In DepthTouted as Texas' top travel destination, San Antonio reels in more than 32 million visitors annually. Those who journey here come in search of everything from tempting Tex-Mex cuisine to exhilarating SeaWorld San Antonio and Six Flags Fiesta Texas thrill rides. But San Antonio's appeal doesn't end at fajitas and roller coasters.
The Alamo, a source of pride for Texans, remains the city's shining star. The former Spanish mission, the first built along the San Antonio River, changed hands many times before misfortune elevated it to iconic status.
When the Texas Revolution barreled into the compound in 1836, the Alamo was a makeshift garrison manned by Texians, the local inhabitants fighting for independence from Mexico. Seeking control of San Antonio de Béxar (modern-day San Antonio), Mexico's dictator, Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna, sent a large army to overtake the fort. The Alamo's defenders, a vastly outnumbered band of fewer than 200, fought valiantly to their deaths, staving off their attackers for nearly a fortnight.
With its soldiers proclaiming “Remember the Alamo!” the Texian Army defeated Santa Anna's troops at the short-lived Battle of San Jacinto. Perhaps inspired by this rallying cry, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas began their own crusade to save the historic site around the turn of the 19th century, using personal funds and donations. In 1939, just outside walls so bravely protected, the Texas Centennial Commission erected the carved grey marble Alamo Cenotaph as a memorial to the outpost's slain guardians.
Reverent travelers stroll the site today to learn about the heroes who gave their lives in pursuit of liberty. In the old chapel, where many of the last freedom fighters fell, are some of their belongings: co-commander William B. Travis' ring, a period hunting knife like the one wielded by Jim Bowie, and Davy Crockett's buckskin vest. In a courtyard graced by flowering trees and cacti, docents separate fact from fiction while detailing events that occurred more than a century prior.
“Alamo City” also goes by the nickname “River City” thanks to its other prized possession, the River Walk. This picturesque stretch came into being after a period of heartache—in 1921, the San Antonio River overflowed during a violent storm, killing 50 people.
To prevent future tragedies, city officials wanted to create a giant storm drain by paving over the section of the untamed river cutting through downtown. The women of the San Antonio Conservation Society fought this idea, turning the tide in favor of a flood-control program. Soon afterward, architect Robert H. H. Hugman began advocating his plan for a waterside urban park that included dams and channels, footbridges and street-access stairways.
Hugman's vision became a reality in 1941, and today, sightseers find food and fun beside the San Antonio River. At the water's edge, majestic bald cypresses shade preening ducks, while the colorful umbrellas of Casa Rio, the River Walk's oldest restaurant, provide shelter to margarita-sipping patrons. Passing barge captains detail the history of the canal-like waterway, ferrying more than 1 million people through this oasis each year.
The city's Catholic Hispanic traditions are the highlight of San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. At the park's four well-worn Spanish missions, contemporary worshipers carry out age-old rituals, along with newer customs. After spirited Sunday services, locals crowd festive Market Square, the largest Mexican marketplace north of the border. This colorful bazaar takes on new life during such special events as April's 11-day Fiesta San Antonio.
San Antonio, TX
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.
Municipalities may impose additional rates of up to 2 percent on the statewide 6.25 percent sales tax. Sales tax in the city of San Antonio is 8.25 percent; rates vary in the suburbs. The hotel occupancy tax is 16.75 percent.
Baptist Medical Center, (210) 297-7000; Metropolitan Methodist Hospital, (210) 757-2200; Mission Trail Baptist Hospital, (210) 297-3000; Northeast Baptist Hospital, (210) 297-2000; University Hospital, (210) 358-4000.
317 Alamo Plaza San Antonio, TX 78205. Phone:(210)244-2000 or (800)447-3372
San Antonio International Airport
Hertz, (210) 841-8800 or (800) 654-3131, offers discounts to AAA members.
The Amtrak station is at 350 Hoefgen Ave.; for train schedule and ticket information phone (210) 223-3226 or (800) 872-7245.
The Greyhound Lines Inc. bus terminal is at 500 N. St. Mary's St.; phone (210) 270-5868 or (800) 231-2222.
San Antonio taxis are metered. The average fare is $2.50 when you enter the cab plus $2.60 for each mile. A $1 surcharge is added for trips between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Four passengers can ride for a single fare. The major company is Yellow Cab, (210) 222-2222. Boat taxis travel the river's downtown loop daily 9-9 (weather permitting). A one-way fare is $10, an all-day fare is $12, and a 3-day fare is $25. Phone (210) 244-5700 or (800) 417-4139.
VIA Metropolitan Transit provides public transportation consisting of buses and streetcars. Buses are routed through all sections of town; one bus even whisks shoppers from mall to mall on I-410. Express buses run daily from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. Vintage streetcars travel three main city routes daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. or later, swinging by attractions, shopping areas and other key locations about every 10 minutes.