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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.
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.
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.
This mission, located at the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, was founded in 1720 by Father Antonio Margil de Jesús. It was the largest mission and the main center for cultural and social activities. Hence it was labeled as the ‘Queen of Missions'. A large part of the church was destroyed over the years. The existing Rose Window is one of the finer pieces of architecture belonging to the Spanish colonial era. Some of the few remnants include the arches that once gave shelter to the missionaries, the Convento area and a part of the irrigation ditch, which is visible outside the compound. The church still functions and visitors are permitted to attend the Sunday mass.
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.
The San Antonio Botanical Garden has 33 acres (4046 square meters) of lush foliage and colorful flowers. A wonderful attraction, the garden is an exquisite year-round, with something always in bloom. A conservatory, formal gardens, "old-fashioned" gardens and native plant areas provide a variety of interests. This is definitely a must-see for both botany experts and garden-variety folks. If you're visiting in the spring, don't forget your antihistamines. The garden center features a luncheon cafe, a gift shop, guided tours, and adults' and children's classes. It is also available for private parties.
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.
Situated along the San Antonio River and next to Brackenridge Park, this zoo is considered one of the finest in America, housing more than 3500 animals representing more than 700 species. The recently renovated big cat exhibit draws big crowds, as does the bird collection, which is one of the largest in the United States. Allow time for wandering around and exploring everything this zoo has to offer. San Antonio Zoo offers weekly educational programs and is also available for private events.
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.
What a sight to behold - glass-walled elevators ascend more than 500 feet (152.4 meters) to the observation deck, providing panoramic views of the city. Standing a total of 750 feet (228.6 meters) tall, the tower was constructed for HemisFair, the 1968 World's Fair and symbolizes the progress made by the people of the Western Hemisphere. Soaring as if calling out to the skies, this imposing tower watches over San Antonio's dynamic cityscape. The tower greatly frames the contemporary tenor of downtown San Antonio and is crowned by an observation deck and a revolving restaurant. A stunning embodiment of architectural magnificence, the Tower of the Americas is an indelible present-day landmark of the country.