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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.
In 1915, the city requested a Japanese immigrant and his wife to transform an old rock quarry into a Japanese-styled garden, and a man named Mr. Kimi Eizo Jingu agreed to the task. He started with a rock house, which still stands today and is surrounded by winding pebble walkways, stone bridges, a waterfall and tranquil pools. His work transformed the old rock quarry into a garden filled with lily ponds and lush green vegetation. With the onset of World War II and the growing anti-Japanese sentiment that surrounded it, the city council changed the garden's name to "Chinese Sunken Garden." In 1983, the original name was finally restored.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Originally created as the grounds for the 1968 Worlds Fair, this park is a favorite of locals and visitors alike. Stroll through the park's 12 acres of fountains, pools and beautifully landscaped grounds or cavort on the Downtown All Around Playground. Built entirely by volunteers, this playground features wooden play areas designed by kids, including a space tunnel and a castle—perfect for letting little imaginations run wild. Also located on the park grounds are the Institute of Texan Cultures and the Tower of the Americas.
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.
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.
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.
This theme park is a treat for anyone who loves animals, roller coasters and fabulous shows. Not only does SeaWorld San Antonio have Shamu (the performing killer whale), it also has walk-through habitats where you can watch sea lions, sharks, fish, penguins and flamingos do what they would do in the wild. For those who crave being a part of the action, there is an inverted roller coaster (do this on an empty stomach), along with a variety of water rides. Check out the water-skiing shows and the restaurants, too. Be sure to stick around at night for laser shows and seasonal concerts.