Rio San Antonio Cruises (Photo courtesy of visitsanantonio.com)
San Antonio River Walk
For many, San Antonio is the Paseo del Rio, an urban masterpiece better known as the River Walk. These cobble- and flagstone paths border the San Antonio River, as it winds through culture-rich downtown. The River Walk has multiple personalities— quiet and park-like in some stretches, while other areas are full of activity with European-style sidewalk cafes, specialty boutiques, art galleries, nightclubs and gleaming high-rise hotels. Under the Mission Reach project, the river reclaimed eight miles worth of waterways in 2013. The River Walk now links Brackenridge Park on the north end with Mission Espada to the south. Rio San Antonio Cruises, the river’s floating transportation system, provides a novel method of sightseeing and people watching in downtown San Antonio. Groups can dine aboard open-air cruisers as they drift along the scenic waterway, while river taxis deliver visitors to restaurants, hotels, the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center and The Shops at Rivercenter—a dazzling three-level, glass shopping, dining and entertainment complex. A number of restaurants in the area provide discounts for showing your conference badge. Check the NSREC website for a full list of discounts and yelp recommendations for shopping, dining, and local attractions.
The Saga is a world-class video art installation on the façade of San Fernando Cathedral, the oldest operating sanctuary in North America. It showcases a breathtaking visual journey through the history of San Antonio. Created by renowned French artist Xavier de Richemont, The Saga is his first outdoor art installation in the U.S. Ongoing free shows are held each Tuesday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday at 9:00pm, 9:30pm, 10:00pm.
The Saga at San Fernando Cathedral (Photo Courtesy visitsanantonio.com)
Brackenridge Park, a 343-acre refuge in the heart of the city, provides a full day of family fun. Play a round of golf at Texas’ most historic course. Feed ducks and picnic along the adjacent San Antonio River. Refresh with a stroll on the walking trails or catch a ride on the park’s miniature train, the Brackenridge Eagle. Here you’ll also find the San Antonio Zoo, the third largest in the nation with a collection of more than 3,500 animals representing 750 different species from around the globe. It is also the only zoo in the country to exhibit endangered Whooping cranes. The Japanese Tea Garden features a lush year-round garden and a floral display with shaded walkways, stone bridges, a 60-foot waterfall and ponds filled with Koi.
Japanese Tea Garden (Photo Courtesy of visitsanantonio.com)
The Briscoe Western Art Museum acts as an artistic hub for Western American culture and lifestyles. Along with the sculpture garden, the museum’s historic building and location along the San Antonio river offers visitors an attractive campus for exploration. Exhibitions and events include “Women of the West” film series, a public art exhibition and sale, and a Native American portfolio.
The McNay Art Museum is set in a Mediterranean-style mansion and has wideranging collections, including post-impressionist and modern pieces, theater-centered works, medieval offerings, Native American art and more. The Jane and Arthur Stieren Center for Exhibitions designed by renowned architect Jean-Paul Viguier increased the McNay’s original size by 45,000 square feet, allowing for more of their highly regarded collection to be displayed. Many visitors are finding this addition to be a work of art itself with walls of green stone reminiscent of San Antonio’s deep green foliage, a theater paneled in wood derived from a single pear tree and aluminum accents inspired by logs floating down a river.
The San Antonio Museum of Art is housed in a castle-like building that was formerly the Lone Star Brewery. This museum is noted for its antiquities collections and the 30,000 square-foot Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art—the largest repository of its kind. The Lenora and Walter F. Brown Asian Art Wing offers 15,000 square feet of galleries dedicated to the museum’s Asian art collection that spans nearly 6,000 years of history.
Sunfish Art installation, San Antonio Museum of Art (Photo Courtesy of visitsanantonio.com, Al Rendon)
The Institute of Texan Cultures, located in HemisFair Park, chronicles more than 25 ethnic groups that made the Lone Star State what it is today. Their stories are told through words, photos and fascinating displays that include eclectic items such as a Native American teepee, an old-time barbershop, a frontier dentist’s office, a town square band gazebo, an African-American sharecropper’s house and even a working post office.
Centro de Artes is located in historic El Mercado Market Square, the largest Mexican market in the country. Centro de Artes tells the story of Latinos in America (past and present), while also showcasing exhibits related to Latino food, culture, history, and lifestyle with a focus on South Texas.
