San Antonio just celebrated their 2013 Fiesta San Antonio, an event that has been taking place since 1891 and started as a simple street parade. Now it is put together with the collaboration of various San Antonio businesses, hosting events for an entire week. The funds from the festival serve to assist communities throughout San Antonio.
This is probably what I loved about San Antonio the most. Its sense of community, its ability and desire to hold on to traditions and culture, while at the same time embracing growth and progress.
Because we have family who lives in Austin, we spent most of our time in Texas there. Austin is often referred to as the coolest city in the state. There’s no denying that the art, music, and food scene in Austin is one worth checking out, but when it came time to hang with my family and really feeling like we connected with the place we were visiting, I found the feel of San Antonio to be one we enjoyed more.
Here are a list of things we did during our visit to San Antonio, some of our experiences were courtesy of the San Antonio Tourism board. We found it easy to do a lot in San Antonio because it really isn’t an expensive place to visit and though some activities require extra budgeting just because they can add up quickly when traveling with a family as large as mine (such as a visit to Sea World San Antonio or Six Flags Fiesta Texas), there are many other activities that are free of charge. Someone visiting San Antonio can do and see a lot without breaking the bank.
What We Did
The center of town, or Downtown San Antonio, is the tourist hub of the area. It is home to a lot of the favorites, such as Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, Guinness World Records Museum, t-shirts shops, chain restaurants, and malls. But even if you are not into touristy attractions, you definitely want to start your visit with the biggest tourist site of them all: The Alamo.
The Alamo is the perfect place to get a sense of where you are and the significant historical events that took in the city. It’s important to start here because almost every other place you will visit in San Antonio (if not most of Texas) will make reference to The Alamo and all that followed. Its history in short is that it was first known as the Mission San Antonio de Valero, the city’s first mission, and served as such for 70 years after its establishment in 1718. What transpired that led to the day where 189 defenders fell during battle on March 6, 1836 is why this is such an important museum to walk through. Take a tour or wander through the exhibits of tools, weapons, letters, and records, and in the end you will feel grounded to the city. Admission is free.
Tower of The Americas – Hemisfair Park, on a nice day, can be an interesting place to walk through. Unfortunately, when we visited the weather was cloudy and chilly. Hemisfair Park was built to host the 1968 World’s Fair. There’s a children’s playground, several fountains, and a few empty buildings that we don’t know what they were being used for, but had some pretty architecture. The Tower of Americas is a 750-foot tall structure that offers a panoramic view of the city from the top. Even on a cloudy day, the view we thought the view was pretty great. There are other activities as well, such as a 4D theater, a restaurant, art space, and a small museum area which chronicles the history of San Antonio.
Witte Museum was quite possibly the most entertaining, family friendly museum we’ve visited in some time. We were in lucked, because we arrived while the special exhibit Dinosaurs Unearthed was still on display (it will be till September 2, 2013). My kids absolutely loved this interactive and educational journey back to the time of the dinosaurs. The incorporation of the iPads as an interactive tool at each display was right up their alley.
The South Texas Heritage Center, right next door to the main building, hosted reenactments by various personalities that represented the Old West lifestyle, as well as displayed exhibits of the same. The H-E-B science treehouse was also an area where the kids were challenged on their scientific knowledge, while playing and participating in activities. A short drive from Downtown San Antonio and a must-see when visiting.
Of course, no visit to San Antonio is complete without a walk along The River Walk. It was the one place we went to both start our day and end it. We took a walk around, but also took a tour with the Rio San Antonio Cruises, which is the best thing to do if you want to learn about the River Walk’s history, interesting spots, and get a feel for San Antonio’s quirky personality.
Our list of things to see and do (for free) is endless and in our short time there we just didn’t get around to it all. But, I am eager to return. It was a really fun destination.
Where We Stayed
You won’t have a problem finding a hotel in San Antonio. They run the gamut from luxury to budget, right on The River Walk to a bit further away (which is recommended if you want a bit more quite and distance from the evening bar scene in the area).
We were delighted to accept the invitation from Residence Inn San Antonio Downtown/Alamo PLaza for a complimentary stay with them. I have written about Residence Inn as our hotel of choice when traveling as a family for its space, comfort, service, and friendliness. What guests can expect to find from this San Antonio location is that it is a short walk away from all the fun (we valet parked our car and didn’t need it again till we left and stopped at the Witte). As is the case in all Residence Inn hotels, there’s complimentary breakfast offered daily and these are always a big hit with guests. Their Texas-sized waffles were an extra treat for my East Coast kids. The rooms have kitchens equipped with all the amenities to help reduce costs, and our suite came with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, as well as a fold out sofabed.
I highly recommend checking out the San Antonio Tourism website for more information, including all that there is to do.
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