The Riverwalk--Walk, but don't eat...
The Riverwalk provides a great scenic stroll and is at its best at Christmas time when the trees are strung with white and colored Christmas lights and candle lanterns border the paths. The river is also dyed green for St. Patrick's Day. If you park in the garage at Rivercenter Mall, you can have your garage ticket stub stamped by a mall store cashier to receive one free hour of parking. The mall food court connects to the Riverwalk.
Unique Suggestions: The Riverwalk is festive and scenic, and they usually have Peruvian musicians playing just outside the mall. It's near The Missions, which is another good tourist spot. The 2 bad things about the Riverwalk are that it can be very humid in the summer, and most of the food is overpriced and not worth eating. The only good restaurant I've found there is Acenar, a modern Tex-Mex place at the end of the river. Another word of caution if you do choose to eat along the river--the riverside patios can be quickly covered in greedy, hungry grackels. Grackels are our local annoying bird, and they usually won't let you eat in peace.
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
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Places to see are The Tower, The Alamo, The Missions and of course The Ghost Tracks. The legend is that a bus of school children crashed. The streets were then named after the students. I have been there a couple of times. It's very crowded on Halloween. I don't know if the legend is true. One author says it's not but when you go there if you stop your car in front of the tracks your car will be pushed over. They say if you put flour on the back of your car you will find the imprint of the hands of the ghost children who push your car across the tracks so you don't get hurt. It doesn't matter if the legend is true or not, it's still spooky to go down there.
Spanish Governor's Palace
Thank god they only charge $1.50!! This place, which isn't exactly a palace, was built in the 18th century and has served as military quarters, a saloon and as the seat of the colonial government, among other things. It has now been turned into some kind of a museum. When you arrive they give you a little pamphlet with very little information, and they let you roam around the rooms on your own. We were done in about 10 minutes. Really not worth it.
Unique Suggestions: There's a nice enough garden at the back of the house... and I remember laughing at some rather spooky mannequins. That's about it!
- Museum Visits
Market Square: go only if you're into shopping
I found Market Square to be a little disappointing. Basically, it consists of two Mexican restaurants (though Mi Tierra is quite good!), and nothing but knicknack and tacky souvenir shops. There are some neat things there, including jewerly and some Mexican crafts. Unless you enjoy shopping though, you can avoid Market Square.
Unique Suggestions: The best thing about Market Square is Mi Tierra, a Mexican restaurant and bakery that's open 24 hours a day. That alone is worth a visit.
Fun Alternatives: I would gravitate to the Riverwalk, myself. It's got its share of tacky souvenir shops too, but it's much more charming.
Tower of the Americas & HemisFair Park
What is special or nice about a big, ugly, non-functional tower in every major city in the world? A rotating restaurant? They all have one. A view? Sure, but also an eyesore. It is an impressive 750 feet tall, but its still ugly and a tourist trap. Since 2004 the Tower has been operated by Landry's restaurant company, much improving the restaurant on the top floor, and hopefully draining the company dry. The ride to the observation deck is amazingly cheap for a tourist trap at only $5, but a meal at the restaurant might run you $40-50 per person.
The tower is located in HemisFair Park, which is not much better. Completely lacking open space (what's the point of a park anyway?) the "park" is full of gaudy buildings like a massive convention center, the federal building and a terribly ugly, circular federal courthouse.
Maybe it didn't help that all of the fountains were shut off during my visit.
Well, I am fairly convinced that most people have lost the fight for aesthetics versus capitalism. When visiting San Antonio’s rich heritage, I had hoped and expected the commercial nature of the US to remain at least cognizant of the world around them. Just as I had this hope, I visited Mission San Jose, and looked out over the wall to see what? A Pizza Hut sign perched in clear view. I sure wish they had decided in the interest of natural beauty to have made that sign lower to the ground, so it was not visible over the mission wall. Oh well, we can only hope.
