San Antonio is a city of multiple cultures. Expressions of the old and the new mix in an eclectic manner in this fascinating city, a unique blend that offers views of 200-year-old missions, modern skyscrapers and a downtown built in the 1930s.
The Alamo, established in 1718, has seen many battles to ensure Texas independence from Mexico. [Al Rendon SACB3 photo]
One of the most elegant neighbourhoods is the King William Historic District, the oldest historic district in Texas. Spanish Colonial, Victorian-era homes and German-influenced architecture blend in these magnificent mansions.
The Alamo, first named The Mission San Antonio de Valero, was established in 1718 and later renamed by Spanish soldiers for their home in Alamo de Parros. Many battles took place on this historic site as Texas fought for its independence from Mexico.
From April 16 to 26, a fiesta features fabulous parades. [Fiesta Commission SACBB photo]
As a legacy of the Franciscan monks, education thrives in San Antonio, and the many universities in the area add to the rich cultural ambience. Among them is Our Lady of the Lake University, which offers tours of its magnificent campus.
The jewel of San Antonio is the River Walk, a 2-1/2-mile winding walkway along the San Antonio River. Just a few steps below the bustle of city streets, the walkway is planted with colourful flowers and shaded by huge trees. The River Walk leads to fabulous hotels, restaurants and specialty shops. To sit and enjoy a drink or a meal, or take a walk or even a cruise along the river is perhaps the best way to capture the essence of this wonderful city.
Depicting much of the history of San Antonio, the Institute of Texas Cultures offers a glimpse into the 50 different cultures that have made an impact on San Antonio.
Spurred by political unrest throughout Central Europe, Jews settled throughout Texas as early as the 19th century. In 1837, the Jews came to the commercial centres of Galveston, Houston and San Antonio. Arriving with little more than the clothes on their backs, they joined every part of the Texas culture, contributing to a wide variety of civic and charitable projects. Jewish Texans have been actively involved in political, economic and social changes in the state while retaining their Jewish heritage.
Texas’ first modern art museum, The McNay Art Museum, has recently completed an addition. The original Mediterranean mansion has been joined with the newly constructed Stieren Centre to vastly increase the space for exhibitions, a beautiful sculpture gallery and lovely gardens.
Set along the banks of the River Walk, the Omni’s La Mansion del Rio is a historical treasure. The original structure built in 1852 served as the home of St. Mary’s School. In 1968, La Mansion opened as a hotel and has become one of the finest hotels in San Antonio. Every convenience is provided in the historic building. Decorated in a Spanish Colonial style, the rooms are spacious and stylishly appointed. Beautiful tiles grace the pool area and courtyard. For rooms facing the River Walk wrought iron balconies overlook the river.
Las Canarias, the restaurant at Omni La Mansion, offers breakfast, lunch and dinner in an elegant, romantic setting. Guests can dine in the multi-tiered restaurant or alfresco.
From April 16 to 26, a 10-day fiesta brings more than 3.5 million visitors to San Antonio to see fabulous parades, beautifully decorated barges floating down the river and a four-day multicultural food and music event. Fiesta means party in Spanish and the people of San Antonio certainly know how to fiesta.
San Antonio is a vibrant, one-of-a-kind city with friendly people and a historical past like no other place in the United States, a great place to visit any time of the year.
The Alamo: 210-225-1391; www.thealamo.org
The McNay Art Museum: 210-824-5368; www.mcnayart.org
Fiesta: 210-227-5191 or 877-723-4378; www.fiesta-sa.org
Omni La Mansion del Rio: 210-518-1000; www.lamansion.com
San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau: 210-207-6700; –www.visitsanantonio.com
Institute of Texas Cultures: 210-458-2330; www.texascultures.com