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San Antonio has the friendly atmosphere of a small town despite being the seventh largest city in the United States. Attractions such the Alamo, where Davy Crockett famously took his last stand, and the restaurant-lined Riverwalk ensure that San Antonio is one of the most popular destinations in the country, drawing millions of visitors per year.
The city has a unique combination of Spanish colonial plazas, downtown German architecture, and vibrant Tex-Mex culture. Its music scene combines Mexican and Texan country and western strands, and its cuisine reflects tortillas and T-bones in interesting combinations. San Antonio's Fiesta week in late April ranks as one of the biggest community events in the US.
The city is easily navigable on foot, particularly the Riverwalk, which winds its way along the San Antonio River, past cafes, restaurants, shaded groves and preserved colonial buildings. The Riverwalk is the heart of this city, linking its key attractions together and providing sanctuary from the heat of summer.
The Alamo has assumed mythological significance in American culture. Originally built as a mission by Spanish priests in 1724, the missionaries later gave the land to resident converts to continue their farming. But in the early 19th century, the Spanish military stationed cavalry at the old mission station. The men began calling the mission the Alamo, a reference to their hometown in Spain, and during the following wars over Texas, the Alamo played a very important role. Davy Crocket and his small party held out for 13 days against a 2,500-strong Mexican army before finally being overrun. While the actual Alamo is smaller than most visitors expect, its immense history and gravitas means it is seen as the cradle of Texan Liberty.
The River Walks serves as the centre of San Antonio's shopping and dining district. Winding its way for some five miles (8km) along the river, travellers can even take a stroll through La Villita Historic District. Dinner cruises are a perfect way to enjoy the scenery while over 20 exciting events take place every year, such as the Fiesta de las Luminarias and the Ford Holiday River Parade. Cobbled walkways sit a full level below the city's streets, lending a secluded and peaceful atmosphere, while there are plenty of restaurants, bars and theatres on hand such as the Pearl Brewery, the Alamo and the Aztec Theater.
The city's biggest theme park and one of the best-known in the United States, Six Flags Fiesta Texas keeps raising the bar with its water rides, roller coasters and musical shows. Experience the thrill of the Krypton Coaster, the looping Boomerang, and the Scream, a 20-storey free fall, or let fly through the air on the Screamin' Eagle Zipline or the Joker Carnival of Chaos. The rides all come with a rating, from mild to moderate to max, and there will surely be something for everyone's taste. After a long day out, there are plenty of snack shops, restaurants and ice-cream parlours, while there are numerous fun events to mark out on the calendar such as the Fight Night on Hallowe'en and the Coca Cola July 4th Fest.
The Buckhorn Saloon and Museum contains over 8,000 wildlife exhibits, wax effigies and other western memorabilia. The owner's wife also collected rattlesnake rattles which she used to create the unusual artwork still on display. The attached Ranger Museum is filled with guns from the era, along with a shooting gallery and a lifesize reproduction of San Antonio of the Wild West. But thirsty customers can still grab a local craft beer at the 129-year-old saloon, enjoyed at its original cherry and marble bar counter.
Described by National Geographic as the most beautiful building in San Antonio, the diminutive palace once served as the headquarters for the Spanish rulers of this region. Built in the Spanish Colonial style, it is said to have been erected as early as 1722. The lovely building is filled with treasures and historical relics from the 18th century and the patio flows onto a relaxing garden perfect for contemplation. The palace is an easy walk from the San Antonio River Walk, while on the last Sunday of every month a living history group visits in period costume and performs reenactments.
A resplendent South Texas coastal city, Corpus Christi enjoys a relaxed and laidback atmosphere. Affectionately known as the Sparkling City by the Sea, it's just 143 miles (230km) from San Antonio. Aside from its sought after beaches, visitors to Corpus Christi can venture on to the floating museum on the USS Lexington, wander through the botanical gardens and birding trails, or experience its vibrant promenade nightlife. Nature lovers won't be disappointed either as the Padre Island National Seashore, the longest undeveloped stretch of barrier islands in the world, is easily accessible from Corpus Christi.
San Antonio has a humid subtropical climate characterised by fairly mild winters and hot summers. The weather varies between dry and humid, depending on prevailing winds. Autumn and spring are warm with a fair amount of rainfall. In San Antonio, July and August are the hottest months of summer, and travellers planning on visiting should brace themselves for temperatures that frequently reach 95°F (35°C). January is the coldest month of winter, with temperatures dropping as low as 39°F (4°C).
