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.
Although construction did not begin until 1749, this cathedral was established in 1731 by the Canary/Spanish Islanders, who sought to build their own place of worship. It is one of the oldest cathedral sanctuaries in the United States. The famous Alamo defender James Bowie was married here and during the siege of the Alamo Santa Anna used it as an observation post. Notable historic figures Bowie, William Travis and Davy Crockett are buried here. The cathedral still draws huge crowds for Mass and always welcomes visitors.
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.
Replete with a variety of flora and fauna, the Government Canyon State Natural Area features an incredible landscape dominated by towering trees and rocky canyons. Enjoy biking, hiking, and other exciting outdoor activities at this nature reserve. This park was made for adventure, offering 12,047 acres (4875 hectares) for visitors to explore. Take in the sight of rolling hills and rare wildlife as you explore 40 miles (64 kilometers) of trails. There's something here for everyone, whether you want to take a relaxing walk surrounded by exquisite nature or go for a more strenuous hike.
Sandwiched between Mission San Jose and Hot Wells locales in the heart of San Antonio's expansive wildernesses, this historical park was designated as a settlement for Catholic priests who were sent here as Spanish missionaries to spread the word of the holy bible among the natives. The park is spread over 948 acres (384 hectares) of blissful lawns that house the Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan and Mission Espada; the four historical missions which constitute what is known as the Mission Trail, all possessing very distinct and beautiful detailing in their designs and constructions. The Espada Aqueduct, Rancho de las Cabras, and the Ethel Wilson Harris House are some of the park's other notable attractions.
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.
A 300-year old colonial past laced with an unflinching freedom spirit pulsates through every inch of San Antonio's present-day fabric. One of the oldest European settlements in Texas, San Antonio continues to be a popular destination for tourists to the state. Originally inhabited by the Payaya tribe, the region was claimed by Spain in 1691 on St. Anthony of Padua's feast day, giving the area its name. A missionary by the name of Father Antonio de Olivares visited the site in 1709 and lobbied for a mission and settlement on the spot. After a lengthy planning process, Misión de San Antonio de Valero, more famously known as the Alamo, was finished in 1718. In 1836, American settlers clashed with the Mexican army, resulting in the famous Battle of the Alamo, which is commemorated today with an interactive museum within the old complex. San Antonio is one of Texas's most visited cities, both for this profoundly iconic building and for the lovely River Walk which takes pedestrians along the length of the San Antonio River.
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.
The historical center and heart of the city's Mexican culture, the square is the largest Mexican marketplace outside of Mexico. Here you can dine on Mexican food at one of several cafes, enjoy the lively sounds of Mariachi bands and buy wonderful blankets, clothes, leather and metal goods and much more, imported from just south of the border. The square plays host to many cultural events and fairs throughout the year, including Fiesta del Mercado (Party of the Market) in April and Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in November.
Come by for a one-of-a-kind theater going experience. The Arneson River Theatre is located on the southern side of River San Antonio but the audience sits is located on the northern side of the river. The picturesque view of a river running right in front of the stage makes any performance seem magical. Take a seat on one of the grassy steps and enjoy a thrilling outdoor show. This theater is known for holding concerts, plays, musical performances, and more.
If you intend to spend a fun day with your family, La Villita, the historical arts village is just perfect for you. There are so many things to do that your day will end in no time. If you are an art freak, the galleries here will interest you, as well as the River Art Show in October. There are many restaurants so you can just pick one that suites your taste. A must visit for all guests is the church with beautiful stained glass windows and the museum in building nine. If you plan on taking some souvenirs back home, don't forget to visit the gift shops.