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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Spanish Governor's Palace is the "most beautiful building" in the city according to the National Geographic Society. This national historic landmark was originally the official residence of the Governor of the Spanish Province of Texas in the late 18th Century. Visiting the building is like taking a step back in time; it is replete with period furnishings, small rooms with low ceilings, and thick stucco walls. The cobblestone patio features beautiful foliage and a fountain. Most noteworthy is the original keystone over the entrance, which bears the carved, double-headed eagle from the Hapsburg coat of arms along with an inscription, in Spanish, reading "finished in 1749."
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.
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.
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.