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The Rich Character of San Antonio Texas

History Traditions Museums Culture Food Wine and Ale

 © Carol M. Highsmith  Reprinted from the Commoner

San Antonio is a city of great depth and character – a welcome place for locals and visitors, alike.  With so many places to visit, both within the city limits and beyond, it is hard to know where to start.  Use this short list of great experiences to compose your own top ten list and then get lost in one of Texas’ premier destinations.

Texas History it is best to experience San Antonio’s rich heritage by visiting its 18th century Spanish colonial missions, its residential areas dating from the 1860s, and its local museums that celebrate the city’s past.


© Michael Barera

The Spanish Governor’s Palace is a national historic landmark that once housed the officials of the Spanish Province of Texas. The entrance displays the double-headed eagle of the Hapsburg coat-of-arms and the inscription, in Spanish, “finished in 1749.” This was the site where Spain had its first permanent military presence in San Antonio. The history of this location educates on Texas’ earliest history under Spanish rule. The beautifully landscaped gardens in the courtyard are so surprising, you won’t want to leave.  Other features include period furnishings and a cobblestone patio with fountain and foliage.

San-Antonio-9© The Commoner

The San Antonio Missions National Historic Park features a walking, biking, or driving experience of the five local missions and the centuries of local history and culture:  Mission San Antonio de Valero (commonly known as The Alamo), Mission Concepción, Mission San José, Mission San Juan Capistrano, and Mission San Francisco de la Espada.

San-Antonio-5© Daniel Schwen

The Alamo is a 4.2-acre complex and a 300-year symbol of Texas history. This is where Spain began its colonization, Mexico sought independence, and the Confederacy stood its ground. But it is best known as the place where a small band of Texans held out for thirteen days against General Antonio López de Santa Anna. The Alamo houses exhibits on the Texas Revolution and History.

San-Antonio-6© Michael Barera

The San Antonio Mission Trail begins at the Alamo and winds southward along a nine-mile stretch of the San Antonio River.  It is not a round trip, so plan accordingly.  Visitors will have access to water at each mission. Food is available only near Missions Concepción and San José.

San-Antonio-7-1024x256© Carol M. Highsmith / Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS)

The King William District is a sprawling 25 blocks area in downtown San Antonio.  The 19th century residences on the San Antonio River south bank have been preserved and transformed into cafes, art galleries, museums, and shops. As the most elegant residential area in the city, it was settled by German merchants who brought with them a distinct architectural style.  To this day, it remains a very fashionable neighborhood, boasting such specimens as Villa Finale.

San-Antonio-8© Larry D. Moore

The Institute of Texan Cultures features exhibits, programs and events that examine heritage, ethnicity, history, social issues and popular culture with a focus on the stories of immigrants who settled in Texas and contributed to its modern, multicultural society.

San-Antonio-10© Witte Museum of the San Antonio / Arthur Tracy Lee (1850)

Museums San Antonio’s galleries range from fine art to folk art, and everything from Egyptian antiquities to Asian and European masters.  You can also find a great deal of local artists’ work.

San-Antonio-11© Cohee

The international collections found at the San Antonio Museum of Art represent 5,000 years of history and culture from around the world. Housed in a complex of buildings that was once the Lone Star Brewery, the Museum is renowned for its collections of Latin American, Asian, and Ancient Mediterranean Art, and includes a notable contemporary collection.

San-Antonio-12-1024x256© The Commoner

The Briscoe Western Art Museum preserves and interprets the art, history, and culture of the American West.  It accomplishes this through engaging exhibitions, educational programs, and public events reflective of the region’s rich traditions and shared heritage.  Located along the San Antonio River Walk, its campus is inclusive of the restored historic 1930s art deco/neo-classical former San Antonio Public Library building which now serves as the Museum space with nine galleries on three levels.

San-Antonio-13© Smithsonian Magazine

The Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum is an incubator for contemporary art, hosting over twenty exhibitions each year within its four on-site galleries and multiple offsite locations within the community featuring emerging and world-renowned local and global artists.

Food, Wine, and Ale

Olive Oil Orchards some of the first commercial olive oil orchards in Texas lie just 20 minutes south of San Antonio producing olive oil and olive leaf-based skin care products.  They also place an emphasis on hospitality and educating the public on the benefits and various uses of olive oil.  One of the more popular orchards is the Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard.

San-Antonio-15© Michael Barera

The rich culture of San Antonio abounds throughout the plazas of Market Square. The three-block outdoor plaza is lined with restaurants, shops, and produce stands.  Located near San Antonio’s city center, it is the largest Mexican market in the United States and one of the country’s top ten outdoor markets.  Market Square’s working artists, musicians, dancers, and major cultural events give it a rich and lively cultural atmosphere.

San-Antonio-16-1024x256© Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling

Ranger Creek Brewing and Distilling is a combined brewery and distillery making beer and whiskey by hand one batch at a time.  If you are no sure what you’re in the mood for, this a great place to start.

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