San Antonio, Texas
Has anyone ever asked if you wanted to visit San Antonio, Texas? My cousin Ann asked me that question a few months ago. My response was: "San Antonio????" "Texas???" San Antonio was not my idea of a place to visit. However, to my great surprise, I actually fell in love with San Antonio, when my cousin Ann and I decided to visit from the 13th to the 18th. It is a wonderful city with extremely friendly and helpful people. San Antonio is Texas hospitality at its finest!!! In fact, Michael and I went back for the Memorial Day weekend. Whom would have guessed???!!!
San Antonio is celebrating its 300th birthday this year!!! Happy Tricentennial!!!
My husband wanted us to be safe so he booked us in the Westin Riverwalk San Antonio at 420 Market Street. If you are looking for a hotel that is centrally located in the downtown area, then the Westin is the hotel to choose. What made our trip even more exceptional was the personal service we received from the staff at the Westin Riverwalk. Special thanks go to two fantastic people: Miss Te'a at the reception desk and JR Vasquez.
After exploring the city, it was nice to be greeted by Geneva.
On both occasions, our rooms overlooked the River Walk.
Miss Te'a and JR made both stays extra special
I did not to want to rent a car on the first visit. The San Antonio Go Card Explorer Pass was the perfect option. I could choose from 18 attractions which included museums, tours, cruises and more. I chose the 5 option plan. This worked out perfectly as Ann also wanted to visit Fredericksburg which was included on the Texas Hill Country and LBJ Ranch Tour.
As this was my first visit to San Antonio, I decided to get to know the city more by using the City Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off Tour which showcased the best of San Antonio, from the River Walk to Southtown to The Pearl Brewery in Northtown. Enjoyed the informative narration by the tour guides. I wanted to get a feel for the city so we stayed on for the two hour loop around the city. The second time around we stopped to explore some areas which were of interest.
The Alamo heroes died here fighting for freedom. Bowie...Crockett.. Travis...Esparza
Their call for aid and refusal to surrender in the face of overwhelming odds stirred America and the world. Their sacrifice helped give birth to Texas. The Alamo is Texas' most visited historic landmark.
The Battle of the Alamo (February 23 – March 6, 1836) was a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution. Following a 13-day siege, Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna launched an assault on the Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Béxar (modern-day San Antonio, Texas, United States), killing all of the Texas defenders. Santa Anna's cruelty during the battle inspired many Texans—both Texas settlers and adventurers from the United States—to join the Texas Army. Buoyed by a desire for revenge, the Texans defeated the Mexican Army at the Battle of San Jacinto, on April 21, 1836, ending the revolution.
Several months previously, Texans had driven all Mexican troops out of Mexican Texas. About 100 Texans were then garrisoned at the Alamo. The Texan force grew slightly with the arrival of reinforcements led by eventual Alamo co-commanders James Bowie and William B. Travis. On February 23, approximately 1,500 Mexicans marched into San Antonio de Béxar as the first step in a campaign to retake Texas. For the next 10 days, the two armies engaged in several skirmishes with minimal casualties. Aware that his garrison could not withstand an attack by such a large force, Travis wrote multiple letters pleading for more men and supplies, but the Texans were reinforced by fewer than 100 men.
In the early morning hours of March 6, the Mexican Army advanced on the Alamo. After repelling two attacks, the Texans were unable to fend off a third attack. As Mexican soldiers scaled the walls, most of the Texan soldiers withdrew into interior buildings. Defenders unable to reach these points were slain by the Mexican cavalry as they attempted to escape. Between five and seven Texans may have surrendered; if so, they were quickly executed. Most eyewitness accounts reported between 182 and 257 Texans died, while most historians of the Alamo agree that around 600 Mexicans were killed or wounded. Several noncombatants were sent to Gonzales to spread word of the Texan defeat. The news sparked both a strong rush to join the Texas army and a panic, known as "The Runaway Scrape", in which the Texas army, most settlers, and the new Republic of Texas government fled eastward toward the United States ahead of the advancing Mexican Army.
