San Antonio is the second largest city in the state of Texas and 7th largest in the United States. Visited by more than 26 million annual visitors, San Antonio is a beautiful city at the axis of three different geological terrains: Hill Country, South Texas Plains and Prairie and Lakes. There's a lot to do in this city: fine art museums, historical missions and plenty of amusement parks in addition to great dining and lots of drinking. The culture and people are vibrant and interesting. San Antonio's downtown is one of the most lively in the nation.
San Antonio is home to a variety of shopping venues with a wide selection of shops and stores. With ten major shopping malls within an hour drive of downtown as well as La Villita and Market Square in the heart of downtown San Antonio.
- Alamo Quarry Market,255 E Basse Rd, 210-225-1000, fax 210-271-3491. 10AM-9PM, daily
- La Villita, 418 Villita, 210-207-8611, fax 210-207-4390. Shops open daily 10AM-6PM Free admission. Closed holidays.
- Market Square - El Mercado, 514 W Commerce, 210-207-8600, fax 210-207-4287. Hours: 10AM-8PM, summer; 10AM-6PM, winter. Stores closed New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Visitors can browse through the 32 shops at "El Mercado," and 80 specialty shops in Farmers' Market Plaza. Market Square is also the scene of many Hispanic festivals where food and beverage booths spring up alongside the Guadalajara lamps and the strains of mariachi music blend with the excitement of Mexican dances.
- Rivercenter Mall. Located on the River Walk and connected to the Marriott Rivercenter and the Menger Hotel. It is also within walking distance of the Alamo. Houses over 100 retail shops including an IMAX theater.
- The Shops at La Cantera. 15900 La Cantera Parkway, Suite 6698. 210.582.6255 Hours are Monday - Saturday: 10AM - 9PM and Sunday: 12PM - 6PM. Located in northern San Antonio, the Shops at La Cantera offer open marketplace shopping.
- North Star MallSan Antonio’s internationally-acclaimed shopping destination center boasts over 200 specialty stores and restaurants. Located adjacent to the San Antonio International Airport, North Star is conveniently situated in the heart of the city. North Star is home to the largest cowboy boots in the world. They stand 40 feet high and 20 feet long! Stores include Saks Fifth Avenue, Pottery Barn Kids, Armani Exchange, Arden B., Montblanc, J.Crew, Oakley, The Cheesecake Factory, Talbots, Janie and Jack, Apple, bebe, Coach, Sephora, Guess, and Steve Madden.
- SeaWorld. A marine life theme park which is home to the world-famous Shamu the killer whale. There are also thrill rides, a small water park, as well as sharks, an aquarium, penguins, seals and sea lions, and an opportunity to pet and feed dolphins.
- Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Home to several thrill rides and exciting shows, Fiesta Texas is an entertaining theme park geared to people of all ages. It has a really interesting water park and the ride the Boomerang is recommended
- Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch. Home to a great Drive-thru Safari Park!
- Fiesta. Fiesta is a yearly event held in San Antonio in late April. Fiesta is a 10-day, city-wide, fun-filled, multi-cultural, family-oriented celebration. With over 100 different events, it's the biggest party and greatest community benefit in the state of Texas.
- San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. The San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo is an annual agricultural fair and entertainment event in early February. It provides world class rodeo action and entertainment to people of all ages. The San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo has been nominated for the Largest Indoor Rodeo of 2009, the winner to be announced February 2010.
- Texas Folklife Festival. The Texas Folklife Festival is an annual four-day celebration in the second week of June, of the diverse ethnic and cultural groups that settled our state. Some 45 groups bring their stories, crafts, music, dances, and foods to share with visitors in a vibrant blend of education and entertainment.
- San Antonio Spurs. San Antonio is home to the four-time NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs that currently play at the AT&T Center.
- San Antonio Rampage. The AHL affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes that currently play at the AT&T Center.
- San Antonio Missions. The Class AA minor league affiliate of the San Diego Padres; plays in Wolff Municipal Stadium.
- San Antonio Silverstars WNBA
San Antonio is home to several historic vaudeville theatres; The Empire, Aztec, Alameda, and the Majestic. There are also many live music venues including, Sunset Station, White Rabbit, Scout Bar, Blue Star Arts complex, Pearl Brewery, Cowboys, La Tuna's, Randy's Rock Bottom Tattoo Bar, and The Ten Eleven and many great local bands.
