Wake up in the Alamo City with the scent of huevos rancheros in the air, the sound of mariachis, and the sight of barges winding down the San Antonio River, and you know you're some place special.San Antonio is quite possibly Texas's most beautiful and atmospheric city, so it's no wonder it's the state's number-one tourist destination. Remember the Alamo? It's here, sitting in a plaza right downtown, so you can easily walk to it from your hotel. But while most visitors check out this famous symbol of Texas liberty when they come to town, the historic mission is by no means the only reason to visit San Antonio.In fact, the heart of the visitor area is the Paseo del Rio—the River Walk—a festive, almost magical place that winds through downtown at 20 feet below street level. Nestled in by tall buildings and cypress trees, and tucked away from the noise of traffic above, the River Walk draws crowds to its high-rise and boutique hotels, specialty shops, and plethora of restaurants with alfresco dining.Families are drawn to the big theme parks on the northwestern edge of town. San Antonio's Sea World is the largest marine-adventure park in the Sea World chain, and has what every kid wants in a park: animals, roller coasters, waterslides, and swimming pools. Meanwhile, Six Flags Fiesta Texas also boasts a water park and roller coasters, plus many other rides and Branson-like musical shows.Snuggled firmly in south-central Texas, San Antonio acts as the gateway to the Hill Country—a landscape punctuated with majestic live oaks, myriad lakes, and flush-with-wildflowers hills—as well as the beginning of South Texas, the huge triangular tip of the state that is home to the Rio Grande Valley and South Padre Island, favorite destinations for bird watchers and beach-goers. San Antonio also isn't far from the Mexico–Texas border—between two and three hours to Del Rio to the west and Laredo to the south.Given the city's close proximity to Mexico and its one-time position as the chief Mexican stronghold in Texas (prior to Texas's independence), it's not surprising that the rich tapestry of San Antonio's heritage has a good deal of Hispanic culture woven into it. Visitors can peruse shops selling Mexican crafts and jewelry, dine on Tex-Mex food, and enjoy Spanish music and mariachi bands at Market Square.If experiencing San Antonio's multifacted ethnicity—including not only its Latino side but also its German, French, African, and even Japanese influences—is of prime importance to you, then the best time for you to visit may well be during Fiesta each April. An event that began in the late 1800s to pay tribute to the soldiers who died in the Battle of the Alamo and San Jacinto, the 10-day citywide celebration captures the city's many cultures, with music, food, festivals, fairs, parades, a carnival, and more.
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Things You Can't Miss
Choose hotels close to the convention center. When there’s no convention in town, the rates are excellent and you’re still close to the popular River Walk.
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The San Antonio Zoo has a Twilight tour that’s refreshingly devoid of crowds, as well as the Texas sun. Plus, the animals are a lot more, well, animated.
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I still dream of Elote en Vaso or corn in a cup. Cut from the cob and mixed with cream, paprika, a dash of chili powder and a squeeze of lime. YUM!
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You may be surprised to see just how small the Alamo actually is. The fortress compound was where the last stand for Texas independence took place in 1836.
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Though the Alamo is the most famous, there are five separate missions that stretch along the San Antonio River. If you have time, they’re all worth a look.
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Enjoy dinner, drinks, and panoramic views with a reservation at the revolving restaurant in the Tower of the Americas. The observation deck is just as good.
John Elk / Getty Images
Housed in a 1920s Spanish-style mansion, the McNay Art Museum features works by Picasso, Gauguin, van Gogh, Renoir and many other modern masters.
This bustling outdoor plaza is the largest Mexican market in the United States. Musicians entertain visitors browsing food, crafts and clothing.
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