Within Mexico, the battle has often been overshadowed by events from the Mexican–American War of 1846–48. In 19th-century Texas, the Alamo complex gradually became known as a battle site rather than a former mission. The Texas Legislature purchased the land and buildings in the early part of the 20th century and designated the Alamo chapel as an official Texas State Shrine.
The Alamo has been the subject of numerous non-fiction works beginning in 1843. Most Americans, however, are more familiar with the myths and legends spread by many of the movie and television adaptations, including the 1950s Disney mini-series Davy Crockett and John Wayne's 1960 film The Alamo.
No pictures are allowed in the chapel but you can take pictures of the grounds.
The area area around the Alamo is known as Alamo Square. Plans are being discussed to change this area. The trees are lovely so I hope they decide to keep them/
Market Square is a three block outdoor plaza lined with shops and restaurants. It is the largest Mexican market in the United States. The "El Mercado" section has 32 specialty shops and the "Farmer's Market Plaza" section has 80.
San Antonio Museum of Art
Located in a former 19th-century brewery on the Museum Reach of the River Walk, the San Antonio Museum of Art has been a mainstay in downtown San Antonio for decades, housing exemplary collections of art from around the globe. Several expansions in the 1990s diversified the collections even further and today the museum boasts more than 30,000 distinct objects and artifacts from 5,000 years of human history.
Highlights of the collections include Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiquities, Latin American artwork, contemporary art, and Asian art. There is even a special gallery dedicated to Texas art. Art lovers should consider this a must-see destination in San Antonio.
Floor mosaic: Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs
Roman 3rd-4th century A.D.
colored stone and glass set in mortar
The mythical Lapiths lived in Thessaly, a region in northern Greece. The leader of the Lapiths, Pirithous, invited the half human, half horse Centaurs to his wedding to a woman named Hippodamia. The Centaurs drank too much wine, became unruly and tried to carry off several Lapith women, including the bride. This mosaic depicts the fight that broke out when the Lapiths attempted to restore order and rescue the women.
Willow Tree, Camellia and Mandarin Ducks
Colorful decorative painting of flowers and birds painted on gold leaf were popular during the Edo period (1600-1868) among wealthy military families and merchants. It was common practice to display screens with motifs that corresponded with the season. In this screen, the red and white camellias are associated with winter or very early Spring. The short leaves of the willow also suggest Spring as the leaves have started to grow. Because they mate for life, the mandarin ducks symbolize harmony and a happy marriage, suggesting these screens might have been used for a celebratory event like an engagement or wedding.
In the Garden (oil on canvas 1931)
José Arpa y Pérea 1860-1952
This moving image of a mother and child was probably painted not long after the painter José Arpa permanently returned to his native Spain after a long residency in Mexico and San Antonio from the late 1890s until 1931. The terracotta ground, purple and yellow flowerbeds and grass behind the female figure draw the viewer's eye to the focal point of the painting. The brilliant light in the middle and background contrasts dramatically with the foreground shadow. Meanwhile, the soft and rich tonal gradations of the mother and child play off the cool blocks of color within the rest of the composition.
Statue of Guanyin
Passing Storm over the Sierra Nevadas, 1870
The drama of nature plays out in this monumental scene of a rainstorm moving across a mountain lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. In the late 19th century, Albert Bierstadt thrilled East Coast and European viewers with scenes like this on the the Western United States. Although the painter knew the area well from travels, particulary as an artisst attached to an 1859 expedition to the Rocky Mountains, he often exaggerated the scale of mountains and ramped up the volume on dramatic contrasts between light and shadow- all in order to captivate his avid public, many of whom only knew the West through exhibition paintings such as this one.
Buckhorn Saloon and Museum and the Texas Ranger Museum
Since its founding in 1881, the Buckhorn Saloon has grown from a bar decorated with antler racks into an impressive collection of taxidermy with more than 520 animal species represented.
It is one of the few museumss that will offer guests a cold beer from the 120 year old bar while they are touring the unique Wild West experience.
VFW Post 76, the Oldest Post in Texas, was granted its Congressional Charter on June 26, 1917 by the National Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States of America. VFW Post 76 is now located at 10 Tenth Street, San Antonio, TX 78215.