Welcome to the birthplace of Tex-Mex cuisine. This city has created a wonderful fusion of spicy Latino influences, hearty Lone Star beef, and German influences. There are plenty of other cuisines available across hundreds of different restaurants, but it would be a shame to miss out on the world's finest Tex Mex during a visit to San Antonio. Explore Central Market and look out for the food trucks. For breakfast, don't miss the amazing breakfast tacos made with fresh tortillas, plus an egg, cheese, fried potato and chorizo filling. The Riverwalk is a great place to go for a range of dinner options and buzzing nightlife.
Situated in La Mansión del Río in the downtown area, this highly regarded Tex-Mex restaurant offers both fabulous food and a wonderful setting on a riverside veranda shaded by palm trees. Tapas are available for each meal of the day; main courses are anchored on fresh, seasonal ingredients. Check out the $12 lunchtime 'Two Courses in 40 Minutes' special.
Start off slow at the super-modern first-floor bar before heading upstairs to the restaurant for some of San Antonio's best dining experience. Enjoy the elegant cuisine with the restaurant's celebrated chicken-fried oysters or blue-crab spring rolls. If you're on a budget but your appetite isn't, get here before 6.30pm for the 3-course dinner at only $30.
Fine dining in a beautiful 19th century house with gorgeous views of the river. The dishes are European fusion, with plenty of fresh fish and modern reinterpretations of classic dishes such as beef Wellington. The desserts are sensational and the wine list quite possibly the best in town.
First started in 1891, Fiesta has grown into a massive celebration spanning 10 days, hundreds of performers and thousands of spectators. Promoting San Antonio's multicultural heritage, it's one of the biggest parties in Texas and by far the largest in the city. With over 100 events, it's a great time to visit the city. The Battle of Flowers Parade is synonymous with the festival, attracting a crowd of some 350,000, while the big Fiesta Flambeau Parade occurs on the second Saturday. Along with loads of food and entertainment options, there are also masque balls, art fairs and motorshows. Families also don't have to worry as kids are well looked after with several child-focused fiestas happening at the same time.
The Folklife Festival provides a platform for over 40 cultures to show their music, cuisine, costumes, and dance. The event is held at the Institute of Texan Cultures in downtown San Antonio's Hemisfair Park. Six stages are erected for the duration of the fair and they play host to a wide variety of international musical and dance performances. There are also roving performers moving through the crowds, ready to break out in song and dance at any moment. One of the main attractions of the fair is the wide variety of food that is both delicious and unusual. Coupons sold at the entrance gates can be used to buy both food and drinks.
A visit to San Antonio in February wouldn't be complete without a visit to this rodeo, livestock and agricultural extravaganza. There's no shortage of fun, with a carnival, loads of food offerings and bucketloads of rock n' roll and Latin music to keep the party going. Kids will love the petting zoo and pony rides, while adults can get stuck into the Ford Truck Corral, casino night and the Songwriters Front Porch, a stage which gives a little of limelight to songwriters. While the horse and livestock auctions aren't part of the entertainment, they are well worth a visit and can get very exciting and fast-paced.
A great feature of visiting San Antonio is that the best of the city can be navigated on foot for free, although in summer months temperatures can get dangerously hot for pedestrians. Driving is not recommended as there are numerous one-way streets, congestion is common and there is insufficient public parking.
Visitors can also get around downtown in the charming streetcars, which are authentic reproductions of the same models that travelled these streets 50 years ago. There are three streetcar routes stopping at major tourist attractions, shopping districts, and the Convention Center downtown. A single fare costs around $1.30, and a day pass costs $4.
The VIA Metropolitan Transit operates the streetcars and also services the city with extensive bus routes, including a free sightseeing bus for tourists which covers most of the main attractions downtown, running from 6am to midnight, Tuesday to Thursday. Metered taxis are also available in the city.
Considered the heart of Texan cowboy country, San Antonio offers a wealth of attractions and activities for visitors to the city. San Antonio has a rich Wild West history, which visitors can get a feel for by visiting places like Casa Navarro State Historic Site, the Spanish Governor's Palace, San Antonio Missions National Park, the King William Historic District and the iconic Alamo Mission.
There are plenty of galleries and attractions for the culturally inclined, ranging from the fun and eclectic Buckhorn Saloon and Museum to the statelier Museo Alameda. Other great museums include the Institute of Texan Cultures, the San Antonio Children's Museum, San Antonio Museum of Art and the Witte Museum.
Spending time outdoors is a great way to take advantage of the San Antonio sunshine, and families will want to visit theme parks like SeaWorld, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, and Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch. There are also many different ways to travel around and discover San Antonio. Local operators offer tours by helicopter, Segway, bus and on foot. For a different view of the city, try the night-time Ghost Hunts of San Antonio Tour.
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