Historic Art Districts
Eclectic art districts adorn city streets with legendary histories and cultural offerings. Two must sees for art lovers are La Villita Historic Arts Village and Market Square. La Villita, “the little village,” was one of San Antonio’s original settlements. It became a hub of Texas revolutionary activity in 1835 and 1836. Today, La Villita is a haven for artists and craftsmen selling jewelry, stained glass and other handcrafts, as well as fashions from Mexico and Guatemala. Dating to 1840, Market Square (El Mercado), the largest Mexican marketplace north of the Rio Grande, is a festive combination of Tex-Mex cuisine, music, entertainment, products ranging from pearls to piñatas, and the anchor Centro de Artes.
La Villita (Photo courtesy of visitsanantonio.com, Richard Nowitz)
On the southern tip of downtown, Southtown is a trendy arts community flourishing with individuality. This rare neighborhood is composed of historic houses, converted warehouses, artists’ lofts, shops, galleries and restaurants. Just south of downtown, the King William Historic District reflects San Antonio’s German heritage in a gracious residential area settled in the late 1800s. These beautiful mansions are considered to comprise one of San Antonio’s most treasured neighborhoods. Among them are the Steves Homestead mansion and Villa Finale which are open to the public.
Nearby South Flores Street includes many up-and-coming restaurants, artistic spaces and socialization opportunities. This new and trendy area also includes the Southtown Arts District, which is home to unique art galleries, creative services, museums, studios and more. Here, various art forms are displayed and performed at many of the museums in this district. This area is considered to host the majority of the city’s creative culture.
Families may want to start their exploration of the city at The DoSeum, where kids are encouraged to explore a miniature version of a city evocative of San Antonio with attractions like a veterinarian office, a taco truck and an H-E-B, a local grocery store. Kids of all ages will want to experience the excitement of The Magik Children’s Theatre, a professional theater in the heart of downtown, and the nearby YanaguanaGarden at HemisFair Park. Another favorite is the Tower of the Americas, which offers a spectacular view of San Antonio from 750 feet above the ground. Just blocks away, Louis Tussaud’s Plaza Wax Museum houses more than 225 life-like characters in four themed sections–Hollywood, Horrors, History and Religion. Next door, the world’s largest Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium is located in San Antonio’s historic Alamo Plaza, right across from The Alamo and next to the famed River Walk. Proving that truth can be stranger than fiction, Ripley’s is known for providing exhibits that showcase the ultimate in odd and bizarre like a two-trunked elephant, a 512-pound iron meteorite and locks of Marilyn Monroe’s hair, among other oddities. The Guinness World Records Museum is a state-of-the-art, interactive experience that brings the world famous book to life.
Hit the links in the Texas Hill Country at TPC San Antonio, part of the prestigious TPC Network of Clubs. With 36 holes of championship Golf, the AT&T Oaks Course is home to the PGA TOUR’s Valero Texas Open while the AT&T Canyons Course hosted the city’s Champions Tour event from 2011 to 2015. The AT&T Oaks Course provides golfers a traditional design, lined by Oak trees with deep, cavernous bunkers being the dominant feature. The AT&T Canyons Course allows golfers to experience a Hill Country layout, with dramatic elevation changes and breathtaking views of the adjoining nature preserve.
La Cantera Resort and Spa is home to the Resort Course, the fifteen-year PGA stop and the Palmer Course, designed by the legendary Arnold Palmer. Both courses wind through the Hill Country and provide stunning views and dramatic water features. The Hill Country Golf Club, located on the grounds of the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa, offers twenty- seven holes on two hundred acres of wideranging terrain.
The Alamo City Golf Trail offers golfers premier courses at affordable price points including: Historic Brackenridge Park, the original home to the PGA Tour in San Antonio and the first golf course inducted into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame.
Let Olympia Hills Golf Course take your breath away with holes that feature elevation changes of 50 feet or more. Tee off surrounded by some of the largest, most picturesque live oaks in the San Antonio area, then enjoy the natural hills and stunning green course.
Recognized as the “7th Most Unique Golf Course in the U.S.,” the Quarry Golf Course makes for a golfer’s paradise in the heart of the city. The course’s front nine plays in a links-style format and features rolling hills, native grasses and immaculate greens, while the back nine lays out in a 100- year-old quarry pit.
There are several items within easy driving distance of San Antonio that may be of interest to guests who wish to take a road trip.