They state: "The purpose of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 76 is fraternal, patriotic, historical and educational; to preserve and strengthen comradeship among its members; to assist worthy comrades; to perpetuate the memory and history of our dead, and to assist their widows and orphans; to maintain true allegiance to the Government of the United States of America, and fidelity to its Constitution and laws: to foster true patriotism, to maintain and extend the institutions of American freedom; and to preserve and defend the United States from all her enemies, whomsoever."
It is reported that this 110 year old Victorian home is haunted.
Pearl, a 22 acre site, is a culinary and cultural destination in the city. It is a place where you can attend a gathering in a historic site, dine at numerous restaurants, shop, enjoy an outdoor concert or Farmer's Market. The Pearl is where the third campus of The Culinary Institute of America is located. As a former brewery operating from 1883 to 2001, Pearl reflect its vivid past.
With more than 500 residents within its boundaries and 2,00 people living within walking distance, Pearl is more than a pretty collection of boutiques and restaurants..
St. Anthony Hotel
Built in 1909, and restored to its original grandeur, this downtown National Historic Landmark boasts authentic decor and modern facilities. It was the first hotel in San Antonio to have air conditioning and an underground parking garage.
The Fairmount Hotel was built in 1906. It was moved about six blocks through downtown San Antonio in 1985 and was expanded in 1966. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
It is difficult to imagine, that the Fairmount Hotel on the corner of Alamo Street and Nueva Street across from La Villita once sat on the other side of downtown where the Rivercenter Marriott now stands. The boutique hotel was built in 1906, but it had become an abandoned building in the way of the new Rivercenter development. As is often the case in San Antonio, many realized that the decrepit building had value, it just sat in the way of a multi million dollar development. If only the building could be moved to another spot in downtown, it could be saved.
In 1984, the Fairmount Hotel’s fate was uncertain as developers planned to build the Marriott Rivercenter Hotel and Rivercenter Mall nearby. The Fairmount Hotel was then purchased by C. Thomas Wright, Virginia Van Steenberg and Belton K. Johnson to save it from being razed.
“The developers didn’t want it,” Michael Lanford, an Alamo Architect principal said. “But we were young and new and wanted to figure out what to do with it.”
Van Steenberg said she was a member of the San Antonio Conservation Society and felt it was important to save the hotel.
“It was the last example of Italianate architecture left in San Antonio,” she said.
The idea of moving the 79 year old hotel became reality on March 30, 1985 when, after weeks of preparation, the building was ready for its half mile trek thru downtown.
Crews began preparing for the $1-million move by removing furnishings, boarding windows, lifting the structure onto dollies and trussing it with bands of steel. By the time the building was ready for the trek, it was a brick-and-mortar shell supported by huge I-beams and wooden boards.
The 1,600 ton building wrapped in steel cables was moved with a cable-and-pulley system that involved 36 hydraulic jack-dollies with 288 pneumatic tires, a crane for torque, and six fully loaded dump trucks with gravel for stability.
Before it left its old home at the corner of Bowie and Commerce, the Market Street Bridge over the River Walk had to be fortified for the passing of the Fairmount. The weight of the building was such that no one was quite sure if the old hotel would be able to cross over the bridge without crushing it and landing in the river. The Auxiliary Bishop Bernard Popp blessed the building moments before the journey.
There was even an unconfirmed report in the Express-News that Las Vegas was taking bets on whether the hotel would make it across the bridge.
The bridge required an enormous amount of wood and steel support. When the time came for the hotel to cross, the bridge didn’t even flex. A construction worker had placed a beer bottle between one of the supports and the bridge wall. The bottle remained intact, signifying there was no real movement.
It took 132 hours and about 300 workers for the Fairmount to make it the half mile across downtown. Turning corners took 4 hours. Top speed was a mere 4 miles an hour on the straightaways.
While they were preparing the new location site, an "oblong black feature " that had pre-1850 artifacts was found. Tom Hester, then director of the Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Texas sent a crew of about 60 archaeologists, students and volunteers whom spent about two weeks excavating the site. Their work uncovered a long trench that had an abundance of evidence of being a gunnery emplacement trench used by Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna and his Mexican Army in the attack on the Alamo. Among the artifacts found: musket balls, bayonets, grape shot, a nine-pound cannonball, and numerous parts of “Brown Bess” muskets. The find also included a rare eight-inch howitzer ball. “Nothing like that’s ever been found regarding the Battle of the Alamo,” Hester said.
