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San Antonio " Remembering the Alamo is just the beginning

Lincoln RogersThe front of the Alamo, originally a Spanish Mission built in 1718.

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For anyone of a western mindset, visiting San Antonio, Texas means taking in the Alamo. For certain, the venerable mission holds a special attraction to fans of the west; and walking the hallowed grounds among the legends of Crockett, Bowie and Travis is almost a religious experience. One look at the words engraved on a white stone monument erected to honor those who died within the mission’s walls sums up the entire experience:

“From the fire that burned their bodies, rose the eternal spirit of sublime heroic sacrifice, which gave birth to an empire state.”

While the Alamo is worth the trip to San Antonio all by itself, the historic city and surrounding region holds even more treasures for visitors willing to put on their walking boots.

Spanish Missions

Built in 1718, San Antonio de Valero, commonly called the Alamo, was established as a way station between missions already existing in East Texas and other base missions in Mexico. It was already over 100 years old when the famous battle took place in 1836.

Built in 1731, Mission Concepcion was well known for its religious celebrations. A beautiful piece of architecture, the structure is the oldest un-restored church in America and provides quite a sense of antiquity to visitors strolling its grounds.

A short drive away is Mission San Jose, a fully restored mission that will take your breath away. Stone walls surrounding the grounds allow visitors to appreciate the original size and scope of this 1720 facility. A water-powered gristmill remains in operation behind the mission, and its beautiful arches, flying buttresses, and stunning sculptures (including the famous Rose Window) will have you talking about this mission long after your trip is complete.

Two more missions of note are Mission San Juan (1731) and Mission Espada (1731). Both structures retain their architectural beauty and leave you wishing there were more missions to tour. Plan on at least a half-day to visit and photograph these awe-inspiring missions. Anything less will lead to regrets you didn’t have more time to spend.

Riverwalk

One of the best features of San Antonio is its famous Riverwalk, described as the “Number One entertainment destination in Texas.” The San Antonio River meanders throughout the city at a depth less than six feet for most of its course. Hotels, restaurants and businesses line the slow moving river, allowing visitors to walk the water’s edge on landscaped sidewalks while they enjoy peaceful scenery below the city streets of San Antonio. You can also take a guided tour boat ride, but be prepared to share the boat with a lot of other people. One way to avoid a crowded boat is to take a ride just before the tours close late at night. The boats are typically less crowded and the temperature is cooler. Booking a hotel on the Riverwalk itself is a bit more expensive, but worth the price for the convenience and beauty of stepping out of a lobby right into the cultivated scenery of the river.

Market Square

The city’s Market Square is a place to shop, peruse a farmer’s market, enjoy art galleries, eat and relax ” not necessarily in that order ” with an emphasis on the city’s Mexican culture. While a lot of touristy trinkets are for sale in quite a few stalls and shops, time spent digging deeper will reward savvy shoppers with quality merchandise. You might even be fortunate enough to take in a talented local band playing on the indoor stage. Highly recommended is Margarita’s restaurant, where the food and impeccable service were a class above a lot of the more crowded restaurants found along the Riverwalk.

Buses and bus-trolleys run throughout the day at a cost of little more than a dollar, a big convenience for sightseers. Just step on and step off wherever you want to go inside the city of San Antonio.

Spelunking and Small Towns

Part of the charm of visiting San Antonio is taking in nearby small towns and all they have to offer. Numerous caves are available to either tour or get down and dirty in special adventure options (bring extra money and junk clothing for the adventure options). Recommended is the Natural Bridge Caverns located about twenty minutes outside San Antonio.

A small town worth the drive (and still within a reasonable distance from San Antonio) is Gruene, Texas (pronounced Green). The German town is chock-full of great antique shops and boasts the oldest dance hall in Texas, Gruene Hall. Hear the creaking floorboards as you inspect hundreds of old photos of music legends that have played the Hall, such as George Strait, Merle Haggard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddly, Kris Kristofferson and Lyle Lovett.

Right next door to Gruene Hall is the Gristmill Restaurant. The old converted mill has ambience to spare and the food is outstanding. For a rack of ribs and other entree’s you will never forget, make sure the Gristmill is on your docket of things to do and see in the small town of Gruene.

All in all, the historic flavor of San Antonio and its surrounding area is like finding the pot at the end of a rainbow to any fan of history and the west. While remembering the Alamo is high on anyone’s list of things to do, the best part about San Antonio is the Alamo is just the beginning.

