Sun. 1 -3 p.m. Open Thurs., Sat., Sun. 9 a.m. -
4 p.m. 11731 Wetmore Rd. Group tours for train ride require advance notice. (210)490-3554.