When the structure arrived at its final destination, it was conjoined with an existing building to the south. It was then renovated into a 37-room boutique hotel and reopened on Sept. 5, 1986 along with certification from the Guiness Book of Records as the heaviest hotel ever moved.
La Antorcha de la Amistad
La Antorcha de la Amistad (Spanish for "The Torch of Friendship") is a monumental abstract sculpture that stands in the downtown area close to the Alamo. The artist of the sculpture is world-renowned Mexican sculptor, Sebastián, and was commissioned by a group of Mexican businessmen living in the United States and friends of Mexico. The sculpture was presented as a gift from the Mexican government to the City of San Antonio in 2002. It was unveiled on June 27, 2002, by the artist, Mayor Edward D. Garza, and then–Secretary of Foreign Affairs for Mexico and political analyst Jorge Castañeda Gutman.
The sculpture has two posts that rise at non-parallel angles. The posts appear to rise straightly until they individually curl and twist before meeting at the highest point of the sculpture. The sculpture is lit constantly, and with varying colors and light patterns at different periods of the year. The sculpture is geometric but does not seem to form any strictly right angles. From each angle surrounding the sculpture, the shape at the top appears to be from a different sculpture. Interestingly enough due to the location, the one perspective that is often inaccessible is that right under the sculpture, as it is located on a rotary island in a busy traffic intersection.
The artist himself describes the concepts of the sculpture a torch rising from the ground, and as a symbolization of two different actors—the United States of America and Mexico—running together.
To the left, you see the Marriott Hotel where the Fairmount Hotel was moved from. The Tower of the Americas, which is San Antonio's tallest building at 750 feet is to the right. At the Tower of the Americas, you can enjoy the gorgeous city views from the Tower's revolving Chart House Restaurant, take in the 360 degree view of the city from the Observation Deck or experience the thrilling 4D Theater Ride.
The River Walk may not be magic, but it is magical. There is something about the water, the towering cypress and the sound of nature that gives you peace. After a little shopping, something to eat at one of the many restaurants and a boat ride, you actually feel like you spent a very magical day.
You may be asking yourself, what is the River Walk? Well, The the River Walk is a city park and network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River, one story beneath the streets of the city. Lined by bars, shops, restaurants, nature, public artwork, and the five historic missions, the River Walk is an important part of the city's urban fabric and a tourist attraction in its own right. The River Walk is a successful special-case pedestrian street, one level down from the automobile street. The River Walk winds and loops under bridges as two parallel sidewalks lined with restaurants and shops, connecting the major tourist draws from the Shops at Rivercenter, to the Arneson River Theatre, to Marriage Island, to La Villita, to HemisFair Park, to the Tower Life Building, to the San Antonio Museum of Art, to the Pearl and the city's five Spanish colonial missions, which have been named a World Heritage Site, including the Alamo. During the annual springtime Fiesta San Antonio, the River Parade features flowery floats that float down the river.
In September 1921, a disastrous flood along the San Antonio River took 50 lives. Plans were then developed for flood control of the river. Among the plans was to build an upstream dam (Olmos Dam) and bypass a prominent bend of the river in the Downtown area (between present day Houston Street and Villita Parkway), then to pave over the bend, and create a storm sewer.
Work began on the Olmos Dam and bypass channel in 1926; however, the San Antonio Conservation Society successfully protested the paved sewer option. No major plans came into play until 1929, when San Antonio native and architect Robert Hugman submitted his plans for what would become the River Walk. Although many have been involved in development of the site, the leadership of former mayor Jack White was instrumental in passage of a bond issue that raised funds to empower the 1938 “San Antonio River Beautification Project”, which began the evolution of the site into the present 2.5-mile-long (4 km) River Walk.