- Majestic TheatreRecognized as one of the most ornate facilities in the country, the Majestic has long held a special place in the archives of Texas theatrical and architectural history. Located at 224 E. Houston Street in the heart of downtown San Antonio, the Majestic was designed and built in 1929 by John Eberson for Karl Hoblitzelle's Interstate Theatres, and stood proudly for many years as the largest theatre in Texas and the second largest motion picture theatre in the country. It was intended to be the most modern and ornate building in South Texas - complete with new sound and projection equipment - and was the first theatre in the state to be totally air-conditioned.
- Offers exciting and breathtaking views of San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country, including sites such as the San Antonio River, Downtown, the Botanical Gardens and Historic Mission.
- Professional guided tour. This is not a highlight reel, but real storytelling about the city's rich history. Captivating and educational. Voted: Best Tour in San Antonio. Member: Texas Travel Industry Association Another peaceful place to walk is in the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. In the Spring they have the Spring Children's Vegetable Garden Program.
- Guided ghost hunting tour. Visit over 10 locations where ghost sightings occur. Learn to use modern ghost hunting equipment while learning the history of each location. This ghost hunting tour offers rich history to some of San Antonio's most haunted locations. Mystifying, educational, and fun. Member: The Atlantic Paranormal Society (Family Investigators), American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomenon(AAEVP), MUFON
- The Alamo. Considered to be hallowed ground and the Shrine of Texas Liberty, the Alamo is a former mission which was also the site of the Battle of the Alamo (1836). Admission is free, although donations are appreciated. Revenues from an adjacent gift shop fund the historic preservation efforts.
- Aztec on the River (aka Aztec Theatre). On the River Walk, at the corner of E. Commerce and N. St. Mary’s Streets. The Aztec on the River was touted as the Riverwalk’s most exciting entertainment attraction. This historic 1926 movie palace was meticulously restored in 2006, complete with a Mighty Wurlitzer theatre organ.
- Casa Navarro State Historical Park. Homesite of Jose Antonio Navarro, a 19th-century Texas legislator under Mexico, the Republic of Texas and the U.S. The park is the site of Navarro’s furnished house, first residence, and store.
- King William Historic Area is a 25-block area south of downtown and east of the San Antonio River. In the late 1800s, prominent German merchants settled the King William area, making it the most elegant residential area in the city. It is Texas' first Historic District. Accessible from Alamo Plaza via the Blue VIA Streetcar. Highlights include the magnificent mansions along King William St., from Beauregard St. to Guenther St. Don't miss the Steves Homestead (1876) on King William St. or the Guenther House (1859) and Pioneer Flour Mills on Guenther St. If you happen to arrive in San Antonio early in the month, try to catch First Friday, like the name implies, it happens the first Friday of the month. On First Friday you can find all kinds of little booth selling things ranging from flowers to art to funnel cakes. There is usually live music.
- River Walk (aka Paseo del Rio). The River Walk area, one level below the street level of San Antonio, is an excellent place to explore by day and party by night. The River Walk has guided barge tours by Rio San Antonio Cruises departing regularly. Numerous restaurants, shops, and hotels line the River Walk on both sides of the most popular and developed downtown loop, which winds its way below the streets bounded by Houston to the north, Alamo to the east, Villita to the south, and St. Mary's to the west. The east end of the River Walk is extended to the Convention Center and to the Rivercenter Mall. Further development of the River Walk is proceeding north and south of downtown. No visit to San Antonio is complete without a stroll along the River Walk. Note: Along many sections of the River Walk, there is nothing between the edge of the sidewalk and the River. Be very careful with young children, baby strollers, wheelchairs, intoxicated persons etc.
- San Antonio Missions National Park. Four Spanish frontier missions, part of a colonization system that stretched across the Spanish southwest in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, are preserved here. They include missions San Jose, San Juan, Espada, and Concepcion. The national park, containing many cultural sites along with some natural areas, was established in 1978 and covers about 819 acres.
