San Antonio pulls in more than 34.4 million visitors each year with the largest collection of Spanish colonial architecture in North America (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and important historic landmarks like the Alamo (also the most popular attraction in Texas).
But this old city has some new draws, too. Remember these attractions the next time you find yourself in San Antonio.
Stroll Along the River
The two-mile River Walk runs along the meandering San Antonio River and is lined with shops, galleries, hotels, popular nightspots and many sidewalk cafés.
As the city’s main tourist draw, the River Walk often bustles with mariachi bands, river taxis and tours and outdoor dining. Other stretches of the path are quiet and peaceful with public benches. The stone paths are a full story below street level so the River Walk is a fantastic way to feel removed from the commotion of the city.
Don’t Forget the Alamo
This San Antonio attraction has come to symbolize courage for the cause of liberty. Here, a small band of Texans, including legendary figures such as James Bowie, Davy Crockett and William B. Travis, held out for 13 days against the centrist army of Gen. Santa Anna.
Although the Alamo fell on the morning of March 6, 1836, the legacy of the courageous Alamo Defenders lives on with its rally cry, “Remember the Alamo!”
Today, there are more than 2.5 million people who visit each year. Located on Alamo Plaza in downtown, its three buildings span 300 years of history.
Stay at Mokara Hotel & Spa
You won’t need a lucky horseshoe to find a room in the best hotel in San Antonio; simply book a reservation at Mokara Hotel & Spa, a Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star property that’s steps from the popular River Walk dining and nightlife hub.
The building that serves as home base for this luxe hotel was once a saddlery, and today, you’ll still find hints of old Texas in details like iron four-poster beds and local artwork on the walls. Fill up at Ostra and wind down at The Mokara Spa.
Explore Cascade Caverns Park
Located on a 105-acre park is a water-formed underground cavern with spectacular rock formations. Discover the exciting features of this natural wonder, such as its 100-foot underground waterfall, the grand finale of the 45-minute caverns tour.
Stop at Market Square
Dating to the late 1890s, San Antonio’s Market Square is a colorful, three-block district of shops, restaurants and art galleries, including El Mercado, the largest Mexican market in the U.S. Browse more than 80 stores offering Southwestern arts and crafts and worldwide imports.
Stop for lunch at the Square’s Mi Tierra, famous since the 1940s for its authentic Mexican cuisine.
Bike through the Missions
San Antonio has four Spanish-colonial missions: Concepción, Espada, San José and San Juan. Trek from one to the other on the eight-mile Missions Bike and Hike Trail.
Explore the oldest unrestored stone mission church in the country in Concepción, then make your way to Mission Espada to check out the newly restored friary and chapel.
Admire the carvings and masonry in Mission San José before venturing to Mission San Juan, which was once the center of this self-sufficient community.
Hang Out in the Pearl District
Once a dilapidated area, the Pearl District transformed into one of San Antonio’s trendiest neighborhoods. The epicenter is the former 1881 Pearl Brewery, which was converted into the industrial-chic Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Hotel Emma.
Propped along the River Walk, the bike- and pedestrian-friendly Pearl offers boutiques and an amphitheater, but it’s gaining a reputation as a dining destination. It’s home to the third outpost of the Culinary Institute of America, a twice-weekly farmers market and restaurants like Il Sogno Osteria, La Gloria, Southerleigh Fine Food and Brewery and Supper American Eatery.
Experience McNay Art Museum
Venture to this San Antonio institution for a real treat. As the first Texas modern art museum, it was established by the endowment of the extensive art collection and former residence of Marion Koogler McNay.
The collection includes gothic and medieval art; late 19th- and 20th-century American and European paintings by classic masters such as Van Gogh, Gauguin and Cézanne along with modern painters Jackson Pollock and Jasper Johns; sculptures; graphic arts; and much more.
Be Awed by the San Antonio Museum of Art
The San Antonio Museum of Art is housed in a former brewery. Odd, we know. But it works, especially given the beauty of this 1884 brick structure.
Opened in 1981, this art museum is known for its Greek and Roman collection, Asian art, Latin American and folk art and American paintings. The latter includes landscapes and portraits dating from the colonial period to the early 20th century.
The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art includes pre-Columbian, Spanish-colonial and Latin American folk pieces. Other exhibits include Egyptian antiquities, ancient glass, classical sculpture and more.
If all this culture makes you hungry, a cafe is onsite, too.
Visit the Zoo
The San Antonio Zoo is something that both you and the kids will enjoy. Get up close with 53 types of lories — colorful medium-sized parrots from Australia — at the zoo’s Lory Landing. The friendly birds range in color from scarlet and green to royal blue and fiery orange and are so social that they often flock close to visitors, landing on shoulders and even the occasional head.
Beyond birds, you can visit more than 8,500 animals of 779 species here, making this one of the largest zoos in the United States.