Hugman endorsed the bypass channel idea (which would be completed later that year) but, instead of paving over the bend, Hugman suggested 1) a flood gate at the northern (upstream) end of the bend; 2) a small dam at the southern (downstream) end of the bend; and 3) a Tainter gate in the channel to regulate flow. The bend would then be surrounded by commercial development, which he titled "The Shops of Aragon and Romula". Hugman went as far as to maintain his architect's office along the bend.
Hugman's plan was initially not well-received – the area was noted for being dangerous. At one point, it was declared off-limits to military personnel. People were warned of the threat of being "drowned like a rat" should the river flood. However, over the next decade support for commercial development of the river bend grew, and crucial funding came in 1939 under the WPA which resulted in the initial construction of a network of some 17,000 feet (5,200 m) of walkways, about twenty bridges, and extensive plantings including some of the bald cypress (others are several hundred years old) whose branches stretch up to ten stories and are visible from street level.
Hugman's persistence paid off; he was named project architect. His plan would be put to the test in 1946, when another major flood threatened downtown San Antonio, but the Olmos Dam and bypass channel minimized the area damage. Casa Rio, a landmark River Walk restaurant, became the first restaurant in the area in 1946, opening next door to Hugman's office.
Through the following decades the network has been improved and extended. The first major extension of the River Walk was constructed by the joint venture of two general contractors Darragh & Lyda Inc. and H. A. Lott Inc. to Tower of the Americas as part of HemisFair '68. The expansion extended the River Walk beyond its natural banks at the horseshoe bend to the new convention center and theater by excavating much of the block bordered by Commerce, Bowie, Market and Alamo Streets. That was also the year the Hilton Palacio del Rio was built, the first of many downtown hotels that leverage their slice of urban "riverfront." A subsequent major expansion opened in 1988 that extended a branch from the 1968 extension to create a lagoon at the new Rivercenter Mall and the Marriott Rivercenter Hotel.
In 1981 the Hyatt Regency San Antonio opened with a new pedestrian connector that linked Alamo Plaza to the River Walk with concrete waterfalls, waterways and indigenous landscaping. Known as the Paseo del Alamo, this river "extension" actually flows from Alamo Plaza into the San Antonio River through the atrium of the hotel. This connector not only allows the hotel to market itself as being on Alamo Plaza and on the River Walk, but it provides the city with an urban park that connects the city's two largest tourist attractions.
Many downtown buildings like the Casino Club Building have street entrances and separate river entrances one level below. This separates the automotive service grid (for delivery and emergency vehicles) and pedestrian traffic below, and creating an intricate network of bridges, walkways, and old staircases. The San Antonio Spurs had their five NBA Championship victory parades/cruises along the river.
Expansion was planned for areas of the river north and south of downtown. As chain restaurants and establishments have begun to flourish, now taking up about a third of commercial space, talk has begun at City Hall about limiting their existence on the River Walk and keeping a distinctively local flair. On May 30, 2009 the city opened the $72 million Museum Reach. The Museum Reach features local attractions such as the San Antonio Museum of Art and The Pearl Brewery, which has become one of the most popular areas for locals.
Two years later, in May 2011, the River Walk was extended by several miles to extend from downtown to Mission Espada which is on the city's south side. This addition (named the "Mission Reach") is notable for its emphasis on ecological controls and improvements, as well as trail improvements to support both hiking and biking. The Mission Reach has paddling trails and biking trails which allow tourists to experience the UNESCO World Heritage Missions.
The River Walk has inspired similar projects in other cities, such as the Little Sugar Creek Greenway in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Cherry Creek Greenway in Denver, Colorado, and the Santa Lucía Riverwalk in Monterrey, Mexico.
After years of murmuring from locals and tourists about the water's quality, talk has also begun about cleaning up the water, although the muddy bottom and silt deposits make this difficult. The muddy bottom does receive an annual cleaning during the Mud Festival.
In early 2016, for the first time in its history, the River Walk was connected with another linear urban walkway, the San Pedro Creek Greenway. The greenway joins with the River Walk at the confluence of the San Pedro Creek and the San Antonio River near Mission Concepción.
Some sights along the River Walk during the day and at night. You can explore the River Walk by foot or by boat. Oh, the depth of the water is only 3 to 4 feet so you don't have to worry..