- San Antonio Zoological Gardens and Aquarium. The zoo is home to over 3,500 animals representing 750 species of animals on 56 acres. Open 365 days a year. Hours: 9AM-5PM from Labor Day to Memorial Day; 9AM-6PM, Memorial Day to Labor Day. Admission: adults $8; seniors (62+) and children (3-11) $6; military $7; under 2 free. Group rates available.
Museums and galleries
- Blue Star Contemporary Art Center, 116 Blue Star, 210-227-6960. A part of the Blue Star Arts Complex, the art center is a non-profit, non-collecting contemporary art center that advances the growth and understanding of contemporary art, artists and the curatorial process.
- Buckhorn Saloon and MuseumLocated a short two blocks from the Alamo and 50 feet from the River Walk. Hours: 10AM-5PM or later, Su-Th; 10AM-6PM or later, Friday and Saturday. Call for exact closing times. Admission: Adults $11; seniors(55+) $10; Children (ages 3-11) $8. Special rates for group of 10 or more, and discounts for Military with ID.
- Institute of Texan Cultures (aka ITC), in HemisFair Park; main entrance is off Durango near Bowie. A one-story 50,000 sq. ft. museum featuring Texan history, brought to life by docent-interpreters, and the cultures of over 20 national/ethnic groups of people who have made Texas their home. Admission fee. Snack machines. Accessible from downtown via the Purple VIA Streetcar.
- Instituto de México, 600 HemisFair Park, 210-227-0123. Tues-Fri 10AM-5PM, Sa-Su noon-5PM. Free. Contemporary Art from Mexico.
- Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, 6000 N New Braunfels, 210-824-5368. Tu-Sat 10AM-5PM, Sun noon-5PM. Free admission except during select exhibitions and special events. Fine arts exhibits, library. museum store.
- Museo Alameda, 101 South Santa Rosa, 210-299-4300. Tu 10AM-6PM, W 10AM-8PM, Th-Sun 10AM-6PM. Free admission with suggested donation. The first formal affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the Museo Alameda tells the story of the Latino experience in America through art, history, and culture. Located in Market Square.
- San Antonio Children's Museum, 305 Houston St, 210-212-4453, fax 210-242-1313. Adm. $5.95. M-F 9AM-5PM, Sat 9AM-6PM, Sun noon-4PM. Winter (School Year) hours: M 9AM-noon, T-F 9AM-3:30PM, Sat 9AM-6PM, Sun noon-4PM. Groups, parties, events, hands-on learning play.
- San Antonio Museum of Art (aka SAMA), 200 W Jones (2 blocks west of Broadway), 210-978-8100. Tu 10AM-8PM, W-Sat 10AM-5PM, Sun noon-6PM. $8 adult, $7 sen., $5 student, $3 age 4-11. Free Tuesdays 4PM-8PM. Four floors of fabulous permanent collections, from Antiquities to Asian to Contemporary Art, as well as changing exhibits. Bring your sketchpad or camera (no flash, permanent collections only). Cafe SAMA serves only snacks. On the #7 Sightseer Special bus line, or via any of the buses along Broadway (#9,10,14) with several blocks walk. If you can do only one museum visit, this is the one to explore in San Antonio.
- Southwest School of Art & Craft, 1201 Navarro and 300 Augusta, 210-224-1848. Art/museum gift shop in the Ursuline Campus as well as student work in the hallways and cafe. Free. On bus lines, and the Ursuline Campus backs up to an older, parklike section of the River Walk.
- Witte Museum, 3801 Broadway, 210-357-1900. Tu 10AM-9PM, W-Sa, 10AM-5PM, Sun noon-5PM. $7 Ad/$6 sen/$5 kids 4-11, free Tuesdays 3PM-8PM. Dinosaurs, textiles, natural history, science treehouse, and more. A museum complex with lots of different activities going on - fun with kids!
San Antonio is a relatively safe city. As long as you take elementary precautions, you'll have a great time. Even when there are crowds for such events like the Alamo Bowl, it is still relatively safe. Just remember that the River Walk always has something going on, but if you're in one of the quieter spots at night, exercise some caution. If you are travelling out of Downtown, most neighborhoods are safe at night, with those immediate to downtown being the safest. Fringe neighborhoods, particularly on the West and South should be avoided at night, though they are of little interest to tourists.