Texas. The very word conjures powerful images in the minds of many: trucks, football, cowboys and wide-open spaces. But for those travelers whose knowledge of the Lone Star State fails to extend beyond these commonly held stereotypes, here is a short guide to three must-see attractions in the San Antonio area that should not only appeal to good-time seekers and history buffs alike, but also dispel the notion that the only thing to do deep in the heart of Texas is head off to the shooting range – unless you’re into that, in which case welcome home!
Remember the Alamo! The Alamo – San Antonio
For those who haven’t taken a course on Texas history – a requirement for all attendees of Texas public schools, as this author knows – the Alamo is the granddaddy of them all around these parts. Located in downtown San Antonio just a stone’s throw from the River Walk, this former mission-cum-military fort currently serves as a museum and attracts a staggering 4 million visitors each year, making it one of the most popular historic sites in the United States. Little of the original mission is left standing today, but visitors can still tour the chapel and Long Barracks, which houses a number of original artifacts. Entrance is free, and audio tours are available for $6 and strongly recommended for those whose knowledge of the Alamo is derived from John Wayne or Billy Bob Thornton movies. Don’t forget a quick trip to the gift shop for your “Remember The Alamo” bumper sticker or “Come And Take It” flag.
A River Runs Through It, Part I: The River Walk – San Antonio
Winding its way through the heart of San Antonio for approximately 2.5 miles, the River Walk (Paseo del Rio) offers revelers beautiful scenery, myriad places to eat, drink, sleep and shop and – thanks to a number of towering bald cypresses – a small measure of respite from the brutal south Texas sun. Located one story beneath the city’s downtown streets and easily accessible from any number of stairwells, the River Walk was the brainchild of architect and San Antonio native Robert Hugman. After the San Antonio river flooded in September 1921, claiming the lives of 50 residents, plans for flood control began. Hugman presented his vision of a bypass channel that would double as a pedestrian walkway/commercial centre in 1929, and construction began in 1939. Today, the River Walk connects important downtown landmarks such as the Alamo, Arneson River Theatre and HemisFair Park. Just be sure not to visit after New Year, when the water is drained so the canal can be cleaned and the ambiance and smell are less than desirable.
A River Runs Through It, Part II: Tubing the Guadalupe River – New Braunfels
A short jaunt north from San Antonio and just outside the city limits of New Braunfels, the ice cold waters of the Guadalupe River snake through the Texas bush and offer a great way to beat the summer heat. About 15 or 20 minutes west of New Braunfels along FM 306, visitors will begin to spot a number of businesses offering parking, tube rentals and shuttle buses for drop-off and pick-up services. Check on-line before heading out for prices, floating courses and times (which can vary widely depending on time of year and water levels). It might be a good idea to make a quick pit-stop on the way out for supplies – namely, sunscreen, snacks and a few frosty adult beverages of your choice. Floating parties have been known to break out at the drop of a hat and you don’t want to be caught empty-handed.
Guadalupe River Photos by: Dustin Larimer; Alamo photo courtesy of Flickr; Amy the Nurse (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)