San Marcos, TX is home to two outlet malls (Tanger Factory Outlet Center and Premium outlets) which together comprise 350 stores and an excess of 1,000,000 square feet of floor space. The malls are located on the southern edge of San Marcos which is a 45 minute drive up Interstate Highway 35 from San Antonio. There are numerous places to eat at the malls. For those who want to eat in a more picturesque environment, a stop in the New Braunfels suburb of Gruene, TX for an afternoon meal at the Grist Mill restaurant located in the remains of a Cotton gin overlooking the Guadalupe River may be just the thing. Closer to San Antonio are the Shops at La Cantera, an upscale outdoor mall in the northern suburbs of San Antonio, near Loop 1604 and I-10, which is anchored by Dillard’s, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom, and North Star Mall, which is located near 281 N and Loop 410 and is anchored by Dillard’s, JCPenney, Macy’s, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Shops also abound in the downtown area with one of the most interesting being Garcia Art Glass which has a small shop and glassblowing facility at 715 S. Alamo within walking distance of our hotel.
Museums and Historic Sites
In addition to the selection of museums and Historic sites in San Antonio itself, there are two or three within a 1.5 hour drive of San Antonio that may be of interest. A moderate drive up IH-10 and Hwy 87 in the small town of Fredericksburg TX, the birthplace of WWII Admiral of the Fleet Chester W. Nimitz, you will find the National Museum of the Pacific War, a well-rated, 6 acre site with significant displays focusing on WWII battles in the Pacific. The town of Fredericksburg itself provides an opportunity for lunch and browsing in a town that still shows the characteristics of its German settlers. East of Fredricksburg on Hwy 290, past a number of peach orchards and wineries, you will find the Lyndon B. Johnson State and National Historic Park and the Sauer-Beckman living history farm. The Park consists of two units, one near the Pedernales River crossing which contains the LBJ ranch and living history farm and another in the small town of Johnson City that contains LBJ’s boyhood home. The University of Texas in Austin is home to the LBJ Presidential Library and Musuem.
Six Flags and Sea World
San Antonio is the picture-perfect setting for great family vacations. Enjoy Texas-sized fun at SeaWorld San Antonio, one of the world’s largest marine life park, and Six Flags Fiesta Texas, the town built just for fun. SeaWorld San Antonio combines fun with education and appreciation for some of the ocean’s most fascinating creatures through shows, educational exhibits and rides. Explore Aquatica, a water park designed as a South Seas oasis with all the amenities of a beachside resort, including terraced pools, a giant wave pool, meandering crystal-blue rivers, sandy beaches and private cabanas. Aquatica boasts unique attractions such as up-close stingray encounters and a “weightless” family raft ride that’s a first for North America.
Just down the road, Six Flags Fiesta Texas is a non-stop celebration of San Antonio and South Texas. It’s designed around four themed areas: The Mexican town of Los Festivales: the German village of Spassburg; the 1920’s cowboy boomtown of Crackaxle Canyon; and the small Texas town of Rockville which includes a ‘50s-‘60s seaside boardwalk. Themes are carried out by entertaining musical shows and exciting rides including water rides and massive steel roller coasters.
In addition to the water parks at SeaWorld of Texas and Six Flags Fiesta Texas, there are two other waterparks in the San Antonio area. Splashtown San Antonio is located on IH-35 just north of downtown San Antonio (Exit 160), while Schlitterbahn Waterpark New Braunfels is situated along the Landa River 30 miles north of San Antonio in the German settled town of New Braunfels. Finally, for those who like a natural float setting, the Guadalupe River between New Braunfels and the Canyon lake dam is home to a number of outfitters who can provide tubes and canoes for a river adventure underneath towering cypress and live oak trees.
The hill country of south central Texas area is underlain by a vast collection of Karst limestone formations which yield several stunning Caves. A short drive West on IH 10, south of the town of Boerne TX, is Cascade caverns, while closer to town, north on IH 35 outside the town of Garden Ridge TX, is the Natural Bridge Caverns and Wildlife Ranch which provides both above ground and below ground attractions. Close by Natural Bridge Caverns is Bracken Cave, the home to the largest collection of Mexican free-tailed bats in the World. Bracken Cave is private, but there are occasional evening tours to view the bat flights. You can also observe up to 50,000 Mexican free-tailed bats fly during the summer months from under the I-35 bridge where it cross the San Antonio river near Camden and Newell streets on the Museum Reach section of the Riverwalk. For more information on observing bat flights in Texas, see the Texas Parks and Wildlife web site.
Whether you stay in San Antonio or explore the Texas Hill Country around it, you are sure to have a good time.