Buckhorn Saloon & Museum
Paraphrasing the old adage, "One man's trash is another man's treasure," I would say about the Buckhorn, "One person's attraction is another's tourist trap." It has been voted the "Best Attraction" by the Downtown Alliance, but Nancy and I both thought it would be ridiculous to pay eleven bucks each to see such "treasures" as a two-headed calf, a lamb with eight legs and their collection of horns. We looked around briefly at the free part, which does include an impressive old bar, then left to find many of the other great things this fine city has to offer.
Unique Suggestions: Look around the ground floor's entry section which is free.
Fun Alternatives: The city is full of great things to do - either free or at a fraction of the cost, so avoiding the Buckhorn shouldn't be hard to do.
Just last month my Mom and I met some tourists who were looking for the Alamo. They were confused because in San Antonio we have an Alamo Street but the Alamo isn't on it. When visiting the Alamo, if you want you can park at Rivercenter mall and get your ticket stamped at one of the stores in the mall.
Ghost Tracks of San Antonio
Okay first and foremost it isn't true. It was said that a bus full of kids was hit by a train that had stalled on the tracks and if you put your car in neutral a few feet away from the tracks that the ghosts of the kids will push you up and over to safety and if you put baby powder on the back of your car you will get fingerprints by the departed. I was told this story when I was 8 and it was said to of happened 20 years prior and now I am 32 and I still hear this story only now it is said to of happened 20 years ago from today or it happened in the 1920s (someone likes the number 20) the story is never straight. I have researched this and so have others and we have found no documentation at all of a bus being hit by a train on those tracks ever and not just there but anywhere in San Antonio. When you are pushed up and over the tracks it is kind of an optical illusion, it appears you go up hill and then over the tracks but the illusion is that in fact you are going a bit down hill as you pick up a bit of speed that gives your car enough momentum to get you UP and OVER the tracks. If you do put powder on the back of your car the only fingerprints you will get are your own because baby powder will not stick to a clean car. It is also said that the streets of the close by neighborhood is named after the children that died in that fictuous bus but the streets are in fact named after the developers of that neighborhood. There very well may be paranormal activity out there but it is not the ghosts of any children that have been hit by a bus of any kind.
Unique Suggestions: Have fun with it, its fun to go out there on halloween but take heed... the cops will chase you away.
Fun Alternatives: All the streets in that area are creepy... drive around or walk, you will get creeped out.
Bad to the Bone
The weather in San Antonio is rather warm...however condusive to outside activities. Unlike most places, something being rained out happens less frequentently.
The other positive thing about this area is its location. You are near the hill country which offers much diversity in the scenario plus cities like Corpus, Austin, Brownsville, Laredo...to name a few are fun to visit.
Unique Suggestions: If you are enjoying a mini road trip with your Harley...be sure to always keep it in sight. There are troubles with less than savory people putting a 2x4 thru the front and back wheel and then 4 men on each side lifting up your bike, loading it on a truck and taking it away.
Losing your Harley to these knuckleheads would make a vey sad day.
Fun Alternatives: If you are concerned about your Harley being stolen...bring this NRA card carrying member along.
- Road Trip
north star mall, or river center mall.
they're just malls. nothing more. and the stores are just average.
Unique Suggestions: park at macy's 3rd floor in the parking garage... there's almost always parking there, walk down the stairs to the bridge, and you have your choice to enter through macy's or the food court.
Fun Alternatives: try the antique stores on hildebrand, just off of san pedro... or maybe a few of the stores on broadway. maybe the quarry.
the riverwalk. it's not really cool.
the riverwalk is a giant trap. it's stores filled with junk follwing overpriced restaurants, followed by the same...
Unique Suggestions: try walking on the streets above the riverwalk, and watch all the people below.
Fun Alternatives: a lost of the restaurants have sister sites, or better alternatives.
- Family Travel
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- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
San Antonio is a big, unfunny joke of a city.
