San Antonio is a mythical city, and for good reason. Its beginnings predate the founding of the United States by more than half a century, the legendary Alamo is a cultural icon, and the city’s missions represent an era of Spanish colonialism that becomes more fascinating as each new detail is learned. Add to that the lure of the River Walk, amusement parks, and the city’s welcoming lack of pretension, and it should come as no surprise that San Antonio regularly appears in top-10 lists of favorite travel destinations in Texas and the United States.
San Antonio (population 1,214,725) is the seventh-largest city in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but it’s certainly not evident to visitors savoring long lunches at downtown patio cafés alongside casually dressed office workers. Nor is it obvious when you’re sitting atop the Tower of the Americas, surveying the modest skyline, devoid of egocentric glass monuments dedicated to power and prosperity. It’s certainly not noticeable in the genuine greetings and friendly eye contact you’ll encounter on the other side of each door and around every street corner.
It’s the kind of town ideally suited for a getaway—no stressful hustle and bustle, just a steady flow of activity among an impressive infrastructure of historic buildings and modern conveniences. Most visitors come to San Antonio on a pilgrimage to see the Alamo, even though they likely couldn’t tell you about its significance in U.S. history.
The nearby River Walk is one of the top tourist destinations in the entire state, and even though its tantalizing smells, colorful sights, and vibrant energy are entertaining, the stretch of restaurants, shops, and hotels along the San Antonio River doesn’t truly represent the soul of this city. Though it may come as a surprise to some tourists, San Antonio thrived between the construction of the Alamo (1724) and the River Walk (1961).
- The Alamo
- San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
- Gruene Historic District
- San Antonio River Walk
- San Antonio Museum of Art
- King William Historic District
The San Antonio International Airport (near the intersection of Loop 410 and U.S. 281 South, 210/207-3411, www.sanantonio.gov/airport) is located about 12 miles north of downtown, and offers flights from 10 U.S.-based airlines and three Mexican companies. Most travelers pick up a car at the airport from one of the major rental companies. Another transportation option from the airport is SA Trans (800/868-7707, www.saairportshuttle.com), providing shared van service to downtown hotels for only $12 one way (with a round-trip purchase). The company operates booths outside both airport terminals, and service runs from 7 a.m.–1 a.m. Call 24 hours ahead for return service from the hotel. Taxis cost about $20 and take approximately 15 minutes between the airport and downtown. Stations are located outside the airport terminals.
A popular and uniquely San Antonio way of getting around downtown is via river taxi. Rio San Antonio Cruises (tickets at Rivercenter Mall and Holiday Inn, 800/417-4139, 210/244-5700, www.riosanantonio.com, $7.75 adults, $5 seniors, $2 children 1–5), specializes in tours but can also arrange for transportation.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition