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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This former home of Jose Antonio Navarro is now one of the best gems of the city's history. Navarro was a prominent rancher and statesman and was one of only two native Texans of Mexican nationality to sign Texas' declaration of independence from Mexico. Built in 1848, the home was preserved by the San Antonio Conservation Society and now operates as a small museum conducting informative, interactive tours. Special activities are available for children as well.
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.
Briscoe Western Art Museum is located on Market Street, in Downtown San Antonio. The museum, named for one of the most beloved governors of Texas, Dolph Briscoe, boasts of an interesting collection of artworks typical to the Western regions of America. A part of the Public Library, the museum is home to several contemporary and historic pieces and artifacts, including some that date back to the time of the Spanish conquest of the 1800s! The place also hosts numerous exhibitions and workshops throughout the year for the benefit of art students and enthusiasts. Open from Tuesdays through Sundays, Briscoe Western Art Museum makes for an interesting visit. Check the website for more details.