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It all started in 1881 when trappers, hunters and cowboys traded deer antlers for beer or whiskey at Albert Friedrich's saloon. Now, the saloon/museum's Hall of Horns, Hall of Feathers and Hall of Fins house not only the largest, but also some of the most impressive collections of native and exotic wildlife around. If you're squeamish about mounted deer heads, fish and fowl, then don't go. If you're awed by how large deer antlers can grow to be, by just how large of a mouth that a large-mouth bass can have, or at the wingspan of native turkeys, then you'll love this place. You can even bring in a set of antlers or a stuffed fish to trade at the bar for a whiskey or sarsaparilla.
Originally the Mission San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo is by far the most famous historical site in Texas, playing a significant role in Texas' quest for independence from Mexico. Under the command of Col. William Travis, 189 Texan soldiers bravely defended this fort for 13 days before finally succumbing to Santa Anna's massive Mexican army in early 1836. The chapel and the Long Barrack are all that remains of the fort. Saved from civilian apathy by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, the mission is now a museum containing relics from the era. Narrated tours are available.
When you think of San Antonio, two things automatically come to mind: the Alamo and the River Walk. The River Walk was conceived in 1929. Downtown had serious flood problems, and Robert Hugman suggested that the city turn the San Antonio River into an asset rather than a hindrance. Hugman's brainchild has since become the essence of the city. The city's most popular attraction, it is often crowded and filled with children, partygoers, tourists and locals. In the heart of the River Walk is an area filled with restaurants, shops and nightclubs, punctuated by fountains and towering Cypress trees. The River Walk is particularly lively during Fiesta.
Housed in what was once the Lone Star Brewery, this museum boasts fairly comprehensive collections of both ancient and Asian art. The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art displays what is probably one of the most impressive collections of pre-Columbian, Spanish Colonial, and Latin American modern and folk art in the United States. On Sundays, the museum sponsors educational workshops for children, in which they can create their own pieces of art to display at home. The museum also plays host to touring exhibits such as one featuring Egyptian artifacts on loan from Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.
One of the city's largest parks, Brackenridge offers more family fun than one day can accommodate. Start with the musical carousel featuring 60 antique horses. Then try the Skyride, which consists of Swiss manufactured cable cars that lift visitors to enjoy the view of the park as well as the city skyline. If ground transportation is more your speed, opt for a ride on the miniature train that runs through a 3.5-mile (5.6-kilometer) stretch of the park. For water travel, cruise around the upper part of the San Antonio River in paddle boats. Other facilities include a municipal golf course, a driving range, bike trails and picnic areas.
The city's science and natural history museum has garnered remarkable popularity which has skyrocketed even more with the adjacent HEB Science Tree house: a collection of interactive exhibits and activities for visitors of all ages. Permanent exhibits include ones featuring Native American cave paintings, archaeological artifacts, an Egyptian mummy, native Texan mammals, reptiles, and much more. Past touring exhibits have included gowns and memorabilia from Fiesta's Order of the Alamo coronation pageants, Dinosaurs Alive! and Microbes.
This Spanish-Mediterranean mansion, located in the heart of well-to-do Alamo Heights, houses impressive artworks from 19th and 20th Century America and Europe, in addition to one of the largest theater arts collections in the United States. Its grounds are as lovely as its collections, boasting fountains, streams, goldfish ponds and Japanese-style gardens. Recent touring exhibitions include works by Georgia O'Keefe, a collection of pop art and American Pictorial Photography. The auditorium and portions of the McNay Art Museum are available for private functions.
Just a few minutes northeast of San Antonio lies a geological wonder that attracts tourists from around the globe. Natural Bridge Caverns, designated both a U.S. Natural Landmark as well as a Texas Historic Site, contains some of the most phenomenal cave formations in the country. Giant stalactites resembling enormous chandeliers and stalagmites that look like fried eggs are just a few of the more than 10,000 formations contained within this living cave. Special rates are available for groups of 25 or more.
Lined by a network of trails, the Guadalupe River State Park is a marvelous retreat that sits along the banks of the Guadalupe River. The rippling water of the river reflects the surrounding rock formations and colorful vegetation, making it appear as though painted in a collage of colors. Extending over four miles (6.5 kilometers) of this tranquil river, the park offers an uninterrupted swimming experience for those who are fond of the sport. Aside from that, activities like canoeing and fishing are also popular among visitors. The park is known to be an excellent spot for bird-watching with an opportunity to spot even the occasional rare golden-cheeked warbler. There are also ample campsites, liked by a network of trails, for those seeking to spend the night in the midst of nature.