The City of San Antonio
Now the seventh largest city in the United States, San Antonio has retained its sense of history and tradition, while carefully blending in 20th century progressiveness. The city has always been a crossroads and a meeting place. Whether on business or for pleasure, close to seven million visitors a year delight in San Antonio's charms.
San Antonio captures the history and spirit of Texas. Native Americans first lived along the San Antonio River, calling the area "Yanaguana," which means "refreshing waters." A band of Spanish explorers and missionaries came upon the river in 1691, and because it was the feast day of St. Anthony, they named the river "San Antonio." The actual founding of the city came in 1718 by Father Antonio Olivares, when he established Mission San Antonio de Valero, which became permanently etched in the annals of history in 1836 as The Alamo, where 189 defenders held the old mission against some 4,000 Mexican troops for 13 days. The cry "Remember the Alamo" became the rallying point of the Texan revolution against Mexico. Today the Alamo is a shrine and museum.
Twenty feet below street level lies the Paseo del Rio. Better known as the "River Walk," cobblestone paths border both sides of the San Antonio River as it winds its way through the middle of the downtown business district. The River Walk is quiet and park-like in some stretches, while other areas are full of activity with European style sidewalk cafes, specialty boutiques, nightclubs and gleaming high-rise hotels. The River Walk stretches for approximately two-and-a-half miles from the Municipal Auditorium and Conference Center on the north end to the King William Historic District on the south. The river's floating barge system provides a novel method of sightseeing and people-watching in downtown San Antonio. Groups can also dine aboard open-air, candle-lit cruisers as they wind their way along the scenic waterway. River taxis deliver visitors to Rivercenter, a dazzling three-level glass shopping, dining and entertainment complex, and to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.
San Antonio provides for great family outings, beginning with Brackenridge Park, a 433-acre refuge in the heart of the city, attached to the San Antonio Zoo. With a collection of more than 3,000 animals, the zoo is ranked as one of the best in the country. Other family activities can be found at the San Antonio Children's Museum, Hertzberg Circus Museum, the hands-on Witte Museum, and the Magik Theater which provides family-oriented, professional theater in the heart of downtown.
San Antonio has two impressive art museums. The McNay Art Museum, set in a Mediterranean-style mansion, has wide-ranging collections including post impressionist and modern art, theater art, Medieval art, and Native American art. The San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) is housed in the castle-like former headquarters of the Lone Star Brewery. This museum is noted for its antiquities collections, Mexican folk art, modern art, pre-Columbian art and Spanish colonial art.
San Antonio is also home to two major theme parks: Sea World of Texas, the world's largest marine life park, and Six Flags Fiesta Texas, the town built just for fun. Fiesta Texas is created around four themed areas: the Mexican town of Los Festivales, the German village of Spassburg, the 1920 cowboy boom town of Crackaxle Canyon, and the small Texas town of Rockville set during the golden age of 50's-60's rock'n'roll.
Each season, the Carver Community Cultural Center attracts performing groups from around the world. The Carver Jazz Festival is famous for presenting the masters and hot new stars of American Jazz.
The luxurious Majestic Theater, built in 1929, is a memorable downtown setting for touring Broadway shows and concerts and is also the permanent home of the San Antonio Symphony, now in its 65th season.
With over 300 days of sunshine annually, San Antonio offers an abundance of outdoor sports and recreation. Numerous rivers in the Texas Hill Country form an arc around the northern edge of San Antonio, and provide many opportunities for canoeing, tubing and white-water rafting. Area lakes attract fishermen, as well as water skiing, jet skiing, and sailing enthusiasts. The Gulf coast is only 100 miles away. Working ranches throughout Central and South Texas are available as hunting leases for wild game, while dude ranches offer a taste of the Old West, complete with horseback riding. Numerous state parks offer opportunities for hiking in the rugged terrain of the Hill Country.
Dining options in San Antonio run the gamut from fine French cuisine to Chinese to Soul food and Cajun, but the one not to miss is Tex-Mex. Tex-Mex is a passion with local residents of all ethnic backgrounds, and many restaurants are open 24 hours. Later that night, it's time to head to the nightclubs and dance halls, two-stepping to a country-western band or swaying to a Tejano super group; or maybe it's traditional jazz or a sing-along at an Irish pub or piano bar; or how about Hard Rock Cafe or Planet Hollywood on the River Walk?