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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.
Artpace, a local foundation with national influence, anchors the art community with impressive exhibits, active public outreach and an international artist-in-residence program. Each artist's residency is launched with a potluck dinner, which coincides with the exhibit opening and is meant to introduce the resident to the community. Brown-bag lunches with discussions about current exhibits, lectures, seminars, film screenings and community events provide a context for the residents' work and encourage the public to become involved with the contemporary art community. The beautifully renovated 1920s-era building that the foundation calls home was once an automobile dealership. It is only one block from the River Walk in the downtown cultural district, near the Central Library.
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.
Located directly across from the Alamo, this museum displays shocking wax mannequins so similar to the heroes, celebrities and fictional characters they represent, that it's almost creepy. You'll see Jim Carrey, Charlton Heston, Frankenstein, Dracula and many more. You'll feel like you got your money's worth in this odd museum. The weird items should be safe for kids, but if you have a squeamish little one, don't go into the cellar.
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.
The San Antonio Fire Museum is dedicated to educating visitors on the history of firefighting in the city, fire prevention, and fire safety. See antique fire engines, uniforms, and firefighting equipment on display. The museum also hosts educational programs for people of all ages. A donation is requested from adult visitors, but children under 12 are admitted for free.