For anyone of a western mindset, visiting San Antonio, Texas means taking in the Alamo. For certain, the venerable mission holds a special attraction to fans of the west; and walking the hallowed grounds among the legends of Crockett, Bowie and Travis is almost a religious experience. One look at the words engraved on a white stone monument erected to honor those who died within the mission’s walls sums up the entire experience:

“From the fire that burned their bodies, rose the eternal spirit of sublime heroic sacrifice, which gave birth to an empire state.”

While the Alamo is worth the trip to San Antonio all by itself, the historic city and surrounding region holds even more treasures for visitors willing to put on their walking boots.

Spanish Missions

Built in 1718, San Antonio de Valero, commonly called the Alamo, was established as a way station between missions already existing in East Texas and other base missions in Mexico. It was already over 100 years old when the famous battle took place in 1836.

Built in 1731, Mission Concepcion was well known for its religious celebrations. A beautiful piece of architecture, the structure is the oldest un-restored church in America and provides quite a sense of antiquity to visitors strolling its grounds.

A short drive away is Mission San Jose, a fully restored mission that will take your breath away. Stone walls surrounding the grounds allow visitors to appreciate the original size and scope of this 1720 facility. A water-powered gristmill remains in operation behind the mission, and its beautiful arches, flying buttresses, and stunning sculptures (including the famous Rose Window) will have you talking about this mission long after your trip is complete.

Two more missions of note are Mission San Juan (1731) and Mission Espada (1731). Both structures retain their architectural beauty and leave you wishing there were more missions to tour. Plan on at least a half-day to visit and photograph these awe-inspiring missions. Anything less will lead to regrets you didn’t have more time to spend.

Riverwalk

One of the best features of San Antonio is its famous Riverwalk, described as the “Number One entertainment destination in Texas.” The San Antonio River meanders throughout the city at a depth less than six feet for most of its course. Hotels, restaurants and businesses line the slow moving river, allowing visitors to walk the water’s edge on landscaped sidewalks while they enjoy peaceful scenery below the city streets of San Antonio. You can also take a guided tour boat ride, but be prepared to share the boat with a lot of other people. One way to avoid a crowded boat is to take a ride just before the tours close late at night. The boats are typically less crowded and the temperature is cooler. Booking a hotel on the Riverwalk itself is a bit more expensive, but worth the price for the convenience and beauty of stepping out of a lobby right into the cultivated scenery of the river.

Market Square

The city’s Market Square is a place to shop, peruse a farmer’s market, enjoy art galleries, eat and relax ” not necessarily in that order ” with an emphasis on the city’s Mexican culture. While a lot of touristy trinkets are for sale in quite a few stalls and shops, time spent digging deeper will reward savvy shoppers with quality merchandise. You might even be fortunate enough to take in a talented local band playing on the indoor stage. Highly recommended is Margarita’s restaurant, where the food and impeccable service were a class above a lot of the more crowded restaurants found along the Riverwalk.

Buses and bus-trolleys run throughout the day at a cost of little more than a dollar, a big convenience for sightseers. Just step on and step off wherever you want to go inside the city of San Antonio.

Spelunking and Small Towns

Part of the charm of visiting San Antonio is taking in nearby small towns and all they have to offer. Numerous caves are available to either tour or get down and dirty in special adventure options (bring extra money and junk clothing for the adventure options). Recommended is the Natural Bridge Caverns located about twenty minutes outside San Antonio.

A small town worth the drive (and still within a reasonable distance from San Antonio) is Gruene, Texas (pronounced Green). The German town is chock-full of great antique shops and boasts the oldest dance hall in Texas, Gruene Hall. Hear the creaking floorboards as you inspect hundreds of old photos of music legends that have played the Hall, such as George Strait, Merle Haggard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddly, Kris Kristofferson and Lyle Lovett.

Right next door to Gruene Hall is the Gristmill Restaurant. The old converted mill has ambience to spare and the food is outstanding. For a rack of ribs and other entree’s you will never forget, make sure the Gristmill is on your docket of things to do and see in the small town of Gruene.

All in all, the historic flavor of San Antonio and its surrounding area is like finding the pot at the end of a rainbow to any fan of history and the west. While remembering the Alamo is high on anyone’s list of things to do, the best part about San Antonio is the Alamo is just the beginning.


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