First of all, the whole entire city of San Antonio, Texas, is a giant waste of space. Full of ugly architecture that's jam-packed into hundreds of square miles of bleak urban sprawl, this city is about as "Texas" as the slums of Baltimore or L.A. Plus, the natives are mean-spirited, rude, short-tempered and mostly chronic alcoholics. If you want a true Texas experience, I'd recommend just about any small town in the Hill Country (especially one of the towns settled by Germans or Alsatians; they have good food, clean streets, little crime and friendly citizens...all of whom speak English as their first language). Meanwhile, despite the magnetism of the Alamo, America's most overrated tourist spot, it's best to steer clear of San Antonio altogether. After all, the Alamo was militarily unimportant during the Texas Revolution, and San Antonio itself is a mafia-ridden smuggling center with little to recommend it to anyone who's not involved in crime. Everything within the city limits is a tourist trap.
Unique Suggestions: IF you must go to San Antonio, or if you find yourself there through force of circumstance (on a business trip or for a convention), the only thing I'd recommend is paying a visit to the Mission San Juan. Granted, it's located in a barrio, and you might want to make sure you're at minimum carrying mace and a stun gun if you venture into the southtown district. But, the Mission itself is way more "historical" than the disappointing Alamo. The buildings are well-preserved and you get a true sense of the past; you can especially see how ruthless and nasty the Spanish and their stepchildren the Mexicans were about subjugating the Indians (Spanish Catholics were a pretty grim bunch of genocidal maniacs, after all). And, unlike the Alamo, there isn't a stupid Ripley's Believe It Or Not place across the street. Plus, the National Park Service guides speak English, a rare treat in San Antonio.
Fun Alternatives: There isn't an alternative. The Riverwalk is a sewer (I once spotted a dead rat floating past my table at the Casa Rio restaurant). The Rivercenter Mall is totally indistiguishable from any other mall in America, except for the relative lack of American citizens shopping inside. The Hemisphere Tower is an overpriced elevator ride to an observation deck where you can enjoy the beautiful view of various dilapidated rooftops. The Mercado is a sadder version of the crappy trinket shops you see in Tijuana or Laredo. The Villita is a handful of old houses that contain bumper sticker and fridge magnet shops. The various restaurants in the downtown area are all half-star at best, with mediocre food sold to gullible tourists at New York prices. The San Antonio Museum of Art isn't a museum and contains precious little "art". And your main interaction with "local culture" will be fending off illegal immigrants who pester tourists like they invented panhandling. In fact, the only good thing San Antonio ever had was the Hertzberg Circus Museum, a fun and interesting place to while away a hotter-than-Hades afternoon. But, the City Council in its infinite wisdom closed it forever after 60+ years of operation. I hear they're going to stick an Applebee's in its place. Like the world needs yet more Applebees. Although...I guess that's better than a Taqueria. San Antonio already has 900 million of these greasy little ptomaine palaces (they hold the world record for how many taco shacks can fit in a city block).
- Business Travel
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- Historical Travel
Japanese Tea Garden: Major Disappointment
The Japanese Tea Garden next to the San Antonio Zoo was one of the biggest disappointments of my trip. We walked a path for about a mile in ninety degree weather to come upon a giant opening, with dead plants and no water. I could see how the garden could have been beautiful if the plants were kept up or there was water. However, this poor site has obviously gone downhill and travelers should not waste their precious vacation time seeing it.
Unique Suggestions: I really cannot say anything that you can do. It was just a major disappointment. The only good thing about this was that the walk to the garden might have burnt off my big lunch.
Fun Alternatives: Take the fam to the zoo for a longer period of time!
- Budget Travel
Ripley's Wax Museum
The Ripley's Believe it or Not/Wax Museum is located directly across the street from the Shrine of Freedom, the Alamo. I think it's a little tacky to capitalize on the San Antonio visitors for something so unrelated to the Battle of the Alamo.
Fun Alternatives: Spend your time on the grounds of the Alamo (for free!). There is plenty to see including the main chapel, the long barracks and the surrounding grounds. Visit the Main Post Office across Houston Street for some stunning architecture.
- Family Travel
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